Ray Frager

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Yankees who need to get offense in gear

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Yankees who need to get offense in gear

Though the Yankees are comfortably four games up in the first of two American League wild-card spots, if they are to overtake the Blue Jays and get back on top of the American League East — thus avoiding the crapshoot of the one-game playoff — New York’s offense has to come around.

The Yankees are hitting .209 in their past 21 games, and the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff has identified five players who must start swinging productive bats. Davidoff assumes that Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, who have contributed more than could have been expected heading into the season but have slowed, are now “tapped out.” That means getting offense out of Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Greg Bird and Jacoby Ellsbury.

McCann might be boosted by returning this weekend to Turner Field for the first time since he left the Braves as a free agent after the 2013 season. Lately, though, he has slogged along with a .266 on-base percentage in the last 21 games.

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Gardner would have to buck a trend of tailing off in the second half of the season. For his career, he bats 50 points lower after the All-Star break than before. This year, after hitting .302 and making the All-Star Game, Gardner is batting .202 since.

After hitting six homers and posting a .371 on-base percentage in 58 games for the Yankees last year, Headley has nine homers and a .330 OBP in 121 games this season.

Bird, the organization’s top hitting prospect, has been in the majors for all of 12 games, batting .220 with two homers and seven RBIs. But he obviously has arrived in the big leagues with big expectations.

Ellsbury came off the disabled list on July 8. He had hit .318 before going on the DL but .233 since his return. However, Ellsbury has batted .370 over his last 11 games.

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Dalton takes heat online, even with family photo

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Dalton takes heat online, even with family photo

It just comes with social media. Not all people are going to be sociable. Andy Dalton certainly sees that.

All that the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback has to do is post something like a photo of him with his wife and young son or a picture he took while attending the pro tennis event near Cincinnati, and the bile rises in the responses. Tell your offensive line to block better. Don’t play so lousy in prime-time games.

"I hear it just because it's hard not to," Dalton told ESPN.com this week. "I'm sure you know, but I can post a picture on my Instagram and all it's about is ... different stuff.

"As much as I want to say I don't look at it and I don’t see it, with the world today, it's hard not to see stuff. And a lot of stuff that's said, you can look at it and it could be an eighth grader or something. People can hide behind a computer screen and it's the same person that's coming up wanting my autograph. So it is what it is."

And what drives most of the antagonism?

“I think it just comes down to the whole playoff thing,” Dalton said.

That would be his 0-4 record in the postseason — which, for some people, makes them ignore just how cute his little boy is.

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Yankees better off because Sabathia is hurt?

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Yankees better off because Sabathia is hurt?

New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia just went on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a knee problem.

If he makes it back in September, maybe he will pitch out of the bullpen for the first time in his career. Sabathia told mlb.com he wants to be "helping the team any way I can."

However, one baseball observer says Sabathia already may be helping the Yankees by not pitching.

“There’s never been another pitcher like Sabathia, and he will be missed when he’s gone. Just maybe not by the New York Yankees over the next six weeks,” Rob Neyer writes at Foxsports.com.

Neyer’s point is that the Yankees have been treating him as if he’s one of their top eight pitchers, when he’s probably really been just in the top 12. Plus, Sabathia makes $23 million this year. So he has stayed in the rotation, with his 4-9 record, 5.27 ERA and 26 homers allowed (third-highest in the American League).

“But now management’s off the hook,” Neyer writes, and the Yankees can go with a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova or Adam Warren. “Yes, the Yankees do have six starters who are at least marginally better than Sabathia.”

So by tweaking his knee, Sabathia just may have done the Yankees a favor.