With all due respect to Abbott and Costello, there aren’t too many people laughing in the Yankee Universe right now. After the Bombers dropped the series opener to Detroit, and Tampa Bay rallied to beat the Rangers on Monday, the two teams find themselves tied at .610 atop baseball’s equivalent to the “Group of Death.”
Boston is still not completely out of it at 5.5 games back, but I think this is a two-horse race. Kudos go to the Rays, who were once the laughing stock of the league and not in a funny way. They’ve built a strong team and didn’t jettison their talent once they started winning, a la their buddies to the south, the Marlins, way back when.
Even Baltimore has picked up the pace at the bottom of the pack since hiring Buck Showalter (excellent move, btw). The Orioles have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games. Striking, since they had only won 36 games prior.
So what’s next? Well, the Yankees have to get/remain healthy. Andy Pettitte sitting on the DL is no help to them, certainly, but they have to make sure he’s ready to pitch in the post-season where he shines. I’m still so-so on their latest acquisitions – Lance Berkman looked as though he couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag when he first came over and now he’s injured, Kerry Wood’s best days are behind him, although he has some good experience behind him in the pen, and Austin Kearns isn’t exactly setting anyone’s hair on fire. I don’t see any of these guys coming up big in October. What they can do, if they perform, is give the regulars an opportunity to rest up for showtime.
I don’t think the AL East race will be settled for a long time. Thanks to the scheduling gurus, the Yankees and Rays have seven games against each other in mid to late September. Add to that a three-game Yankees-Red Sox set in the penultimate regular season series, capped by three series against the Blue Jays, and the Bombers have their work cut out for them.
The Rays don’t have an easy road ahead of them, either, so it should be a fight to the finish. They have a younger roster than the Yankees do, so that will work to Tampa Bay’s advantage.
I think the Yankees will win the AL East, but not by much. Tampa will be the Wild Card. Red Sox fans will all turn their attention to football and the playoffs should result in a Yankees-Tampa Bay matchup for the AL Title. Of course, it’s only still August.
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Written by Stephanie Geosits