CLEVELAND – It’s a chorus that the Yankees have rarely used this year, but effectively, “It’s time to start a new streak.” Not having won a World Series in 12 seasons, the Yankees came this season motivated to be ruthless.
So, the Bombers arrive at Progressive Field to take on the Guardians looking for a new series after losing to the Astros on Thursday in a really weird one-game stop in Houston (because it’s a series that got postponed due to the exclusion). That still counts as a series loss (yes, we know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s how MLB counts it), of which the Yankees only have three this season. In fact, the Yankees have lost only five consecutive times this season and their longest losing streak is three games. The Yankees are 14-5 on losses this season, one of the facts that makes many people predict that this could be a special team.
Winning series and games they should be has been a focus this season – in part because of what they’ve been through in Houston over the past few years.
“I think everyone here is motivated, nobody is happy,” said Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. “We know what to expect. We know, it’s halfway through the year now. There is still a long way to go, but every win is important. There’s been so many years that we look back and we go to the end of September and it’s like we’re fighting and clawing and we’re half a game out or just half a game and I think guys are starting to realize the importance of all these games.”
They come in as the favorites in this three-game series, having already faced the Guardians in a three-game set in the Bronx last month. They are heavy favorites with an incredible +150 run difference – no other team in the American League is higher than +73 (Houston). Cleveland, a game back in the AL Central, has a +14 differential.
That’s ominous for the Guardians.
“We’re not letting games we should win slip away,” Giancarlo Stanton said on Thursday. “There were definitely games last year and in the years before that, sure, that we should have won and somehow we let ourselves slip. That doesn’t happen anymore.”
“That’s the key,” Stanton continued. “If teams give us one or two extra points, we jump off them. And we don’t give teams extra outs. That’s the difference in the season and in the playoffs. Extra outs are so big and important.”
The Yankees haven’t been so ruthless in recent years. They had fought a number of teams where they were not supposed to. Last season, for example, the Rays (who won the AL East) went 18-1 against the Orioles. The Yankees let Baltimore hang out and went just 11-8 against the AL East basement residents.
“You learn over the years from what happened before,” Stanton said. “Our season has ended because we made more mistakes than the other team. You’ve done it enough, you understand that you have to turn the page and execute. This year we have succeeded more often than not.”
Not this squad. The Yankees are the most complete they’ve been in years.
The pitching staff has the best ERA in the major leagues and has allowed the fewest runs in baseball. The offense leads the majors in runs scored and home runs. They even set a major league record for home runs in the month of June with 58.
So choose your poison.
“We have many ways to beat you,” Stanton said. “It makes it a lot easier when the home run ball isn’t there — and when it is.”
It gets a lot easier when the balls fly out of the park – which of course happens a lot this season. Judge leads the majors with 29 home runs. There are only six other baseball players who have hit at least 20. Antony Rizzo has 21 and Stanton has 19. The Yankees are the only team to have more than one player in the top eight home run hitters this season.
“We just did a smart, patient offense where everyone carries the pitchers down, which causes more mistakes,” Stanton said. “It’s not like everyone takes swings home with them. We have professional at bats and that wears guys out. It allows for a smaller margin for error if you are a pitcher. If you haven’t experienced that too often, you’re going to make more mistakes. And even if it does, it’s nearly impossible not to make mistakes. The more we see them, the more we try to capitalize.”