MLB

MLB: How the Yankees Can Hold Off the Blue Jays and Win the East

sabathia
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If Toronto were as good as the team’s 11-game winning streak, there would be no question who was going to win the AL East. However, even with David Price and Troy Tulowitzki on board, the Blue Jays have played at an unsustainable level en route to its division takeover. Unfortunately for the rejuvenated Toronto fan base, the eternal laws of baseball say a correction is soon in order for both the scorching Jays and the slumping crew from the Bronx. Here’s why Yankees fans should not concede the AL East just yet.

The Yankees rotation revival

You may not have noticed it during the team’s five-game losing streak, but the Yankees rotation has been fulfilling its preseason promise. Top prospect Luis Severino (0-1, 2.45 ERA) has given the club everything it could have hoped for since his callup after the trade deadline. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.75 ERA) and a vintage C.C. Sabathia (0-1, 3.00 ERA) have kept the team in every game.

Since the start of August, New York has posted a 3.28 ERA, third best in the American League. With ace Michael Pineda still on the disabled list, the Yankees have to feel good about the rotation moving forward. Setting aside Brian Cashman’s decision to keep the team’s prospects for the future, going into September with Pineda and Tanaka at the top end and Severino and Sabathia at the back end inspires confidence in what has been the club’s weak link all season

This impressive run largely went to waste with the lineup’s brutal slump since the trade deadline. Since August 1, the Yankees’ .201 batting average is the worst mark in the American League, its 44 runs 21st in MLB. New York, second in MLB in runs scored in 2015, picked a bad time to get cold with the Blue Jays catching fire. After putting eight runs on the board in the Cleveland series finale August 14, the Yankees may be showing signs of life.

For its part, Toronto has led the league in both runs (65) and ERA (1.98) since August began. As much as the fan of pure spectacle in us would like that to continue, baseball doesn’t work that way.

Timing Toronto’s correction

Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays
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If Toronto sustained its run and ran away with the AL East, it would not be the first time a team finished the year in such grand fashion. The 2007 Colorado Rockies won 21 of 22 games from mid-September through the end of the NLCS. Its poorly timed correction came in the World Series, when it was swept by Boston. Teams that seem too good to fail never are in this sport.

With the calendar reading August, Toronto has a long way to go to lock down a playoff spot, let alone the division. The Blue Jays will start by hosting the Yankees for three before going on the road to Philadelphia, Anaheim, and Texas. In that stretch, we’ll see if Blue Jays can turn around the club’s unimpressive road performance (25-31). Great teams play better than .500 on the road, and so far Toronto has not been able to do so.

In fact, Toronto will play 25 of its final 46 games on the road, including its final seven in Baltimore and Tampa, giving two capable division rivals the chance to play spoilers in the season’s last week. For its part, the Yankees will return from the weekend series in Toronto to play 10 games at home against Minnesota, Cleveland, and Houston. Handicapping the rest of the season is tough, but a betting man would like the chances of the Yankees (32-21 at home) to retake first place by the end of that home stand on August 26. (New York will play 28 of its final 49 games at home.)

Toronto’s spectacular run in a tight division coincided with a debilitating slump up and down the Yankees lineup. Once the tide shifts back, the real fight for the AL East can begin. Even with David Price fronting the rotation, the Blue Jays are nowhere near as good as they’ve looked on this hot streak. Rather than feeling like the sky has fallen, Yankees fans should take a cue from Hal Steinbrenner.

Statistics, current as of August 14, are from Baseball Reference.