THE BOOGIE DOWN, NYC – The New York Yankees pulled within a mere two and half games of the Boston Red Sox on Sunday and things are looking up. Other than the one with the Chihuahua and garden gnome, this is Short Matt’s worst nightmare. As we come down the stretch, the Yanks are starting to roll. But can they catch the Sox?
The Right Side of the IF Returns
The Yankees tossed All-Star second basemen Starlin Castro and 1B Greg Bird back into the mix over the weekend. This could be an injection of pop right when the lineup needs it. The Pinstripers are hoping for the STM Bird – Spring Training Monster – not the guy who hit .125 early in the year.
The Remaining Schedule
With 33 games remaining, the schedule is friendly. After this upcoming tough 7-game homestand versus first-place Cleveland and the Bosox, (kicked off by a stellar pitching matchup on Monday of Luis Severino and Cory Kluber), the Yankees play exactly zero teams currently over .500 the rest of the way. 21 of 33 are at Yankee Stadium. They have a 9-game road trip after this homestand to Baltimore, Texas, and Tampa Bay. But that’s it for road games, apart from one series in Toronto in late September. That’s a lot of home cooking.
The Red Sox have flaws
The Red Sox have shown cracks in losing four straight. They have a top-heavy rotation with Chris Sale and Drew Pomerantz, but the rest are struggling. Their pen is top-heavy as well. Craig Kimbrel is dominating, but the middle has been uneven.
Their remaining schedule might be even easier than the Yankees’, as they play many of the same mediocre teams and also have series with the bottom-licker A’s and Reds. They are on the road a bit more and do finish with a tough four game series against the Astros. But that series might not mean much for Houston, as they have a pretty firm hold on the top spot in the AL.
How We Got Here
A jarring stat is that the Bombers have a much better run differential than Boston. They’ve both given up 541 runs, but the Yankees have scored 52 more runs than their rivals. The Yankees’ run differential is +135 while Boston’s is +83.
The reason for this is the Yankees’ poor record in one run games and in extra innings. Through Sunday, the Yanks were 15-22 in one run games and 5-6 in extra inning games. The Sox were 15-15 in one run games, but 10-2 in extra inning games. The Yankees’ inconsistent and overworked bullpen and lack of clutch hitting have let them down in tight games.
Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees 5 year/$60 million closer, has been lost and is sporting an ERA over 4. He gave up the 11th inning game winning homer to Yonder Alonso on Friday night, preventing the Yankees from sweeping the Mariners. At this point, the Yankees are better off using Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Adam Warren, Chad Greene, and Tommy Kanhle in big spots and keeping Chapman glued to the bench. But they need to figure out how to get him to at least useful for the playoffs. Can someone remind him that he throws 100 mph? With a little reconfiguring, the bullpen projects to be a strength down the stretch.
Things are looking up in the rotation as well. Masahiro Tanaka has gotten his groove back after a rough first half. Still, I’d roll the dice with Severino if the Yankees end up in the one game wildcard playoff. Tanaka will probably give them a decent start, but he doesn’t have the lights out potential of Severino. The Red Sox have a sub .500 record against lefties, so CC Sabathia could be a big factor if the teams meet in the playoffs. Sonny Gray is settling in and Severino, Tanaka, and Gray are a formidable trio.
A Road to Avoid
The wildcard path is not easy, anything can happen in one game. And this year, the powerful Astros will likely be waiting for the winner. Dallas Keuchel owns the Yankees and dominated them in the 2015 wildcard game. The Indians are a good team, but a matchup against them without the play-in game is the easier road by far.
The Yankees have a good chance to catch the Sox. They are fourteen games over .500 at home and play 64 percent of their remaining games at home against mostly mediocre teams. With the bullpen realignment and the right side of the infield back in place, their record in close games is likely to improve. The rotation is coalescing like a fine wine, and I think they will win about 20-22 more games. That might be enough. Buckle up, it will probably come down to the wire.
Come back tomorrow for Angry Ward, even though he doesn’t watch Game of Thrones. Follow us on Twitter at @benwhit, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.