Sunday, August 26, 2018

American League East Race Back On After Yankees Gain Ground On Sox

Giancarlo Stanton (l.) and Brett Gardner (r.) celebrate Sunday's win. @Yankees.

The Yankees completed their four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles with a 5-3 win on Sunday night.

While the Yankees took care of business against the woebegone Orioles, the Red Sox got swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, including a 9-
1 demolition on Sunday afternoon. 

It all adds up to the fact that the Yankees (83-47) are now six games behind Boston (90-42), and just five games behind in the loss column.

The Yankees have also opened up some breathing room in the wild card race, as they are 4-1/2 games ahead of Oakland (79-52) for home field in the one-game playoff, and 9-1/2 ahead of Seattle, who is on  the outside looking in with a record of 74-57.

This is the closest the Yankees have been to the Red Sox since the start of their four-game series on August 2, in which Boston took all four games at Fenway Park.

This was inevitable, in a sense, as the Yankees schedule has eased up while Boston was due for a tough week, such as this one in which they lost five out of seven games overall, with a split against the Cleveland Indians before the sweep by Tampa Bay.

On Sunday night, the Yankees beat Baltimore, 5-3, and were led by their revelation at first base, Luke Voit, who went 3-for-3 with a two-run home run in the second inning.

This followed a weekend in which Voit had a pair of two-run homers on Friday night, a 7-5 Yankees. win in 10 innings. and an RBI single in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, a 10-3 win.

Voit was brought over from St. Louis for reliever Chasen Shreve just before the trade deadline in late July in the hopes he would provide some pop, and he certainly has delivered.

In his month with the Yankees, Voit is hitting .325 with four home runs and 12 RBI, and is hearing calls for more playing time at first base, and eventually play their full-time instead of the fading Greg Bird, who is hitting just .199 with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

The Yankees pitching also showed signs of what it could be this weekend, including from ace Luis Severino, who earned his 17th win on Sunday night, as he went 5 2/3 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts.

On Saturday, J.A. Happ (6 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 9 K) earned his fifth win as a Yankee in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, 
followed by a strong outing from Sonny Gray (6.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K) in a spot start in a 5-1 win in the nightcap.

The Yankees can continue to feast on the weaklings of the American League, as they start a seven-game homestand on Monday night, with three against the Chicago White Sox followed by four with the Detroit Tigers.

The Yankees then hit the west coast for three games in Oakland (September 3-5), followed by three in Seattle, September 7-9.

They then conclude the road trip with three in Minnesota (61-69) Sept. 10-12 before returning home for three against Toronto (60-70) Sept. 14-16.

The Red Sox come into Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 18 for a big three-game series, and it will be interesting to see what the standings look like then.

The Yankees then host Baltimore in for a three-game series Sept. 21-23 to conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule.
The season comes to a close with a seven-game road trip, with four in Tampa Bay Sept. 24-27, then three in Boston Sept. 28-30.

Out of the Yankees' final 32 games, only half of them are against teams with a winning record. 

The interesting thing about those 16 games is that only three of them (Boston 9/18-20) are at Yankee Stadium, and the rest are on the road at places that have not been kind to the Yankees historically (Oakland and Seattle) and this season (Tampa Bay has won 5 of 6 against the Yankees, while Boston has won 6 of 7 at Fenway.

Realistically, the Yankees can win 20-25 of their remaining games, leaving them with 103 to 108 wins for the season. 

It might not be enough to win the division, but it would certainly give them a head of steam going into the playoffs.

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