After Thursday’s off day and losing two out of three games at home to the Houston Astros and previously losing three out of four games to the Cleveland Indians, who are six games below .500 and were in last place in the AL Central when they faced off, the Yankees will now play an important three-game inter-league series in Atlanta against the Braves.
The Yankees, who went 5-5 on their home-stand against the Minnesota Twins, Indians and Astros, are now 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. Toronto has gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and their +170 run differential is 40 runs better than the St. Louis Cardinals, who have the second best run differential in Major League Baseball. The Yankees play seven more games left with the Blue Jays before the end of the season, which could go a long way in deciding who wins the AL East, but their upcoming six-game road trip against the Braves and Boston Red Sox will be very important.
Atlanta and the Red Sox are a combined 30 games under .500, which means that the Yankees need to take advantage of them since they are obviously not going to the playoffs this season. Atlanta has a 54-73 record, has only one win in their last 10 games, is 17 games out of first place in the National League East and has scored the fewest runs out of any team in either the American or National League. Boston has a 58-69 record, is 13 games back in the AL East and their -41 run differential is fourth worst in the AL
Atlanta’s season long ineptitude in the run scoring department could help the Yankees during this series because they have been struggling to score recently. The Yankees have only scored 38 runs in their last 10 games, which equals an average of only 3.8 runs per game. In comparison, in the 10 games from July 25-August 4, the Yankees scored 90 runs, which is an average of a very impressive nine runs per game.
The Yankees offense has had many of their regulars not produce like normal during the month of August. Alex Rodriguez, who has 26 homers and a .255 average, has a very low .138 average in 80 August at-bats with only eight RBIs. Mark Teixeira, who has not played in seven of the previous nine games because of a bone bruise, has a .175 average in 57 at-bats with three homers and only six RBIs.
A-Rod and Teixeira are the two main players that the Yankees need to improve their average and drive in more runs if they are going to get back in first place and win the AL East. Teixeira and A-Rod are first and third on the team in RBIs, with 79 and 69, respectively, and are first and second in homers with 31 and 26, but they have combined to only drive in 14 runs in August and their averages are both below .200.
Also, Brett Gardner has a .193 average with only one double in August, Stephen Drew has a .217 average in 60 August at-bats and Brian McCann has a .219 average in 73 at-bats in August, but McCann has been productive power wise as he has hit six homers and has 15 RBIs during the month. Part of the struggles could be due to age and not being able to continue the same level of production the whole season. The offense needs to bounce back after the off day and with the inferior teams on the schedule.
One player who could help offensively is Rob Refsnyder. It was announced by Brian Cashman that Refsnyder will be one of the September call-ups. In 504 plate appearances with Triple-A Scranton, Refsnyder has hit .269/.360/.396 with nine homers, 11 steals, 24 doubles and 53 RBIs. That is better production than Drew, who only has a .196 average and a .266 on-base percentage and 36 runs scored to the 64 that Refsnyder has. However, Drew does have 15 homers to Refsnyder’s nine and Drew does play better defense at second.
It will be a positive to have Refsnyder’s bat on the bench and to start some games instead of Drew. The Yankees will also be able to call-up a few pitchers who already have experience out of the bullpen this season, which will make it easier to go to a six-man rotation to give the pitching staff more rest.
The Yankees are 6-8 so far this season in inter-league play, so they will look to at least be 8-9 in games against the National League at the end of this series against the Braves in Atlanta. The Braves have rookies pitching in the first two games and then Julio Tehran, who has 15 wins, will get the start in the series finale on Thursday.