Baseball is such a funny game with all its twists and turns, which is what makes the 162 game grind so exhausting on one hand, but so rewarding on the other hand if it ends up going your way. The Yankees looked like an old, fragile and broken down baseball team heading into the deep south. It certainly seemed like things were just not headed in the right direction after losing five of seven games against Cleveland and Houston at home, which is a place they had been previously dominant all season long.
The Yankees were dominated by some great pitchers like Dallas Keuchel and Carlos Carrasco, but also could not hit against mediocre to poor ones like Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Scott Feldman. So even though the Braves are a bad baseball team, it wasn't exactly reassuring. Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira had injuries and Alex Rodriguez was being replaced in the lineup by a pitcher (the wisdom of NL baseball at its finest).
Naturally, the Yankees scored 15 runs on Friday, six on Saturday and an incredible 20 runs yesterday to obliterate the Braves 36-11 over three games. Granted, Atlanta's pitchers were brutal at times, but it didn't matter if the Yankees were facing pitchers from Williamsport at the Little League World Series. They needed to break this slump in the worst way just to get rejuvenated and confident again for the stretch run. Also, to avoid falling out of the AL East race with the way the Blue Jays dominated as well this weekend.
It's a little reminiscent of the 2009 series when the Yankees limped into Atlanta following a brutal stretch of baseball that found themselves five games back in the AL East and in third place. Brian Cashman made a special trip down to light a fire under the Yankees, and it kept burning all the way to a World Series championship.
Who knows, maybe this could be deja vu all over again. Baseball is just such a funny game like that. Obviously, the 2015 Yankees are nowhere near as good as the 2009 team that won over 100 games. However, the best team doesn't always win it all, and the Yankees have a very good chance of being in the dance with a chance.
The 2014 free agent class really stood out in this series and stepped up big time with Rodriguez and Teixeira on the bench. Brian McCann hit a big three-run home run on Friday, Carlos Beltran went 6-14 in the series with three RBI on Friday and Jacoby Ellsbury also had a huge three-run home run to kick things off yesterday.
Ellsbury has gotten out of his slump and looks like his old self again, Beltran has been consistently good over a very large sample size and McCann is hopefully healthy and can continue his solid season. Until Teixeira gets back on the field and A-Rod gets back to being A-Rod, they will need more from these three guys to carry the load.
The Yankees seem to be in a good spot with their pitching both in the rotation and bullpen heading into September, so if the hitting can come come close to its previous levels they will be a very formidable team. They seem to be the only team in MLB with a clue on how to pitch to the Blue Jays, and it really seems like the division will come down to those seven games remaining head to head. If the Yankees are triumphant over the favored Blue Jays it's likely this weekend series is looked at as the turning point, just like in 2009.