Thursday, July 21, 2011

No Room At The Top

With the fewest losses and most wins of any other teams in the American League, it looks as if we're headed to an ever familiar place with the Yankees and Red Sox. What is it going to take to slow down the best of the American League East?!?! Your guess is as good as ours.

As the trade deadline (July 31st) draws near, and the Tampa Bay Rays recover from six-straight against their American League East rivals, we're breaking down all things Sawwwwx and Yanks.

Get After It!

First, turn to the men roaming center for each ball club. Red Sox All-Star outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, has been nothing short of spectacular this season. As written previously this month, Ellsbury is not only tearing the cover off the ball but he's on pace for career highs in home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, and runs scored. Through Wednesday, Ellsbury has already launched 16-home runs giving the Red Sox a huge power surge from their outfield spots. Why has this been the catalyst for the Sox offense?!? Aside from the obvious reasons, setting the table by getting on base for the bats of Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, Ellsbury has been the only consistent offensive weapon in the Red Sox outfield. With injuries to off-season acquisition Carl Crawford, and the remarkably poor play of veteran J.D. Drew, Ellsbury has been the constant. Adversely, his Yankee counterpart, All-Star outfielder Curtis Granderson is turning in a very similar season. Granderson is having his best season as a Yankee (albeit in his second), on pace for his best season at the plate since 2008. All Granderson's slugging numbers are way up with the hitter's friendly ballpark in New York, as well as his batting average and on-base percentage. His patience at the plate with 49 walks and has really set the tone for the Yankee offense. Both players speed on the base path and ability to get on have really pushed their bats to new levels and have obviously powered their league leading offenses.

With both teams pitching staffs suffering the injury bug throughout numerous times in the first half, it's been their front-end aces that have stood up. All-Stars C.C. Sabathia and Josh Beckett have led the Yankees and Red Sox all season long. Sabathia is turning in another strong Cy Young push. The MLB's leader in wins (14), Sabathia has won his last seven starts with the only loss in his last ten coming against those pesky Red Sox. Even more remarkable, Sabathia has allowed just two earned runs in his last five starts while throwing seven plus innings in each starts, he's devouring innings. The Yankees ace is amongst the league leaders in strikeouts (134), innings pitched (153.2), and earned run average (2.64). His Red Sox counterpart is turning in a hell of a season. Beckett's biggest accomplishment this season? His team is 5-0 against the Yankees and Rays when Beckett has started. His ace stuff is back with a mind boggling 2.12 earned run average through eighteen starts. Furthermore, the only Red Sox starter who has yet to hit the DL with injury, Beckett has been the backbone of their rotation from jump. Allowing just 28 earned runs all season, Beckett is sure to be considered in each and every Cy Young debate come this fall. With aces like this, who wants any part of Boston and New York opening an October series.

Let's get real here, these two teams are built for postseason play. The Yankees and Red Sox both took the Rays right after the All-Star break and gave them two very tough series while taking 2 of 3 from Tampa. In each teams series against their division opponent, they played games right down to the wire in tie games and ended up coming out on top. Why?!?! Because they have the bench and the staff to pitch deep into games with very little worry. They've got pitchers like Beckett and Sabathia who eat innings and strikeout batters. They've got table setters like Granderson and Ellsbury who have power as well. They've got managers like Girardi and Francona who dawn World Series rings and know how to use a bench. I've always liked guys like Joe Maddon and Mike Scioscia for what they do with what they have, but they don't get it done as often as the two American League East heavyweights have in recent years. We're headed to a fall that looks very familiar, just like I said and if Buck Showalter don't like it, The Worldwide Leader can keep his seat warm.

As a dog fight for the American League begins to playout, we're witnessing the only two teams in the American League playing .600 ball or better. With just a game and a half separating the two clubs in late July, expect much more of the same!

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