Given the amount of question marks that surround the Yankees for this upcoming season, there will have to be some sort of answers that eventually surface as the season goes on. Some may be the answers fans were looking for. Some may be the ones they pleaded would never come.
Let’s look into the crystal baseball and look at a regular season game in September, with two very different tones. One presents the best case scenario for the Yanks this season, while the other presents the exact opposite. Odds are the Yankees will wind up somewhere in the middle ground, but this is more fun. Let’s start with the more desirable of the two hypothetical scenarios.
September 24, 2017
Yanks complete sweep of Blue Jays with 5-0 victory, clinch second Wild Card spot
After a one year absence, the Yanks are going back to the postseason.
Masahiro Tanaka twirled a brilliant four-hit shutout to put a stamp on his already convincing Cy Young Award case to shut down the struggling Jays, who have officially lost out on a postseason bid to their division rival after being swept in a crucial series at home.
The champagne was flowing in the visitor’s locker room as the Yankees completed their improbable playoff run led by a promising group of youngsters who have matured in the majors light years ahead of their expected pace.
Tanaka was matched pitch-for-pitch by Jays’ starter Marcus Stroman for the first four innings, until the Baby Bombers awoke from their brief slumber. Didi Gregorius led off the top of the fifth with a single, and Gary Sanchez followed with a mammoth home run to center field for his 32nd homer of the season. Sanchez raised his September batting average to .363 with an OPS of 1.013 for the month. Fellow Baby Bomber Greg Bird followed Sanchez with a long ball of his own, socking his 24th home run to give the Yanks a 3-0 lead in the blink of an eye.
Toronto looked poised to strike back in the bottom of the fifth when Josh Donaldson scorched a one-out triple, and Jose Bautista followed with what looked to be a sacrifice fly to left field. However, the resurgent Aaron Hicks gunned down Donaldson at the plate to preserve Tanaka’s fifth shutout of the season.
Tanaka’s brilliant performance completes a successful series on the mound for the Yanks. After tough starts to the season, Luis Severino and Chad Green turned in solid starts for the Yanks and kept the Jays’ bats at bay while the offense took care of the rest. The two youngsters at the back end of the rotation have a combined ERA of 3.37 since the All-Star break.
The Yanks padded their lead in the eighth with a collection of singles to put runners on second and third. Newcomer Gleyber Torres lined a single up the middle to score Hicks and Chase Headley to put Toronto out of their misery. It has been a small sample size, but Torres’ September success might be hard for Joe Girardi to ignore when it comes time to assemble his postseason roster. Torres has filled in nicely for Starlin Castro, who is still a few days away from returning to duty after a brief DL stint.
Torres’ single was huge for Girardi and his bullpen, as the skipper was able to leave Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman on the bench to preserve their arms. Tyler Clippard came on for two shutout innings to clinch the win and start a massive celebration north of the border.
September 24, 2017
Blue Jays throttle Yanks to take series and sole possession of first Wild Card spot
Marcus Stroman silenced the struggling Yankee bats and led Toronto to a 7-1 victory, moving the Jays past the Rangers for the first Wild Card spot as September draws to a close. Meanwhile, the Yankees clinched their first losing season in a quarter of a century.
The Blue Jays’ offense wasted no time jumping all over Bryan Mitchell, the Yankees’ latest patchwork attempt to round out their train wreck of a starting rotation. Mitchell lasted just 3 1⁄3 innings before being replaced by Adam Warren, who didn’t fare much better.
Aaron Judge recorded a painful hat trick by striking out three times, two of them at the hands of Stroman. The Yankees’ once coveted prospect has still been unable to find his way at the plate despite a summer stint down in AAA. Judge has shown little improvement since his return to the majors on September 1st.
The lone offense for the Yanks was a solo homer from Greg Bird, which was a welcoming sight for the first baseman. It was Bird’s first home run in almost a month, and just his 12th of the season. Joe Girardi may look to rest Bird the rest of the way in favor of Tyler Austin, who has been having struggles of his own at the plate.
Speaking of rest, don’t expect to see another start from Masahiro Tanaka this season, as he will likely be shelved for the rest of the season due to his lingering elbow soreness. Whether we have seen the last of Tanaka in pinstripes remains to be seen.
This was the Yanks sixth game in their last 10 in which they scored two runs or fewer. Aside from Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the bats have been painfully silent. Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Holliday recorded another hitless day, while Chase Headley was able to muster just an infield single to save him from another day off the bases.
Starlin Castro committed another error for the Yanks as demands for Gleyber Torres continue to rise. Girardi declined to comment on if Torres will be inserted back into the lineup after an unsuccessful trial for the organization’s top prospect at the beginning of the month.
With a winning record officially out of the question, the Yanks are left with little to play for aside from giving their younger pieces more reps in the big leagues to hopefully find a better result come 2018.