June has been especially unkind to a trio of teams that entered the month with postseason aspirations, and could now find themselves tempering expectations.
theScore’s MLB editors Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, Jason Wilson, and Brandon Wile look at which of these three teams should be panicking the most about their recent run, and what it means moving forward:
New York Yankees
It’s hard to go into full-scale panic mode when your team wasn’t supposed to be in a position to take much of a tumble – even though the Yankees have now lost seven straight games and are out of first place for the first time in a month. Joe Girardi acknowledged this Tuesday night, saying, “Every team goes through their down periods.”
But this down period must be giving the Yankees a little bit to worry about. The once-powerful bullpen has faltered over the last seven games, and Tyler Clippard’s struggles Tuesday probably didn’t ease Girardi’s mind. At first base, they’re getting zero production from Greg Bird’s fill-in Chris Carter – who’s hit just eight homers this year after an NL-high 41 a season ago, and has been virtually invisible during this losing streak. “That’s what we have,” Girardi said when asked about Carter’s struggles – not a glowing endorsement of the big slugger.
But the Yankees don’t need anything out of Carter to get out of this. As long as the rest of the lineup hits and the pitching corrects itself, they’ll be fine, and even if they can’t get back to first place, it’s not the end of the world considering where they are in this rebuild. Be concerned, sure – but don’t start ringing the doomsday bells just yet. – Sharkey-Gotlieb
The Orioles were able to mask a miserable rotation last season with a dominant bullpen and thumping offense, but that luck has run out in 2017. Orioles starters continue to get bludgeoned with little help in sight. Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman have been terrible, Dylan Bundy and Wade Miley regressed following strong starts, and Zach Britton remains on the disabled list alongside Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy.
Baltimore’s been one of the most successful regular-season teams since 2012, but the club’s recent inefficiencies are leading the organization down a potential path to rebuilding. The farm system is unspectacular; the core is aging; and Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Zach Britton are free agents after 2018. Ownership has been reluctant to be a seller in recent years, but if the team continues its slide, the front office needs to seriously start thinking about how to begin retooling the roster. – Wile
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have the opposite problem as the Orioles. Blessed with an embarrassment of riches in possibly the deepest rotation in baseball – with nearly another complete rotation waiting in the minor-league wings – the Cards just can’t hit with consistency, which has led them to bottom out in June. The only team St. Louis has beaten more than once this month is the even more disastrous (though at least by design) Philadelphia Phillies.
Since swapping Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler in the first and second slots in the lineup, both have come alive. There just isn’t much else. Stephen Piscotty hasn’t quite come into his own, Kolten Wong can’t stay on the field, and Aledmys Diaz has taken a step back after a promising rookie campaign. This isn’t an offense that can lead the team to the postseason, never mind succeed when it gets there. Fans better hope the team finds a good suitor for Lance Lynn to initiate a midseason pivot.
Sitting 11 games back from the NL wild card means the Cardinals’ only real hope of reaching the playoffs is winning the Central. To do this, trading for a J.D. Martinez (and more) to bolster the offense is an absolute must. Otherwise, it’s time to look ahead to 2018 and beyond. – Wilson