The expectations of playing losing teamsBy
A little less than three weeks ago, things didn’t seem so rosy for the Yankees. They were battling injuries to a few key players, and weren’t getting elite production from their elite players. After dropping two of three from the Mets the Yanks had something of a cold streak going, 5-9 in a two-week span that began with their trip to Detroit. The starting pitching, which propped up the offense in April, had a bad turn or two through the rotation, and it showed on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Yet there was a bit of hope ahead. The Yanks had an off-day after the Sunday night loss to the Mets, after which they’d travel to Minnesota for a mini three-game road trip. After three games against the first-place Twins, they’d have a string of games that had the potential to boost them back into gear. First four against last-place Cleveland. Then three against last-place Baltimore. The only tough series in that stretch came against Toronto, after which the Yankees would have last-place Baltimore again followed by second-to-last-place Houston.
So far the stretch has gone pretty well. The Yanks, by virtue of their pitching staff, took two of three from Minnesota before taking three of four from Cleveland. They swept Baltimore, so even though they lost two of three to Toronto it didn’t hurt so badly. They had still averaged only one loss per series. In the Baltimore series they maintained that pace. Since May 25 the Yanks are 11-5, with three games against Houston before they face a string of decently tough National League teams (excepting the Diamondbacks). They then get Seattle, Toronto, Oakland, and then Seattle again before the All-Star Break.
This is what the Yanks had hoped for. They played a tough schedule early in the year and despite injuries they weathered it. The Rays might have played better, but the Yanks still find themselves just two games out, which is still a good position right now. If they can make an interleague run like they have in years past, they’ll be in an even better position when they head into the break.
Yes, the Yankees were supposed to do this. They were supposed to steamroll the poor teams. I don’t think that takes anything away from the accomplishment, though. If the Yankees were going to underachieve they’d probably have lost more than one game per series, on average, during this stretch. They’d probably have dropped one of those one-run games in Minnesota. They might have gotten swept in Toronto. Those would be the marks of underachieving teams. The Yanks are just doing what they’re supposed to, and it’s been a joy to watch.
If the Yanks can keep that pace and take two of three from the Astros, they’ll head into the off-day having won 13 of their last 19, a 110-win pace for a full season, just to put it into some context. This has come during a time when they’ve seen Mark Teixeira go hot and cold, and during which A-Rod has hit .288/.317/.475. I guess they picked a good time to struggle. Their teammates can pick them up against the weaker teams. If they start to rebound during the interleague stretch, we’ll see even better things from this Yankees squad.