The Yankees can’t let the Boston Red Sox beat them at anything, including epic failure. If New York manages to lose the division and miss the playoffs entirely, their collapse would easily eclipse that of the 2011 Red Sox.
Boston, as you might recall, missed out on last year’s postseason on the final day of the regular season. A loss to the Orioles that day capped off a 7-20 September that Red Sox fans won’t soon forget.
The Yankees had a golden opportunity to create some distance between themselves and their AL East foes. But they dropped two of three games at home to the Orioles over the weekend.
New York also lost the first game of a three-game series in Tampa Bay yesterday, leaving them in the precarious position that they find themselves in now.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup on Monday after a 37-game absence due to a broken left hand. His return should help, but he wasn’t exactly hitting like the A-Rod of old prior to his injury.
First baseman Mark Teixeira is expected back by the end of the week as well. But his return won’t help cure what really ails the Yankees.
New York’s offense is heavily dependent on the long ball to score runs. The Yankees lead the major leagues with 202 home runs through yesterday, but they are woefully inadequate when it comes to manufacturing runs.
This weakness has killed the Yankees in close games all year, and will be a crucial factor in their inability to win more of the one-run games that are sure to occur over the season’s final month.
The July trade for Ichiro Suzuki was supposed to address this concern, but so far the results aren’t showing up in the win column.
The Yankees’ pitching is also a mess. C.C. Sabathia has not pitched like the ace that New York needs him to be; stopping losing streaks and invoking confidence in the rest of the team.
Andy Pettitte’s recovery from a fractured ankle suffered in late June has been slow. The veteran left-hander isn’t expected to make more than a couple of starts before the end of the regular season.
By that time, New York’s playoff fate could be decided.
Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have been inconsistent this year at best, and can’t be counted on to lead the team out of their recent funk.
The Yankees are mired in a 4-9 slump dating back to a three-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox in late August.
The schedule isn’t getting any easier for New York down the stretch either.
Yesterday’s loss in Tampa began a 10-game road trip that includes four games in Baltimore and three more in Boston.
The Red Sox have plenty of problems of their own. But they’ll certainly rally around a chance to keep the Yankees out of the postseason. That would make 2012 a mild success for many Boston fans.
Once the Yankees return from the road, the Rays will drop in for a three-game set in New York.
Tampa’s 2011 miracle run to the playoffs was fueled by a late-game comeback against these Yankees on the season’s final day. They’ll be looking to repeat the feat—albeit a tad bit earlier—again in 2012.
The Yankees will get a chance to catch their breaths when the Toronto Blue Jays visit the Bronx immediately after Tampa Bay. But New York host the red-hot Oakland A’s in another stern test right after Toronto leaves.
The next 19 games will serve as a stern test of the Yankees’ character and resiliency. But it will also reveal the fact that this team simply isn’t as good as its early-season success indicated.
For all of their big names and hefty contracts, New York has a flawed roster that’s due for a major overhaul this offseason. If the Yankees don’t find a hot streak in them soon, general manager Brian Cashman will get an early start on that rebuilding project.