Perhaps it’s the bright lights of the Big Apple, or maybe it’s the enchanted water of the Hudson River. For all we know, it could be the past Yankee legends giving the team a helping hand, like in Angels in the Outfield, or the chanting from the “Bleacher Creatures” out in the right-center field stands, providing inspiration for the Yanks. Whatever the case may be, the Yankees, who lost 4/5 of their Opening Day starting pitchers to the DL and were under .500 as recently as July 2, are still alive in the playoff hunt, trailing Toronto by half a game for the second Wild Card spot as of August 7. How have they actually done it? Let’s find out.
1. Tanaka Time — For $155 million over seven years, the Yankees landed what they projected to be a “strong number two starter.” Little did they know that Tanaka, former ace of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, would serve as the team’s savior prior to the All-Star break, as he went on to post a 12-4 record with a 2.51 ERA before landing on the DL with a potentially season-ending injury to his UCL. Rather than undergo Tommy John surgery, which definitely would have ended his season, he opted to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection and has been feeling better, according to recent reports. If healthy, Tanaka would certainly help the Yankees in September when they make their postseason push.
2. A Pinstriped Pen of Steel — Shawn Kelley has a .203 BAA and Adam Warren has allowed only one more hit (53) than strikeout (52) in his 56.1 innings pitched. Follow those two up with the 6’8″ 260 pound behemoth known as Dellin Betances, whose strikeout total matches his average fastball velocity of 100, and a closer who has converted 30/32 save opportunities in David Robertson, and there’s no question that the Yankee bullpen has been stronger than ever, even after its loss of the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera.
3. Hi, My Name is… — Brian Cashman deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the acquisitions of Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano, Chase Headley, and Martin Prado from teams in the NL West this season, though he probably did not envision them having the type of immediate impact they’ve had the past couple of weeks. McCarthy is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA since donning the pinstripes, relying on his effective cutter to induce outs. Capuano has not yet won a game in a Yankee uniform, but in his three starts in New York, he has posted a 2.84 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings. Pretty good stuff for a guy who was acquired from the Rockies solely for cash considerations. On the offensive side of the ball, Chase Headley made an immediate impact on the team when he sent Yankee fans home with a win on July 21 over the Rangers with a 14th-inning walk-off single at midnight. In his 15 games as a Yankee, he has posted a .263/.323/.744 slash line and has solidified the third-base position with superb defense plays, such as this one here. Martin Prado was picked up from the Diamondbacks for catching prospect Peter O’Brien, and his versatility in the field has allowed the Yankees to play him in right and at third to cover for Headley on his off-days. An eight-year veteran, Prado has brought leadership and a strong knowledge of the game to the Bronx Bombers.
If the Yankees can continue to produce the way they have the past couple of weeks, a playoff spot could be the cards for the unconventional Bomber squad. Though the odds would be stacked against them making it far into the playoffs, especially given the dominant rotations of the A’s and Tigers (who they just took three of four from in their most recent series), as they say in New York, “Hey, you never know.”