By Brad Carroll
Losing two of the three games to the Blue Jays might not be the end of the New York Yankees season, but it could be the first nail in the coffin. The Yankees trail the second wild card spot by 3.5 games with 27 to play. It's not impossible to make up that deficit, but it's surprisingly close to it. Bottom line is the Yankees are in trouble and need to go on one serious run to make the postseason.
Think about this: Last year, all four wild card teams had 90 wins or more. Pittsburgh won 94 games, Cleveland and Tampa Bay won 92 and Cincinnati won 90. If the Yankees were to win 90 games, they would have to finish the season 20-7. In 2012, Atlanta won 94 games, Texas and Baltimore 93 and St. Louis 88 to make the postseason as wild card teams. For 88 wins this year, the Yankees would need to finish 18-9. Either one of those would be difficult for this Yankees team to reach.
Not only are the Yankees chasing the Tigers for the second wild card, they also have to jump over the Mariners (.5 game back) and Indians (3 games out). Right behind the Yankees are the Blue Jays, who are 5 games out of the wild card. The wild card is the only way the Yankees are going to make the playoffs, as they are 8.5 games back of the Orioles in the AL East.
The Yankees beat the AL Central-leading Royals in a one-game layover Monday, then lost two of three to both the Tigers and Blue Jays to put themselves in this position. Here's a look at who helped and who hurt the team this week, in our 3 Up and 3 Down column.
Jacoby Ellsbury: He's one of the hottest hitters in baseball, batting .542 over his last seven games, but we were close to putting Ellsbury in the Down list for him getting injured at the worst possible time, getting just one at-bat in two losses to the Blue Jays this weekend. Ellsbury's a great player, when he's healthy, something he hasn't been in his playing career. Still, he's the best hitter the Yankees have right now. Even getting that one at-bat Sunday, he was able to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He doubled in that game and has 13 hits in his last 24 at bats with nine homers, five RBI and three stolen bases. The Yankees need his bat in the lineup in the worst way right now.
Brett Gardner: He went 4-of-12 (.333) with a double, triple, home run and two RBI against Toronto the past three games. Sunday, he did his best to keep the Yankees on the right track toward the postseason by going 3-for-5 with two runs scored, a double, triple, home run and RBI.
Martin Prado: He's one of the few consistent hitters the Yankees have, going 4-for-12 against Toronto and 3-for-12 against Detroit this week. Prado has 15 hits over his last 10 games. He hit safely in eight of those 10 games and scored a run in seven of them.
Masahiro Tanaka: The Yankees injured ace took a step back in his rehab two days ago, complaining of soreness in his pitching arm and was sent back to New York. It's a setback that could cost him his season, and in turn, the Yankees season as well. Tanaka played catch Sunday and is schedule to throw a bullpen session Thursday. If all goes well, he might return for the stretch run of the season. But at this point, it's more likely Tanaka doesn't return to the mound until next season. That's a bummer for the Yankees and their fans.
Mark Teixeira: He can't hit anything right now, going 2-for-24 (.083) with an RBI over his past six games. He's batting .223 with 20 homers and 55 RBI this season. Unfortunately, the Yankees are stuck with him for another two years.
Brandon McCarthy: He had a tremendous beginning with the Yankees, but his last two starts have resulted in devastating losses, the last one which could be a season-killer. McCarthy allowed five runs in 6.1 innings in a loss to Detroit last Tuesday. He then allowed four runs, including three home runs, in six innings during a loss to the Blue Jays in the series finale Sunday. The Yankees dropped two of three to Toronto.