- With talk of the Indians' win streak disappaiting, don't sleep on the Yankees. Currently leading the AL wild-card race, New York's lethal bullpen and potent offense could pose problems for Cleveland if the two teams clash in the postseason.
Lost amid all the talk of 22-game streaks is that the Yankees might be the second-hottest team in baseball.
New York, who beat the Orioles 9-3 Saturday afternoon, has won 11 of its last 15. That includes three wins from reliever Chad Green, and a lot of production from infielder Didi Gregorius.
Green, who didn't pitch in Saturday’s victory, has been a hidden gem in the bullpen. A starter most of last year, Green has emerged as a do-it-all weapon for the Yankees. In 64 1/3 innings, he has a 1.96 ERA and established himself as a flexible option for the team. While Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, who have both struggled at times this year, are more one-inning guys, Green is playing a bit of an Andrew Miller role. The 26-year-old righty hasn't pitched fewer that one inning since June, and has pitched more than one inning in 13 of his last 14 appearances. That includes seven appearances of two innings or more. A strikeout pitcher (99 on the year), Green has given Joe Girardi consistency when his big guns haven't been there.
Last year, Green had 12 starts with a 4.73 ERA. In 45 2/3 innings, he gave up three times the home runs he has this year, ten more runs and the same amount of walks. He's found a home as a lights-out reliever.
Then there's Gregorius. The shortstop hit his 23rd home run in the third inning against Baltimore, tallying his 80th RBI. The 27-year-old is having a career year. In 124 games he's set career highs in home runs and RBIs, and his .295 average is 24 points higher than his lifetime mark. He will likely surpass his career-high in hits, too. Gregorius leads the Yankees in average and is third in home runs.
The only way the Yankees are going to beat the Indians—New York’s likely opponent should it play and advance past the AL wild-card game—in the playoffs is through big-time pitching and clutch hitting. Between Luis Severino (2.93 ERA) and Sonny Gray (2.66) in the rotation, Green and David Robertson (1.30) in the bullpen, and not to mention the ever-present arms of Betances and Chapman (even if they both aren't having their best years,) the Yankees have enough pitching, especially in the bullpen. With Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday, there's plenty of production.
The Yankees won their 82nd game on Saturday. It's their 25th consecutive year with a winning record. That's the second-longest streak in history. The longest streak is held by, of course, the Yankees, with 39 from 1926-64 (in '65, by the way, the Yankees won 77 games. The Yankees have only had 12 losing seasons since 1926—they had 12 from 1903-1925.)
Eleven out of 15 might not be 22 in a row. But it's very impressive. And for a team that many thought would be middling this year, the rise of the Yankees is both unexpected and permanent. And it might complicate things for the Indians.