Yankees Win AL East – What Comes Next

Yankees win AL East

The latest series for the New York Yankees had no shortage of memorable moments. Despite a tough loss to start, they bounced back the next night for a 5–2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. With this victory, the Yankees won the AL East title. However, that wasn’t even the biggest highlight of the series. Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris with 61 home runs following a week-long homer-less drought. The two-run blast gave the Yankees the lead, and helped spur them to an 8–3 win.

With the division now in hand, the Yankees are assured a bye for the Wild Card series, and home-field advantage in the American League Division Series. Starting Friday, they will play three against the Baltimore Orioles to close out their home schedule. Then, they hit the road for four against the Texas Rangers to cap the regular season. Here’s a look at the Yankees’ rollercoaster season so far and what lies ahead before the postseason.

 

Yankees Win AL East

The Yankees’ road to winning the AL East was not as easy as initially expected. Entering the season, they were considered underdogs to Toronto for the division title. The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox were also popular picks to finish ahead of New York. Despite this, the Bombers had a historically great first half. At their high-water mark on July 8, they were 61–23. Whispers began that this team could surpass the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 regular season games en route to a World Series title.

Ultimately, that proved to be too high of a mountain to climb. Injuries, occasional bullpen hiccups, and a suddenly dormant offense took their toll as the Yankees struggled mightily from mid-July through the end of August. From July 8 to September 3, they posted a record of 18–31, nearly relinquishing what had been a 15 1/2 game division lead. Since then, however, the Yankees appear to have righted the ship. From September 4 on, they have gone 17–5, a stretch good enough to salt away the AL East for good.

Throughout this tumultuous season in the Bronx, the one constant positive has been Judge. Even when the team was struggling, his steady play single-handedly prevented the lean stretch from becoming catastrophic. Not only has he now tied the hallowed AL home run record of 61, he has a legitimate shot at winning the Triple Crown. The only question there is whether he can secure the batting title. That pursuit should be an interesting storyline this week along with the potential for No. 62.

 

What Lies Ahead This Week

With the division in hand, and their playoff position all but set, Aaron Boone and the Yankees have more important objectives this week than winning games. These include resting starters to keep them healthy, testing the waters with currently injured players, and lining up the rotation for the postseason. Although Judge’s quest for the home run record and the Triple Crown is a huge deal, expect him to get multiple rest days, especially if he passes Maris sooner rather than later. Wednesday night’s lineup seems to be a likely template for the rest of these games. Judge was one of the few regulars who started, with several key players getting off days.

The use of both Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu is something to keep an eye on. Stanton’s timing at the plate has been off since his return from the IL. Resting him could help him get back toward 100 percent.  At the same time, he may also need some at bats here and there to regain his timing. LeMahieu played through a toe injury for awhile, but was ineffective at the plate. This eventually resulted in an IL stint, which is due to end Friday. While he is likely to get some off days, he’ll also need at bats to assess his status. Both players are indispensable for the postseason, so how the next week goes for them is extremely important.

The Yankees are fortunate to know their position this far in advance. They’ll almost certainly be the No. 2 seed in the AL, allowing them some extra rest ahead of the ALDS. It also gives them the ability to take stock of things in the final week of the season and line things up to their advantage. If the team stays healthy, Aaron Judge hits another homer and perhaps takes the Triple Crown, it won’t matter how many games the Yankees win. All the boxes will be checked.

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Players/Managers Mentioned:

Aaron Judge, Roger Maris, Aaron Boone, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu