Yankees take big step forward in race to recapture AL East

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May 13, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Aaron Judge (99) celebrates with teammates after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 9-8 at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are currently mounting a comeback from a significant deficit in the AL East. They are midway through a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, having clinched two victories so far. Their final face-off is scheduled for 1:35 PM on Sunday.

The Yankees have been victorious in eight of their previous 11 games, allowing them to rapidly climb the standings, although they still sit seven games behind the top spot. The Rays currently boast a formidable 30–11 record, a .732 winning percentage, and a +119 run differential. Nevertheless, the Yankees are beginning to hit their stride, bolstered by a strengthened outfield.

In their last two games, the Yankees have benefitted from significant offensive contributions from Anthony Rizzo, Anthony Volpe, and Aaron Judge. In Saturday’s match against Tampa, Judge smashed two impressive homers and earned four RBIs. Rizzo managed three hits in five at-bats, raising his average to .311 and his on-base percentage to .393.

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The Yankees’ outfield has stepped up:

Only a few weeks ago, the Yankees’ outfield was composed of Aaron Hicks, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Franchy Cordero. The return of Harrison Bader and Judge seems to have sparked a resurgence in the team’s prospects. After Sunday’s series finale against Tampa, the Yankees will set their sights on a challenging four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays have won five of their last seven games, demonstrating strong pitching performances. They are currently six games behind in the AL East, making the upcoming series critically important in the race for the division’s lead.

In essence, as long as the Yankees continue winning divisional games, they stand a chance of gradually clawing their way back into contention. The division is intensely competitive this year, particularly compared to the National League, which is filled with less efficient and weaker teams. The Baltimore Orioles, with a 26–13 record, are currently leading the American League Wild Card, while the Arizona Diamondbacks top the National League Wild Card with a 22–18 record.

To recover from a challenging start to the season, the Yankees will need to bring their best to the remaining games, but the team is gradually regaining health. The return of a few starting pitchers should provide a significant boost, especially with Luis Severino’s comeback just a few days away.