Mancuso: Now It’s A Race

The July trading deadline came and passed for the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees as did the complexion for the American League East divisional title. Tell the Yankees how comfortable they were with an eight game lead over Toronto, while the Baltimore Orioles looked to be making a push.

Tell the Yankees now what has happened since the deadline passed, and after a Toronto three-game sweep in the Bronx this weekend they moved within a game and a half of first place New York. It has happened quick and furious, also attributed to a potent Yankees offense that has gone silent.

The Blue Jays did something to the Yankees the past two games that has not happened since May of 1999 against the Anaheim Angels. Back-to-back shutouts, 6-0 Saturday afternoon and 2-0 Sunday afternoon  is not looking pretty in the Bronx, and though there is a sense of concern, for the Yankees of course as a whole, there is still plenty of baseball to be played.

The Blue Jays are more known for that potent offense that has them as the number one run producing team in baseball. But good pitching will stop the potent hitting, and Toronto managed to do that in three games. Still it is hard to comprehend how the Yankees, who recently scored 90-runs in ten games managed to get one run across the plate the past three days.

More hard to understand is how the Yankees have only scored four runs in their last five games.  And the July trading deadline was supposed to be about reinforcing a Yankees pitching rotation, because there have been continuing doubts with CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda who is not expected back until September because of a right muscle forearm strain.

However after the past five games, one has to wonder what has gone wrong with offense even though the answer will always be, “This is Baseball.” Yankees manager Joe Girardi may have the answer but it is still difficult to comprehend how such a potent offense can suddenly go sour and so fast in a matter of days.

“You never assume that it’s going to be easy,” he said after the Jays completed the sweep Sunday afternoon in the Bronx. “ You’re going to go through good times and bad times and you’ve just gotta come back and play well when we go to Cleveland and go from there.”

He added, “It’s not our first three-game losing streak of the season, so we gotta bounce back.”  That previous losing streak was a season high six in late May and there was a concern. And though this is three games at the relative beginning of August, there is more concern because the hitting has stopped and the runs are not coming across.

More importantly the reinforced Toronto Blue Jays are closing in and a potent threat to take the east, something that the Yankees seemed to be easily handling just a week or so ago,

And you sense there is sense of urgency with the Yankees who once again got a relatively good start from Masahiro Tanaka, six innings, three hits and five strikeouts. Though the two runs were home runs balls from Josh Donaldson (No. 31), and a long one off the bat of Jose Bautista to left, his 26th of the season and second in the series.

The veterans, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira did the talking, though they combined to go hitless in seven at bats Sunday against Toronto starter and winner Marco Estrada, (10-6) and a revamped bullpen that includes the veteran Latroy Hawkins who sizzled  a Yankees threat in the seventh by getting Stephen Drew to strike out with two in scoring position.

Rodriguez said, “You have to have some perspective,” adding,“this is no time for panic for us. We had a very good season so far. We’re in first place for a reason. We like our team. We trust our team.

Yes, the Yankees still hold first place. There are ten games remaining between the two top teams in the east including three next weekend up in Toronto. The Blue Jays are rolling with their eighth straight win, 11 in their past 12 and their confidence on a high taking seven of nine from New York this season.

Will things change by next weekend? The Yankees will have Monday off and then begin a stretch of playing 16-straight games beginning at Cleveland Tuesday night. They have a day to regroup and put the past few days in perspective.

“We just didn’t play well against them,” said Brett Gardner.  Well said and so said.
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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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