The Yanks and Sox renew their rivalry this week.
It looks like the AL East is a two-team race again. Only one game separates the bitter rivals. The Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles have been competitive but seem to be slipping, hovering around .500, while the Yanks and Sox hit their stride.
Here’s a look at what has gone right for the teams at the top of the East, what has gone wrong and what could help them in winning the division.
New York Yankees:
The performances of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have been a huge plus at the back of the rotation. Pitching was the big question coming into the season, but their top four starters have an ERA under 3.86, with No. 5 man Ivan Nova pitching at a respectable 4.50 clip.
Still, Garcia and Colon haven't pitched big innings for years. There is a glimmer of hope in the eventual return of Phil Hughes, however, he may be better suited coming out of the bullpen.
Trading for another solid arm would go along way in ensuring the Yanks stay on top of the East. Look for the Yanks to make a strong push for Carlos Zambrano from the Cubs.
The bullpen has been solid, and Joba Chamberlain seems to have regained his consistency. Again, Hughes may come back to the bullpen, where he excelled in their championship run, after he returns from the disabled list.
Offensively, the Yankees have been dominant, as expected. They’ve been doing it with the long ball, as Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira have led the way with 35 combined home runs. The batting averages have been low, without a single starter hitting above .300.
Robinson Cano is batting .277 a season after finishing second in the MVP voting to Josh Hamilton. He has so much ability and a proven track record, it seems hard to fathom that a monster month isn’t in line for the summer to get his season back on track.
Who is going to win the AL East?
In the sad-but-true category, it seems Derek Jeter may soon be done. His .260 batting average is a career low. His two home runs and seven doubles point to a serious lack of pop, as well. His chase for 3,000 hits seems to keep him in good standing. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do with their captain in the lineup after that point, if he does not pick it up at the dish.
Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox have the best pitching staff on paper in the American League. The problem is paper has not led to production.
Lester has seven wins but has been hittable.
Clay Bucholz and, especially, Josh Beckett (2.01 ERA) have pitched well, but only have eight wins between them.
The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation are in shambles. John Lackey is looking like he will never pay off for Boston, while Daisuke Matsuzaka was his normal inconsistent self before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with Tommy John surgery.
Adrian Gonzalez has been a monster in his first season in Boston, hitting .330 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI. Carl Crawford, however, has been a bust thus far, hitting .248 with eight stolen bases.
Dustin Pedroia has had a rough season as well, hitting .244 with four home runs. David Ortiz has continued his career renaissance, batting .325 with 13 home runs.
With so much money invested in new signees Crawford and Gonzalez, it is hard to see the Sox making any major moves offensively.
Ortiz, Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury (.300 batting average, 22 stolen bases) should be enough to keep the Boston offense rolling. Boston does need another pitcher, though, especially with the injury to Daisuke.
With all the controversy around Jonathan Papelbon’s status in Boston, don’t be surprised if he is included in a blockbuster to get a big name starter. Daniel Bard and his upper-90s fastball is the heir apparent to close should that happen.