Limited lifelines for Yankees to reverse free fall, turn things around

Anthony Volpe, Rizzo, IKF, and Torres of the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

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The start of the second-half “sprint,” as Brian Cashman put it, was marred by the Yankees’ lackluster performance. Currently positioned at the bottom of the AL East standings, having suffered defeat in nine out of their last eleven games, the Yankees are eager to break their losing streak and turn things around before it becomes too dire. But they have more challenges to deal with and limited lifelines to recover.

According to Yankees manager Aaron Boone expressed that the team’s current situation is far from pleasant, facing tough losses and a challenging road trip. However, he emphasized the need to confront and address these difficulties. Boone acknowledged their current standing and stressed the importance of being prepared to give their best effort in the upcoming games, starting with Friday’s match.

“We stink right now. We acknowledge that,: he said. “Acknowledge where we are, which is we’re not very good right now; we understand that. Certainly, this is a low point for us. The silver lining in it all is it is in front of us and we control that and we understand that.”

The team’s focus remains on turning their fortunes around, and if they don’t succeed on Friday, they will persistently keep pushing forward.

Currently, the Yankees maintain a winning record (50-47) and have an opportunity to preserve it in the next two series against teams with sub-.500 records. Their first series will be against the Royals, who possess the second-worst record in Major League Baseball. But considering their performance against the Rockies and Angels, things look far from being uncomplicated at Yankee Stadium.

The free fall of the Yankees

In an unexpected turn of events, the Yankees, who once held a 10-game lead above .500 and trailed the Rays by six games in the AL East, have now found themselves at the bottom of the division. With a 50-47 record, they are 9 1/2 games behind the Orioles in the loss column and sit 3 1/2 games away from the third Wild Card spot in the league. Their recent road trip, where they suffered losses in five out of six games against the Rockies and Angels, has left many fans feeling like they have hit rock bottom.

Yankees star Aaron Judge's batting practice
MLB

The Yankees had an impressive 35-25 record the night Aaron Judge suffered his unexpected and severe right big toe injury. However, since that moment, they have struggled significantly, managing only a 15-22 record. Their offensive struggles have been so severe that it almost seems like Lionel Messi’s new soccer team in Miami will score more effortlessly than the Yankees. Comparing the team’s performance with Judge on the field to their performance without him, one might even consider his $360 million contract as one of the most astute bargains in baseball history.

While it may seem far-fetched to imagine Judge’s return single-handedly turning the Yankees’ fortunes around, especially given their lackluster performance in recent weeks, it would also be hasty to dismiss their chances entirely. It’s important to wait and see if they can recapture the form they had as a 10-games-over-.500 team with a healthy Judge before making any conclusive judgments.

Manager Aaron Boone acknowledged that the team is currently not performing well after the Yankees experienced a sweep in Anaheim.

However, Aaron Judge is expected to return soon, and there are signs of improvement in Giancarlo Stanton‘s batting performance. Additionally, once Nestor Cortes recovers fully, he will join the top of their rotation alongside Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon. If Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu can regain their hitting form, the Yankees have the potential to become a more formidable team than their 85-82 record since last year’s All-Star break suggests.

Being in last place is an unusual situation for the Yankees, especially considering their usual playoff presence and consistent track record of avoiding losing seasons since the time of Bill Clinton’s presidency. It’s remarkable that nearly 100 games into the season, they’re not even contemplating first place, which is quite atypical for the franchise.

Yankees’ opportunity to reverse the trend

The Yankees have yet to demonstrate the same level of resilience as the Phillies team did last October. However, both teams revolve around a significant star player—Bryce Harper for the Phillies and Aaron Judge for the Yankees. Judge’s presence gives the Yankees the potential to elevate their game and overcome challenges just like the Phillies did with Harper.

Certainly, the Yankees have faced three consecutive series against sub-.500 teams—the Cubs, Rockies, and Angels—yet their performance has been disappointing, managing only a 2-7 record during this period, culminating in a sweep by the Angels.

carlos-rodon-new-york-yankees
AP Photo/ Ashley Landis

Rodon acknowledged that the team has a resilient mindset, able to recover from setbacks and continue fighting. He also mentioned that he hasn’t been performing well in his last two starts. Despite that, the team is determined to regroup and give their best effort in the upcoming game on Friday.

Following their series against the Royals, the Yankees will have a two-game Subway Series against the Mets before taking on tougher opponents, the Orioles and Rays, leading up to the trade deadline on August 1. Brian Cashman, the general manager, will likely look to make additions to the team unless the current players show significant improvement and give him a reason to hold off on trades.

The Yankees are set to face the Royals this weekend, and the scheduled starters for Kansas City are three pitchers with ERAs over 5.00. This type of pitching has been favorable for opposing teams and has caused trouble for the Yankees in recent games.

In their most recent nine games, the Yankees have faced lackluster performances from pitchers, such as Jameson Taillon (who carried a 6.93 ERA), Austin Gomber (6.40), Chase Anderson (6.89), Griffin Canning (4.62), Patrick Sandoval (4.41), and Chase Silseth (5.30), who managed to shut them down. Collectively, those five starting pitchers have surrendered a mere six earned runs in a span of 37 ²/₃ innings, showcasing their mostly dominant performances.

During the recent Angels series, the Yankees’ offense endured a staggering 42 strikeouts, falling just one shy of the franchise record for strikeouts in a three-game series.

The beginning of the Sean Casey era as hitting coach for the Yankees didn’t quite live up to their expectations after parting ways with Dillon Lawson at the All-Star break.

Anthony Volpe is hitting a ball against the Red Sox on June 19, 2023, at Fenway Park.
AP

Anthony Volpe expressed his team’s awareness that their current performance is unacceptable and acknowledged the frustration surrounding it. Despite his struggles, he emphasized that nobody on the team is avoiding the reality of the situation.

Following Wednesday’s game, Boone acknowledged the team’s current struggles by admitting they “aren’t playing well right now.” However, he maintained his faith in the players within the team, asserting that they possess the potential to reverse their fortunes and improve their performance.

Despite having the potential to perform better, the Yankees have been unable to capitalize on it for almost two months. Boone acknowledged that it becomes challenging when several players on the team are going through a rough patch.

The Yankees manager emphasized that deep down, he believes in the players’ abilities, drawing from his own experiences as a former player. He urged the team to dig deep and find a way to turn things around.

The Yankees are about to face a series of games in quick succession, starting with the Royals, followed by the Mets, and then three games against the surprising Orioles. Despite their recent struggles, it’s premature to count out the Yankees just yet. Their fate could change dramatically once Aaron Judge, their star player, returns to the lineup.

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