Russell: Time For The Yankee Playoff Push

The Yankees lost two games on Wednesday, with the Indians winning 2-1 and 9-4 at Yankee Stadium. The losses put more room between the Yankees and first-place Red Sox, who come to the Bronx for four games. 
“We’ve just gotta get some guys going, myself included, all up and down the lineup,” Brett Gardner said on Wednesday night. “Calendar’s going to flip to a new month here pretty soon and you start running out of time to catch those guys.”
The deficit was five games after the doubleheader defeat. Although Joe Girardi didn’t go as far as saying that his team needs to sweep Boston if they want to win the division, he didn’t give the coach speak ‘it’s a long season’ spiel with only 30 games remaining. 
“Let’s just try to win a game tomorrow. I think that’s the most important thing, that you get back on track,” Girardi said. “And there’s still 30 games left but obviously, I mean, I’m not going to downplay the magnitude of this series. I’m not going to. It’s a really important series for us.”
The Yankees offense went cold against the Indians. Scoring two runs on Monday against Corey Kluber was an instance of just tipping your cap to a terrific pitcher. But the Yankees scored two runs in the first 17  innings of the doubleheader, with Greg Bird hitting a three-run homer in the ninth inning of game two, with the game already out of reach, although maybe it can get Bird going. “Our struggles on the homestand really have been when we haven’t scored runs and we need to swing the bats better, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. 
There is also a packed wild card race, with the Yankees in front although the lead is getting smaller. Again, Girardi didn’t give the typical line about only looking at his team. “As I’ve said all along, we’re in charge of our own destiny and we have to win games,” Girardi said. “But it’s impossible not to look at the score. It’s right there. I’d have to really have my head in the sand not to see the scores of games.”
The Yankees are in front by 1.5. In a fight for the second wild card, the Twins, Angels, Orioles, Rangers, Royals, Mariners and Rays are separated by 3.5 games. One good week, or even a five-game winning streak can make all the difference. 
“I know there’s a lot of teams that are still in contention, still in postseason contention and there’s only a couple of teams that are really, I guess you could say out of it,” Gardner said. “So, I’m sure it’s going to be a race all the way down to the last week of September, like it always is.”
New York dropped to 2-4 on it’s current homestand. They’ve been playing from behind, having given up the first run in 22 of their last 31 games. 
Jaime Garcia was a tough-luck loser in game 1, losing 2-1. Yankees starters allowed three earned runs or fewer in 16 straight starts, the longest streak the team had since 1988. 
That ended in game 2, when Jordan Montgomery gave up four runs in the first inning. The rookie southpaw gave up an 0-2 hit and issued a walk to begin the game. After a strikeout, he surrendered four straight run-scoring hits. “He gave up the 0-2 hit and then a walk, and it just kind of really opened it up,” Girardi said. “He didn’t get the 0-2 pitch where he wanted to on Lindor and it just kind of led to that inning. And those are mistakes you can’t make against a good hitting team.”
Next the Yankees face the Red Sox for the final four times in the 2017 regular season. The Bombers will have their chance to close the gap in the division, sending CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino to the mound. 
Now it’s time for the playoff push. 
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