Despite the Toronto Blue Jays nipping at their heels, the New York Yankees remain on course to win the AL East.
By Bryan Pol
The New York Yankees faced the very real possibility of being swept by Toronto over the weekend, which would have amounted to a 3.5 game deficit that was as large as a 7 game lead as recently as July 28.
Heading into Friday’s game on an 11-game winning streak, undefeated since their acquisition of superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and with newly acquired ace David Price on the mound, the Jays’ chances of extending their divisional lead and their winning streak to twelve was quite certain.
Only the Yankees scored thrice on David Price, mustering eleven hits over the ace’s 7 1/3 shaky innings.
Down 3-1 in the eighth after a Chase Headley ground rule double, which resulted in Price’s departure with two men still on (Price would be responsible for both), Carlos Beltran belted an Aaron Sanchez offering over the wall for a three-run homer, enough to preserve a 4-3 win and the Yankees’ place atop the AL East once again.
Over the weekend, Masahiro Tanaka would add a complete game gem on Saturday, and although young star Luis Severino pitched well on Sunday, the Yankees could not manage any more than one run against Drew Hutchison, he of the 5.06 ERA, and would leave Toronto with a slim 1/2 game lead in the division.
Given the state of the lineup (the Yankees entered 2015 with Alex Rodriguez not having faced major league pitching in over a year and Mark Teixeira battling an assortment of wrist-related woes) and the uncertainty of the rotation beyond Tanaka (whose elbow remained a ticking time bomb in light of a slightly torn UCL in his elbow that would not require Tommy John surgery), New York was projected by many to finish fourth, if not last, in the AL East behind the revamped Boston Red Sox, the now perennially contending Baltimore Orioles, and the Jays.
The Red Sox, despite their acquisitions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to bolster its lineup, failed to reacquire former ace Jon Lester, whom they traded at last year’s deadline, and are relying on a slew of number three and four starters in the rotation. As a result, they sit in last place in the division, tucked six games behind the Tampa Rays, still reeling over the departure of their beloved manager Joe Maddon.
The Orioles have endured tepid results from its rotation, and despite the returns of catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado, and great showings from first baseman Chris Davis and centerfielder Adam Jones, Baltimore boasts a middling offense that leaves them four-games shy of the divisional lead.
Thanks to some stellar campaigns from the likes of A-Rod, Teixeira, Brett Gardner, and Jacoby Ellsbury, the Yankees, on August 17, remain in first by a mere half-game. Despite their recent shortcomings (a sweep last weekend at the Stadium against Toronto and a poor showing in Cleveland last week), the Yankees remain on course to maintain the lead in the American League East.
Here are five reasons why the Yankees will hold on to their divisional lead and enter the postseason for the first time since 2012.