Schott: Yankees Miss Big Chance To Gain Ground, With Texas Test On Deck

The Yankees could have used June to make themselves contenders and to finally get on the run everyone is waiting for.

When they swept a four-game series over the Los Angeles Angeles two weeks ago, it looked like the start of something.

They followed that up by losing two of three to the Detroit Tigers, but who can blame them for losing to Justin Verlander and Michael Fulmer?

The 11 games that followed – four against the Colorado Rockies and seven against the Minnesota Twins – looked like the Yankees’ chance to finally clear the .500 barrier once and for all.

Well, it didn’t go as planned, as they are…you guessed it…exactly at .500 at the end of it, 37-37.

The stretch began by losing two slugfests in Colorado, and then they rebounded to take three of four in Minnesota.

When they returned to Yankee Stadium last Tuesday, the Rockies won 8-4, and they were on track to win by the same score the next day, but the Yankees scored five late, including on a Starlin Castro walk-off, to win it, 9-8.

The Twins came to New York on Friday, and the Yankees won the first two with ease, taking advantage of a team they always beat.

Sunday, they were looking for the sweep, and Minnesota sent Tyler Duffey and his 2-6 record, 6.18 ERA, to the mound.

Incredibly, the Yankees bats were silent, and Duffey retired the first 17 batters he faced until Aaron Hickes got a double with two out in the sixth inning.

Nathan Eovaldi allowed a home run in the third inning to Danny Salazar, but otherwise gave the Twins nothing.

As has happened numerous times this season, Eovaldi fell apart in the sixth inning. After a two-out walk to Joe Mauer, he served up three straight home runs – a two-run shot to Brian Dozier, and solo shots to Trevor Plouffe and Max Kepler.

“They were both up, the pitch to Kepler, I thought like it was a good pitch was a bit up, right in his wheelhouse,” said Eovaldi. “Just got to do a better job of executing in those situations and turning the page, continue to attack.”

The Yankees’ only offense came on a Mark Teixeira home run in the eighth inning, and they lost 7-1.

In this stretch that they were thought to clean up on, the Yankees went just 6-5, and ended on a real down note.

“We really struggled with Colorado, we were 1-3 against them, you win five out of seven against Minnesota, you can live with that,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The 1-3 against Colorado, we did not play well against them, and we were somewhat fortunate to win the one game, and it’s, like I said, we need to make up ground.

“No matter who we’re playing, we need to win series. And you win a series here, but it’s frustrating because we had a situation where we won three in a row there, we weren’t able to win the fourth. We win two in a row, and not able to win the third, and like I said, the teams in front of us (Baltimore, Boston, and Toronto) are playing well.”

On Monday night, the Yankees open a four-game set with the Texas Rangers at The Stadium, who have the best record in baseball, at 48-27 entering Sunday.

After Texas, the Yankees have a road trip in which they could make up ground, with three in San Diego and three against the White Sox in Chicago.

Starting July 7 – and going through to nearly the end of the month and the July 31 trade deadline – is a 17-game stretch that will determine a lot about how the Yankees view what they have this season.

They have a four-game series at Cleveland (July 7-10) before the All-Star Break. They come out of the break with a 10-game homestand, starting with three against Boston (July 15-17), four against Baltimore (July 18-21), and three with San Francisco (July 22-24). The run concludes with three in Houston against the surging Astros, July 25-27.

The key over the next month is for the Yankees to clean up on that six-game trip with the Padres and White Sox and win at least half to a majority of the games with the contenders.

If they survive this run and stay in the race, it is likely the Yankees will look to be “buyers” at the deadline and keep the elite bullpen trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman intact.

“We have to play every game very hard, and try to win every game. You can’t think in the future, this game will eat you up,” Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said of the Yankees’ upcoming schedule. “We’re trying to win tomorrow night’s game and not worry about what’s going to happen at the end of this month or next month or later in the season, and if we do that and start playing better, maybe we can make a run.”

Teixeira is right that the Yankees have to take it day-by-day, but the way to finally get over the .500 hurdle once and for all is to go on a big run.

They just missed making a run in a stretch against teams they should have beaten, and there is no comparable group of games the rest of the way.

The Yankees now must beat the best to be among the best in baseball.


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