Rays and Yankees battle in AL East showdown in the Bronx
Many baseball experts forecasted a fierce battle for the American League East crown that would last right up until the end of the regular season. This prediction has been accurate, however, the participants in this battle are not the ones many expected back in March.
The Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees have spent the last couple of weeks neck and neck atop the American League East, with the Yankees currently holding a half-game lead heading into Monday night’s game.
New York has been struggling over the last week or two, going 10-10 in the last twenty games. However, the Yankees’ fortunes may soon be changing, following the acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion from the Mariners and the upcoming return of Giancarlo Stanton from injury. The two should improve the already powerful lineup and hopefully give the Yankees a strong push heading into the All-Star break.
Even with the acquisition of Encarnacion, the Yankees still have some work to do at the trade deadline. The team’s pitching, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen, has been problematic in the past couple of weeks and needs to get better if the Yankees want to make a run for the World Series. The Yanks have been in the mix for both Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman, and either one of those pitchers would be a big boost to the starting rotation.
The Rays have spent the first three months of the regular season proving that last year’s postseason run was no fluke. The team has gotten surprising offensive production from the likes of Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, and Yandy Diaz, and starter Charlie Morton has been putting together the best season of his career while leading a solid starting rotation for the Rays.
Even though their offense has been solid this year, the Rays will probably be looking for a solid power hitter to solidify the middle of their lineup at the trade deadline. With Edwin Encarnacion off the table, Tampa may have to look elsewhere, though the options out in the market could be pretty limited.
This week’s three-game series at Yankee Stadium will be a chance for either the Rays or the Yankees to gain an edge in the AL East, albeit for only a short period of time. No matter how the series plays out, both teams should have a good feel as to what their weaknesses are and how they can be addressed at the trade deadline.