Yankees still don't look like a playoff team

Shane Greene of the Yankees stands on the

Shane Greene of the Yankees stands on the mound during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Nine days ago, the Yankees spanked the Royals in a makeup game in Kansas City, a sign, perhaps, they finally were ready to go on the kind of tear that has eluded them this season.

Six days later, they limped out of Toronto, having lost two of three to the Blue Jays, as they did earlier in the trip against the Tigers.

It was a disappointing 3-4 week, which had been portrayed as "key,'' "important,'' "crucial'' and "make or break'' for the Yankees' postseason hopes.

The latest "do or die'' stretch started Tuesday night with a 9-4 rout by the Red Sox, the first of a nine-game homestand that also includes visits by Kansas City and Tampa Bay. It was the Yankees' third consecutive loss.

"We have nine games at home and we have to win a lot of them,'' Joe Girardi said after Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Blue Jays.

The manager didn't sound all that convinced his club would, or could, win enough of them.

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Here's a prediction that doesn't go out on a limb: The Yankees will go 5-4 or 4-5 on the homestand, neither greatly improving nor destroying their postseason hopes, treading water to their next "vital'' week, four games in Baltimore Sept. 12-14, and three in St. Petersburg, Florida, against the Rays Sept. 15-17.

The proclamations of urgency regarding a given stretch of games for the Yankees should sound familiar; they started not long after the All-Star break.

There were the six "critical'' road games against bottom feeders Texas and Boston July 28-Aug. 3 -- the Yankees went 3-3 -- followed by the "significant'' seven-game run at home against the Tigers, and their cadre of Cy Young Award winners, and then the Indians.

After drawing just enough blood from a stone to take three of four from the Tigers -- winning two of the games by 2-1 and 1-0 -- the Yankees promptly lost two of three to Cleveland to complete that particularly "meaningful'' set of games with a 4-3 mark.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

"At this point, you usually are who you are,'' said an opposing team's scout who has seen the Yankees multiple times this season.

And what are the Yankees?

"Mediocre,'' another scout said, knowing he wasn't exactly reaching with the assessment.

He added: "I'd still argue they've overachieved.''

Looking at the run differential suggests the Yankees have done that, considering they have gotten subpar seasons from every regular except Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. They have scored 539 runs and allowed 571, almost always a recipe for a sub-.500 record. Starting pitching that has been better than expected, despite losing four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation, and one of the best bullpens in the American League have allowed the Yankees to avoid collapse, but this is not a team that has shown it is capable of earning a playoff spot.

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Put another way: Many in the game believe that a minimum of 88 victories will be required to take the final AL wild-card berth. That would require the Yankees to go 18-8 the rest of the season. Again, realistically, has anyone seen any evidence suggesting that such a stretch is possible for this club?

Girardi and his players publicly state it could happen, as they should.

We watch and pay attention to sports because the games still have to be played, regardless of the certitude of those making predictions.

There's no such thing as a "must-win'' until a loss means elimination and there are still 26 games to go.

But as Maya Angelou wrote, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them,'' and for five months the Yankees have shown who they are fairly consistently.

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Certainly not bad, but not quite good enough.

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