Can The Yankees Return To The Playoffs in 2015?

Since 2000 when the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series, the Yankees have only missed the playoffs in 2008, 2013 and 2014. However, their only WS win occurred in 2009.  Heading into the 2015 season, the Yankees had many question marks.

1.      Could A-Rod and Teixeira at the ages of 39 and 36 respectively return to their All-Star form? Answer: Yes, these two veterans so far have exceeded the best expectations for them. At their current pace A-Rod should reach 30 home runs and Tex should reach 40 home runs.

2.      Could Didi Gregorious replace Derek at shortstop? Answer: Yes, after a very slow start Didi has played solid defense and has upper his BA from .200 to .260.

3.      Would their aging starting pitchers stay healthy? Answer: Yes and No, whereas CC has stayed healthy he is not the CC of old, Pineda is currently on the DL, Tanaka is getting stronger with each start, Eovaldi has been fine, and Nova has successfully returned from the DL. Their rookie Luis Severino has been excellent with a 2.45 ERA in his first two starts.

4.      Could Andrew Miller successfully replace Robertson as the closer?Answer: Yes, he has only blown one save out of 27 chances.

5.      Could Betances repeat his sensational 2014 eighth inning role? Answer: Yes

Other concerns included could the aged Beltran still produce and could McCann be himself after a below-average 2014 season. Both these concerns are no longer concerns. Added to all these positives is the success of Ellsbury and Gardiner at the top of the batting order. With everything going right for the Yankees, they won 7 of their last 10 before the All-Star break, opening up a 4.5-game lead in the AL East.

But the dynamics of the race changed considerably before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, with the Jays acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies and pitcher David Price from the Tigers. And it’s not like they only upgraded the top of the lineup and rotation: Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins strengthen the bullpen, while Ben Revere is a solid on-base guy to plug in left field. While the Jays were doing all this the only Yankee acquisition was left fielder Dustin Ackley a 10 HR  50 RBI.250 hitter for a season. George must be turning over in his grave seeing the Blue Jays make big trades for big names while his Yankees more or less stood pat.

Since that low point on July 28 heading into a three-game series with the Yankees (Aug. 14-16), the Jays have won 14 of 15 games, including 11 in a row, overtaking the slumping Yankees. Included in the 14 wins was a sweep of the Yankees (Aug.7-9) at Yankee Stadium. In that three-game series the Yankees scored just one run, ending the series with 26 consecutive scoreless innings.

This brings us to the just finished series with the Jays at Toronto which opened on August 14. In game 1 the Yankee scoreless inning string reached 33 before Beltran hit a pinch-hit 3-run home run leading the Yankees to a 4-3 win. In fact, this was the second longest scoreless inning streak in Yankees’ history. But the win was not easy. In the ninth inning against closer Miller the Jays had runners on second and third with one out. Miller then struck out Revere and got Bautista to pop out to secure the victory. That win ended the Jays 11 game win-streak. The next day with both Beltran and Teixeira hitting home runs and Tanaka pitching a complete game 5-hitter striking out eight the Yankees went on to win 4-1. This was the first Yankee pitched complete game in 2015. The final game of the series saw a 3-1 Jays win in spite of another solid Severino performance. After this loss the Yankees still had a 1/2 game lead on the Jays and a 4-game lead on the Orioles.

Clearly, it will be a dogfight between these three teams before the finish line is reached. However, the second place team will likely be a wild-card team. Could we again see a Yankees vs. Mets in the 2015 WS?

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