Keeler: Yankees in unfamiliar territory

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

It’s been a long, unusual season for the New York Yankees and their fans.

Normally this time of the year the Yankees are about to clinch a playoff berth and are gearing up for the postseason. This year it appears things are going to come down to the wire just to get one of the wildcard spots, and I’ll admit I’m not sure how much more my nerves can take.

They’ve been up. They’ve been down. And the topsy-turvy season is enough to drive just about any Yankee fan batty.

I didn’t have very high hopes for the Yankees when the season started. I even started out rooting for the Washington Nationals more than the Yankees, of course the season hasn’t went any better for the Nats.

The Yankees started out pretty strong, despite having lots of injuries (more on that later). The offense wasn’t real strong, but the pitching was enough to keep things going.

Then the Yankees hit a lull. They lost 21 out of 31 games for a stretch in May and June. They averaged 3.3 runs per game during that time.

I thought they were done at that point, but then they started to win again. They won 10 of their next 12 games, and I once again was optimistic.

They were up and down for another stretch, as their yo-yo of a season continued. For me, things hit rock bottom on Aug. 5-7. That’s when the Yankees were swept by the Chicago White Sox, who entered the series having lost 10 straight games.

At that point I had declared there was no use even watching this old, battered team. But like only the Yankees can, they once again drew me in.

The series sweep by the White Sox woke up the Yankee bats, along with some welcome returns, and they won 11 of their next 14 games.

They were back in it. They were going to make the playoffs, right? They’re the Yankees — they always make the playoffs.

The Yankees were at home against the Boston Red Sox for a four-game series on Sept. 5-8, and I knew it was going to be a big one. If the Yankees could have swept the Red Sox they could have made a run at the AL East title.

Instead, the Yankees blew two big leads in the first two games, including a blown save by Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox took three out of four games from the Yankees. The Yankees took three out of four from the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 9-12, and suddenly were only a game out of the wild card.

The Yankees kryptonite this season has been the Red Sox, and that continued last weekend, as Boston swept New York. The Red Sox went 13-6 against the Yankees this season, nothing worse than that for a Yankees fan.

Wednesday night’s game against the last-place Toronto Blue Jays was like a microcosm of the entire season. The Yankees had only three hits in the first seven innings, and hadn’t scored a run in 16 innings against the Blue Jays. Things looked bleak and I once again had thoughts about the Yankees being toast. Then in the blink of an eye, they scored four runs in the eighth and held on for a crucial win.

They are 2.5 games out of the wildcard entering Thursday night’s game against the Blue Jays, with nine more games left after that.

A big part of the story for the Yankees this season has been the injuries. I’ve never seen a team have so many injuries in one season. The reality is the Yankees are old, and so I guess it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

From Mark Teixeira to Derek Jeter to Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson, injuries have hurt the team all season long.

The Yankees have also had a lot of close games, which has made watching them sheer torture, especially late in the season. I now get the YES (The Yankees Entertainment and Sports) network, so I’ve been able to watch every game this year.

The Yankees have only missed the playoffs one time since 1996, and it’s looking like it could happen again this year.

With it being Rivera’s last season, and very possibly Andy Pettitte’s, I hope they have one last big run in them.

No matter what happens, they have me hanging on the edge of my seat ready to enjoy every second of the rest of their roller-coaster season.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd