Sports Pulse: USA TODAY Reporters discuss the future of the MLB
Since appearing in their first World Series in 1921, the New York Yankees have played in at least one World Series in every decade — until now.
That streak ended when the Yankees failed to reach the Series from 2010-2019.
The Yankees last appeared in a World Series in 2009, beating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games in the first year of the new Yankee Stadium.
Since then, New York has failed to make the playoffs three times and been bounced from the postseason seven times: Once in the wild card round, twice in the divisional round and four times in the AL Championship Series.
This drought isn’t the team’s longest in terms of years, however. The Yankees went 11 seasons without appearing in a World Series from 1965 to 1975. And after losing the 1981 World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York went 13 seasons without a Series appearance.
Here’s why there’s optimism the current drought could end this season after the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians in their wild-card series Wednesday:
Gerrit Cole delivers in New York
For years, the Yankees lacked a dominant top-of-the-rotation starter.
Enter Gerrit Cole.
After his dominant 2019 performance for the Houston Astros — 20-5 record, AL-leading 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts, 4-1 record in the postseason — the Yankees signed Cole in December to a record-setting nine-year, $324 million contract. The free-agent signing made New York a preseason World Series favorite.
And Cole hasn’t disappointed.
He went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 12 starts and 73 innings despite a rough three-game stretch in which he surrendered 14 runs (10 earned) in 16 innings and went 0-3.
Cole finished the regular season with three consecutive wins, giving up two earned runs in 21 innings. He struck out 13 to beat the Indians in Game 1 of the AL wild card game.
“This is why we got him,’’ Aaron Judge said after Game 1.
Still the Bronx Bombers
The Yankees scored an AL-leading 315 runs and led the league in on-base percentage (.342) and OPS (.789).
New York finished second in the American League with 94 home runs, led by first baseman Luke Voit’s MBL-leading 22 homers. Voit also finished fourth in the majors with 52 RBI.
Second baseman DJ LeMahieu won the AL batting title with an MLB-leading .364 average after finishing second for the AL batting crown in 2019.
“They’ve been the pillars in our lineup,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Voit and LeMahieu. “Both guys are worthy of MVP consideration.’’
In the Yankees’ two-game AL wild card series sweep of the Indians, the Yankees got home runs from Brett Gardner, Giancarlo Stanton, Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela.
Key players come off injury list
Last year, the Yankees set a major-league record for most injured players in a single season, and the list included some of their top players: Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Sánchez, Stanton and Judge, among others.
It looked as though 2020 might play out in similar fashion.
Paxton, Severino and Tommy Kahnle have missed all or most of the season. And other Yankees such as Masahiro Tanaka, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Torres, Urshela, LeMahieu, Stanton and Judge all spent time on the injured list this season.
All but Paxton, Severino and Kahnle have returned to action for the postseason.
When they get on a roll
The Yankees have had inconsistent spurts this season, losing seven and five games in a row at points this season.
But they’ve also played quite well. They opened the season 8-1, rattled off six consecutive wins in August and had a 10-game winning streak in September.
So, which Yankees will show up for the rest of the postseason?
Their sweep of the Indians sets up an ALDS matchup against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays, who had an AL-best 40-20 record.
If the Yankees are to end their current World Series drought, they will have to fare better against the Rays than they did in the regular season, where the Rays won eight of 10 meetings, including six consecutive matchups.
“We know they’re going to be a challenge,” Boone said. “Hopefully, we can turn the tables on them.’’
Adding to the stakes are the regular-season tempers that flared during one of the Yankees’ two wins when Chapman buzzed Mike Brosseau’s head with a 101-mph fastball and Boone and Rays manager Kevin Cash were fined. Chapman is still awaiting a hearing to appeal his three-game suspension.
“Whatever happened, happened,” Chapman said. “That’s in the past.”
Contributing: Pete Caldera.
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