It’s hard to believe a team with the highest payroll in sports is in trouble, but that’s the case with the New York Yankees. The 168 home runs the Yankees have hit this season have been able to slide them past regular season pitching. If the Yankees make the postseason, there all-or-nothing offense won’t get them very far.

Yes, I said if the Yankees make the postseason. Three weeks ago, the Yankees had a 10-game lead in the division, but that lead has almost been cut in half. Baltimore is now 5.5 games behind, and the Rays have gained 4.5 games on the Yankees since July 18. Tampa Bay got a huge shot in the arm when Even Longoria was finally activated from the DL Tuesday.

Of 54 games left on the Yankees schedule, 35 come against division opponents: 13 against the Blue Jays, nine against the Red Sox, seven against the Oriels and six against the Rays. The Yankees might not have the wild cards to fall back on either with the Angles and Tigers controlling the two wild card spots.

Normally a six-game lead in August is a sizable lead, but the way the Yankees have been playing lately, it’s not. New York went 5-1 after the All-Star break, including a sweep of the Blue Jays. Since then, the Yankees have gone 6-11, which started by being swept in a four-game series at Oakland.

I think the Rays are more likely to catch the Yankees than Baltimore. Tampa Bay is seven games back, but the upcoming scheudles favor the Rays. The Yankees and Orioles both play the Tigers, Red Sox, White Sox and Rangers the next two weeks.

The Rays next two weeks couldn’t be easier. They will see the Blue Jays, Twins, Royals and Mariners who are all below .500, but they do have a three-game set at Anaheim. Tampa Bay could make a lot of ground up on the Yankees before they meet September 3 in Tampa Bay, a place the Yankees have struggled mightily his season.

If New York does hold on to the division, fears of Yankee fans are looking like they’re coming true. In less than a two-week span, the Yankees saw Felix Hernandez twice, and Justin Verlander Monday night.

Yankee fans have worried about the offense being nothing but home runs all season. When New York faces better pitching in the playoffs, home runs are harder to come by. 

The Yankees have seen the cause for concern come true in the three starts against arguably the two best pitchers in baseball. There isn’t much shame in not scoring runs on King Felix and Verlander, but Yankees are supposed to be different. With as dangerous as its offense could be, the Yankees dry up against top pitching.

Saturday, King Felix put the Yankees to sleep in a 1-0 loss. New York could barely touch Hernandez, mustering only two hits off the right-hander. Luckily, the Yankees don’t have to worry about seeing him in the playoffs, but they would see Verlander.

The Tigers eliminated the Yankees in 2011. The way the Yankees have been playing since July 18, they haven’t given any reason why it couldn’t happen again in 2012.