The Yankees made a statement as they were swept by the Red Sox, but it was not the one its fans were hoping for. The sweep spells doom for New York's chances to win the AL East, but can they stop the bleeding and find themselves in time to maintain hold of their wild card spot?
Why the Yankees won't make the playoffs
There just isn't enough consistency within the rotation. Luis Severino is a mess right now, CC Sabathia is a five or six-inning pitcher with varying results, and newly acquired J.A. Happ is on the disabled list. Meanwhile, Lance Lynn is brand new to the rotation and Masahiro Tanaka -- despite a strong recent run -- has had his own issues this season. The Yankees have shipped Sonny Gray to the bullpen and the reserves in the minor leagues are either underwhelming or untested.
Missing Judge and Sanchez
Without Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in the lineup, the Yankees lack some serious thump and run-producing capabilities. They are fully reliant on the home run ball, so missing two of their primary power hitters hurts a ton. That was on display in the weekend series (after Game 1's four-homer effort) and there is a good chance that neither player is ready for another two to three weeks.
I've been waiting all season for the corner to be turned for the rookie manager, but I'm not certain Boone is even at the corner yet. From poor bullpen management to failing to light a fire under the dugout bench, Boone often seems like he's in way over his head. The calming demeanor Boone portrays is fine when a team is just beaten by outstanding play from the opponent. But when the losses are adding up due to his own malfunctions, recklessness, or laidback lapses by his players, then it is up to the manager to right the ship. This stretch of play -- the Yanks'18-20 record in their last 38 games and 6-9 since the All Star break -- is far from "a blip."
Why the Yankees will reach the playoffs
As porous as the Yankees' rotation might be, the backend of the bullpen can more than make up for it if they stay healthy (and are used appropriately). I say that even as Aroldis Chapman blew the series finale against Boston Sunday night. In Sunday's game, we did see the bullpen train in motion with David Robertson, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances and Chapman handing the ball off to each other. The result was not as hoped, but the formula is there. And most games it will be tough for the opponent to get through the quartet.
We can lament Judge's and Sanchez's absence, but Giancarlo Stanton is another hulking batter in the Yankees lineup that has the ability to carry a club. Stanton, who got off to a very slow start, has finally brought his overall stat line closer to the expectation level. The missing thing is the absolute tear that he is capable of producing. If Stanton can find one of those home run grooves -- based on history, this is the time of season it typically happens -- he has the capacity to carry a club on his broad shoulders.
It has been talked about for a better part of the season. The Yankees have not played as well against teams with a record under .500. But it is not as if they are playing losing baseball against them. This is a club that went on a furious 41-13 run after a 9-9 start to the season. Considering what lies ahead of them on the schedule and their success against teams that have records above .500, if the Yankees can get back to full strength, they can still finish as strong as they did in 2017.
In the end, I believe the Yankees should be able to maintain a wild card spot. However, what happens beyond that game is fully dependent on whether the club creeps or barrels into the playoffs. As the Yankees hope for the latter, a lot has to quickly change or it may not matter.