A golden opportunity presented itself to the Yankees coming out of the All-Star break.
Then 49-42 and a game out of the final American League wild card spot, the Yankees opened the second half with a chance to make up significant ground with four consecutive series against teams with losing records.
They’ve failed to capitalize so far, dropping two of three to the National League-worst Rockies before being swept by an Angels team missing one superstar in the injured Mike Trout and rumored to be considering trading another in Shohei Ohtani.
The Yankees, who fell to last place in the loaded AL East, rank towards the bottom of the league in runs, team batting average and OPS this season, but their players maintain hope they can still meet their high expectations.
“It’s obviously frustrating because we have a great team, great players, a great pitching staff that backs us up and keeps us in it,” rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe said after the third straight loss to the Angels. “We have so many good players in the clubhouse, and no one is lacking belief in the guy next to you. At the end of the day, we’re just going to keep preparing, keep working, and I feel like we’ll turn it around.”
New York is hosting the Royals — who just lost their 70th game and are last in the AL Central — this weekend before the under-performing Mets come to the Bronx. The schedule gets much harder from there with consecutive series against the Orioles, Rays and Astros, each of whom hold playoff spots.
It’s been a brutal July for the Yankees, who began the month by dropping two of three to a Cardinals team that was in last place in the NL Central. The Bronx Bombers also lost a home series to the below-.500 Cubs to close out the season’s first half.
The struggles follow a 2022 season in which the Yankees finished atop the AL East with 99 wins and advanced to the ALCS. Much of the roster returned, although the team has been without reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge since early June due to an injured big toe. Lineup regulars Volpe, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo have also dealt with inconsistency.
Rizzo says the players “all expect better of ourselves, individually and as a team.”
“Part of being in this league and being a professional is making sure you come in every day and, no matter what happens the day before, whether you’re winning 10 games or losing 10 games in a row, you’ve got to come in and just be ready to win that game,” Rizzo said during the Angels series. “Guys are coming in, we do our work, and we’re grinding right now.”
The Yankees pitching staff has also faced its challenges. The typically tough bullpen faltered during the Rockies and Angels series, during which Michael King allowed two runs in back-to-back appearances. Tommy Kahnle, who didn’t give up an earned run in his first 16 games, surrendered at least one in three straight games during that stretch.
Prized free-agent acquisition Carlos Rodon is 0-3 after missing the season’s first three months with forearm and back ailments, while fellow starting pitchers Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas have also missed prolonged stretches with injuries.
Those issues further highlight the importance of ace Gerrit Cole, who started the All-Star Game for the AL. He remains the rotation’s rock, pitching to a 9-2 record and 2.78 ERA across 20 outings, and is scheduled to start Saturday against Kansas City.