The Yankees are 47-47 as the “second half” of the season begins, since their four-game All-Star break has ended, and they will play their first of three games against the Cincinnatti Reds on Friday. Derek Jeter, Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka all made the All-Star team, but Jeter was the only one who played because Tanaka is injured and Betances was not put in the game by John Farrell.
Betances was not disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to pitch during the game. He enjoyed the whole experience of seeing Jeter go 2-2 in his final All-Star Game. “I guess I could use the rest and be ready to help the team win the division in the second half,” Betances said. The Yankees will need Betances, who has a 1.46 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 55.1 innings, to continue to command his slurve and fastball and dominate hitters like he has if they are going to win the weak AL East.
The Yankees are currently five games behind the first-place Orioles, but should be helped by their relatively weak schedule after the break combined with the challenging slate of games that Baltimore has.
The Orioles play their next 26 games against teams that are currently .500 or better. Their next 16 games are against the top three teams in the American League West, the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners, who have some of the best pitchers in baseball, including Garret Richards, Felix Hernandez, Jeff Samardzija and Sonny Gray. The Orioles, who are 7-3 in their last 10 games are known for their offense – since they have the third best average, second most homers and fourth most total bases in the AL – but could be due for a regression as a result of their weak pitching and the challenging west coast trip that they will be on.
On the other hand, the Yankees will play 10 of their next 16 games against teams that are currently below .500. In those games, they will play the Reds for three games, the injury ravaged under .500 Texas Rangers for seven games, their AL East rival Toronto Blue Jays for three games and the under .500 Boston Red Sox for three games to end this stretch of games.
Of the next 16 games that the Yankees play their first 10 will be at home. They will need to reverse the trend of playing much better on the road. The Yankees have a 29-24 record in away games and a less than mediocre 18-23 record in the Bronx. They will need to have a better than .500 record at home and continue to play at a similar record on the road if they are going to make the playoffs. It would be a successful home-stand if they can go 6-4 before playing six games on the road against teams that are below .500.
The Yankees will almost definitely be trading for a pitcher who can be better than Chase Whitley in the rotation to help the team in the next few weeks. As of now, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka could return sometime in August, but it is not known for sure if that will happen. It is necessary for the offense to consistently hit with power at home and on the road, which means Carlos Beltran needs to be healthy and productive, and Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian Roberts need to be reliable.
David Phelps, who has an impressive 2.08 ERA in two July starts, will start Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game at Yankee Stadium against the Reds. Mike Leake (7-7, 3.54 ERA) will get the start for Cincinnati. Brandon McCarthy will be making his second start for the Yankees in Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. game. The ground ball pitcher allowed one earned run in 6.2 innings in his start against the Cleveland Indians. A good sign for McCarthy is that after having a 4.88 ERA in June, he now has a 2.19 ERA so far in July. All-Star Alfred Simon, who is 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA will start on Saturday for the Reds.
On Sunday at 1:05 p.m, in the series finale, All-Star Johnny Cueto, who had a 2.13 ERA before the All-Star break, will start for the Reds. Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 4.10 ERA, but is coming off of a start where he allowed two runs in 7.0 innings against the powerful Orioles, will try for his seventh win of the season on Sunday. The Yankees begin an important stretch of games, and it is equally important that Cashman acquires the right players to help the team down the stretch.
Bartolo Colon is intriguing option since he has a 3.99 ERA for the Mets, has already pitched well for the Yankees in 2011 and the Yankees should not have to give up a lot to trade for him. It would make sense for the Mets to get a prospect back for him because at 41 he is obviously not in their long term plans.