I know it's early. I know August 1 isn't until Sunday. But in New York, it's never too early to start looking towards the playoffs.
The Yankees have an opportunity to put a major dent in the Rays hopes for catching them as they begin a 3 game series in Tampa. Heading into tonight's match up, the Yankees hold a slim 2 game lead over the Rays in the American League East. A sweep would place the New York firmly in the driver's seat for the Eastern Division title, five games ahead of Tampa as August begins.
Of course, five games is not an insurmoutable obstacle to overcome, and the Wild Card will almost certainly come out of the AL East, but the Rays and Yankees don't play each other again until September 14 in New York and the division could be wrapped up in pinstripes by then.
The Yankees play 11 games in August against Kansas City, Detroit, and Seattle, and play 16 of their 28 games at home. Conversely, the Rays will play tough series against the Twins, Red Sox, Rangers and Angels in August.
It's gut check time. New York can put the Rays on the ropes this weekend and then deliver the knock out punch in August, setting themselves up nicely for the playoffs. Or they can lose this series and make it a race to the finish. It's all up to them.