The most important part of the New York Yankees 2017 season is here and it will tell us a lot about where this team is heading.
A turbulent conclusion to the first half of the 2017 season finally came to an end for the New York Yankees on Sunday, and four days off couldn’t have come at a better time.
New York has lost 18 of their last 25 games since June 12 en route to falling from 15 games over .500 — with a four-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East — to just four games over while currently trailing their rivals by 3.5 games.
The end of the first half lacked all the electricity that sparked their 38-23, but they can rearrange that narrative in the road trip that opens up the second half.
The Yankees are slated to play 11 games in 10 days starting on Friday night with a four-game set with the first-place Red Sox (50-39) — one that features a day/night doubleheader on Sunday. Following that series will be three games in Minnesota against the Twins (45-43) then four games against Seattle (43-47) at Safeco.
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Don’t think this stretch is huge? Just remember the seven-game West Coast swing from June 12-18. The Yankees followed their six-game winning streak with six-straight losses to the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics.
Although they came back to Yankee Stadium against the same Angels the following week, the Bronx Bombers failed to deliver a series win. In fact, they are 0-7-1 in their last eight series, marking their longest such stretch since going 0-5-3 in eight series from July 8-August 7, 2013.
“The big thing is, we need to play better,” manager Joe Girardi said following the series loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. “You can’t worry so much about where you are. We have to go out and play better, and we just haven’t done that lately.”
In what was a decisive point for the young Yankees to authenticate themselves as a genuine threat in AL ended up turning them into whatever we thought they would be entering 2017: a borderline playoff team assessing young talent. Yet, that same team has another chance to accurately distinguish themselves this week — especially with help on the way.
Designated hitter and key locker room presence Matt Holliday could be back on Friday after spending time on the disabled list with a viral illness. All-Star second baseman Starlin Castro will begin rehab games after going down with a hamstring injury. CC Sabathia, who posted a 0.99 ERA in six starts before his injury, is also back.
All three will help the Yankees during a stretch which should answer the question: are the Baby Bombers for real? Or was replicating 1996 a far-fetched dream? And of course, it begins in Boston.
Regardless of the events that occurred prior to Friday’s action, the Yankees’ challenging journey toward what could be October baseball could get a lot smoother if they manage to take three. Sure, the Red Sox, led by the fiery Chris Sale, are easily the favorites in that crunched up AL East, but the Yankees proved that they are meant to contend this year before and have the ability to do it again.
“Every series is crucial, but especially playing the Red Sox, they’re in first place right now, so it’s going to be big for us,” home run derby champion Aaron Judge said. “If we just go out there and play our game, I think good things will happen.”
Before going all-in as legit buyers or “careful” buyers before the June 31 non-waiver trade deadline, general manager Brian Cashman will look at this stretch very closely. Yes, there will be 74 games remaining when they leave Seattle for the Bronx, but what the standings look like on that date (July 25) might tell you all there is to know about the 2017 New York Yankees.