On the morning of Aug. 14, the New York Yankees were 63-52 and 2 1/2 games behind the second American League wild card spot. Fourteen days later, the Yankees have yet to lose another game, and have ridden a 13-game winning streak to a three-game lead for the first AL wild card spot. The Yankees haven't lost since Tim Anderson's walk-off homer for the White Sox in the Field of Dreams Game.
"We're clicking on all cylinders," Giancarlo Stanton told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, following Friday's win over the Athletics (NYY 8, OAK 2). "We're grinding away at the opponent. We've discussed what it took to get here and how we've all fed off each other, the work that we've all put in. It's cool to see it develop."
The 13-game winning streak is tied for the longest in baseball this season (the A's won 13 straight from April 9-24) and it is tied for the sixth longest winning streak in Yankees history. Not since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were chasing Babe Ruth's single-season home-run record in September 1961 have the Yankees won this many consecutive games.
Here are the longest winning streaks in Yankees franchise history:
- 19 games: June 29 to July 17, 1947
- 18 games: May 27 to June 14, 1953
- 16 games: May 10-26, 1926
- 15 games: Sept. 16 to Oct. 2, 1960
- 14 games: June 29 to July 13, 1941
- 13 games: Aug. 14, 2021 to present (also Sept. 1-12, 1961 and July 3-18, 1954)
The winning dates back before the 13-game winning streak, too. The Yankees also have won 20 of their last 23 games, 30 of their last 38, and 35 of 46. New York was 41-41 after losing the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets on July 4. They have the best record in baseball since then.
"I would just say the focus in that room, the purpose in that room is what you want it to be," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including the Associated Press, when asked how the Yankees have turned their season around. "I go back to what I've said -- I think the best part about it is the many contributions we're getting from the entire roster."
According to FanGraphs, the Yankees have seen their postseason odds climb from 46.3 percent to 97.9 percent during the 13-game winning streak, and they're only four games behind the AL East leading Rays. They have one head-to-head series remaining (the final three games of the regular season at Yankee Stadium), so the division title remains in play for the Yankees.
Saturday afternoon the Yankees will try to become the first team to win 14 consecutive games since Cleveland's historic 22-game winning streak in 2017. Here are four reasons New York has been able to put together this winning streak and solidify their place in the postseason picture.
The rotation has been excellent
Although he was not razor sharp, Gerrit Cole struck out nine in six scoreless innings Friday night, and recorded his 200th strikeout of the season. Cole has allowed one run total in three starts since returning from the COVID-19 list, and the rotation is the single biggest reason the Yankees have won 13 straight games. Just about every single day they're getting a strong outing.
Here are New York's rotation ranks in August:
- ERA: 3.31 (1st in AL and 5th in MLB)
- WHIP: 1.13 (2nd in AL and 5th in MLB)
- Strikeout rate: 25.4 percent (2nd in AL and 5th in MLB)
- Win probability added: 1.31 (3rd in AL and 5th in MLB)
- WAR: 3.7 (2nd in AL and 4th in MLB)
Only once during the 13-game winning streak did a Yankees starter allow more than three runs (Jameson Taillon allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings Thursday) and seven times they allowed no more than one run. The best start during the winning streak belongs to trade deadline addition Andrew Heaney. He held the Red Sox to one run and two hits in seven innings on Aug. 18.
Néstor Cortes Jr. has been a godsend (2.70 ERA in seven starts) and the Yankees have rotation help on the way. Corey Kluber will rejoin the team Monday. He has been out with a shoulder injury since May. Michael King (finger) and Domingo German (shoulder) are on the mend and Luis Severino was recently cleared to resume throwing after a setback in his Tommy John surgery rehab.
The Yankees were able to stay in the race in the first half because their pitching was so good. The offense has largely underperformed all year, but their starters rank fifth in baseball with 19.4 WAR. It's not just a few good weeks for the rotation. It's been a good year overall, and it's not just Cole doing the heavy lifting. Just about everyone in the rotation has pitched well.
The offense is finally clicking
We need to come up with a nickname for this new-look Yankees lineup. On any given day the Yankees have Stanton, Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Luke Voit in the starting lineup, and those are some very large humans. They're a mountain range more than a baseball lineup. The Mountain Range Lineup? Eh, I don't like it. We'll come up with something.
Anyway, the Yankees ranked 25th in baseball in runs scored on Aug. 1. Judge and Stanton have carried their weight all season, otherwise the lineup really underperformed the first four months of the year. The Yankees were extremely double play prone and they were seemingly allergic to big innings. They'd score a run or two here and there, but never break a game open.
The tide has turned in August. The Yankees have scored 140 runs this month, second most in baseball, and they're averaging 5.77 runs per game with a team .256/.345/.495 batting line during the 13-game winning streak. From April through July, the Yankees hit .234/.324/.393 as a team. A team .393 slugging percentage seems impossible in Yankee Stadium, but it happened.
Judge is riding a 19-game on-base streak and Voit was named AL Player of the Week last week, but Stanton is the hottest Yankee at the moment. When he gets hot, he gets "carry the team" hot, and Stanton is 15 for 43 (.349) with six homers during the 13-game winning streak. He's hitting .324/.417/.663 in August and has gone deep in each of the team's last four games.
It should be noted the Yankees aren't just slugging their way to wins right now. They've added a speed element to their game. The Yankees ranked dead last in baseball in stolen bases (20) and stolen base attempts (25) in the first half. In the second half, they're fourth in stolen bases (34) and stolen base attempts (40). They're not waiting for homers. They're forcing the issue on the bases.
As good as the offense has been during the 13-game winning streak, the Yankees are still waiting for Gallo and Rizzo to get going. They've each had important hits in pinstripes, sure, but the club's two big deadline additions are hitting a combined .193/.315/.414 as Yankees. Gallo and Rizzo are capable of much more. Once they get hot, the offense will be even more dangerous.
Relievers are picking each other up
Incredibly, the Yankees have had six different relievers record a save during the winning streak: Albert Abreu (one save), Aroldis Chapman (one), Chad Green (three), Jonathan Loaisiga (one), Lucas Luetge (one), and Wandy Peralta (two). Zack Britton was ineffective and is now hurt, and Chapman missed time with an elbow issue, forcing others to step up.
None of those saves were cheap saves either. The Yankees seem to play nothing but close games and Abreu, Luetge, and Peralta (both times) earned their saves because they had to bail out someone else with the men on base in the ninth (or 10th) inning.
I wouldn't say the Yankees have a bullpen crisis at the moment -- things aren't that dire -- but the ninth inning is a little more unsettled than they'd like. Chapman has really struggled the past two and a half months (18 runs in his last 20 innings), and twice since coming back from the injured list he started the ninth inning but was unable to complete it and had to be bailed out.
The easiest solution would be to put Loaisiga, the team's best reliever all season, in the closer's role, though he is far too valuable as a multi-inning setup guy. He threw two innings with a two-run lead against the Braves on Monday and two innings in a tie game against the A's on Thursday. Both times he faced the middle of the order and it was true high leverage work.
You'd hate to marry a guy who can do that to the ninth inning. Loaisiga is more valuable to the Yankees getting big outs in the sixth or seventh or eighth, which means someone else has to handle the ninth. For now, the Yankees seem content to let Chapman work through his issues as the closer. If he doesn't right the ship, others will have to step up, as they have during the winning streak.
They're getting surprise contributions
A lot of them. Abreu and Peralta are nailing down saves, Cortes is an integral part of the rotation, reserve infielder Tyler Wade has become a major stolen base threat, and rookie Luis Gil has yet to allow a run three starts into his MLB career. At one point this month the Yankees had an entire lineup and an entire rotation on the injured list, yet they've kept winning.
The latest surprise contributor is infielder Andrew Velazquez, a Bronx native who quickly endeared himself to the Yankees faithful with a collection of timely hits and clutch defensive plays. The kid who grew up idolizing Derek Jeter and going to games at Yankee Stadium is now contributing to a long winning streak in pinstripes.
Velazquez signed a minor league contract with the Yankees this past offseason after spending time with the Rays, Cleveland, and the Orioles earlier in his career. He was called up from Triple-A when Gleyber Torres jammed his thumb sliding into second base and had to go on the injured list. Now he's the starting shortstop and an indispensable part of the roster.
The Yankees have won 13 straight because their rotation has been stellar, their relievers have gotten key outs when they've needed to, and because their best players have been their best players on offense. They're also winning because guys like Cortes and Velazquez and Peralta have come out of nowhere to contribute. The 13-game winning streak has been a total team effort.