There is no crisis. Aaron Judge’s heroics made sure of that. While it was unpleasant at times — specifically for 16 1/3 consecutive innings spanning from Friday night to Sunday afternoon — the Yankees got the split with the Astros.
No ground gained. But none lost either. The best team in baseball — no, Judge says, the best on the planet — rolls on. The bludgeonings will promptly resume with the hopeless Athletics shambling into town Monday. And should continue with a relatively soft remaining schedule before the All-Star break.
All good. But the Yankees have to exit this past weekend knowing the score. They got a much-needed wake-up call. They are good. But so are the Astros. And if this thing is headed where most think it is — an epic showdown in the American League Championship Series — we can forget general manager Brian Cashman standing pat at the trade deadline in early August.
This offense remains entirely too dependent on the long ball. The Yankees scored 14 runs in the series. Thirteen came on home runs. Judge’s walk-off RBI single on Thursday night was the lone exception. And while Saturday’s no-hitter (and the accompanying hangover on Sunday) was likely a bit of a fluke, it is still a red flag. You have to manufacture runs in October, especially against elite pitching like Houston boasts. The approach needs to be better. And the lineup still needs to be strengthened.
For the umpteenth time: How much longer can the Yankees run Joey Gallo out there? He’s actually having a worse June than his April or May. Aaron Hicks isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but at least he contributes a big hit here and there. Just designate Gallo for assignment and be done with it. Jose Trevino’s emergence allows the Yankees to focus on adding one bat to the outfield and then moving on, barring a significant injury elsewhere.
The Yankees’ bullpen remains elite, and it will only get stronger with Aroldis Chapman about to return — as long as he isn’t closing. Zack Britton and Jonathan Loaisiga are also on the way back. But this series emphasized the need to consider adding another starting pitcher. The rotation was fine against the Astros. But Nestor Cortes is clearly tiring. Jameson Taillon did get touched up. And the fact remains the only starter with significant postseason experience is Gerrit Cole. The Yankees have been lucky with health so far, but that is never a guarantee.
MLB expanded the postseason to generate more excitement (and make more television money), but — at least for this season — it seems to have made things relatively anticlimactic in the American League. And pretty straightforward for the Yankees.
They know they will run away with an AL East that will likely grab all three wild card spots. They are better than those divisional rivals, although the surging Red Sox still get to make their case in a few weeks. The Yankees also know they are better than whoever wins the AL Central.
The pennant will be decided with the Astros. After this weekend’s draw, Houston appears to be in lockstep with the Yankees. Even a hair better, they would likely argue. Which is nothing to fret over in June. Nor is it surprising — the 1998 Yankees had their hands full with the Indians, remember. But it is something to take seriously. This weekend was a wake-up call. The Yankees are a great team. But that does not guarantee a championship — the only achievement that will make this run a success. There is still work to do.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]