MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Yankees at crucial juncture of season

Pivotal 10-game homestand on deck after break

Yankees at crucial juncture of season

SAN DIEGO -- With the non-waiver Trade Deadline a scant two weeks away, the 44-44 Yankees are facing the make-or-break point of the 2016 season: a 10-game homestand at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox, Orioles and Giants, beginning Friday night against Boston.

The results of the next 10 games could determine whether the Yankees are buyers or sellers, contenders or also-rans.

New York faces the final 74 games of the regular season at 7 1/2 games behind American League East-leading Baltimore, and 5 1/2 in arrears of division rivals Boston and Toronto for the two AL Wild Card spots.

The time is now, and nobody knows it better than the Yanks' three All-Stars -- Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances -- all fresh off participating in the AL's 4-2 victory over the National League on Tuesday evening at Petco Park.

"This is a very big homestand," said Betances, who faced four batters during the seventh inning and struck out two of them. "We face three very good teams. We've got to win series. We have to play really good ball. We're getting close to that Trade Deadline, and we don't want to be in a bad position."

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"It's the kind of homestand that can put you in a good position or it can put you way downstairs," said Beltran, who flied out to center during the sixth inning in his one All-Star Game at-bat. "But we've got to be positive, man. We have beaten these teams before. We just have to find a way of winning each series against these three teams."

The Yankees played six games against the Orioles during the first half -- all in Baltimore -- and lost four. They were swept by the Red Sox in a three-game set at Fenway Park the last week of April, and New York won two out of three against Boston at Yankee Stadium the following weekend.

In Boston, Betances blew saves in two of the three games -- the first of the series on a two-run homer by David Ortiz, and the finale on a two-run blast by Christian Vazquez.

The Yankees have a long history against the Giants, dating way back to the latter team's New York years. The two have played each other seven times in the World Series, with the Yanks winning the last five of them, most recently in 1962.

In this era, the Yankees have only played the Giants nine times since the advent of Interleague Play, going 5-4 vs. San Francisco. This will be the third series between the clubs at either version of Yankee Stadium, and the first since 2013.

The Giants, though, are in the midst of one of their most successful periods, having won the World Series in every even-numbered year since 2010. They enter the second half with the best record in the Majors (57-33), and they are well-situated to win it all again, leading the Dodgers by 6 1/2 games in the NL West. Of course, it's another even year.

The upcoming task may seem daunting for the Yanks, but their All-Stars are confident the club can succeed.

"I think we're capable of contending," said Miller, who loaded the bases during the eighth inning of the All-Star Game on a pair of base hits and a walk before Will Harris bailed him out with a strikeout. "It's a long season. We have a long way to go. We like the guys in our clubhouse. By and large, it's the same group of guys that were in first place for a majority of last year."

Miller on Yankees, not closing

The Yankees have been anything except consistent, opening the season 8-16 -- their worst start since 1984. They've had to battle back every day and have gone 36-28 since then.

The All-Star trio took solace, though, in the fact that the Yanks concluded the first half by defeating the tough AL Central-leading Indians three out of four times in Cleveland. They also split a four-game series at home at the end of June against Texas, which led the Major Leagues in wins at the time.

"Those are teams that were playing good baseball," Beltran said. "That's a sign for us that we're capable of continuing to play like that. I personally feel that we haven't played our best baseball yet. We haven't had a run where we won nine out of 10. We haven't done that. If we can do that, we have a chance to make ourselves more competitive."

MLB Tonight: Carlos Beltran

To his point, the Yankees' longest winning streak this season was six games from May 18-24. They have reached the .500 mark three times, but once there, they have slipped. Their best record of the season was 31-30 on June 10, and they followed that up by losing four in a row.

Looking at the big picture, the Yanks haven't won a postseason game since 2012, when they defeated the Orioles in a five-game AL Division Series only to be swept in the AL Championship Series by Detroit.

They've played in just one postseason contest since then: A 3-0 loss to the Astros at Yankee Stadium in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game.

"We have guys on our team who can get hot and carry us," Miller said. "If that happens, we can beat anybody and play well down the stretch. And once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen."

Whether the Yankees get back there again this year is the substance of the next 74 games. And it all begins at home against the Red Sox on Friday night.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.