The New York Yankees were flying high on June 12. They had just finished a six-game homestand against Boston and Baltimore in which they finished 5-1 and outscored their AL East rivals 59-14. Rookie sensation Aaron Judge hit a monster 495-foot home run the day before and added a dinky 402-footer for extra measure in a 14-3 rout of the Orioles. The Yankees were 37-23, four games up on Boston in the division, and had just landed on the West Coast for seven games against Anaheim and lowly Oakland.
It’s eight days later and the Yankees now find themselves in a virtual tie for first place with Boston in the standings after a horrendous road trip in which they were lucky to come away with even one victory. It was their first six-game losing streak since last season when they went winless from April 26 to May 3.
If you are looking for a reason for this streak, and wondering how it could happen after such a good homestand, look to Sunday, June 11 when Masahiro Tanaka couldn’t make his scheduled start against Baltimore. Though the Yankees won that day over Baltimore and the next day against the Angels, the events of the 11th set into motion the six-game losing streak against Anaheim and Oakland because the pitching staff couldn’t recover.
Instead of pitching Tanaka on the 11th, Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild opted to start Chad Green but then only let him pitch two innings because he had reached his pitch limit. They then used up the bullpen and pitched the starter the Yankees called up from the minors — Domingo German — at the end of the game. It was a comedy of errors that ultimately cost the Yankees in the days to come.
Then the injuries came. CC Sabathia, Aaron Hicks, Adam Warren and Gary Sanchez all suffered injuries while the Yankees were on the West Coast. It was the first time all season that the Yankees had so many players go down with injuries at the same time.
The offense wasn’t as explosive as it was at home — they were outscored 37-30 — and again, they lost Sanchez and Hicks to injury for some of the road trip, but the Yankee batters did as much as they could to keep the team in a couple of the games. They were victims of two walk-offs, one in Anaheim and one in Oakland.
What have we learned about the Yankees during this six-game losing streak?
- They do not like playing on the road
The Yankees are 16-20 on the road and 22-9 at home. This is a problem, but not rare for them. A lot of MLB teams are better at home than on the road, but if the New York Yankees want to be contenders, they need to learn how win games on the road.
- Their bullpen is a mess
The real problem during this streak goes back to the first problem: The bullpen. Nearly every loss was a bullpen loss. The only starter saddled with a loss was Tanaka on June 17. Chasen Shreve, Ronald Hererra, Giovanny Gallegos, Jonathan Holder and Luis Cessa all picked up losses in the other games. Add the absence of Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen drama. His absence was not good for Tyler Clippard during this streak either. But Chapman was activated and maybe his presence, combined with Monday’s off day, will help the bullpen recalibrate.
- When injuries strike, they can’t bring up top prospects
Yankee fans think that when the Major League club is overcome with injuries, Brian Cashman can just call up Trenton and Scranton and get Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, etc. to come up and fill in. That’s not the case. Instead, someone like Mason Williams is called up. And that is perfectly fine.
- Masahiro Tanaka is a major liability.
Tanaka not being able to start June 11 set everything into motion. Then on June 17 he had a historic start, and not in a good way for him. He was the first pitcher in the live-ball era to strike out 10 or more batters in four innings or fewer but also give up three home runs. The Yankees simply cannot afford to punt every time he pitches. They need to do something and do it fast because as the calendar turns to July and the games become more and more important, Tanaka’s starts become more and more important.
- Welcome back, Aroldis Chapman
It’s pretty self-explanatory. Chapman’s coming back and he is needed. He should help the bullpen a lot. Clippard will be back in his more familiar role, and the rest of the bullpen might see fewer high-pressure situations.
After a much-needed off day, the Yankees will be at home, taking on the Angels and starting a six-game homestand. Perhaps the Yankees and their fans will see the start of another winning streak.