AL East Up For Grabs
This is about as close as it gets. With 6 games left, the New York Yankees have the slimmest of division leads over the Baltimore Orioles, as they enter play tonight with a mere 1 game advantage. Tampa Bay is only 4 games out of first as well, meaning there is a lot to be determined in the next week. The New York Yankees play three games against two out of contention teams, Toronto and Boston. While each of these opponents have had a disappointing season, we all know that both of them would love to help contribute in the Yankees losing out in the divisional race. It is up to the Bronx Bombers to make sure that it doesn’t happen!
Thankfully for the Yankees, the Orioles and Rays will play each other the final three games of the season, meaning if they take care of their business, there is a good chance those two squads will knock inflict enough damage to the other to allow the Yanks to escape with the crown. In years past, making the playoffs as the Wild Card was just as effective as clinching a division, but with this years rule change of a Wild Card play-in game, the importance of capturing the division has never been greater.
The Yankees have a lot of question marks this year. The recent woes of both Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova lead the team to believe they really don’t have a fourth starter. The bats have been criticized to be all of nothing, that is if the Yanks don’t hit HRs, they don’t usually win. However, I believe their solid record against both the Red Sox and Blue Jays this year will stay true to form during the last 6 games. During a season in which the Yankees have been ravaged by injuries, it is looking as if their health might be at an all-time high entering the post season. Andy Pettitte and Brett Gardner (in a defensive and pinch running role) have recently rejoined the club, and now the Yanks eagerly wait for Mark Teixeira to battle back from his ailment.
Once the Yankees make it into the playoffs, I truly feel they would be a tough out for any opponent. The ability to throw CC, Andy and the overachieving Hiroki Kuroda in the first three games of any series will keep the Yankees in any series. If players like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and ARod can somehow snap out of some of their recent woes, which they are all capable of, the Yanks still have as potent of an offense as their is in baseball. The acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki seems to have invigorated the veteran outfielder, and his recent contributions are a huge reason they are still in first place today. If all these guys follow the lead of their captain and carry themselves like Jeter does in October, I still like my Yankees chances to capture the crown.
The next week will be fascinating to watch. I’ll admit that I thought Baltimore would have fallen back by now, but they have played unbelievable in September. I figured Tampa Bay would be a factor until the end, but definitely did not figure the pesky O’s would be so hard to shake. To me, this is the greatest time of the sports calendar and I can’t wait to watch this story, and the other races around the big leagues unfold. My Yankee fandom allows me to always stay optimistic (the polar opposite feeling I have when thinking about my Jets), and I truly believe when the dust settles, the Yankees will remind everyone what organization will always prevail over all others. The playoffs basically start tonight and I’m excited to see how all these teams respond. Enjoy your hardball!