SEATTLE -- A season-high five-game losing streak prompted New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone to assemble his players in the visiting clubhouse at T-Mobile Park to remind them of who they are: the team that spent the first half of the season as the best in baseball.
"We got together today and spoke and talked. Just more kind of dust settling from the trade deadline, people coming and going a little bit, wanted to get the group together and talk to them, so I did that," Boone said before Monday night's game against the Seattle Mariners. "Just [wanted] to remind them that we got everything in that room to get through this and realize the goal to being a champion -- that is where the focus lies and is."
Entering play Monday night, the Yankees had gone 0-5 since the Aug. 2 trade deadline, one that saw them deal a clubhouse favorite in Jordan Montgomery, as well as a struggling Joey Gallo, and bring in slugging left-fielder Andrew Benintendi, coveted starting pitcher Frankie Montas, and relievers Lou Trivino and Scott Effross.
"I feel like they're in a good place with that," Boone said of the clubhouse environment after the meeting. "Knowing we're playing good teams right now and they're playing for a lot, and we'll get their best shot a lot, we've got to go out and match that."
He added: "I just think we've gotten beat here a little bit. As I say, even when things are going really well, you never take for granted winning games. It's not easy to win games in this league."
After being swept by St. Louis, the Cardinals' first sweep of the Yankees in franchise history, New York saw its lead atop the AL East shrink to 9½ games -- the first time the Yankees had not led the division by double digits since mid-June. Following Monday night's win in Seattle, their lead is back up to 10½ games.
The Yankees' five-game losing streak was the longest for the club since losing seven straight in mid-September last year.
Before this year's All-Star break, the Yankees were playing at a 119-win pace and considered one of the few major league clubs without a major weakness or flaw. Their pitching had also been lights-out; entering July 9, the Yankees were 61-0 when leading in the eighth inning or later, their longest streak to start the season in franchise history.
Since then? They are 10-4 when leading in the eighth inning or later.
After one of the best starts in franchise history -- one that included an 11-game winning streak and comparisons to the historic 1998 superteam -- the Yankees have looked pedestrian in their past 40 games, going 19-21.
Nonetheless, Boone says he has not sensed any confidence issues among his players.
"That uber confidence is always a little fickle with a player. It's a game of ups and downs and balancing those kinds of things," he said. "You're always dealing with individuals on that front throughout the year. You're always constantly working with guys on an individual basis to get them into a good spot. But, no, overall as a group, I feel like we know where we're going, we know what we need to do. I don't feel like that's changed."
For Boone, it was also important to remind his players the Yankees are hopeful about the return of some key sluggers in Anthony Rizzo (lower back stiffness) and Giancarlo Stanton (left Achilles tendinitis), with pitching help arriving later in the arms of Luis Severino (right lat strain), Miguel Castro (right shoulder strain) and Zack Britton (UCL surgery).
That being said, it isn't all good news for the Yankees on the injury front, as they did lose designated hitter Matt Carpenter -- who had been enjoying a resurgent season at age 36 -- to a broken left foot in the first inning Monday.
"I think we had it all working -- from the starting rotation, to the bullpen, to the offense, to the defense, the baserunning," Boone said, reflecting back on the Yankees' blistering start. "I think our run scoring's still right there in line with what we've been doing. I feel like we've been catching the ball really well. We've had some outings where we've struggled a little bit on the mound. We've just got to get that consistency going in all facets. And we're certainly capable of that."