After signing big names like Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Masahiro Tanaka before the season started, the Yankees were poised for a return to the postseason. But, in the first half of the season the Bronx Bombers were barely at .500 with a 47-47 record going into the break. The Bombers had fallen into third place behind Baltimore and Toronto after losing four of their five starting pitchers to injuries.
The mid-summer classic provided some much needed rest for most of the Yankees roster as they came out of the All-Star break to sweep the Cincinnati Reds. A red-hot Cincinnati team came into New York after the All-Star break having won 7 of their last 10 games.
After quality starts from David Phelps, newly acquired Brandon McCarthy, and Hiroki Kuroda, the story really revolved around the Yankees strong offense. Definitely earning their “Bronx Bombers” title, the Yankees scored 14 runs over the three game series, including a 7 to 1 victory on Saturday. But, could this be an early sign to see pinstripes in the playoffs?
That depends on the critical upcoming series for the Yanks; the first one being against the Rangers. During the four game series, the Texas Rangers will be fighting to stay alive in the AL West after two losses to Toronto set them 22 games back in their division. The Yankees might be able to gain ground heading towards first place while facing the Rangers, minus Prince Fielder. The challenge will come in the third game of the series when the Yankees will have to face Yu Darvish without their own Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the Orioles move on to face the momentum gaining Angels. Coming in behind the team with the best record in baseball, the Angels could help their East-coast rivals by winning the series against the O’s. But, the turnaround series will be when the Yankees face the Orioles to conclude the New York home stand.
Hiroki Kuroda is the last standing pitcher from the Yankees starting five; they’ve been surviving by bringing up minor league players to fill in some pretty big shoes. Chase Whitley had a promising career in Scranton, but his ERA has more than doubled to 5.10 for the season, where Shane Greene has successfully started two games for the Yankees and has the lowest ERA among the starting rotation. The biggest hole is going to sit in Tanaka’s spot in the rotation while he tries to avoid Tommy John by rehabbing his right elbow. Masahiro’s 12 wins will be a void in the Yankees rotation. However, acquiring Brandon McCarthy could offset the loss of Tanaka if the rest of his starts are as good as his first in pinstripes.
On the other side of the ball, the Yankees offense had been relatively quiet going into the break. Since returning, the offense had seven batters hit above .300 against the Reds. At the top of that list is Jacoby Ellsbury with 6 hits, 3 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases. After an impressive performance in the All Star Game, the Captain has had 4 hits, 2 RBIs, and 2 runs scored. The Orioles haven’t had the same luck at the plate as they dropped 2 of the last 3 games to the Athletics, including a 10 to 2 loss in the series finale. The inter-division matchup could determine the second half of the season for the Yankees; will they carry Derek Jeter into a final playoff appearance, or will they disappoint and end his career in regular season play?