Yankees final playoff push begins with weekend Fenway series

 

The Yankees open a season defining series Friday night against the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees are the number two Wild Card team as of this writing, holding onto their spot by one full game ahead of Toronto while sitting two games behind Boston in the loss column for the number one spot. It's not news, but after their 13-game August winning streak, the Yankees struggled mightily and gave all that progress that they made right back. It has been a mixed bag since those struggles, but they have since stabilized a little bit. It basically comes down to this: The Yankees’ next six games are against Boston and Toronto. If they win most of them, they will very likely make the playoffs. If they don’t then they’ll be watching like the rest of us. Let’s get into some news and notes.


Texas Rangers v New York Yankees : News Photo
Credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images



After a disastrous stretch of games where they lost two of three to the lowly Orioles, four straight to the Blue Jays and even two of three to the Mets, they were able to get a makeup win against the Twins followed by taking two of three against the Orioles. They then lost two of three in embarrassing fashion to the Cleveland Indians and that brings us to the three-game sweep that they were able to secure against the Texas Rangers at home. It’s been a roller coaster ride for this Yankee team. At times they look like they’re playing out the string and other times they hit a bunch of homers and blow teams out. Which team will show up at Fenway this weekend? Who knows, but a Yankees team whose depth has been tested finally got some reinforcements recently…

Michael King, Luis Severino(!) and Domingo German have all rejoined the team during the past two weeks after lengthy IL stints. All three will be joining a highly taxed unit that was in desperate need of fresh arms. How the Yankees plan to deploy these three remains to be seen, but all can throw multiple innings and taking a load off of a worn-out starting rotation. Severino made his return during Tuesday's game after 707 days, pitching two innings with two strikeouts.

German and Severino have had great success pitching out of the bullpen in the past, and King has had some good stretches this year as well. Unless the starting rotation needs a lot of help during this home stretch, the Yankees would do well to get these three into as many games as possible.


 

Also lurking for a possible return before season's end is Jonathan Loaisiga. Aaron Boone stated he was “Very encouraged” after watching Loaisiga play catch on Tuesday. Loaisiga will throw a bullpen on Friday but the Yankees have not committed to how many sessions he might need before activation.

Speaking of the starting rotation, RHP Jameson Taillon began a rehab assignment with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and made his first appearance on Wednesday night, throwing 51 pitches through three innings and allowing two earned runs. By all accounts he came through it ok and felt good afterwards. It is unclear what the Yankees plan with Taillon is at this point, but with time running short on this season, they may bring him back to the majors after just one rehab start. If they were to do so, he would be lined up to start Tuesday against the Blue Jays with an extra day of rest and doing so would allow the Yankees to push Corey Kluber to Wednesday and get him an extra day of rest.

Kluber has been inconsistent since his return from the IL and although he has pitched well for stretches of innings, he has not consistently pitched deep into games. An extra day of rest may do him good as he will be very important to the Yankees’ hopes should they find themselves in a traditional five or seven game playoff series.

 Now that all the pitching news is out of the way, lets talk offense. It's no secret the Yankees have not scored runs consistently and as a result have stressed their pitching staff heavily. The Yankees are in a must win situation for every game remaining. The Yankees should be rolling out their very best lineup every night and they are quite simply not doing that. Why that is really is anyone’s guess, but it is utterly inexcusable. Anyways, lets talk about what that best lineup might be.

The Yankees should be rolling out their best nine hitters every day. We believe their best nine hitters looks something like this:


Gary Sanchez – C

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Gleyber Torres – 2B

Gio Urshela – SS

DJ LeMahieu – 3B

Joey Gallo – LF

Aaron Judge – CF

Giancarlo Stanton – RF

Luke Voit – DH

 This is obviously not how the batting order would look but, these are the nine batters Aaron Boone should be putting in the lineup every night between now and the end of the season. Considering the concerns about this team’s defense, this is as good of a combination of offense and defense that Aaron Boone can put on the field. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be late game defensive subs, but there isn’t any room left for batters that don’t deserve at-bats. The Yankees rest players regularly throughout the season in hopes that they remain healthy for the most important games. Well, these are those games and these are the players that should be taking the field for them. No excuses, play your best players or enjoy watching the playoffs from the couch.

The Yankees will close the regular season with a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. The importance of those three games will be determined by the Yankees performance in their next six. Simple as that. As the late, great Al Davis used to say, “Just win baby”.

Article by Matt Graziano

 

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