Here the Yankees are again. Back to .500. After 88 games, the Yankees have proven themselves to be exactly what their record says they are: sometimes good, sometimes bad. At this point, no one would be surprised if they ended the season at 81-81.
Somehow, though, this feels different. The Yankees went into Cleveland to face a team that is easily the best in the AL Central and that, except for one game on Wednesday, has had their way with the Detroit Tigers who, for all their bullpen woes, still have a very powerful lineup.
Cleveland has the best pitching staff in the AL, never mind just the Central, and yet the Yankees managed to win the series, taking 3 of 4, thanks to their offense showing up in big moments. Didi Gregorius, in particular, really made his presence felt both offensively and defensively. It’s a testament to how strong the SS position is in the A.L. that Sir Didi is not heading back to San Diego for the All-Star Game this week. He's been just that good.
He’s batting .350 with 7 HRs, 22 RBIs and 3 SBs over his past 30 games and he saved Saturday night’s game for the Yankees with an unbelievable play up the middle to prevent the go ahead run from scoring.
Gregorius made an error on Sunday afternoon that helped Cleveland match the Yankees 6-run 5th inning and get back into the game, but he’s to be excused, considering he’d taken a ball off his shoulder and admitted after the game that it had an impact on his throwing.
He said he’d be fine and, thankfully, he’s got a few days off to rest up. Same for the rest of the Yankees that are staying home. To be honest, as happy as Carlos Beltran, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are to be going to the All-Star Game, I wouldn’t shed a single tear if none of them made it into the game.
As a Yankees fan, I want them well rested and ready to come back for the 74 games remaining on the schedule. The Yankees, as a team, have some questions they need to answer: Does Masahiro Tanaka have what it takes to pitch well for more than 4 innings on 5 days rest? Does Nathan Eovaldi, who looked dominant in 4.1 IP in relief of Tanaka on Sunday, deserve a chance to get back in the rotation, or is Chad Green going to get another chance to prove himself?
Was flipping Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup a permanent switch, or just a brief experiment? Will Aaron Hicks play well enough in right field that he’ll still get some ABs or is that Rob Refsneyder’s home now? Is Beltran the regular DH? Will one day off a week be enough to keep the fragile Mark Teixeira on the field, or is he a lost cause for the season?
The ultimate question is will these things be enough to make this season interesting going into the second half?
I vote yes and, with the Yankees taking three of four over the weekend, the players seem to be of the same mind. They showed that they still have some fight in them. Let’s just hope they can finally put .500 in the rear-view mirror, and that the August 1 trade deadline can come and go without any major concessions to defeat.