The Yankees are at a stage where every loss could mean the end of their playoff hopes. That’s “perfect” in terms of timing for them to return to their offensive woes and get shutout by the Kansas City Royals and James Sheilds, pulling off a 1-0 win to solidify their place on top of the AL Central.
For fans of great pitching, this was the game for them. Shields pitched for 8.1 innings, allowing just three hits and not walking a single batter while striking out six. Michael Pineda didn’t have a bad day: He threw for seven innings, giving up just three hits as well. However, he did allow one single to Norichika Aoki, giving the Royals the one run that put them on top in the end.
So where does this leave the Yankees? They are 9.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, meaning that the ticket through the division isn’t coming. Wild Card is all they have left, but after this loss, the find themselves fifth on the standings, tied with the Indians for 4.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners, who keep trading places with the Detroit Tigers, who are also battling the Royals (two games behind them) for the top spot in the central division of the American League.
According to ESPN’s hunt for October, the Yankees have a 1.5% chance of making the playoffs. They still have two more games at home against the Royals before another home series against Tampa Bay, then three games in Baltimore, three at Tampa Bay, four at home against the Blue Jays, four at home against the Orioles and then three games against the Red Sox to close the season.
This wasn’t just Shields best performance of the season, but probably the best pitching performance by anyone this season. According to the Bill James pitching metric, he had a game score of 83. In his 31 career starts, that’s his highest score against the Yankees, and it’s also the best by any pitcher this season against the team. He has now reached 200 innings pitched for the eighth straight season, with only Mark Buehrle currently having a longer active streak (13 seasons).
Was this the end for the Yankees’ playoff chances? Not yet, but there’s not a lot of room for error and mistakes left. Looking back at how this season has gone and how inconsistent they’ve been, with and without the injuries to key players, which is something every team has to deal with, it’s hard to believe that now will come some sudden surge of excellence to put them in action during October.