Thanks to a monumental collapse since their 13-game winning streak, The Yankees now need to win nearly all of their remaining 18 games to reach the postseason. If they don’t, changes are coming. Some of the changes have already come.
1. After their’ 8-2 win over the A’s on August 27, the Yankees were 76-52. To get to 96 wins, which would put them in a great position to win the AL East (and also win my preseason over 95.5-win wager), the Yankees only needed to go 20-14 in their remaining 34 games. They have gone 4-12.
It’s been an explicable 16 games since the 13th win of the 13-game winning streak. The Yankees lost two of three to the Angels, lost two of three to the Orioles, got swept in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium and then lost two of three to the Mets. The collapse has been an embarrassment and it has seen the Yankees go from holding the first wild-card spot to being out of the playoff picture and now chasing both the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
2. In the collapse, Chad Green has pitched in six games, allowing runs in four of them and home runs in three of them. Green is the last person I want to see in a big spot, but the problem is there is no one else. Jonathan Loaisiga is injured, Zack Britton is out for this season and likely all of next season. Darren O’Day’s season ended after 12 appearances. Justin Wilson and Luis Cessa are in Cincinnati. To me, Clay Holmes is the best available Yankees reliever, and after him, there’s no one I trust.
Green’s knack for allowing home runs in high-leverage situations has been unbelievable. His season has been a collection of giving up home runs in high-leverage spots and blowing late leads. The Astros’ two wins against the Yankees this season came after Green gave up a three-run home run to Jose Altuve in both games and it was Green who had the post-All-Star break meltdown in Boston to blow a two-run, ninth-inning lead. The home run he allowed on August 29 in Oakland turned a 1-1 game into a 3-1 deficit. The home run he allowed on Saturday at Citi Field turned a 5-4 lead into a 6-5 deficit. The home run he allowed on Sunday at Citi Field turned a 6-6 game into a 7-6 deficit. Green has now allowed 15 home runs in 59 games and 74 innings. He allowed 13 home runs in 144 2/3 innings in 2017 and 2018 combined.
With limited options and no real trustworthy options, Green is going to continue to see high-leverage situations over the remaining 18 games. The Yankees’ season will likely hinge on whether or not he can revert back to his old self.
3. Green isn’t the only one who needs to revert back to his old self. Gleyber Torres’ error on Sunday in the series finale against the Mets was apparently the final straw for him as shortstop. After sitting by and watching Torres boot routine play after routine play both last season and this season, Boone finally announced Torres would be playing second base indefinitely. It’s good Boone and the front office are willing to improve the most important position in the infield, however, it’s likely too late for the change as the Yankees’ postseason chances are no longer great. By accommodating Torres (whose bat isn’t good enough to make accommodations for) it’s screwing up the rest of the infield.
Torres playing second means DJ LeMahieu isn’t. LeMahieu is a three-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman who will now play third base, a position he had never played prior to joining the Yankees. It also means Gio Urshela, who never played shortstop in the majors prior to this season will now play shortstop. So by improving the defense at short, the Yankees have downgraded their defense at both second and third. Again, this is to accommodate Torres, who isn’t nearly good enough to be getting this kind of accomodation. It would be in the Yankees’ best interest to not play Torres rather than shuffle 75 percent of the infield to keep him in the lineup.
4. Two years ago, Torres looked like he would be the team’s best player in the near future and the most important player on the team for years to come as a 22-year-old, superstar middle infielder. Instead, in his last 602 plate appearances, he has 10 home runs and a .688 OPS.
I would be ready for the Yankees to move on except for his value being so low. But maybe his value will never recover. Maybe the Yankees holding out hope he will return to the player he was in 2018 and 2019 or hoping his stock will rise, so they can move him will only hurt the team in 2022 and for however long they continue to play him.
5. The Yankees made it clear Torres is no longer the shortstop of the future for them when they reportedly tried to trade for Trevor Story in July. Now, needing to win every game down the stretch, the Yankees have decided to move Torres off of shortstop and to a position he hasn’t played since the 2019 ALCS. His time as the Yankees’ everyday shortstop is over. With the Yankees’ top prospect (Anthony Volpe) being a shortstop, as well as their No. 3 prospect (Oswald Peraza), I don’t see them going out and signing Story or Corey Seager or Carlos Correa to a long-term contract. But they are going to have to do something. They can’t go into 2022 planning on Torres being their everyday shortstop, and I don’t think they’re even considering it.
6. The Yankees won for just the fourth time in their last 16 games on Monday, overcoming a 5-0 deficit to beat the Twins 6-5 on a Gary Sanchez walk-off hit. The comeback was made possible thanks to a Judge game-tying, three-run home run in the eighth inning.
The Yankees have had a knack for hitting a late-inning, game-tying home run during the collapse. The problem is they usually don’t take the lead after tying the game with a big home run. In Anaheim, it was Stanton who tied the game at 7 with a two-run home run in the seventh before the Yankees lost 8-7. Against the Orioles, it was Joey Gallo tying the game at 3 in the eighth before the Yankees lost 4-3. Against the Blue Jays, it was Brett Gardner with a game-tying, three-run home run on Wednesday and Anthony Rizzo with a game-tying, two-run home run on Thursday, both coming in Yankees losses. On Sunday, it was Stanton again with a game-tying, two-run home run against the Mets in an eventual Yankees loss. (Only once during the collapse did the Yankees hit a late, game-tying home run and go on to win: Saturday against the Mets.)
7. The Stanton home run created a bench-clearing argument between the Yankees and Mets after Stanton stopped rounding the bases to have words with Francisco Lindor, who earlier in the game had words for the Yankees dugout while rounding the bases on a home run. Nothing came of the Stanton and Lindor exchange other than a bunch of yelling and hand gestures. It seemed like a moment that could lead the Yankees to a much-needed win and potentially serve as the starting point for a late-season run to the postseason. Instead, Lindor answered Stanton’s home run with his third home run of the game. When Stanton came up with two outs in the ninth and had the tying run at third and go-ahead run at second, he popped up to Lindor to end the game.
8. When these Yankees chirp their opponent, it never ends well.
After the Yankees won Game 2 of the 2018 ALDS in Boston, Aaron Judge walked through Fenway Park with a boom box blaring “New York, New York.” The Yankees followed that up with the worst home postseason loss in franchise history in Game 3 and were eliminated in Game 4, while the Red Sox went on to win the World Series, playing “New York, New York” in their clubhouse after each win.
Earlier this season in Houston, Judge mimicked Jose Altuve clutching his jersey on his way to home plate after his walk-off home run against the Yankees in the 2019 ALCS (the moment that cerated the Astros’ buzzer controversy). In the series finale, Altuve got the last laugh, like he always seems to go against the Yankees, hitting a three-run, walk-off home run to cap a six-run ninth in the final game of the first half.
Then there was Sunday with Lindor, who like Altuve, got the last laugh.
9. The only way for the Yankees to get the last laugh in 2021 is to win nearly all of their remaining 18 games. If they do so, they will have a chance to go on a revenge tour throughout the postseason. Either they will outlast Boston for a wild-card berth and end their season or have the opportunity to eliminate them in the wild-card game. If they win the wild-card game, they will have the chance to avenge their 2020 ALDS loss to the Rays in the 2021 ALDS. After that, they could see the Astros in the ALCS and repay the Astros for the 2017 and 2019 ALCS. The only way for this happen is for the Yankees to win each series from here on out and it might take even more than that.
10. The Blue Jays’ schedule is so easy the rest of the way. Ten of their remaining 19 games are against the Twins (7) and Orioles (3). The Red Sox’ schedule is also very easy. Nine of their remaining 17 games are against the Orioles (6) and Nationals (3).
The Yankees are in a bad spot. A very bad spot. That’s what happens when you lose the season series to the Angels and Mets, can’t beat the Orioles and get swept at home in a four-game series by the team chasing you. They now have 18 games left to avoid completing a collapse, which should result in vast organizational changes.
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