Don’t look now, but the (much-celebrated) demise of the New York Yankees may have been greatly exaggerated. New York opened September by appearing to wave the white flag on a deeply disappointing 2023 season, calling up a number of Minor Leaguers — including top prospects Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, Oswald Peraza and Austin Wells — to get some experience in the Majors and generate some optimism for 2024.
But a funny thing’s happened: The team just keeps on winning games. Wednesday night’s 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers makes it five in a row and eight of 10 for Aaron Boone’s squad, nudging them back over .500 for the first time since August 14. Jasson Dominguez went yard again, Clarke Schmidt delivered another quality start and the always-sturdy bullpen did the rest to get New York over the line:
Weissert strands the bases loaded to keep the lead intact! pic.twitter.com/HqumuWFaj7— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) September 7, 2023
Sure, two series against the Tigers will be good for what ails any team, but there was also a very impressive weekend sweep of the Astros in the middle. The fact of the matter is that New York is just playing much better baseball, with the young kids giving the offense a spark and the non-Gerrit Cole portions of the rotation doing just enough to get the job done. Are there still warts here? Of course there are; this is still a pretty creaky lineup, one very much reliant on veterans like Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu to stave off the aging curve and produce like top-of-the-order bats. But Dominguez, Peraza and Pereira — in addition to the slowily-but-steadily improving Anthony Volpe — have injected some much-needed athleticism, and have the Yankees looking like they could be a dangerous team down the stretch.
Which begs the question: After being left for dead just last month, is there any chance that New York can actually climb back into the postseason race? The answer, shockingly enough, isn’t as bleak as you might think. The Yankees now sit at 70-69, and gained another game on the Rangers, Blue Jays and Red Sox — the three teams ahead of them in the AL standings, all of whom lost on Wednesday. There’s still plenty of work to be done: The Bombers are still six games behind Texas. But the schedule coming home isn’t too onerous, with series against the Pirates and Royals on the road and the Diamondbacks at home. And the challenging games will at least give them the chance to make up ground: New York has a huge four-game set left against Boston, plus six more games against Toronto over the final few weeks.
A playoff run remains pretty unlikely, but it’s worth noting that every time ahead of the Yankees is playing pretty poor baseball right now; Texas looks like they’re circling the drain after getting disemboweled by intrastate rival Houston this week, the Red Sox lost two of three to Tampa and the Blue Jays weren’t able to make too much hay despite series against the Guardians, Nationals, Rockies and Athletics over the last few weeks. At this point, it’ll probably take something like 86-87 wins at least to take the third Wild Card spot, which would force New York to go something like 16-7 or 17-6 over their final 23 games. That’s a tall order, but the fact that we’re even having this conversation is a silver lining after the way this team seemed to be falling apart at the seams earlier in the second half.