Backup a moment to a July 4 holiday in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium and the first installment of the Subway Series with the Mets. The Yankees lost the first game 10-5. Aroldis Chapman imploded out of the bullpen.
I had the day off, and as always listened to the broadcast on the MLB APP. I was in disbelief. The Yankees were a .500 team (41-41) in fourth place, and the gap widened to 10-games between them and the, then, division leading Red Sox.
Difficult to understand how a talented and potent lineup would get to this point. Though the starting pitching was respectable, a Yankees bullpen was imploding and Chapman could not find the strike zone.
“We need to get this right and we will,” said the manager Aaron Boone about another gut wrenching loss.
The Yankees barely won the second game, 4-2. Chad Green almost imploded, and the Yankees would go 9-3 from that point on and took two of three in the Bronx from the Red Sox in a rain abbreviated series.
Okay, the Yankees went four games over .500 after those 12-games and would narrow the gap between them and the Red Sox, as Tampa Bay also made their move up the division after the All-Star break.
Then, though, this was more of a post All-Star break move of the Yankees eyeing an AL Wild-Card. Later, though, with almost a third of the season remaining, there was talk of the Yankees becoming a factor in their division after reeling off 13-straight wins and they narrowed the gap a bit.
Too little too late. And more so the Yankees’ 2021 theme of inconsistency continued which gets us to this point of a Yankees-Red Sox AL Wild-Card elimination game Tuesday evening at Fenway Park.
It came down to the last day of the regular season and Aaron Judge hit a walk-off infield single as the Yankees won their season finale over the Rays. They clinched their fifth consecutive postseason, but barely got to this point as evidenced by going 36-40 against division opponents.
That performance would slap them in the face and did not help their division title chances. The story of inconsistency is the 2021 Yankees that got to the AL Wild-Card game, fortunate that a Monday tie-breaking frenzy did not occur.
Had they won two of three this weekend from the Rays, the Yankees would have hosted the Wild-Card game Tuesday evening.
Inconsistency in the lineup again prevented the Yankees from taking care of business against the 100 win Rays who await the winner of Yankees-Red Sox in the ALDS.
Regardless, the Yankees play on and the Baseball Gods could not have ordered a better situation to open the postseason with Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway Park, and all the storied history between the two franchises.
To say the Yankees will move on is more difficult than confronting your arch enemy and saying let bygones be bygones. And many of my esteemed colleagues have analyzed the Yankees as unpredictable.
In other words, you just don’t know what you are going to get when the Yankees take the field in the hostile territory of Fenway Park. It will be in the hands of Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole, possibly not at full strength coming off a hamstring injury that may have led to 15 earned runs in the last 17-⅔ innings.
And then there is the factor of having Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the lineup. Judge hit .306 (60-for-196) with 34 runs, 11 doubles, 17 home runs, 46 RBI in his last 53 games.
Stanton, well he loves the atmosphere of Fenway Park. During the Yankees recent three-game sweep at Fenway, Stanton stats: 12 AB’s, 7-hits, 3 home runs, 10 RBI. This season: batting .395, seven doubles, triple, 5-home runs, and 21 RBI which accounts for the best OPS by any Yankee all-time at Fenway Park.
Down the stretch for Stanton: A slash line of .273,/.354/.516 and 35 overall home runs on the season which took away any questions about the Yankees inconsistency and lack of power.
But that inconsistency runs up-and-down the lineup and leads to a narrative of, ‘You never know what to expect.’
The Sunday season finale was a microcosm of 162-games, this inconsistency and tendency to go after bad pitches. It took one small hit in the last inning to clinch the Wild-Card spot. Until then, the Yankees could not buy a hit and good pitching has shut them down many times.
However, the Yankees were not denied another opportunity to play on but they never made anything look easy this season. One hero will emerge and get their team to move on to the ALDS in the Wild-Card game.
I, for one, don’t have confidence with this Yankees team and that was determined more with 89 games this season decided by two runs or fewer. The Wild-Card is what the Yankees are.
And in the event they move on, and advance, I don’t expect the Yankees to get past the young and well balanced Rays.
So goes the 2021 New York Yankees. Either they do it or they don’t.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso