Due to the New York Yankees’ recent struggles (6-4 in last 10 games), and the superior play by the Tampa Bay Rays (8-2 in last 10 games), we have an exciting race for the American League East title.
As a series between the two AL East teams begins tonight (Friday), it will likely end up being the deciding factor in which team will have a guaranteed playoff spot as a division winner, and which one will be a Wild Card team.
With the New York Yankees‘ indomitable play throughout the first half of the season, it’s quite astounding to see them in a tight division race right now. Although, the Yankees haven’t been great, the credit deserves to go to the way the Rays have played the past month.
The turning point for Tampa Bay may have been mid-July, coming off being swept by the Cincinnati Reds (51-78) and losing both Wander Franco and Kevin Kiermaier to injury. They were 15.5 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees at the time but, somehow, Tampa Bay hit the reset button and put together the best record in the AL in the month of August with a 18-9 mark.
Could the Tampa Bay Rays catch the New York Yankees in the American League East standings?
As it stands heading into Friday’s action, the Rays have narrowed the gap and they have 33 games left to try and trim their current six-game deficit in the AL East if they want to win the division. Just two days ago, Tampa Bay placed Shane McClanahan (15-day) and Brandon Lowe (10-day) on the injured list. That’s not great timing considering the most important games throughout this final stretch are six head-to-head matchups against the Yankees.
Currently, Tampa Bay seems pretty confident in their chances. Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena recently spoke to The Tampa Bay Times about catching the Yankees.
"“We need to beat them. The more we can beat them, the closer we can get. … Everyone’s happy to play against them, and everyone’s excited for it.”"
All teams deal with injuries this time of year, but the way Rays have dealt with it this season has nothing short of remarkable. Although the team remains confident, as they should be, it will be tough to catch the Yankees and win the AL East.
Even if Tampa Bay was to win all six games against the Yankees, their remaining schedule is slightly more difficult. The Rays still have series against the Toronto Blue Jays (twice), Houston Astros (twice), Yankees, and Boston Red Sox. Meanwhile, the Yankees have seemingly easier series match-ups against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a struggling Minnesota Twins team, a underachieving Milwaukee Brewers team, and the Texas Rangers.
With that being said, it may be highly unlikely for them to win the AL East, but the Rays are still a favorite to claim an AL Wild Card spot … and this is not a team anyone will want to face when it comes to the postseason.