It took until August, but the Yankees hit rock bottom in St. Louis.
A very winnable series turned into a sweep. The Yankees just couldn’t execute or finish in three games with the Cardinals. Paul DeJong, who was hitting .140 entering the series, hit .333 against New York with six RBI, including the game-winning hit Friday.
Thankfully, the Blue Jays had trouble with the Twins in Minnesota and the AL East lead shrunk to a mere 9.5 games. By nothing short of a miracle, the Houston Astros are still down a game in the loss column. Meanwhile, the dog days of August have hit the Yankees square between the eyes. This weekend was a reality check, and the schedule isn’t letting up.
There’s a lack of pitching urgency. The worst part of trading popular lefty Jordan Montgomery wasn’t the Yankees being on the receiving end of his revenge start on Saturday. Rather, it’s the front office’s clear lack of urgency when it comes to addressing the pitching staff. Not even Gerrit Cole, the alleged ace, is reliable anymore and Domingo German is hardly a fully trustworthy fill-in until Luis Severino returns.
The good news is Matt Blake is a good pitching coach and has worked miracles before. Let’s just hope he succeeds before the downward spiral gets worse.
Execution extinction. The Yankees have hit .247 with runners in scoring position this season and that’s a pretty solid number. Yet, the Yankees ranking 21st in the league in the category almost taints it. The lineup’s performance against the Cardinals certainly did over the weekend.
In three games, the Yankees stranded an unacceptable 25 baserunners. The batters only hit .290 with RISP because Sunday was a high-scoring game. Not what you want to see from a supposed World Series contender at any point.
Broken bullpen. Not that Ed Hickox’s terrible umpiring did it any favors on Sunday, but the Yankees bullpen clearly has an identity crisis. Aaron Boone’s planned mix-and-match approach with Aroldis Chapman clearly isn’t working. Clay Holmes, the All-Star closer, has an 8.44 ERA in the second half. Chapman, meanwhile, has recently returned to form after an injury.
Call it a hunch, but Holmes’ confidence could be rattled because he doesn’t know his role on a given night. Boone implied the plan was for Chapman to close Friday’s game if Holmes held the lead in the eighth inning. Simply put, this glorified closer-by-committee route is doomed to fail and the experiment should end now. Naturally, Holmes should be the closer since Chapman cannot be trusted in October.
Rough seas ahead. The Yankees can’t look forward to any easy series for the next two weeks either. Next come three road games with the same Mariners who just took two out of three in the Bronx. Yankee killer Luis Castillo pitches Tuesday. Then come three more with the Red Sox at Fenway, and last-place Boston always plays hard.
New York then goes home for seven important games against the division rival Rays and Blue Jays, and then hosts the second tilt of the Subway Series. This stretch alone determines how well-suited the Yankees will be for October.
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