In Pursuit of Boston, Yanks’ Look Ahead to October

With Aaron Judge out indefinitely, the Yankees will look for other players to step up in pursuit of the playoffs. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

If I had told you going into this season that the 2018 New York Yankees would hold a record of 90-56 as of Sept. 12, on pace for well over one hundred wins, would you believe me? What if I added that even with their incredible record, the Yankees would still find themselves sitting 10 games back of the Red Sox?

This has been the story all summer long for the Bombers. Compared to the Red Sox, the Yankees should match up pretty well. Both rotations are solid, while the Yanks’ certainly have the edge with regards to the bullpen, but do fall second to the Red Sox in offense, whose lineup consists of some of the best offensive weapons in all of baseball in J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts.

So what’s the deal with this 2018 Yankee team? We know they’re good, but how do they prevent losing the division to Boston for the third year in a row? Do they have the potential to make a deep run into October? Lets find out…

Aaron Judge

Like most sports, attrition plays a huge role in baseball. If you are a good team and have very few key injuries, you have a good chance to be successful. 

For the 2018 Yankees, injuries have certainly taken their toll. From Gleyber to Gary and Didi to Chapman, the Yankees have played almost the entire 2018 season at much less than full strength. However, one injury stands above all: the pulse of the Yankees, Aaron Judge. 

Coming into the season, many baseball fans had their qualms with Judge: “He strikes out too much, no plate discipline, his body won’t hold up, pitchers will figure him out” etc. If Aaron Judge’s sophomore season did anything for his critics it, simply put, proved them wrong. Before fracturing his wrist on July 26 vs. Kansas City, Judge led the team in home runs, was tied for first in RBI’s and had a team high .946 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Judge is also as good of a right fielder as any in the league. His height allows him to rob home runs, while his long strides provide him with great defensive range. His best defensive quality, however, is his arm. Game after game, Judge slings frozen ropes to home, nailing runners at the plate. His arm is so strong that coaches are often afraid to let even the speediest of runners run on him.

Judge makes the team better in every way. He’s a patient hitter, lengthens the lineup, provides protection for players like Stanton, plays great defense in right and is most importantly always even keel. Nothing ever seems to bother or worry Judge. He does his job and doesn’t worry about anything else. These qualities definitely have a positive influence in a locker room, especially in a tight pennant race.

The return of Judge can only mean positives for the Yankees and increase their chances to reclaim the AL East throne.

Cashman’s Additions

With injuries to Judge, Sanchez, Didi and Chapman, along with the ineffectiveness of Greg Bird, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman went out and brought in a few key free agents to help keep them afloat in this race with Boston.

The most curious, yet most effective move, was the signing of the 26-year-old ex Cardinal first basemen Luke Voit. With only 70 games of MLB experience under his belt with St. Louis, Cashman took a chance on Voit and boy did it pay off.

In 24 games with the Yanks’, Voit is batting .312 with seven home runs and 15 RBI’s. He has filled the offensive void at first that Bird left,  something they certainly need to be successful in October.

Another key move made by Cashman was the acquisition of starting pitcher, J.A. Happ. When Sonny Gray suddenly forgot how to throw strikes, Cashman didn’t mess around and immediately went out and got Happ from Toronto. Since then, Happ has gone 6-0 with a 2.70 ERA in eight starts.

Both of these pieces are extremely important for a playoff run. Before these moves, the Yankees virtually had no first baseman. Bird was hitting .195 with no sign of improvement and even had his struggles in the field. On top of that, they didn’t necessarily have a third starter for a postseason series to supplement Tanaka and Severino. With injuries to CC and the revolving door that is the fifth spot in the rotation, nobody was really stepping up until the acquisition of Happ.

The Red Sox

Finally, the Yankees simply need to beat Boston to have any chance at making up the 10-game deficit.

Coming into Fenway on Aug. 2, the Yankees held a record of 68-38, just four games back in the loss column of the 75-34 Sox. It was this series that proved to be the turning point of the season for both the Yankees and the Red Sox, as the Yanks’ were swept in all four games, dropping them to eight games back in the loss column. If the Bombers had even split that series in Fenway, we would be looking at a much different situation in the standings right now.

The good news for the Yankees is that the rivalry is not over. The teams have two more meetings left in the 2018 season, including the final series of the year at Fenway from Sept. 28-30.

At this point of the season, it is too late for scoreboard watching. The Yankees need to handle business themselves and beat Boston head-to-head which is certainly something they will need to prove they can do before a 28th World Series can be a real possibility.