When we are hoping for one win against the Orioles, and just one win against the Red Sox, it is hard to be thinking about how we are setting up the playoffs. In fact, I have stayed away from talking about the playoffs. I empathize with the incredulity that Jim Mora felt back in 2001 when he was asked about the Colts making the playoffs. Playoffs? Playoffs?!? We cannot win a game when it matters.
Still, we would not be the first to have a strong playoff run following a mediocre finish. Look at last year’s World Series winners the San Francisco Giants. They were 13-12 in September and lost 9 of their last 15. They fought for home field advantage in the Wild Card up to game 160 and lost – they squeaked in with the last playoff spot in the National League. The year before the Red Sox dropped six of their last 11, giving up nearly 6 runs per game the final week. The 2012 Giants lost of their five of their last 10, with their vaunted pitching staff giving up almost five runs per game in the last week of their regular season.
Okay, I admit it does not prove the Yankees are going to come alive, but it does prove that teams can turn it around in win-or-go-home scenarios. For the most part, this is the mostly the same players as the team that was 60-45 and up by 5½ games in the division on August 4. The only differences are Mark Teixeira is out, Greg Bird is in, and Luis Severino is in the rotation. Yes, too many of players’ performances have tailed off. Nevertheless, they can turn it around. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner can hit .300, as they did in the first half. CC Sabathia can pitch to a 2.17 ERA and hold hitters to a .224 batting average, as he did since returning from the DL in early September. Masahiro Tanaka can silence high-octane offenses as he did at Rogers Center on August 15.
It starts with Tuesday night. Tanaka cannot afford an off night like the one he had against Boston last Wednesday. Everyone I mentioned above needs to return to form. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances need to pitch as if they have fresh arms. All 25 need to bring their A-game, no excuses. Can they do it? Absolutely! It is just hard to see it today. The board is clear and everyone is now 0-0. If they get their heads past these last few weeks and play to their ability, they can beat anybody. They were beating everybody. If they do, this last month will be a funny story to tell over Thanksgiving dinner.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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