Late in the evening on April 12th, 2016, Andrew Miller struck out Justin Smoak on three pitches to close out a 3-2 Yankees win against the Blue Jays. At the time, nothing particularly special stood out about the victory—just a standard win on the sixth game of the season to bring them to 4-2. The Yankees were fresh, feeling good, and had no idea this would be the last time in three months they were two games over .500.
It’s mind-boggling to think about, but from April 12th until July 20th, the best Yankees’ record would reach just one game over .500. Unsurprisingly, this has led to the Yankees being 5.5 games back in the division, 5 games back in the Wild Card, and with an 8.2% chance of making the postseason. At this point in the season, a Yankees win isn’t greeted with excitement and enthusiasm...instead, it comes with a groan and the realization that the only thing a victory does is keep the Yankees from selling sooner.
Now, Yankees wins feel hollow and the only real enjoyment comes from individual performances. Luckily, there was plenty of that in Wednesday’s 5-0 blowout against the Orioles. Most remarkable was Michael Pineda’s six-inning outing—the eight strikeouts and zero walks aren’t shocking, but those zero runs allowed were a pleasant surprise. Pineda allowed just five hits and looked great (by his standards, working into and out of jams).
The bullpen also shut down the normally powerful Orioles offense, with Dellin Betances going a perfect inning (with a strikeout, of course) and Nick Goody and Chasen Shreve following with two clean frames of their own.
The Yankees’ bats weren’t quite as impressive, but a number of players had nice days at the plate. Unsurprisingly, Carlos Beltran scored once and drove in two with a sacrifice fly and solo home run, his 20th of the season. The highlight of the night though may have been when
Buntran Beltran beat the shift with a push bunt down the third base line. Mark Teixeira also pitched in with a solo shot and Ronald Tripleyes Torreyes and Brett Gardner each hit a triple (leading to a run in both cases).
Starlin Castro did make an error, but overall it was a clean Yankees win, making it their fourth straight. This “make or break” stretch in New York will probably end up neither making or breaking the Yankees season, though the small win streak is nice and they have a few more home games to go. So even if what happens during the next few games has little long term implications, the Yankees are playing good baseball that might actually bring, um, enjoyment to spectators.