Historically, the Yankees haven’t always fared well on West Coast trips. Even when facing bad teams, your hope that any time they head out West to play games that force you to stay up until ungodly hours of the night, it’d at least be worth a split; come home at an even .500.
So when this ragtag team we’ve all come to know and love flew home Wednesday with a 6-3 record in tow, there was reason to smile and celebrate. But there was also reason to speculate.
It’s a very small sample size, but so far this year these battered Yankees are 0-5 against teams over .500. This includes the Astros and now Arizona. Heading into the Diamondbacks series on Tuesday, the Yanks had a chance to come home with an 8-1 or at least 7-2 West Coast trip. Greedy, yes, but doable.
After facing the lowly Angels and what looked like an awful San Francisco Giants team, Arizona would be a good test for these RailRiders — a test they eventually failed. Was this team finally showing their true colors in the not so prolific offense they have, or did they simply lose steam after a long and tiring West Coast trip? Perhaps it was both, but with an off-day Thursday and the start of a long homestand on Friday, the former question will be answered.
Over the next ten games, the Yankees face teams above .500, the first long test for these guys we’ve dubbed the “replacements.” As a fan, I enter the series opener with the Twins with trepidation but also eagerness. Trepidation, as I believe these guys are just plain tired and simply can’t hold up much longer, but also eager to see what these guys are made of.
Are they a team that can compete with the best? Who will stand out and step up above the rest to prove they belong and are here to stay? Will Gio Urshela continue to prove he belongs even after Andujar returns? Does Mike Tauchman prove Cashman is a genius once again with a trade we didn’t think mattered, ya know, like some guy named Luke Voit? Will Tyler Wade ever show us a positive launch angle to prove he can actually hit in the big leagues and not just in spring training?
It’s a tough test, but in order for this team to stay afloat, they need to show they belong not just against a bad Giants team, but against the best of the best in their divisions: Twins, Mariners, Rays. The importance of this early May homestand is understated, not just for the future of this division, but for the future of these players. Some of these guys may be playing their last games in a big league uniform for a while as players trickle back from the Injured List, and I’d bet they’d want to make a stand to stay.
Let’s hope their will to prove themselves proves to be a success against a surprising good Twins team and a home run bashing team in the Mariners. With the Rays coming back down to earth, and the Red Sox somewhat finding themselves, now is the time to pounce. The question is, will they? Or rather, can they?
Can this team pounce with the players they have, or are we headed for a stagnant homestand similar to the drudgery that was the Arizona series, in which they scored a total of three runs in two games? The answer begins Friday night, and the hope is they make one final push in proving the naysayers wrong. And our other hope is the starting pitching continues to hold water.
Has all this winning been a product of facing bad teams? Only time will tell. But even if the 0-5 start to teams above .500 proves to be a true indicator of the talent of this team, the good news is reinforcements are coming in the likes of Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton. Perhaps the boost of these all-star players mixing in with our small ball heroes will begin a stretch the Yankees so desperately need: home series’ wins and a higher number than 0 in that 0-5 record.
Must win games in May? Maybe not, but they are as important as they’ll ever be, for these players and for this team as they race to pass the baton back to the big guys.
Tonight they begin what will most likely be their last battle all together as the Yankee RailRiders; a battle against the Twins, a battle against time, and a battle against the “god of Losing.”