The New York Yankees have been in control of the American East division for most of the season. The Yankees have sat atop of AL East for 146 days, with April 23rd being the last time they have not at least shared the division lead.
However, New York (85-56) has gone 29-35 since July 1, seeing their division lead go from 15.5-to- 5.5 games with three weeks remaining. But it hasn’t just been the Yankees’ struggles that have caused their divisional advantage to sink as the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have been playing outstanding baseball lately.
The Blue Jays defeated the Rays 3-2 in their first of five straight at the Rogers Center on Monday, So the Yanks will have to play exceptionally well to hold on to first place in the division and the critical No. 2 seed in the AL East.
Yankees Ready To Claim first AL East Title In Three Years
New York has a pretty easy schedule down the stretch now that the Yankees are done with their season series with the Rays. The Yankees took the final two of their three-game weekend series against the Rays. By virtue of winning the weekend series, the Yankees have won the season series 11-8; therefore, they are technically 7.0 games ahead of third-place Tampa Bay.
While the victories were critical for the Yanks, it was more important that they got their offense going once again. The Yankees are a top-five offensive team, though they are hitting a paltry .230 (20th) in the league. However, the two 10-run games were the first time they hit double-figures since July 29.
With the offensive onslaught the past two games, New York has averaged six runs, nine hits, and two home runs over the last week. During this stretch, the Yanks have also compiled a slash line of .268/.351/.469. All numbers far exceed those of their 30-day and season numbers.
New York had an off day on Monday and will take their two-game winning streak to Beantown for a short two-game series. The Yankees appear to be shortening their rotation for the playoff push and will go with Gerrit Cole and Frankie Montas against Boston.
Cole has not been his dominating self this season, but he hasn’t pitched that poorly. His biggest problem has been run support, as the Yankees are averaging fewer than three runs over his last seven starts, with seven runs being the most support he has received, which occurred in his previous outing.
Meanwhile, Montas has been awful since being acquired from Oakland. James Taillon and Domingo German are filling out the rotation.
Boston (69-72) has played decently well lately, and while they have not fared well against the AL East, they have played well against the Yankees. New York leads the season series 7-6, through Red Sox have won four of the seven matchups at Fenway.
However, the Yankees have hammered Nick Pivetta during his career, and opponents are hitting over .300 against rookie Bryan Bello.
After the short series with the BoSox, the Yankees head to Milwaukee for three games. The Brewers have scuffled since Aug.1 as they are three games under .500 (18-21), and 15 runs have outscored them. Pitching has been a problem for Milwaukee as they have allowed five runs a game during this stretch.
Following the trip to Milwaukee, New York hosts the dreadful Pittsburgh Pirates before the Red Sox come to town for four contests. The Yankees then hits the road for a trio of games against the Blue Jays. The Yanks hold a 9-7 series over the Jays, which includes winning 4 of 6 in Toronto.
They close out the season with a three-game home series with the Orioles and four games at the Rangers. The Yankees lead the season series over the Orioles (11-5) and the Rangers (2-1), who have won 36% of their games since Tony Beasley took over the managerial duties on an interim basis.
Tampa Bay Rays Have Been Playing Fantastically Over the Last Month
Tampa Bay (78-60) has played two fewer games than the Yankees heading into the stretch run. The Rays have played well lately, having gone 15-5 over their last 20, and they won 20 of their last 30 contests heading into Monday’s game on September 12.
The Rays have stepped up their offensive production in the second half of the season, averaging nearly five runs a game while compiling a hitting slash line of .263/.330/.410. Though they have struggled recently, they also have the fourth-best pitching staff in the majors.
With Tampa Bay’s loss to Toronto on Monday, the Rays drop to a half-game behind the Blue Jays. The Rays lead the season series over the Blue Jays 6-5. Following the series with Toronto, the Rays return home and begin a 10-game homestand with three contests against the Rangers, the AL East-leading Astros, and the Blue Jays.
Tampa closes out the campaign on a 10-game road trip. The Rays began the trip to Cleveland, who they trail 2-1 in the season series. They then head to Houston for three games before closing the season at Boston.
Toronto Blue Jays Have Gone 11 Games Over .500 in the Second Half
Toronto (79-61) was 16.5 games out of first place in the AL East on July 10. But the Blue Jays have gone 29-18 in the second half to move in second place and within 5.5 games of the Yankees following Monday’s contest.
Relief Pitching has been essential for the Blue Jays during this surge in the second half. The Blue Jays’ relievers are 13-4 with an ERA below 2.90 to go along with 15 saves since the all-star break.
However, if the Blue Jays want to be a contender, they need better performances from their starters. They have one of the top offenses in the league.
Following the series with Tampa Bay, the Blue Jays host the Orioles for three games. They then hit the road for a pair of games in Philadelphia before heading to Tampa Bay for four. Toronto closes the season with three games at home, each against the Yankees and Red Sox, and they conclude the season with a trio of games at Baltimore.
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