Life was grand for the Yankees on July 18. Pulverizing opponents with the long ball and supported by a starting rotation that went 15-4 with a 2.62 ERA in June, the Bombers were sitting in the AL East penthouse with a 57-34 record and leads of 10 and 10.5 over the Orioles and Rays, respectively. The race was declared over. Fans and talk-show hosts were debating over how the Yanks would line up their rotation, and if reliable third and fourth starters would emerge. There were even those "if the season ended today" discussions regarding who the Yankees would play in the ALDS.
Oh yes, there was no stopping these Yankees and no chance the mediocre division competition would catch them in the standings. The Orioles and Rays? One’s a perennial also-ran and the other a light-hitting team whose inevitable late surge would be too little, too late. The Blue Jays? Yeah, right. The Red Sox? Whoa boy.
The Yankees were in first place, by their lonesome, for 84 days, their longest run since 2004. Pretty good, right? Not if you analyze what’s happened the last 49 days, a free-fall that’s seen their 10-game advantage completely wiped out. A 5-2 loss to the Rays on Tuesday was their third straight and fifth in the last six games, part of a 19-26 skid since their high-water mark on July 18. No Yankees team in the franchise’s storied history has ever blown a lead of 10 games. According to STATS LLC, its largest lost lead was six games in 1933.
This Yankees team is indeed flirting with making history, but not in a good way. Blame the injuries all you want, but the guys in the lineup haven’t delivered, period. New York’s five straight games of six hits or less is their longest such streak since 1990, when they had six straight games of six hits or less.
"We’ve got to hit," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "That’s the bottom line. It’s hard to win if you don’t hit. We’ve had a tough time scoring runs the last couple weeks, probably starting around the White Sox series. That’s been part of our problem. We’re just not getting it done right now. As a club, we’re just not hitting the ball very well."
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