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Yankees need to turn it around to avoid wild-card game on the road

Recent slide has them in danger of playing elimination game in either Houston or Oakland.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone looks on as he

Yankees manager Aaron Boone looks on as he walks to the dugout during a game against the Blue Jays in a game at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 18. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Yankees have one of the best records in baseball. Team Titanic they are not.

Butthe Yankees (90-56) , who start a nine-game homestand Friday night against the Blue Jays, have put themselves in a precarious position with 16 games left.

What seemed unthinkable at the start of the month has become reality: the possibility of having to travel to either Oakland or Houston for the one-game American League wild-card game.

The 4-5 trip the Yankees just finished, one that included series losses to the absurdly hot A’s and ice-cold Twins, saw to that.

As the Yankees start a three-game series with Toronto Friday at the Stadium, their lead for homefield advantage for that wild-card game is 1 1/2 games after the A's lost Thursday night in Baltimore.

“We expect more and we have to get it rolling,” said Aaron Boone, whose team is 7-9 in its last 16 games.

Needless to say, if the final 16 games go the way the last 16 have, the Yankees will be on the road for the Oct. 3 wild-card.

“We have plenty of time,” said reliever David Robertson who, like other Yankees, said he is not studying the standings on a daily basis. “We just have to put some good innings, some good at-bats together, and pick up some wins.”

Though it was church-quiet in the Yankees’ clubhouse after Wednesday’s 3-1 loss in which they were five outs away from being no-hit by Jake Odorizzi, Robertson’s attitude permeated the room.

“The focus is the game at hand and our next game is on Friday and that’s our focus,” Gary Sanchez said through his translator. “We’re not worrying, we’re not paying attention to what anybody else is doing, what Oakland is doing. We have to worry about our game and we have one on Friday.”

Some extended slumps, Sanchez’s included, have contributed to the Yankees’ inconsistency, which has been more or less the norm throughout a second half in which they’ve gone 28-23. Sanchez is 6-for-35 with two homers since coming off the disabled list and Giancarlo Stanton has been even worse. He is in an 8-for-71 skid with one homer since Aug. 24. Greg Bird, who broke up Odorizzi’s no-hitter but who lost his starting job to Luke Voit in late August, is 4 for his last 45, and Aaron Hicks is 5-for-33 this month. And it has been mostly a struggle all season at the plate for Brett Gardner, who is hitting .239 with a .327 OBP.

“We know what’s at stake, we know what we need to do,” Stanton said. “Not an ideal day [Wednesday], or road trip, but we know what we need to do. We’re going to come out on Friday and get it done.”

The offense desperately needs Stanton and Sanchez to get going and, obviously, Aaron Judge to return post haste. There has been good news in that department of late as Judge, on the disabled list since July 27 with a chip fracture in his right wrist, took batting practice outdoors during the three-game series in Minneapolis and put on a show each day. Though the Yankees still haven’t given a timetable for his return, the rightfielder clearly is getting closer.

“I think we have all the equipment in that room to be the club that we expect to be, to be the club we intend to be,” Boone said. “Baseball will punch you in the mouth every now and then. We’re clearly facing a little bit of adversity right now and we’ll embrace it and we’ll be better for it. I expect us to come out Friday ready to turn the page and ready to get after it.”

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