Despite falling below .500, Yankees still believe there’s an unlikely run in them

Aug 16, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) in the dugout before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park.

Aug 16, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) in the dugout before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s getting late early for the 2023 Yankees.

Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to the Braves was significant for a number of reasons. It’s the first time they’ve been shutout in consecutive games this season. It’s the longest losing streak this season (five games), it’s the first time the team is below .500 since May of 2021, and it’s the latest they’ve been below .500 since 1995.

The loss put them 6.5 games back of the final Wild Card spot and 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox for last place in the AL East.

Despite all that, Yankees manager Aaron Boone and captain Aaron Judge continue to keep the faith in front of insurmountable odds.

“Got to [keep the faith],” Boone said after Wednesday’s game. “We have a quarter of the season left and we have to keep working to try and figure it out.”

When asked where his faith comes from, the seventh-year manager points to his baseball life.

“I’m 50 years old, I’ve been in this game my whole life,” he said. “It doesn’t go the way you script it or hope, but we have to keep fighting and that’s what we’re going to do.”

“I’ve got faith in every single guy in this room that they’re going to pull through when their name is called,” Judge said. “We’ve just got to keep that faith. That’s what it comes down to. Trust everybody in this room. There may be doubt outside this room but, in here, we’re locked in and ready to go.”

At 60-61, the Yankees have just 41 games before the end of the regular season. And while it’s not impossible, their chances of making the playoffs sit at 2.5 percent, according to FanGraphs. Injuries have played a part in the downfall of this year’s Yankees, but it’s been their lackluster offense that has been the real culprit.

Following Wednesday’s loss, the Yankees have a -14 run differential, the sixth worst in the American League. Their .232 team batting average is the 29th worst in the majors, and they have the 26th worst OBP (.307).

Judge is aware of the stats, but he still sees a run in this team’s future.

“We’ve seen it in spurts throughout the year here when we’ve gone on a hot streak,” he said. “We’re still looking for that long, hot streak that we haven’t gotten all year. There’s no better time than now. We’re excited to get back home, get past this road trip.

“It didn’t go the way we want it to, but we got work to do. We’re just a couple streaks away from being right where we want to be… Just like skip said all year it’s right in front of us.”

Boone has maintained the faith that this Yankees team is capable of going on a long run because he says he sees the players’ “commitment” and that it’s easy to see a team as being “flat” when they aren’t hitting and scoring but he doesn’t believe that’s who this team is.

“These guys have a lot of pride in what they do and the game is still littered with examples of teams going on unlikely runs,” Boone explained. “I know we put ourselves in a position to not give anyone that confidence, but we have to continue to work and fight and compete to do that.”

Boone points to the Nationals in 2019, the Braves in 2021 and last season’s Phillies as perfect examples of being “left for dead” but going on improbable runs to get into the playoffs and go far. He was even reminded of the 1995 Yankees who won 19 of its last 23 games — including 11 of its last 12 — to make the postseason.

So a late run is not unprecedented.

“I get it, it looks bleak,” Boone added. “I don’t want to even suggest that we’re in a position to even talk about that. We have to fix our own house and get it going but there’s a lot of season left too and we have to look at it that way.”

After a much-needed off day Thursday, the Yankees will try to get right when they host the Red Sox for a three-game series in the Bronx. It’ll be a real test for this team as another series loss would put them even further back in not just the playoff race but the race to get out of last place.

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