Don’t look now, but these Yankees are playing pretty well again. Five straight wins is their longest winning streak since that red-hot month of June. They’ve also won seven of their past eight and 10 of their past 14. They’ve won with pitching, they’ve won with hitting and they’ve even shown some unusual aggressiveness on the bases lately.
“It’s just chill,” Nick Swisher said. “It’s nice because I feel we’re getting that inner confidence back that we lost there for a little bit. Regardless of whatever the situation is, whatever team we’re playing, we feel like we’re going to go out there and get the job done. Anytime you have that sort of mindset, whether you go out there and win the game or not, it definitely gives you that added advantage going into the game.”
There are 13 games left. That’s four series against four different teams, all with a losing record except one. This weekend is the exception. Tonight the Yankees open a three-game series against the A’s, who are jockeying with Baltimore for the wild card lead. And much like Baltimore, the A’s have been a surprise.
Oakland is in the bottom half of the league in runs scored. They hit a decent amount of home runs and steal some bases, but their success is built on a pitching staff that has the league’s second-lowest ERA. Each of Oakland’s scheduled starters for this series has an ERA of 3.51 or better, and the bullpen has found late-inning stability with Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Jerry Blevins.
“We need to continue to play good baseball because the other teams behind us are doing the same thing,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s good to see. If you’re going to heat up, this is the time of year to do it.”
As I’m sure you remember, the Yankees second-half slide started with a four-game sweep in Oakland. All four of those losses were by one run. In theory, things get easier after this weekend. The Yankees wrap up their season with three games in Minnesota, four games in Toronto and three games at home against the Red Sox. But up first is Oakland, and the Yankees can’t let that pitching staff end this momentum.
“You have to give a lot of credit to these other teams, they’re not backing down,” Swisher said. “The Orioles are having such a magical season, if they were to sluff off right now, it would almost be disappointing. For us to be in the position we are, we have a lot of tough games coming up. We’re playing some contenders, we’re playing some teams that are completely out of it, but everyone is trying to go out and try to win, put up some numbers. If we go out and do what we know we can do, we’re going to be really successful.”
Associated Press photo