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Yankees’ Playoff Hopes Fading Fast After Crushing Walk-Off Loss to Red Sox

September 15, 2016   ·   Jacob Shafer   ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Much like convenience-store lackey Dante Hicks in Kevin Smith's seminal 1994 film Clerks, the New York Yankees weren't even supposed to be here.

They sold their veteran assets at the August 1 trade deadline and fixed their gaze on the future. They surrendered.

Then, a funny thing happened. They started winningand kept winning. On Sept. 8, yours truly wrote a rosy, they're-in-this-thing column. 

It's not over, not mathematically anyway. But after a crushing 7-5 defeat against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, the Yankees' playoff hopes are fading fast.

For most of Thursday's tussle at Fenway Park, New York was in control. The Yanks held a 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. Ace Masahiro Tanaka continued his run of dominance with seven frames of four-hit, one-run ball.

Then, Boston mounted a rally. David Ortiz went deep in the eighth for his 537th home run, passing Mickey Mantle and taking sole possession of 17th on the all-time list (salt, meet wound). And the Sox plated five more runs in the ninth, capped by Hanley Ramirez's walk-off three-run homer.

There's stinging symbolic pain mixed in there—losing to the Red Sox and watching a legendary Yankee get eclipsed by a Beantown hero in the midst of his swan song.

The more immediate problem for the Yankees, however, is that the loss dropped them to 77-69. They now sit five games behind Boston for the American League East lead and three games off the pace for the second wild card.

That wild-card gap isn't insurmountable with 16 games left to play. New York, though, would have to leapfrog not only the wild-card-leading Baltimore Orioles (80-66) and Blue Jays (79-66), but also the Detroit Tigers (78-68) and Seattle Mariners (78-68). 

Stranger things have happened. But if the Yankees miss the postseason, Thursday's meltdown may be the watershed moment. ESPN.com's Adam Rubin described it with the "C"-word (no, not that one):

The Yankees have three more games at Fenway, followed by three in Florida against the Tampa Bay Rays and four north of the border against the Jays. After the conclusion of this 11-game trip, they return to the Bronx for three-game sets against the Red Sox and Orioles to close things out.

The good news is, that's a lot of games against their division rivals. "The teams that we're trying to catch, we're playing," third baseman Chase Headley said, per Newsday's Anthony Rieber.

The bad news is, those teams have potent offenses capable of laying waste to a pitching staff.

Outside of Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is one crooked question mark. And the bullpen, after the deadline trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, is no longer an unmitigated strength. Newly anointed closer Dellin Betances is having a strong season, but he coughed up the homer to Ramirez and looked gassed. 

"Everyone's tired this time of year," skipper Joe Girardi said of Betances, per Newsday's Erik Boland. "We’re fighting for our lives."

This isn't a eulogy for the 2016 Yankees. That would be premature. And we're not suggesting New York's future is less bright than it was a few weeks ago.

The Yankees have MLB's best farm system, per Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter. They have enviable young talent on the big league roster, including bust-out rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, who collected two more hits Thursday.

And they have arduous contracts coming off the books, meaning they'll have Benjamins to burn in the ludicrously loaded 2018 free-agent class. 

But this surprising, house-money playoff run appears to be fizzling like a fumbled soda can on a cement floor. FanGraphs gives the Yankees a 7.1 percent chance of playing past Game 162. That could be generous.

It's not over. But even if it were, you'd have to tip your cap. For a club that wasn't even supposed to be here, these Yanks have done all right.

    

All statistics and standings current as of Thursday and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted. 

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