Overreacting to early season struggles, either for specific players or the entire team, is usually misguided. While everybody wants to win every game, the narrative for April is typically that everyone needs to take a step back and relax before really freaking out.
That way of thinking is more than fair. Plenty of teams get off to slow starts and still easily make the playoffs; we've seen it ourselves with the 2005 and 2009 Yankees. Even last year, they got off to a 3-6 start before getting hot and eventually winning 87 games and reaching the playoffs.
Despite getting off to a hot 4-2 start this season, the Yankees have now dropped four of five, and stand at 5-6. It is still early, and it's not like they are 1-10, so while fans are getting a bit aggravated, we're nowhere near the point of burying the 2016 Yankees. That being said, though, wins are wins, and it's nice to get them all season long. In a division that looks like it will be tight and competitive all season, losing games that you should win, April or not, hurts.
This nine-game homestand the Yankees are currently on is definitely one of the easier ones they'll have all season and they need to take advantage of it. Few picked the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, or Tampa Bay Rays to reach the playoffs, and early on they haven't shown much that suggests they'll prove people wrong. Looking ahead at the Yankee schedule, this seems like it should be their easiest homestand of the season.
That is why losing two of three to the Mariners was less than stellar, and why finishing out this week strong is important. They host Oakland for three games, and then the Rays come in for three this weekend. The Yankees really need to win four games, and preferably more, to salvage this homestand.
Taking a look ahead, here's what the Yankees are up against.
Oakland Athletics, 6-7, 37 runs scored, 43 runs allowed
Eric Surkamp (0-1, 4.00 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (1-1, 6.55 ERA)
Kendall Graveman (0-1, 2.38 ERA) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (0-1, 6.94 ERA)
Rich Hill (1-2, 4.15 ERA) vs. Luis Severino (0-2, 5.91 ERA)
The A's were almost unanimously picked to finish last in their division across the baseball community, and they've looked pretty meh so far. The team's offense has been bottom-ten in most offensive categories; Marcus Semien, Stephen Vogt, and Josh Reddick have been their best hitters, but overall, the lineup is mediocre at best.
The three starters they'll face are hittable. Surkamp has walked five and struck out just three in nine innings; Rich Hill has been good (13.15 K/9), but he's still Rich Hill; and while Graveman will be the toughest test, he's definitely not untouchable. The Yankees will want to get to the starters, though; the A's bullpen has been one of the best in baseball early on.
Billy Beane's A's are never going to be too easy to beat, but they are one of the worst teams in the AL, and at home, this is a series where the Yankees need to win two or three.
Tampa Bay Rays, 5-7, 34 runs scored, 42 runs allowed
Erasmo Ramirez (2-0, 1.54 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (1-1, 5.06 ERA)
Matt Moore (1-0, 2.95 ERA) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 3.06 ERA)
Drew Smyly (0-2, 4.61 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (1-1, 6.55 ERA)
As mentioned, the AL East is expected to be competitive from top to bottom this season, so winning as many divisional games as possible, especially at home, will be a huge help. The Rays are currently at the bottom of the division, but everyone is bunched together, and things can change by the weekend (they're in Boston for three games during the week).
So far, the Rays are what we thought they would be. They're a weak offensive team led by some really good starting pitching. They've had a bottom-five offense in baseball and are hitting just over .200 as a team. Steven Souza has been their best hitter with a .294 average, 3 home runs and 6 RBI. New addition Corey Dickerson has hit three solo homers, and Evan Longoria is at .265 with a couple of homers and 6 RBI, but he always seems to play his best against the Yankees.
The pitching matchups are not officially set since the Rays have been toying with a 4-man rotation. However, with six games in six days this week they'll need five starters, and those would be the three the Yankees face with how things are currently lined up. It's not a great draw for the Yankees. The lefty heavy lineup will face two lefties, and if they do face Erasmo Ramirez, that's trouble; he allowed just three runs to the Yanks in 22.2 innings last season. The good news is they should avoid Chris Archer.
The Rays are always tough, but the Yankees did go 11-7 against them last year and play them much better at home than in Tampa, which makes winning this series more important and definitely doable.
So while it's early, these series are still important to win. April or not, this is what should be the Yankees' easiest homestand of the year. They've already lost the first series, so they need to win four or five games this week to salvage the homestand and get this season back on track.