New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows his team has fight on their hands for the American League east division title. (Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE)

It's Game On! Can the Yankees Survive Tampa Bay's Pursuit for the Division Title?

It’s been an interesting month of August so far for the New York Yankees. They went into the month with a firm lead in the American League East. The schedule has been tough; however the Yankees have managed to keep their heads above water so far. Despite their efforts, that firm lead is no more and the Yankees are finding themselves heading towards September in a fight to hold onto the division lead.

What’s gone wrong for the Yankees isn’t exactly what they have done on the field. They are coming off a successful homestand, taking three out of four from the Texas Rangers and two out of three from the Boston Red Sox.

Heading into Wednesday’s schedule of ballgames, the Yankees are 11-8 in August. However, they’re 5-5 in their last 10 games and that’s not going to get it done when their division rival Tampa Bay Rays have been coming on like gangbusters lately.  In their last 10 games, Tampa Bay is 7-3 and have surged past the Baltimore Orioles for second place in the division. They are making more than just a serious charge at a playoff spot, they’re now making a run at the division title.

It was once Baltimore and now it’s Tampa Bay knocking on the door. The Yankees know that the only way they can fend off their division opponents is to win ballgames. The Yankees and Rays will battle six times in September. A losing streak now could have serious effects on how that turns out. What the Yankees don’t want is to look up at the end of the year and realize they’re fighting for a wild card spot instead of wrapping up the division title like many thought they had done in July.

The road has had bump after bump. Injuries have hit the Yankees with the kind of impact that would shut down the rest of the season for most ball clubs. They have managed to fight through it with strong second-halves from Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher. They have also received a ton of support from Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. These are veterans who are hungry to not only play in October, they want to win.

The Yankees will need their starting pitching to show consistency. That means making sure CC Sabathia is healthy and not rushing back from his latest injury. It means getting more quality starts out of Hiroki Kuroda. He’s been dominant recently and has been a pleasant surprise. It also means that Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have to pick it up, they’ve both struggled recently. While Freddy Garcia has been solid in place of Andy Pettitte, the bottom line is that he’s not Pettitte. If Pettitte is ready to return in September, as he’s hoping, it becomes a huge shot in the arm for them heading down the stretch.

If this season has shown us anything, it’s that the Yankees can get hot quicker than a New York minute. They have shown that they are able to shake off a few losses along the way and then crank it up again to look like the most dominant team in baseball. The way the American League East has taken shape this month, they will have to do just that.

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