New York: Winning ball games in April are important because during those dog days of August and stretch run in September a losing streak comes back to haunt.
The Yankees are an example, though it’s April they are in that early season mode of a crisis. They are 3-9 in their last 12 games after concluding a 1-4 homestand against Tampa Bay and the Atlanta Braves.
And those Rays of Tampa Bay have the Yankees number. Tampa Bay has won five of six of their games against New York including a three-game series sweep in the Bronx last weekend. Of course the Yankees are looking to dethrone Tampa Bay as AL East champions.
But in the early going it is obvious the Yankees have a lot of work to do.
These are not the New York Yankees and the team that is expected to play deep into October. In April, they are a team in that early season crisis mode. Worst record in the American League, 3.67 runs per game are second lowest in the AL. The Yankees at 6-11 are off to their worst start since 1997.
And you sense there is that concern. You hear the comments from manager Aaron Boone.
“As a group, we’ve just got to continue to lean on each other and trust each other,” he said after the Yankees 4-1 loss to the Braves on a chilly Wednesday night in the Bronx.
And the Yankees hope to become a team that is expected to play baseball deep in October. Perhaps that begins Thursday night in Cleveland against the Indians. Then again, this is a Yankees lineup that needs to find themselves before the calendar turns to May.
There is little room for excuses, exception, perhaps of playing in those cold weather elements of April. And ballplayers are more adapted to playing on the field when conditions are right.
But look at the lineup. Up and down and below career numbers for Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Gio Urshela, and DJ LeMahieu.
LeMahieu, the Yankees consistent hitter in the seventh inning Wednesday night hit an inning ending ground ball to third base that stopped a rally.
And the consistent inability to score runs is reflected up and down the Yankees lineup:
Stanton: 158 (DH)
Odor: 120 ( Bench and lineup)
Gardner: .214 (Bench and lineup)
Stanton, 12 RBI is the team leader, Judge with 8, Urshela 7, LeMahieu and Hicks with 5. Frazier collected his first RBI Wednesday inning in the ninth inning. Gardner, the longest tenured Yankees with 1 RBI.
As one AL insider said, “Too good of a lineup. This is April. We can talk in a few months. This Yankees team is struggling now and too much talent to be where they are.”
Remember, though, winning ball games in April are as important as they are in September.
There is a tendency for the Yankees to swing for the fences. He is not wrong and obvious up and down the lineup there are swings and misses and chasing pitches.
But the Yankees were built to win with the home run ball. They have been built that way the past few years. Their ballpark in the Bronx works to their favor especially with the short right field perch.
But 151 strikeouts in 551 at bats is a reflection of where the Yankees are as a team. Baseball in general has become home run ball or strikeout, but that does not necessarily account for getting those wins.
“ We’re not getting the job done as a whole,” said Aaron Judge. “But I believe in this team, just like every single guy in that room believes in this team. We don’t need to make drastic adjustments. We’re right there.”
Judge said, the Yankees are on the cusp of turning this thing around.
“We’re on the cusp of getting on a hot streak and getting it rolling,”
But to get on that streak, the Yankees need to put it all together. Their starting rotation, with exception of Gerrit Cole, tends to not go deep in games and that has put a tax on a bullpen that could lead to consequences later in the schedule.
The Yankees as a team pitch to a team ERA of 3.41 and lead the league in striking out hitters with 188. Cole has 39 of those strikeouts.
Pitching wins ball games but those runs are important. And those runs coming across in April have been an issue for the Yankees. Yes, they are better than this.
Can it get better? Of course it can. Because 17 games does not make a season of that full complement of 162, different from that forced sprint of 60-games during the 2020 pandemic MLB season.
Time will tell. But April is important.
Comment: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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