If the Tampa Bay Rays series wasn’t enough for the Yankees to realize the AL East title isn’t going to be hard to achieve, this first meeting with the Boston Red Sox this season should be cementing it in their heads.
It’s been two months since the regular season has kicked off, so the speculation and doubt surrounding the Rays’ and Red Sox’ success should be washed away. The two top players in the division currently aren’t slowing down, and they’re showcasing that against a Yankees team that isn’t performing to their potential.
Should that scare the Bombers? They obviously won’t say so because it’s still early in the season. But a level of concern should definitely be there.
Let’s just take a look at these past few games against the Rays and Red Sox just to get a feel for where these teams are at compared to the Yankees. First off, the Yankees have a minus-13 run differential in the six games prior to Sunday night’s series finale against Boston. New York was able to split with Tampa Bay before Gerrit Cole was hit hard in the 9-2 loss before the Red Sox came to town.
However, these first two games against the Sox have not gone well at all for the Yanks, as their most historic rivalry is very one-sided at the moment. Boston has showed New York exactly why they’ve been able to handle most of their competition this season, capitalizing on runners in scoring position and getting big hits no matter if they’re up or down in the game. They’ve actually produced the third-best team batting average in the league this season at .258.
The Rays’ team average isn’t too much better than the Yanks at .228 (24th), but they’re sixth in MLB with 4.92 runs averaged per game. The Yankees? They’re in 28th with 3.69.
And this isn’t even mentioning the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently sit above the Yanks in the AL East standings in third.
Now, Aaron Boone has remained consistent, saying he still believes in his star-studded lineup to turn things around. And they very well might with so many games left on the regular season schedule.
On the other hand, it’s been a couple months with a big enough sample size to see that players like Clint Frazier, Rougned Odor and others just aren’t producing at the dish with averages under .200. Even DJ LeMahieu, the most consistent hitter on the Yankees the past two seasons, has had some troubles thus far. And hitting .227/.336/.307 with runners in scoring position is not going to get the job done.
It’s not too late for New York just yet. There are multiple meetings left with all their AL East foes as well as many other series to handle.
But these two series — and even the sweep by the Detroit Tigers prior to returning to the Bronx — are shedding light on the fact that New York’s preseason favorite tag to win the division is officially gone, and it’s going to be a true battle to the end to see who sits atop the AL East throne.