The Yankees are 23-19 since August 2, the day the season began to completely turn when they lost the first of four straight games to Boston. As the Red Sox return to the Bronx Tuesday, the Yankees are looking for the switch to flip. But despite manager Aaron Boone's optimism, time is running out for the club to get it all together.
Meanwhile, they might have to watch the Red Sox celebrate the division title on their home field as they work for a chance to exact revenge in the ALDS.
The Yanks, whose descent goes back to July 12 (30-27 record since then) have a handful of issues that need to be resolved. And the chances that all of them will be remedied before the wild card game are not great...
Judge's return to lineup doesn't ensure a strong addition
As Aaron Judge works his way back from a chip fracture in his right wrist -- he's in the lineup Tuesday night -- the Yankees hope that when he steps back in the batter's box the offense will take off for good (more on the overall offensive production next). There is little doubt that Judge makes the offense that much more difficult to navigate, but believing there will not be some growing pains as he gets up to full speed would be shortsighted.
Judge will certainly have one of the better approaches in the lineup, yet the truth of the matter is that no one knows how quickly he can get himself into gear and be as productive as he was before he was injured. Further, wrist injuries are difficult to overcome and tend to reduce power for players upon their return.
Erratic offensive production
The Yankees have produced the second-most runs (763) in the game this season (36 fewer than Boston), which equates to 5.1 runs per game. That should be enough to win on most nights. And obviously with 91 wins in the ledger, the Yankees have done just that. The concern is that the Yankees tend to have some drastic fluctuations, unlike Boston, to get to their five-plus runs per game.
The Yankees can score an abundance of runs one game and then get shut down the next and that's been demonstrated through the last seven weeks. Since August 1, the Yankees have scored three or fewer runs 14 times and seven or more 17 times. Runs are difficult to come by in the postseason, so if the offense wavers, chances are the club will have a difficult time moving forward.
Two reliable starters cannot carry an entire postseason
With an impressive second half of the season, Masahiro Tanaka has taken the step to getting the ball in the wild card game. However, after Tanaka, the rotation has one starter we can deem as being consistent -- J.A. Happ. Meanwhile, the expected ace of the group -- Luis Severino -- is anything but steady.
The Yankees will be hard-pressed to survive the postseason with just two starters on top of their game, unlike the Red Sox who can point to a steadier top of the rotation. The argument that bullpens are more important in playoff series is well and good, but the Yankees are not in a smooth sailing ship in that respect, either.
Despite potential Chapman return, relievers showing blemishes
Like Judge, Aroldis Chapman's expected return on Wednesday or Thursday should provide a boost. That said, Chapman is at his best when working as often as possible. So, as the amount of time away from the game will clearly be difficult to overcome on its own, Chapman will then have to deal with the fact that the schedule is dwindling, leaving few chances to get fully up to speed.
Outside of Chapman's recovery, the remaining bullpen arms have had their own ups and downs since the middle of July. The Yankees' "super bullpen" has not been quite as electric as expected as a whole, though they may still have an advantage over Boston in this facet -- with or without Chapman at his best.
David Robertson has shown a tendency to implode. Dellin Betances has allowed runs in three of his last seven appearances and two of them have been dramatic in fashion. Finally, while Zach Britton has begun to look more like the dominant reliever of 2016, he too can have games where he's incredibly erratic.
Boone's pitching staff management
Boone receives accolades from some about his steady demeanor and his ability to keep the club up mentally, yet questions continue to be asked about his management of the pitching staff.
Boone has frequently made interesting moves (and non-moves) where it concerns removing starters, which reliever he turns to in crucial situations and how long he sticks with any pitcher. This might not be as much of issue in the wild card game because it presents an all hands on deck situation. But if the Yankees are fortunate enough to meet Boston in the division series, Boone's shortcomings could mean a series defeat.
So, as the Yankees face the Red Sox beginning Tuesday night, finding the switch against the league's best team might not be easy and simply flipping it could be harder.