After playing .500 baseball for a little over a week, the New York Yankees seemed to get their groove back Sunday with a series win over Oakland. The Yankees have been struggling offensively and haven’t seemed to find a way to break out of the funk. All of the starting pitchers are also getting back on track after a few rough starts; those starts coming from Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino. Yankees fans should feel a lot better now, though, after going 4-2 on the home stand and increasing the division lead over the Red Sox (3 games) and the Orioles (4.5 games).
The Yankees struggles seemed to begin once they started playing Houston. They lost three out of four to the best team in baseball. Then letting those losses affect them when they began their series with Tampa Bay. The offense stopped hitting, the pitching was lacking fire, and the Yankees started to fall off just a bit. Whats miraculous is that although they haven’t been playing their best baseball, they have their biggest lead in first place all season. A lot of that could be thanks to the Orioles struggles. After the Yankees 9-5 win Sunday over the A’s, they seemed to have found the energy and firepower to bring with them on the upcoming divisional road trip.
They begin a series tomorrow with the Orioles in Baltimore, a big series for both teams. The Yankees finally broke their streak of consecutively getting 8 or less hits. Aaron Judge came through big once again with bis first career grand slam to spark the Yanks offense. No one on the Yankees is considered hot right now, as everyone has seemed to cool off just a bit after the Yankees fast start. After over a week of offensive struggles, the Yankees are looking like they’re about to break out of the semi-slump and begin taking the name Bronx Bombers to a whole other level.
The bullpen ha been one of the major downfalls to the Yankees play as of late, giving up a ton of hits and runs leaving almost no one to count on. Luckily, the starting pitchers have been going much deeper into games, typically pitching 6 or 7 innings of low scoring baseball. Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees stud closer has begun to throw from 60 feet and is making lots of progress in his return from the DL. Having him come back in the bullpen will take a lot of pressure off many other pitchers shoulders. Some of those being Tyler Clippard, Jonathan Holder and Adam Warren, guys who have been struggling lately.
Another big name to return to the lineup soon is Greg Bird. A healthy Bird is going to be something to be very excited about for Joe Girardi and Yankees fans. Bird is scheduled to go down to Tampa this week to begin playing in rehab games. This puts him on pace to hopefully return by next week. Bird has been bothered by a bruised ankle for the beginning of the season and has caused him to play very poorly thus far. After an insane Spring Training, the Yanks are hoping Bird returns off the DL and makes the first base job his for the rest of the season.
Chris Carter has been everything I expected him to be, a disappointment. Sure, lately he’s making more contact with the ball than usual but he’s just terrible. He’s by far the weak link in the lineup. The team couldn’t be more excited to get a healthy Greg Bird back. If Bird returns to his Spring Training form upon his return, the Yankees will become a very scary team. You will be able to count on anyone in the line up to get a hit at any time.
Starting pitching was the biggest question mark coming into the season and so far has proved many people wrong. The Yankees starting pitching has seemed to be promising, minus a few atrocious starts from Tanaka and Severino. The key is to be consistent and to stay healthy and they are doing just that. Also pitching deep into games proves the dominance of the pitcher and helps out the bullpen a ton. Sure, there are going to be games where someone has a bad day, it happens. These guys are human too and are pitching on one of the biggest stages in all of sports. That’s a ton of pressure game in and game out. However, through Memorial Day I must say I am impressed with Yankees baseball.
The next three series include a road trip to Baltimore and Toronto and then coming home to face Boston. New York should take advantage of these games, aiming to win at least six. This is where you take advantage of teams playing poorly and distance yourself in the division lead. The time is right now for the Yankees to do just that. Although it’s only Memorial Day weekend, these next nine games are big ones for the Yankees. They will help in setting the tone for the rest of the season.