The Yankees came limping back home from another lukewarm road trip with more concerns than a team with this much talent should have.
The home-field advantage for the wild card game in October is no longer a sure thing. The Oakland Athletics are breathing down their necks. But wait, there’s more…
The offense continues to be consistently inconsistent. The starting pitching is suspect, the bullpen is banged up and not much better.
Losing to inferior opponents continues to plague the Yankees. It’s a sickness this team has not been able to shake, it’s become more than a case of the sniffles.
Losing two out of three to the Minnesota Twins this week added more reason for concern. The Twins, at 67-79, are a team the Yankees should be beating up on. Just like the Tigers, Orioles, and so on.
Fans, however, have been watching in frustration at how that recurring nightmare has played out for them all year.
But, with only 16 games left to play in the regular season, there isn’t much time to cure what’s been going on in the Bronx. They need a quick-fix, they need a remedy, and need it fast.
They need … the woeful Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays, at 65-81, look like a team which has already made vacation plans for the winter.
They were just swept by the division-leading Red Sox, this was the eighth time this season they’ve been swept in a three-game series. When it comes to losing, Toronto’s had a KICK ME sign on the back of their jerseys lately.
Cure for the common cold? The Yankees should be looking at the Blue Jays like Thanksgiving dinner in September.
On Friday night, it didn’t take long to realize dinner was being served. The Yankees pounced on Toronto early and cruised all the way to an 11-0 victory, at Yankee Stadium.
The Bombers sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first, they scored five runs and never looked back. Masahiro Tanaka pitched six innings of shut-out baseball and struck out eight batters.
Tanaka has now pitched 20 consecutive innings of scoreless baseball. He’s been close to lights-out since the All-Star break, with more success using his slider to compliment his other pitches. If there’s a wild card game to be played right now, Tanaka should be the guy taking the mound.
Friday night was the right start to what’s become a crucial stretch for the Yankees. With the way Oakland’s keeping the heat on in the Wild Card race, there’s little to no room for slippage.
There’s two more with Toronto, then the Red Sox come in for three games. Baltimore, a team which has given the Yankees fits, come in next weekend for three games to wrap up the final homestand of the year.
The Yankees need to win their games against Toronto and Baltimore. Boston will be tough, but not impossible. But losing a series to Toronto or Baltimore at this late stage in the season is unacceptable.
Winning six of their next eight games isn’t just realistic, it needs to happen.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone was right about his assessment of the situation the Yankees find themselves in for the playoffs. They have control over how this turns for them.
That means the bats must continue to produce. The addition of Andrew McCutchen and the pending full-time return of Aaron Judge are key components for this stretch-run to the end of the regular season.
McCutchen was 3 for 3, with a home run and another walk, to fuel the Yankees to victory Friday night. All he’s done since coming over from San Francisco is find a way to get on base, and now his bat is showing signs of life.
Judge was activated off the disabled list before the game. Boone confirmed he’s still not ready to hit but can play the field or pinch-run. The Yankees, with the game in-hand, decided to test that theory when Judge played the final two innings in right field. The ovation from the home crowd, as expected, was thunderous for big number 99.
On Friday night, the Yankees saw what could happen when hitting and pitching come together against an inferior team. Good things happen. Good for them, but scary for their opponents.