Yes, you just read that headline correctly. Who would have thought back in April, after the mad spending spree the Yankees went on this offseason, that a couple of June series against the Blue Jays would be the big ones? Well it is. The Yankees currently sit at 35-33, 4.5 games back of the first place Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, you read that right too. FIRST PLACE Toronto Blue Jays. Coming into this season, everyone had their eyes on the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Rays, and maybe a tiny glance in the Orioles’ direction, as to who would win the AL East crown. But so far, it’s the Blue Jays who have been the beast of the east, currently sitting at 41-30. The Yankees and the Orioles have managed to keep fairly close in the race, both 4.5 game back, while the Red Sox and the Rays have brought up the rear, the Sox sitting 9 game back, and the Rays currently owning the worst record in baseball. But even though the Yankees sit only 4.5 games back, this is not the way the Yankees and their front office visualized what the standings would look like at this point in the season.
So what’s been the cause for the underperforming Yankees? Injuries for one haven’t helped. C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Francisco Cervelli all currently are on the disabled list, Ivan Nova was lost for the year due to Tommy John Surgery back in April, Carlos Beltran and Shawn Kelley have also spent significant time on the DL, and Mark Teixeira just can’t seem to decide whether he wants to stay on the field, or not. But the real reason has been the offense. While the make-shift starting rotation featuring David Phelps, Vidal Nuno, and Chase Whitley, along with a dominant bullpen of Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and David Robertson continues to provide the Yankees with opportunities to win game in and game out, the offense just hasn’t been able to get it going for a majority of the season. Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Derek Jeter are just a few of the big names who have been far from spectacular at the plate this season.
The Blue Jays on the other hand, have relied on their offense as well as a solid rotation/bullpen to get them wins. But the offense has been the BIG key for them. The Blue Jays are currently 3rd overall in the league in runs scored with 334, and lead the league in homers with 92.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This can’t last forever, right? Well, the Blue Jays have slowed down a bit in the couple of weeks, having lost 6 of their last 9 games, but they’ve been in first place long enough for the Yankees to take them seriously. The question, of course, is whether the Yankees can take advantage of the Jays’ recent slump. Sure Masahiro Tanaka can keep their bats silent, and maybe even breakout player Chase Whitley as well. But what about when David Phelps or Vidal Nuno go up against say, the powerful Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, IN Yankee Stadium. Those matchups don’t favor the Yankees very much.
So overall, it’s kind of tough to say who will win these upcoming series. It may be the Blue Jays who slug their way to victory. Or it may be the Yankees who ride Masahiro Tanaka, and their bullpen to victory. Or maybe, just maybe, the Yankees can outscore the Blue Jays! It’s a nice thought. But either way, the 4.5 games back number that currently sits between the Yankees and first place will even diminish, or increase over the next week or so. It’s all up to the Yankees to decide which one it’ll be.