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Thoughts Before the Biggest Stretch of the Season

Well, this is going just as we expected: the Yankees have won 9 of their last 12 games, even after a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined some of the most important players on the roster. The Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailBirds Yankees have really stepped up – and very well may have saved the season. That was just the bare minimum, though. The Yankees now face their toughest and most important stretch of the season.

Suffice to say, I have some thoughts. Let’s get to ’em.

1. Setting the Stakes: So, yeah. The Yanks are now on the road, where they’ll play four in Boston and three in Tampa Bay. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say it will make or break their season – or at least their chances at a division title. If they go on a tear, they’re right back in it. If they get demolished, their chances are all but gone. And if they tread water, well, they still have a chance, but they made it a whole hell of a lot more difficult.

The Yankees currently sit 7 games behind Boston (6 in the loss column) for first place of the division. They’re 6 games behind Tampa (5 in the loss column) for second place. This stretch will be crucial. (They’ll still have a chance in the Wild Card, where they’re the team just outside the dance, 3.5 games behind Oakland, though it’s just 2 in the loss column.) Their playoff odds, per FanGraphs, stand at 43.4% going into the big stretch.

That will change a lot over the next week.Unfortunately, the Yankees will at least start the weekend still playing shorthanded. Aaron Judge won’t be back until at least Sunday, nor will Gio Urshela or Kyle Higashioka. (It’s theoretically possible that they’ll return sooner, at least the vaccinated among them – but we’ve heard nothing to that effect so far.) There is some good news, though: the Yanks could get both Jonathan Loaisiga and Nestor Cortes Jr. back this weekend.

Loaisiga rejoined the team on Tuesday, threw on flat ground, tossed a bullpen, and is expected to be activated for the weekend. Boone also hinted, earlier this week, that Cortes could also return against Boston. It doesn’t solve the roster crunch – I’d prefer the Yankees attack be at full strength right now – but it’s better than nothing.

Finally, the Yanks’ rotation is well-positioned going into this stretch. There won’t be any former Oriole reclamation projects, bullpen games, or fliers, barring injury. The starters line up as such:

  • Thursday, July 22 (@ BOS): Jordan Montgomery
  • Friday, July 23 (@ BOS): Gerrit Cole
  • Saturday, July 24 (@ BOS): Jameson Taillon
  • Sunday, July 25 (@ BOS): Domingo Germán
  • Tuesday, July 27 (@ TB): Jordan Montgomery
  • Wednesday, July 28 (@ TB): Gerrit Cole
  • Thursday, July 29 (@ TB): Jameson Taillon

That is good news. Cole, Taillon, and Montgomery are clearly the Yanks’ best, most-reliable starters right now. (If that’s a good thing is a different question.) They’ll be taking the mound in 6 of the 7 biggest games of the season. Can’t ask for much more than that. Now they need to go out and perform. Wouldn’t hurt to get a 2006 or 2009 mid-summer sweep of Boston going. Is that too much to ask?

Game 94: Sure, why not

I have to say, I’m a little delirious after watching that one. It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win. The Yankees topped the Phillies 6-5 in 10 innings and have now won 9 of 12 games as they head into a pivotal four game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Once again, the Yankees got heroics from the places you’d least expect. Greg Allen had a big RBI double early in this one, Brooks Kriske pitched a scoreless 10th inning during Manfred-ball, and Ryan LaMarre walked it off in the bottom of the 10th. Hell, even Asher Wojciechowski was fine. There were some big moments from the regulars too, but still, the replacements stole the show. What a weird, wacky game:

To the takeaways:

Game 71: Gary Sánchez and the defense deliver again

What a finish! The Yankees snuck past the A’s this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, 2-1. It took some clutch hitting from Gary Sánchez (who else?) and an incredible triple play to bail out a shaky Aroldis Chapman in the ninth to win this one. That’s right, the Yankees turned a game-ending triple play, as you can see in the video above, to win this one.

The bullpen: A great stable of arms [2021 Season Preview]

Newbie Darren O’Day sure knew how to endear himself to a fanbase, huh? There clearly was some intent in that comment early this month. As you may recall, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash touted his stable of guys who throw 98 last year in response to the beef the Yankees and Rays had. It sounded a bit threatening after Aroldis Chapman threw some chin music to Mike Brosseau. Granted, the Rays got the last laugh. It’s a new year though, and this bullpen is clearly pretty good, as O’Day said.

The locks

Although Aroldis Chapman‘s high octane fastball is no longer unique among his peers, he’s still one of the league’s best closers. He’ll continue to blow his upper-90s heat by hitters in 2021, but that might not be his only big threat anymore. Sure, his slider has been effective at times in the past, but this year, Chapman plans to incorporate the splitter he teased last season. It’s looked pretty nasty in camp.

As tantalizing as that split looks, there’s one ultimate goal for Chapman this season: to record the clinching out of the World Series rather than end his year like the previous two postseasons. One last note: Chapman will serve a two-game suspension to start the season as a result of this aforementioned incident against the Rays last season.

Yankees Spring Training News & Notes: March 15, 2021


John Sterling and Michael Kay reunited for this afternoon’s broadcast on YES for the first time in two decades. A little bit of nostalgia was heartwarming on this freezing day in New York, no?

If you missed the duo’s reunion, you’ll have another chance to catch them together on March 22nd. That one’s a 6:30pm ballgame, so work may not interfere for some of you like it may have this afternoon.

Sterling and Kay got to call a 4-2 win over the Phillies. Domingo Germán was sharp again, which I’ll expand upon in a moment. Giancarlo Stanton had another nice game too. He tallied two hits, both absolutely crushed (110 and 120 MPH exit velos), and drove in two runs. Gary Sánchez and Rob Brantly pitched in a couple of RBI singles as well. Not that Grapefruit League records mean anything, but this win was the team’s sixth straight, moving the Yanks to 10-4. Now, onto the big story.

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