The New York Yankees' once-ten-game lead is gone. With exactly one three-game series left for each team, the Yankees are tied with the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The race has come down to the final three days of the season from October 1-3 when the Yankees host the Boston Red Sox while the Orioles travel to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees could get an offensive boost when Mark Teixeira returns from injury on Monday, October 1. He went down with a calf injury on August 27 and has missed all but one September game. He started on September 8 but reinjured his calf and has not played since.
The Yankees need Teixeira's bat whether he plays first or as the DH. They have found ways to score runs, win, and remain in first place through September 30 by going 17-12 in September, but it would have been much easier with him in the lineup. They have scored approximately five runs per game for the month, but they have also left runners on base without scoring much while losing close games.
Of course, when a team scores that much for a month and loses ground, then we can also look at the pitching, which has a 4.44 ERA for September, well over 5.00 during their losses. The difference is that the Yankees will not get another pitcher for the final three games, but they can add some offense with Teixeira in the lineup.
The Yankees will have two of their top three pitchers going against Boston from October 1-3. On Monday, the Yankees will have CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42). On Tuesday, Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02) starts, and in Wednesday's season finale, Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34) will start -- all unless changes are made. The Red Sox are dead last in the American League in scoring in September, so if the Yankees can manage their normal offensive output, then they should sweep this series.
Meanwhile, the Orioles went on a tear throughout September. They went 19-9 to move into a first-place tie with the Yankees and have scored 5.46 runs per game during September (with 44 home runs) with a 3.35 September ERA. They travel to Tampa Bay to end the season. The Rays are now eliminated from divisional contention, but they still have life in the wild card race and reason to keep playing hard. Baltimore will not have it easy.
The Yankees need to win at least one more game than Baltimore, and it appears that they have the advantage on paper. Boston's pitching has given up a lot of runs in September, and Tampa Bay's has not. However, anything can happen on the field. Yankees' announcer Michael Kay announced that if the two teams end up tied, then they will have a playoff game in Baltimore because the Orioles have a better division record.
The A.L. East has come down to these final series. I will have my DVR and remote control ready.
Associated Press, Teixeira Expected to Rejoin Yankees on Monday, sports.yahoo.com, September 30, 2012.
Major League Baseball, Sortable Team Statistics for September, mlb.mlb.com.
Yahoo! Sports, 2012 Standings, sports.yahoo.com/mlb as of September 30, 2012.
YES Network Broadcast, New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays, September 30, 2012.
Raymond was born in Connecticut into a family spilt between the Red Sox and Yankees. Although he grew up in Florida, Raymond became a Yankees fan. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau
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