The AL East is proving itself worthy of it’s reputation as the toughest division in baseball.
It is difficult to imagine the post-season will be without either the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays, who have each have won the ALCS the last three seasons. (2007-BRS; 2008-TBR; 2009-NYY)
Let’s take a look at this three-headed-beast:
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox were counted out way too soon, as they have been on a leap to get back into the AL East race. The crucial difference has been Boston’s middle line-up is finally hot , as Big Papi, Victor Martinez and Marcus Scutaro are taking some pressure of Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.
The Red Sox have missed the rapid lead-off bat of center-fielder Jacob Ellsbury. Ellsbury has only played for nine games this season due to broken ribs. He is set to return after the All-Star Break, which will only help the Red Sox get better.
The greatest surprise is the pitching rotation, sans ace Josh Beckett, who’s been plagued by a bad back for a few seasons. John Lester has filled in as the team’s ace, with solid starts by Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and the pleasant surprise of Clay Buchholz, who leads the team with a 2.45 ERA.
Buchholz left during his last start after hyper-extending his left knee but is said to be fine. Boston has gotten solid outings from the Boston bullpen, and closer Jonathan Papelbaum has been substantial, but he cannot give up back-to-back saves like he did in Colorado anymore.
J.D. Drew is back since being on the DL since June 18th, but the Red Sox recent luck has not fared regarding injuries. All-star second-baseman Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 15-day DL with a fracture of the navicular bone in his left foot, which is typically a minimum six-week recovery. This is a monumental loss as Pedroia is the best player, both athletically and emotionally on the team.
Add Victor Martinez to the injury list, but not the DL yet as the catcher took two foul tips off his left thumb. Martinez says it is just pain and plans not to miss any time, but will know more after he gets checked out.
Terry Francona is saying all his prayers before bed tonight.
The replacements players like Bill Hall , Darnell McDonald and Daniel Neva are getting the job done, but Youks and Big Papi have to take this team on their shoulders right now.
One thing is for sure it’s doubtful anyone will ever question GM Theo Epstein again.
Tampa Bay Rays
Heading down south to Tampa Bay, home of the Rays who finally proved that their human by losing. The problem is their also developing and can’t seem to grasp the concept of defeat. It took them an entire season after losing the World Series in 2008 for the Rays to stop pouting, so Joe Madden needs to get attitudes in control now.
BJ Upton needs to understand that playing lazy for whatever reason is unacceptable. His teammate Evan Longoria had every right to be pissed-off but could have waited until after that game to allow Upton know. It is a manager’s responsibility to call out Upton during the game, his teammates can and should deal with him afterward. It just adds fuel to the fire and gives the press an open door to make a mountain out of an anthill. Still, Upton has done this before, and all it does it hurt the team‘s determination.
The Rays don’t have the veteran players to learn from and look up too, which is what they missed in 2008, 2009 and now again in 2010. Talent-wise the Rays have it all, but they just don’t get it yet. This is where Don Zimmer needs to step in big time and show the Rays about respect.
Taking out frustrations out in the dugout is never a providential sign. The Rays need to accept that losing is a reality, and that laziness is NOT an option.
David Price leads a dominate pitching staff, with a 2.44 ERA and 11 wins. Overall, the Rays sequence has the 4th best ERA in MLB with 3.52, also thrown three complete games and five shut-outs. Ramiro Sariano has 18 of the teams 20 saves on the season, so obtaining him in the off-season is working out as planned.
The Rays are also 4th in MLB in RBIs with 363, with Evan Longoria responsible for 52 of them. Carlos Pena has 16 home-runs already, and that is with time on the DL. Carl Crawford is leading the team in batting average with .306 and 26 stolen bases.
There speed is what runs circles around other teams, including the Yankees and Red Sox. With 92 stolen bases already, this team has no excuses athletically not to stay on top.
It was a poor showing for the Rays against the NL teams. The Rays held first-place till two weeks ago. Now they are look up at Boston and New York, three-games behind first-place Yankees.
Attitude is everything.
As of right now, the Tampa Bay Rays are showing their lack of maturity. Learning how to lose, move-on and get right back up again comes only with experience.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees look terrific, and must feel the same after taking 2 of 3 games from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Joe Torre.
The Yankees have been the most consistent team in baseball thus far but not because of the usual suspects like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada.
The younger gang especially the omnipresent Brett Gardner, a most-improved Nick Swisher and reliability of Francisco Cervelli have been the glue holding the Yankees together. Also, New York is randy for Grandy, as Curtis Granderson is the meaning of a baseball player that the Yankees and their fans just love.
The obvious MVP is Robinson Cano who is living up to all the hype of the last few seasons. Cano is leading the MVP show if he keep going like this, as he leads the Yankees in every batting stat, in 2010. In the ninth inning, against the Dodgers Cano hit a 2-run bomb, in a clutch situation, leading the Yankees to another important victory.
Posada and Rodriguez have been injured since the beginning, but Posada is fully back and Arod is starting to get hot for the first time this season.
Teixeira’s April slump trickled into May and most of June. Recently, fans have been witnessing flashes of the All-Star coming back to life. Still, it shocked Yankee Universe to see Tex in a rut and faith was lost, but nothing that cannot be gained again. Yankee Universe is still the waiting, eagerly.
Jeter has been accomplished this season. His average is a tad below normal at .286, with 39 RBIs and eight home-runs. Compared to 2009, which was one if not his best year, Jeter has shown signs of deterioration, but rumor has it that the ball that impacted Jeter’s hand back in early May hurt more than he revealed. Typical for Jeter, but he looks fabulous and is still the clear leader on this team.
Pettitte has been a knight in shining armor, with a 2.72 ERA, with a record of 9- i2 in 15 starts. Pettitte has seen a slight decrease and his last start against the Dodgers was not pleasant but he has been as close to perfect and exceeding all expectations. Batters are hitting .239 against the Southpaw.
Phil Hughes has been a leader on the pitching staff, proving he is having a massive future. Hughes is 10-1 over 13 starts with 3.17 ERA. Since Hughes just turned 24 years old, the Yankees have put an innings limit which is nowhere near 200 innings, but set to be around 170. Hughes has already pitched 82 innings, so he was skipped over in the rotation but will face Cliff Lee in his next start.
Yankees ace CC Sabathia is 5-0 in June, with a 2.19 ERA and 35 strikeouts. Sabathia is back to Cy Young form after a horrible May . Remember that in 2009, CC had 18 of his 19 wins after June, so this is positive from all angels.
Javier Vazquez took a few starts to readjust himself away from 2004 and realize he is still an elite pitcher.
AJ Burnett has seen better months, as he was killing it for April and most of May. He is having a career low-point, but his wild pitching has turned to tipping pitches, which will get fixed because when Burnett is winning things seem to take off for the Yankees. The mental aspect seems to bother him.
Mariano Rivera is not human, after a two week concern the closer has been better than ever at 40 years old. Rivera will be useful into molding Joba Chamberlain who has looked better lately and is throwing heat from the mound.
The Yankees are on a mission to repeat as World Series Champions, so far so good.
WHO WILL BE LEFT IN THE DUST COME OCTOBER?
Tampa Bay Rays.
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