Curtis Granderson is due back from an injury soon
In a 162 game season, it’s normal to panic prematurely. Sometimes it can happen in April, the middle of the summer, the All-Star Break, or the last day of the regular season.
For Yankees’ fans, they’re being tested right now, in early September. There is no denying the Yankees have looked horrible recently. The offense has been inconsistent, as has the rotation and the bullpen. Perhaps more shocking, teams like the Athletics, Orioles and Rays, franchises who directly pose a threat to the Yankees’ playoff chances have been unconsciously hot at varying times over the past month. Last week it was the Rays who came charging towards the division with the return of Evan Longoria.
Once that adrenaline wore off, the Rays calmed down and were replaced by the Orioles, who just finished taking two of three from the Yankees and winning every series in the Bronx this year. Presently, the Athletics have won nine of 10, finally having a nine game winning streak snapped on Monday by the Angels.
New York hasn’t been the talk of the town since it took three out of four from Texas, who has its own division lead cut to four games.
A lot of critics, opposing fans and casual viewers will have you believe the Yankees will collapse. They are rooting for the underdog story, for the postseason to return to Baltimore and for the small market Rays and A’s to sneak into October.
Here’s why you shouldn’t believe the just yet:
- The schedule. New York has five games left with the Rays (including the next two) and three of them at home. Tampa has played well at the Trop against the Yankees, but not as well at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore has played well at Yankee Stadium, but has four games left with New York, all of them at Camden Yards. New York still has nine games against its main competitors. They are presently 7-7 vs the Orioles but have six losses at Yankee Stadium. They are currently 5-7 vs the Rays but have six losses at Tropicana Field. Chances are, the Yankees fair better over the next nine games than they have recently against those teams since they are playing in two venues with better success against those opponents this year.
- In addition, the Yankees have a rare soft September schedule with the Blue Jays and Red Sox being non-competitors. Playing division rivals is never easy, but the Yankees are a superior ball club against those two teams, especially since each will likely be trying out prospects by the time they meet. New York is 17-9 against the Red Sox and Blue Jays this year, and play them in 10 of the final 28 games. The Yankees also take on the Twins for three games.
- Health. Monday marked the return of Alex Rodriguez, who delivered a hit and scored a run in a 4-3 loss. Likely, A-Rod will need a week or two to get his “swing” back, but his right-handed presence means a middle of the order bat, Eric Chavez back to his better role off the bench, and more protection against lefties down the stretch for the lineup. Andy Pettitte is in the middle of a rehab, Ivan Nova is getting ready to start throwing soon and Curtis Granderson is due back from a couple of days out with an injury. Mark Teixeira should be back in about a week as well. Adding two middle-of-the-order bats (who can both hit righty vs. lefties) and two starters to the rotation is a bigger boost than any other club in the race can boast. Having Eric Chavez, Freddy Garcia, David Phelps and Andruw Jones return to their more comfortable roles, only helps the situation.
- The Rays and Orioles play each other for three games to end the season. The Yankees will be playing the Red Sox. Think that might be an interesting finish to the year?
The Yankees look bad and are not playing well right now, but with the highest upside and some scheduling on their side, New York is still the favorite not just to make the playoffs, but to win the American League East as well.