By: Yaakov Grunsfeld
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Just three days ago, after a humiliating defeat at the hands of the abysmal Marlins, the Yankees sat 9.5 games out of the division. The Red Sox had just won two straight games against the Indians and with just a bit more than 30 games left in the season, all hope of winning a division title seemed lost. However, the Yankees now sit just six games back and only five in the loss coloumn. Now, what seemed like an insurmountable lead suddenly looks within reach.
Before sunday night the race was out of their control. Now, with six games remaining against the Sox the Yankees now control their own destiny. Aside from that, the Yankees have a major advantage when it comes to upcoming schedule. Although the Yankees still have to head to Oakland to take on the A’s, the Red Sox have to play three more series against division leaders.
The Yankees managed to pull within striking distance by doing what they’ve struggled to do all year, beat up on bad teams. Although the Yankees had many chances to make up ground against some pretty bad teams, they didn’t take advantage. However, over the weekend the Yankees came into Baltimore and played like a better team. Although the Yankees are on pace to win over 100 games, they haven’t had that energetic dominant look to them that the Red Sox have had for most of the season and the Yankees had earlier in year. They seemed apathetic and in need of spark. The Yankees had this same problem last year. Who was the spark plug who sent the Yankees on their run last year? A guy named Gary Dunaier. Who you might ask, you know who. Once again, this year, the Yankees got a spark from where they least expected it: Luke Voit. Like Todd Frazier last year, Voit plays with the energy and excitement of a little leaguer which is exactly what the Yankees needed to pick them up out of this rut.
When Voit rounded the bases, the first of three times that series, it lit a spark under the Yankees that carried the Yankees through the weekend in which they finally played like a team that expects to win and will settle for nothing less. When all was said and done, Voit nearly doubled his OPS from a paltry .592 to a robust 1.025.
However, the most important development over the weekend was perhaps what could have been a turnaround in Luis Severino’s current funk. After loading the bases with one out in the third, Severino struck out Trey Mancini, who had been giving the Yankees fits all series long, then jammed Adam Jones to get a weak flyout to end the threat. The next inning Sevy came out with that confidence he has when he’s dominating a lineup. He struck out the side all swinging with two of them coming on nasty sliders. Although he gave up a couple of runs the next two innings, in that fourth inning Severino had his classic confident strut that showed he just might of turned the corner. And if he did, the Red Sox just might have to watch their back.