Bronx Bombers faulter down stretch

As the New York Yankees embark on their first September in 20 years without a man named Derek Jeter on the roster, they find themselves in great condition to make the postseason, somewhere they have not been since 2012. While the team that plays in Queens has certainly made its noise this season, the team from the Bronx has exceeded everyone’s expectations thus far and hopes to continue this trend as October approaches.

Both the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays have lead the American League East over the duration of the past month in what should be a division race that does not conclude until the last few games of the season. Toronto’s offense, headlined by Jose Bautista and MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, has been historically great, scoring runs with no mercy. On the other hand, New York’s offense has been hit-and-miss, struggling to find consistency at the plate.

One reason this offense has been stagnant as of late is due to the loss of their first baseman, Mark Teixeira. Number 25 had clearly been the best player on the team and constantly produced at the cleanup spot. Due to his absence, everyone essentially moves up one spot in the lineup and suddenly those expectations that were being exceeded are now being met. Two players that have been able to seamlessly transition into bigger roles and help New York stay afloat in the division race are Alex Rodriguez and Brian McCann.

In March, if somebody were to predict A-Rod would wind up with over 30 home runs after spending an entire year away from baseball, others would wonder if they belong in an insane asylum. The 14-time All-Star has stepped into a leadership role this season and has fully embraced it. From repairing his problematic relationship with the Yankees’ front office to becoming the 29th player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits, Rodriguez has come a long way from his suspension even admitting, “To be quite honest, a year ago today I didn’t know this day would ever come. There were some really dark days.”

Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada. These are just a few of the legendary catchers in New York’s illustrious history, and McCann is compiling numbers that ranks him right up there with the best of them. After recently launching his 25th homer of the year, McCann became the sixth catcher in Yankees history to hit 25 or more home runs in one season. Manager Joe Girardi opted to insert his catcher into the cleanup spot to replace Teixeira and he has certainly sufficed. Although McCann has been getting it done behind the dish, the teammates that he catches have contributed to this recent slump for the Bronx Bombers.

After entering the season with too many starters, the Yanks had to send some to the bullpen and even the minor league. The situation could not be any more different now. Nathan Eovaldi, arguably their premier pitcher at the time, was shut down after an MRI revealed elbow inflammation in his throwing arm. Flirting with no-hitters and pitching deep into games were on Eovaldi’s agenda prior to his injury, which will sideline him until the postseason. New York’s starting rotation has shown they are unreliable and shallow, putting immense pressure on the relievers.

Besides Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, known together as “DnA,” Girardi’s options, when it comes to the bullpen, have been scarce. Betances and Miller have virtually shortened the game to seven innings as both relievers have a sub-2 ERA and a WHIP under one. However, the rest of the bullpen has been ineffective, causing the Yankees’ skipper to overuse his two best arms. Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Chris Capuano are just a few names that have been utterly disappointing on the mound making the bridge from starter to DnA that much more difficult to manage for Girardi.

In 2012, New York reached the American League Championship Series with Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera leading the way in what would be their last playoff appearance as a trio. The following year, Pettitte and Rivera hung up their cleats as the latter part of the season was more of a ceremony to celebrate the two magnificent pitchers’ careers in pinstripes. Then in 2014, Jeter called it quits after a season that was often referred to as the “The Farewell Tour.” In his final game at Yankee Stadium, Jeter drove home the game-winning run in a meaningless game that sent Yankees fans everywhere into a frenzy.

As October rapidly approaches with the Yankees likely headed to the playoffs, they are optimistic that their strengths outweigh their weaknesses. The Bronx Bombers are optimistic McCann and Rodriguez can continue to carry this team offensively. New York is optimistic that their starting rotation can help make Girardi’s job easier by calling on Betances and Miller to get the final six outs. Since there is not  much to celebrate this season as opposed to previous seasons, the Yankees’ focus is on one mission and one mission only, World Series Championship No. 28.