Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The hunters have become the hunted.
It took just three games for the Yankees to get pushed back on their collective heels by the red-hot Blue Jays. Fresh off trade deadline acquisitions of former Cy Young winner David Price and former All Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays now look like the favorites to win the AL East.
Poor managerial decisions from Joe Girardi and three stellar pitching performances, along with timely home runs gave Toronto a three-game sweep in the Bronx to cut New York’s once seven-game lead down to 1 ½ games.
The two teams meet 10 more times over the season’s final 50-plus games. The Yankees are in the drivers seat with a weak remaining schedule outside of the games against Toronto, but the once sturdy foundation surrounding The House That George Built is beginning to show some cracks.
The Yankees’ offense managed just one run over 28 innings, and was shutout on back-to-back days for the first time since May 1999. If you take this a step further, since the 13-run outburst against Boston on August 3, the explosive Yankee offense has scored just four runs over the last 46 innings.
Good teams have bad weeks, so there’s no reason to panic just yet. There are, however, some concerning signs bubbling to the surface. Since coming off the DL last month, leadoff hitter and $142 million man Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting just .191 (21-for-110). Ellsbury has managed just three doubles, a triple, four home runs and 17 RBIs with a putrid .579 OPS in that span.
The Yankees, of course, have downplayed the bad stretch, but more than 100 at-bats is more than just your run of the mill slump. Ellsbury did have the go-ahead home run in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Boston, so he hasn’t been without some success during this stretch.
Entering the season, conventional wisdom pointed to Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as the two guys who would have to jumpstart the offense by getting on base and stealing some bases, but that hasn’t been the case. The resurgence of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann in the middle of the lineup has covered up the fact that the two speedy outfielders have stopped running altogether.
Gardner has stolen 15 bags on 18 attempts, which looks nice on paper, but he hasn’t attempted a stolen base since a June 12 game at Baltimore. Ellsbury has stolen 14 bases on 20 attempts, but has attempted just one steal – which was unsuccessful – in 27 games since coming off the disabled list July 8. Those numbers should worry every Yankee fan, as the offense has once again become too reliant on the long ball.
Sure, it’s exciting to sit around and wait for the three-run homer, but we've seen that style of play doesn't work in the postseason.
This team has 52 games left in the regular season to figure out how to put more pressure on its opposing defenses or this year’s playoff run will be a short one.


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