Six games back is still a substantial amount, but it’s a lot more promising than when they were ten games back not long ago. After the four-game sweep in Fenway, the division seemed lost. The Yankees were treading water as their star players fell one-by-one, and the Red Sox refused to lose. They should’ve accepted their fate and prepared for the inevitable AL Wild Card game.
Suddenly, though, the Yankees are back in the race. I’ve long said that I don’t really care about what the Red Sox are doing. The Yankees can only do so much to control that, but they can control how they play. The Yankees had to win the games they had to win and the rest would sort itself out. If the Yankees won 100+ games and still had to play the Wild Card game, I wouldn’t be upset at them, but at the system that allows that nonsense.
Yet, there’s reason to believe again. The Yankees overcame their Baltimore demons this weekend. The odds weren’t in their favor, as they were in Baltimore and had a double-header sandwiched between games, but they completed a much-needed four-game sweep of the Orioles anyway.
Down in Tampa, the King Leonidas Rays showed the world that even a god-team like the Red Sox can bleed. The mighty Sox were swept for the first time all season. This came right after they split a four-game set with Cleveland’s Baseball Team. It may just be a bump in the road for Boston, but it’s a sign of hope when they simply hadn’t staggered at all until now.
The Red Sox have lost six of their last eight, and the Yankees have won eight of their last nine. There’s still a way to go, but there’s a chance again. If this pressure stays on, the division race is far from over. The two rivals still have six games left against each other, so they can essentially write their own fate. Boston has the upper hand, but New York still has a few moves to play.
The remaining schedules favor New York. The Red Sox still have to play the Astros, Blue Jays, and Cleveland, in addition to the two aforementioned series with the Yankees. The Bombers get to face the White Sox, Tigers, Twins, and down-trending Mariners. They also get another chance to beat up on the Orioles. They should feast.
Treading water is fine to an extent, but it’s no longer enough. This is the time to pounce. The Yankees have to take advantage of bad teams and gain some ground. While the team still awaits good news on Aaron Judge, reinforcements are on their way in the form of Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez this weekend.
When Sanchez does return, he absolutely needs to play better. While his presence in the lineup is still better than Austin Romine, potential is not going to win any games. The Kraken needs to be unleashed. As we saw in 2016, he’s capable of carrying a team on his back. He doesn’t quite need to do that, but getting his potent bat back and teaming it with Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar can make this team the force that’ll get scarier with the return of Judge.
The bats finally woke up in Baltimore, but the best news of the weekend might have been Luis Severino. His final line wasn’t amazing, but his start was a positive step in the right direction after a couple months of him becoming a liability. He didn’t quite have it all, but still got eight strikeouts and was really only responsible for two of the three runs he allowed. If he can build on that and return to his Cy Young-caliber form, he can lead the pitching staff and the Yankees can truly make a run here.
There’s a lot that needs to break right for the Yankees, but there’s also a lot that they can control themselves. This past weekend was the ultimate representation of a new hope (wait for it) for the Yankees. The division is still a long shot, but it’s not lost yet.
I’ll lean on this definitely real, verbatim conversation from Star Wars* for inspiration:
C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully winning the division in this field is approximately 3,720-to-one!
BriHan Solo: Never tell me the odds.
*Yes, I know this is Empire Strikes Back and not A New Hope but I don’t care.