By Brad Carroll
Monday's off day didn't go so well for the New York Yankees, as they lost ground in the playoff chase without even playing. But that's how most of this season has gone for the Yankees, where the losses keep adding up and the hunt for the playoffs gets more and more unrealistic.
The Yankees, who are coming off a series where they dropped two of three games to the Royals, are five games back of the second wild card with just 21 games to play. The Yankees would need a ton of help from a ton of teams to get even close to that playoff spot over the final three weeks of the season. It's possible, but unlikely, especially considering how bad the Yankees have played.
And then there are the standings. Not only are the Yankees chasing the Mariners, but they have to jump the Tigers and Indians as well to get into postseason position. The Yankees would also need to beat out the Blue Jays. Both teams are tied in the wild card standings.
The Yankees can't afford to lose another series this season, and they must put together a few sweeps along the way to make their move. The Yankees get yet another chance to make that move starting Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees truly need to sweep three games from the Rays, a team that is out of the playoff hunt completely and is looking forward to the offseason. To survive another three days, the Yankees need at least two victories.
Here's a closer look at another all-important series for the Yankees.
Tampa Bay Rays (69-75, 10.5 GB of second WC)
at New York Yankees (73-68, 5 GB of second WC)
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Hiroki Kuroda (10-6, 3.78) vs. Chris Archer (8-8, 3.60)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.
Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.46) vs. Jake Odorizzi (10-11, 3.84)
Thursday, 7:05 p.m.
Michael Pineda (3-4, 1.80) vs. Alex Cobb (9-7, 2.83)
Playoff Picture: The Yankees are six games back of the Athletics for the first wild card spot and five games back of the Mariners for the final playoff spot. The Yankees also trail the Tigers, who are a half-game back, and the Indians, who are 4.5 games back. There's also the Blue Jays, who are tied with the Yankees in the wild card standings. Simply put, the Yankees are in trouble. The teams to watch for Yankees fans early this week are the Athletics, won have lost nine of their last 11 games and play at the White Sox for three games; the Mariners, who have two more games at the Astros after winning the opener Monday; the Tigers, who have two games at home against the Royals after winning the first one Monday; the Indians, who play three at home against the Indians; and the Blue Jays, who are home to the Cubs for two games after winning Monday.
Momentum: The Yankees have none, losing two of three to the Kansas City Royals. Both losses in the series had the Yankees getting shut out. Even Derek Jeter Day at the Stadium couldn't help the Yankees in that series. After getting swept in three games by Toronto, the Rays bounced back to take two of three from the AL East-leading Orioles. The Rays are just 3-4 in September.
Who's Hot: For Tampa Bay, James Loney went 4-for-6 with a home run in a losing effort in Sunday's game against Baltimore. He went 5-for-12 in the three-game series. Evan Longoria might not be hitting for average, but he does have two homers and seven RBI over his last seven games. Odorizzi, who pitches Wednesday, has allowed no runs and just four total hits in his last two starts, totaling 14.1 innings against Toronto and Boston. Cobb, who goes Thursday, has allowed a total of three earned runs in his last five starts, going 2-1 during the stretch. For the Yankees, Kuroda, Pineda and Adam Warren have been stars. Read more in our 3 Up and 3 Down column.
Who's Not: For Tampa Bay, Matt Joyce is just 2-for-21 (.095) over his past six games. David DeJesus is 3-for-16 (.188) over his last seven games. Archer, who pitches Tuesday, has gotten roughed up in his last two starts, allowing six runs in a loss to Toronto and seven runs in a loss to Boston. He's allowed just three runs in two starts against the Yankees this season, though. Cesar Ramos has allowed five runs in his last two relief appearances, taking the loss in one of them. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Stephen Drew have been dreaful at the plate for the Yankees. Read more in our 3 Up and 3 Down column.
Looking Ahead: The Yankees go to Baltimore to play the Orioles for four games starting Friday night.