• On May 22 the Yankees had a .500 record and were a full five and a half games out of first place fewer than two months into the season.
• On June 12 the Yankees were halfway through a 10-game winning streak, 11 games above .500, having just grabbed a one-game lead in the division.
• On July 18 the Yankees were a whopping 23 games above .500, and their division lead had been pushed to a season-high 10 games.
It’s now August 23, and the Yankees were just swept by Chicago. They are 20 games above .500 and their division lead is down to three games, the lowest it’s been since June 25.
“It is?” Nick Swisher said. “I didn’t even pay attention to it. It’s not really my style. I don’t think it’s our style. I think we know we’re not playing as well as we can right now. We’ve got a pretty damn good team, man. You go through rough patches during the season, and it just seems like, you go through a real rough patch and all the red flags start popping up everywhere. For us, man, we’ve just got to get back to basics.”
After playing the past 20 days in a row, the Yankees are off today. They went 11-9 during this string of consecutive games, and in that span, their division lead was cut from six and a half games to three games. It’s a disappointment, clearly, but it might also be a dose of reality.
“We probably didn’t deserve to have a 10-game lead,” Mark Teixeira said. “No one ever thought we were going to run away with this thing. We always knew it was going to be a battle. This was probably where we’re supposed to be. It’s going to be a tough division and we know we’re going to have to keep fighting.”
As he usually does, Joe Girardi tried to put the current situation into historical perspective.
“I don’t think I’m going to go jump off a bridge or anything like that,” Girardi said. “It’s baseball. I’ve been through it before. I think in ’96 we were up 12 games on Baltimore on July 31. September 1, it was two and a half. I don’t know what we ended up winning by, but that’s what you go through. You’re going to go through your highs, you’re going to go through your lows. You’ve just got to manage both of them.”
Girardi was off a little bit on his dates — the 12-game lead was on July 28 and it was cut to 2.5 on September 10 — but his point remained the same: Even good teams go through massive ups and downs, and that 10-game winning streak in June didn’t define these Yankees any more or less than this three-game series sweep defines them.
Associated Press photo