Yankees emerge from August slump stronger, better ready for playoffs

New York Yankees team
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Inna Zeyger
Friday September 30, 2022

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The Yankees started their season with a bang and remain a force until August, which saw their worst slide in years. But the team started September on a better note and went to win the American League East. It seems that the Yankees have learned from their roller-coster season to avoid mistakes and this is going to help them in the postseason.

The Yankees had a great start to the 2022 season, going 49-16 and having a 12-game lead in their division. This made people compare them to some of the best teams in sports history. Even though it was early, they looked and played like the Yankees who won the World Series in 1998.

Then, they won 64 games in a row before the All-Star break, which was their best performance ever before the Midsummer Classic. They were the first team in the major leagues since the 2001 Mariners to win at least 64 of their first 94 games since 1947.

That first-half performance got six Yankees to the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, which was the most of any team in the major league. As Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Clay Holmes, and Jose Trevino were part of the game, the Yankees were at the top of everyone’s power rankings. It seemed like they could go head-to-head with any team.

Then the injuries started piling up, and New York was left without a number of crucial spark plugs, which led to a horrifying downward spiral.

The Astros swept the Yankees in a two-game series that opened the second half of the season in Houston on July 21, which was a portent of worse things to come for the Yankees. The month of August was excruciating and agonizing for both the Yankees and their fans. After the second of August, they went 9-20 in the next 29 games. The previous month, their record stood at 10-18.

There was not a single positive development for the Yankees during the month of August, with the exception of their slugger Aaron Judge. After a particularly disheartening loss to the Blue Jays, their manager Aaron Boone had become so frustrated that he slammed a table to vent his ire. This was the team’s 14th loss in 17 games.

During that time, the Yankees couldn’t get over their injuries. Right-handed pitcher Luis Severino was out for over two months because of a strained lat. Giancarlo Stanton missed a month of baseball because of tendonitis in his left Achilles. Michael King, a reliever who made 34 appearances and had an ERA of 2.29, had elbow surgery to end his season. Matt Carpenter has been out for almost two months because he broke his left foot. Andrew Benintendi was a good trade deadline pick-up. He has been out for almost a month because of an injury to his right wrist.

The general manager of the Yankees, Brian Cashman, made matters even more confusing for their fan base when he traded starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis in exchange for the injured Harrison Bader. Bader didn’t start contributing until eight weeks after he was acquired by the Yankees.

The Yankees hope that the time from the end of July to the beginning of September was the worst part of their season. It had the kind of problems that surprised everyone, especially considering how good the team looked at the start of the year. The Yankees felt pressure from all sides.

The media kept asking Boone and his players what happened, the fans booed the terrible play on the field, Yankee Stadium was mostly empty at the start of a pennant race, and the frustration and lack of unity in the clubhouse were clear to everyone.

By the middle of September, the Yankees’ lead in the AL East had shrunk from 15.5 games to 3.5 games. It was the kind of mess that everyone on the staff wanted to put to rest for good. But it was also the kind of trouble that makes a person strong and ready for battle. How the Yankees’ season started, how they did cartwheels into the All-Star break, and how they were hit in the second half were all hard to plan for and, in the end, get over.

If the Yankees want to show that they’re still the team to beat, even though they’ve already won the AL East, they need to hold on to that bitter feeling they had in August and fight off any feelings of ease. They can use the bad luck they had in the middle of the summer to their advantage in the playoffs by playing with a chip on their shoulder that can only come from the bad luck they went through. These tough times could mean the difference between leaving the playoffs early or beating the Astros in the ALCS.

This season, the Yankees had to fight and overcome a collapse that could make them stand out in October. They had won eight of their last nine games before Wednesday. It’s a feeling they’re used to after their hot start to the season.

Their struggles could be the key to their success, and it will be fascinating to observe whether or not they are able to draw strength from those challenges and play some of the most impressive baseball games that the sport has ever witnessed.

Do you think the Yankees have drawn strength from their summer slide?

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