Yankees Struggling Down the Stretch, Have Reasons to Be Nervous

The New York Yankees became the last team in the major leagues to lose four in a row on Monday night in Tampa.

Now, they are looking at a wild-card birth instead of a division title — meaning they would draw a tougher first-round opponent.

Let’s be clear: The Yankees would have to lose pretty much all of their games against the Red Sox down the stretch to miss the playoffs, but given their woes on the field and their injury problems, they may actually be the third favorite to come out of the AL.

The Yankees’ team batting average declined from July to August, and they lost about half a run per game off their average between those two months. In September, their offense has further taken a turn for the worse. Their .244 team batting average is over 20 points below their season-long mark, and they are now a full run per game off their July benchmark — down from 5.8 to 4.8.

Now, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher are dealing with injuries, and while Gardner’s MRI showed no major problems, a nagging wrist can’t help your hitting.

Swisher is having an MRI on Tuesday, as he is still recovering from a bone bruise on his knee, incurred after fouling a ball off himself on Aug. 24 against Toronto.

“Playing on one leg isn’t the way I want to go out there,” Swisher told the New York Post. “I had an MRI before, and it showed nothing. I find that hard to believe so I will go [today]. It’s starting to affect my hips and my shoulder. My swings are off. If I have to take a week off to get healthy, I will do that.”

Gardner didn’t sound much more optimistic.

“I couldn’t have picked up a bat to swing,” Gardner said to The New York Times. “That’s how bad it was.”

His batting average has been in free fall since he was hit on the wrist in late June by Clayton Kershaw.

As a result of the injuries, the Yankees started Greg Golson and Austin Kearns in the outfield along with Curtis Granderson on Monday. That’s not the lineup they’d like to be fielding.

On the mound, the Yankees aren’t in the best of shape either. Phil Hughes has skipped recent starts, and his form has dipped since the All-Star break. Javier Vazquez has been relegated to the bullpen. A.J. Burnett has been erratic. Andy Pettitte is just now on his way back from an injury, and even Mariano Rivera hasn’t been invincible of late.

All is clearly not well in Yankee land. They again face off with Tampa on Tuesday night — this time trailing the Rays.

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