As the Yankees took their first breather in a 20 game stretch yesterday, the Rays decided to keep winning, bringing the division lead down to just two and a half games. Obviously the cushion the Yankees enjoyed earlier in the summer is nearly gone, and the injuries really haven't stopped coming one after another, so the next couple series hold more importance than they may have if things had gone a little more smoothly.
|Yankees||@ Cleveland||vs. Blue Jays||vs. Orioles|
|Rays||vs. Athletics||@Rangers||@ Blue Jays|
|Orioles||vs. Blue Jays||vs. White Sox||@ Yankees|
While the Yankees kick-off a series tonight against the 54 win Indians, their closest competition takes on an Athletics team that has exceeded expectations to put themselves in a favorable position for one of the Wild Card spots. If the Yankees can take care of business in Cleveland, anything the Athletics can do to stop the torrid pace of the Rays will be an added bonus. The following series, on paper, also looks like one where the Yankees may stand to gain some ground if everything goes right. The Yankees just took two of three from the Blue Jays in a series in Toronto, and they'll look to match or do one better at the Stadium, while the Rays go up against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in Arlington.
By the end of the season, it's quite possible that no one will remember this upcoming stretch of games as anything special, but with the division race so tight at the moment, it could very well end up meaning a lot. The opportunity exists to gain some breathing room, and hopefully the Yankees will be able to take advantage of it.
A day after the Yankees place one of their pitchers on the DL, the ace of their staff in CC Sabathia returns, hopefully pitching as we've all come to expect him to. We've been promised the return of Andy Pettitte at the beginning of September, which is already closer than would seem possible. Alex Rodriguez should follow within the month. If that goes as planned, it's possible that the team has already weathered the worst of the storm and will play the way that was so fun to watch earlier in the summer. Little has gone according to plan this year with the revolving disabled list door swinging at seemingly all times, but if anything can, I hope it's that.