Heading into Saturday morning, the Yankees have extended their division lead to nine games over the Rays. Their series against Tampa Bay came along with some thrilling highlights. Plus, the Yankees may have found their identity due to an irate Aaron Boone who let the world know his guys are savages.
This series proved to be a statement for the Yankees as they flexed their big guns, even taking the series win by beating Tampa’s A-squad with their own B-team. The Yankees won starting Chad Green against Charlie Morton and players such as Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, and DJ LeMahieu all sat.
Now that they’ve cleared Tampa, the Yankees have eight games in twelve days against the Red Sox on the books. It might be the last big divisional showdown of the season. This will prove to be a tough test for the Yankees. Both teams know what is at stake and a lot can happen in eight games, especially given that the first four are at Fenway Park.
If the Yankees can pass this test, however, they’ll be in a great position to control their own destiny for the rest of the season. They’ll have eleven games against the Orioles and the Blue Jays immediately after, and no real adversaries for a while besides an interleague matchup with the Dodgers in August.
This is something the Yankees haven’t experienced in several years. In recent years the narrative has been, “How can they cut into this division lead?” Now it’s, “How can they add to this lead?” They just pushed Tampa farther back, and now they have the chance to do the same to the Red Sox.
The Yankees do run into the Red Sox at Fenway Park once more for a four-game set, but if the Bombers can handle their business in the next two series against them, those games shouldn’t matter. When it comes to the last two games against Tampa Bay in late September, unless the Yankees have an eight-game slide, they shouldn’t mean anything either. However, neither team can be counted out, as one is the defending World Series Champion and the other is a great Rays team. Both clubs have the capability of flipping the switch at any time.
So if the regular season dominance against the division over the next few weeks, and against the rest of baseball continues, the Yankees should secure their spot atop the division. This team, especially with it’s analytical prowess, is built for the regular season. Their bullpen and lineup, even without a true ace, is good enough to fend off a streak from either the Red Sox or the Rays. Most agree, they’ll need another pitcher to compete in the postseason, but as for the regular calendar, it would take a lot for this team to blow their division lead.