As the standings start to separate a bit, two division leaders are closing in on division titles.
New York Yankees (76-39, 1st Place AL East, 10.5 Game Lead)
The Yanks have consistently been one of the best teams in baseball this season. While more and more players get hurt, the team performs better and better. With recent injuries to Luke Voit and Edwin Encarnacion, Yankee fans were worried about how the middle of the lineup would fare during their absence.
The Yanks have been dedicated followers to the old expression, “next man up.” Cameron Maybin, Gio Urshela, Domingo German and Mike Tauchman are perfect examples of this phrase as they have capitalized greatly to become crucial pieces of this team.
All signs were pointing at a starting pitching acquisition at the trade deadline for New York. However, Brian Cashman had other ideas, as he held back and elected to keep the current roster until the postseason, barring a few minor additions later on through the waivers, September call ups, etc.
The Yanks pitching really hasn’t been great. The offense makes up for it as the lineup is producing top to bottom, resulting in top-five showings in all major offensive categories.
After sweeping the underwhelming Red Sox in a four-game series at home, the Yanks took to Baltimore to face the embarrassing Baltimore Orioles. Game one kicked off the series Monday night, and there were plenty of fireworks coming off of the visiting team’s bats. Four Yankees homered on the evening. Austin Romine, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Mike Ford all went yard. Mike Tauchman hit two in the game.
Despite all the run support, it was still a rough go for Yanks starter Masahiro Tanaka. Over his 5.1 innings he gave up five runs, ten hits, and walked two as well. The Yankees blew a 6-1 lead in the 6th inning, but their three runs in the 8th would give them the victory, 9-6.
Game two provided a similar show…except the Yankees hit even more home runs. Six Yankees homered on Tuesday night. Mike Tauchman, DJ LeMahieu, Didi Gregorius, Austin Romine, Brett Gardner, and Cameron Maybin all hit solo home runs. Two of the O’s runs came from a two-run homer by Anthony Santander. The Yanks would go on to take game two with ease, 9-4.
It actually got worse for the Orioles in the series finale on Wednesday. The lone All-Star from the O’s was on the mound in John Means, and he would face James Paxton. Means was pulled in the fourth inning after securing the first two outs of the frame. He gave up four earned over that span and struck out five while walking one batter.
Paxton was in his bag as he pitched 6.1 innings while giving up just one run and striking out seven. Yet again, the Yanks crushed the ball. Kyle Higashioka and Gio Urshela each hit a pair of homers. Higashioka drove in five runs compared to Urshela’s four. Cameron Maybin placed the cherry on top with his 9th inning solo home run. The Yanks would stomp on the Orioles, 14-2.
New York, having swept their last two series’, will face the Blue Jays in Toronto on Thursday night. Domingo German is slated to face Thomas Pannone in the series debut in the Six.
Houston Astros (75-40, 1st Place AL West, 10 Game Lead)
The Houston Astros have been one of the best and most dominant teams in the last three seasons. After acquiring Zack Greinke at the trade deadline, it doesn’t look like many teams will interfere on their quest to the World Series.
Alex Bregman has been one of the power bats in the lineup. While his average is down compared to his last two seasons, he’s hitting more home runs and driving in more runs. Yuli Gurriel, July AL Player of the Month, has been the hottest hitter in the league. His July included a .398 AVG, 1.264 OPS, 12 homers, and 31 RBI’s. That is one monster month.
On the pitching side of things, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander are one and two, respectively, in strikeouts in the MLB. Add Greinke into the mix, and they have three of the best pitchers in baseball on one roster. Their bullpen features Roberto Osuna, who has one of the best breaking balls in the sport. He has 25 saves on the season as he remains one of the league’s best closers.
The ‘Stros hosted the Rockies for a quick two-game series on Tuesday. Zack Greinke made his Astros debut against German Marquez. Both pitchers gave up five runs. It took Greinke six innings, while it took Marquez five.
Yordan Alvarez hit a two-run homer in the 2nd and has taken the league by storm. Since he made his debut on June 9th, Alvarez has 14 homers and 43 RBI’s. He’s slashing .348/.429/.703. That is good for an OPS of 1.131. Later on, in the 4th inning, Yuli Gurriel hit the first homer of two he would eventually have on the night. He finished the evening 2-3 with 3 RBI’S. Carlos Correa decided to get in on the fun as he also poked a homer over the fence in the 6th in one run form. Houston fared no problems as they would win 11-6.
Game two was a blowout. Gerrit Cole was on the bump for the ‘Stros, setting the Rockies at an automatic disadvantage. He would pitch six frames and strike out ten batters while giving up two runs. Rookie Peter Lambert got rocked on the afternoon for Colorado. In his three innings pitched, he gave up nine runs. By doing the math in my head (humble brag), that comes out to a 27.00 ERA on the afternoon. If you want to be a pitcher who lasts in this league, you just can’t have that happen.
With their 12 hits on the day, the Astros put up 14 runs. Many of those runs were courtesy of Yuli Gurriel. After hitting a three-run homer in the first frame, he would collect five more RBI’s to bring his total to eight on the afternoon. The ‘Stros would sail to yet another high scoring win, 14-2.
The Rockies left Houston with many problems; pun intended. Pitching seems to be a continued struggle with that franchise after giving up 25 runs in just two games. The Astros on the other hand have won nine of their last ten. They will travel to Baltimore Friday night to play the Baltimore Orioles. Wade Miley is set to pitch for Houston.
Waiver Wire Targets
Aaron Civale, Cleveland Indians (11.1% owned/ESPN)
Aaron Civale was called up again to replace Danny Salazar in the Indians rotation. In his first start of the season on June 22nd, he pitched six innings striking out as many batters while also giving up no runs. With a large sum of time between starts, he made his second and most recent start of the season on August 5th. He would pitch six frames again, striking out seven and giving up one earned.
With the departure of Trevor Bauer and injuries to Kluber and Salazar, there is plenty of room on this rotation for Civale. For assurance, wait until after his next start Sunday against the Twins to make a move for him. Considering his first two starts were against subpar offenses in Texas and Detroit, he’ll be tested to great extend against Minnesota. If he pitches well, he’s definitely worth a spot on your roster.
Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees (23.1% owned/ESPN)
Tauchman has actually solidified himself as a good replacement for Stanton. In his 177 AB’s on the season, he’s hitting .288 with an OPS of .915. As of late, he’s been adding to those numbers tremendously. Against the O’s, Tauchman went a combined 5-11 with three homers and five RBI’s. He’s becoming an everyday player as well, so his availability in league’s will be limited. Make sure to scoop him up before it’s too late.
Retired Little League baseball utility player.