Yanks, Jays, O's in a fight to finish in AL East
Breaking down post-Deadline standings, remaining matchups
The Yankees have been alone in first place since July 3, and despite a laundry list of concerns, have a solid six-game lead over the Orioles and Blue Jays entering Monday. Unlike the Yankees who won the World Series four times in five seasons between 1996 and 2000, this current club is built on an offense that has gotten huge seasons from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Only the Blue Jays have scored more runs in the Majors. Meanwhile, the Yankees have used 29 pitchers. Yankees starters have a 4.37 ERA, which places them 23rd in the Majors.
Think this formula won't win? Actually, it's almost the exact same one the Yankees used to win in 2009. That season was the last time their rotation had a higher ERA (4.48), but they won by scoring a whopping 915 runs -- 32 more than any other team.
So while Michael Pineda's injury and C.C. Sabathia's ineffectiveness may eventually open a door for the Orioles and Blue Jays, the Yankees have so far sailed right through the highs and lows.
What changed at the non-waiver Trade Deadline
The Yankees stood pat while the Blue Jays made two huge additions, acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and left-hander David Price. Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn't stop there, acquiring veteran reliever Mark Lowe and outfielder Ben Revere. The Orioles got better, too, acquiring outfielder Gerardo Parra, but it was Toronto that went out and made the kinds of impact deals that have a chance to get the Jays into the postseason for the first time since 1993. Whether they can make up that six-game deficit in the final two months, especially against a Yankees team coming off a 17-7 July, is the question.
Who might still make a move?
Every contender is still shopping for help, but look for the Yankees to be particularly aggressive in trying to acquire starting pitching. Likewise, the Orioles have a history of under-the-radar post-Deadline deals.
Player to watch
Price is a game-changer and could do for the Jays what Randy Johnson (10-1, 1.28 ERA) did for the Astros in 1998 and what Doyle Alexander (9-0, 1.53 ERA) did for the Tigers in 1987. In addition to giving the Blue Jays a No. 1 starter, he could set a tone for the rest of the rotation. He should also ease the workload on the Toronto relievers.
Entering Monday, the Blue Jays and Orioles trail the Twins by a game in the race for the final AL Wild Card berth. Both teams have a clear path to the postseason with four games against the Twins. The Blue Jays have a slightly easier schedule, with 17 games against the A's, Phillies, Tigers, Red Sox and Braves. Meanwhile, the Orioles have seven games against the Royals and three against the Nationals. The Orioles and Jays play each other seven more times.
Series to watch
1. Blue Jays at Yankees, Aug. 7-9. These two teams play 13 more times, but this very first series could set the tone for everything else. This is Toronto's opportunity to make a statement.
2. Blue Jays at Orioles, Sept. 28-Oct. 1. If both teams are still close -- and there's every reason to think they will be -- this series could have the look and feel of a playoff series.
3. Yankees at Orioles, Oct. 2-4. If we're lucky, the AL East will not be settled by the time these two teams finish the regular season against one another. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays wrap up the regular season with three games at Tampa Bay.
Where does it go from here?
Somehow the Yankees will hold off the Blue Jays and Orioles. They've overcome every challenge and probably will do so down the stretch even though the Blue Jays and Orioles appear to have better pitching.