What the Yankees need to do to win the AL East

With about a month left in the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season, the New York Yankees sit a game and a half behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East crown. While they still are in first place for the Wild Card spot, a division title over the red-hot Jays would be huge for the Bronx Bombers. While it is going to be difficult to catch and overtake Toronto, there is still a chance. With some big series left to be played, and 7 games against the Jays, the East is still up for grabs.

The main thing the Yankees need to do is just flat out win. They need to win every series they play for the rest of the year. They have some struggling opponents at the end of the month in the Red and White Sox, who would love nothing more than to spoil the Yankees season. But the series many baseball fans have circled on their calendar is the four-game series this weekend between Toronto and the Yankees in the Bronx. If their rotation does not change, they will send their three best pitchers – Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino – to face Toronto, with the fourth being the shaky Ivan Nova. Then, later in the month, they travel north of the border to face the Jays on their home turf in a 3 game set. If the Yankees want to make a real push at winning the division, they need to take at least 5 of these 7 games against Toronto.

While taking all seven would be ideal, it seems unrealistic with the firepower that Toronto has. Five games is a reasonable goal that the Yankees can set for themselves, and it puts them in the best possible position to win a World Series. In order to win games, the players have to perform on the field. The Yankees have been getting a lot of production out of a lot of their players, and that will be a key to postseason success.

Like a lot of baseball fans, to hear that Stephen Drew is batting above the Mendoza line is a shock. Drew has been on a tear his last 6 games, hitting .563 and raising his average to a whopping .208. If Drew can manage a hit every two games and drive in a few runs, that would help the cause. Shortstop Didi Gregorious is finally getting comfortable at short, and his offensive productivity has been through the roof the past month. Didi is hitting .316 in the last month, while driving in 13. Not bad for a guy batting at the bottom of the order. If he can keep this up throughout the season, then that would be prime.

A dagger to the hearts of Yankees fans was hearing that Mark Teixeira’s bone bruise was worse than expected, and that he would be out until at least mid-September. Tex was on a tear this year, and was the main power guy for the Bombers. When he went down, many turned to a struggling A-Rod to provide them power. While he has produced at times, its not what many had expected. A-Rod’s average has dipped to .255, and has been struggling to drive in runs. He’s hitting .208/.316/.423 with 24 RBIs in the second half.

With the Yankees two power bats simmering down, there were some unlikely heroes that had to step up to help this team succeed. Backstop Brian McCann has been swinging a hot stick, leading AL catchers with 24 home runs, and leads the Yankees with 83 RBI. Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley have quietly been producing, combining for 24 home runs and 108 driven in, while batting .277. Rookie Greg Bird has stepped up in place of Teixeira. Bird is hitting .257 with 4 homers and 14 RBI since being called up last month. If these four guys, along with Didi and Drew can keep swinging a hot stick, then the offensive side of things should be great for the Yankees.

On the pitching side of things, Tanaka has to continued to be an ace and shut teams down. Eovaldi always manages to go out and deliver a great performance and pick up big wins. Meanwhile, rookie Severino has been very impressive in his short time in the show. The Yankees bullpen has been lights out all year, so that’s not much of a worry. Now that CC Sabathia is on the DL, the starting rotation of Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi, Nova and Severino looks like one of the scariest in baseball. If all these arms stay health and the pitchers produce quality starts, then the Yankees should have no problem picking up wins.

It’s going to take a lot for the Yankees to overtake the Blue Jays. Hot bats have to stay hot, and runs have to be driven in from players up and down the lineup. The pitching staff, which in some cases have kept the Yankees in games when the offense is struggling, needs to continue its dominance. They have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and the setup-closer combo of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller is just frightening. The Yankees will be in the playoffs come October; it’s just a matter of if they play first in the ALDS or the Wild Card game. Winning the division is possible. It’s just going to take a huge team effort from the Yankees, but it is possible.

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