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It’s Now Or Never For The Yankees

Alex Rodriguez
Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

While the Red Sox and Yankees have both gone 8-2 in their last ten games, Boston suffered a huge blow to their roster over the weekend with Carl Crawford and Clay Buchholz both going on the disabled list. The message in the Yankees clubhouse the next 2-3 weeks should be loud and clear: if you want to win the AL East, it’s now or never.

Despite losing Derek Jeter and Bartolo Colon to the DL earlier in the week, the Yankees received a ton of good news on pitcher Phil Hughes and their offense hasn’t missed a beat over the last week and a half. In their last ten games, the Yankees have only scored less than 3 runs twice – and those were their only losses.

Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira
Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard have become a regularity for these “Bombers,” as teammates Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are tied with Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the ML-lead in homeruns with 21. When you combine that with Robinson Cano hitting .353 and Brett Gardner going 13-for-28 over the last 7 days, the Yankees have found their groove and are ready for a midseason surge.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have also played well in their last ten games, but it has come at a great price. Outfielder Carl Crawford made his first trip to the disabled list since 2008 on Saturday, when he was placed on the DL with a strained left hamstring, an injury he incurred Friday night while beating out an infield hit in the first inning.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox (but fortunately for Yankee fans), the news only got worse yesterday. The team announced Sunday that pitcher Clay Buchholz had also been placed on the 15-day disabled list with what the team is calling a lower back strain. Even though yesterday’s 12-3 rout against the Brewers would suggest otherwise, the Red Sox are in a little bit of trouble with these injuries.

Carl Crawford
Jim Rogash, Getty Images

Since starting the year with a horrible April, Crawford was showing glimpses of why he was worth the big free agent contract. He was hitting .295 since May 1, hit 5 of his 6 homeruns and collected 25 of his 31 RBI’s. Buchholz also had a slow start to the 2011 season, going 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA in April. But since then, Buchholz has won his last 5 decisions and dropped his ERA nearly 2 full runs to 3.48 (also has “quality starts” in 8 of his last 9 outings).

Despite having their share of injuries, the Yankees have a prime opportunity to take over the top spot in the AL East, but they will have to do it against some of the premier teams in the National League. The challenge begins tonight, when they start a 3-game at Cincinnati, whose homerun-friendly stadium will benefit the Bombers nicely. The Yankees will then return home for 6 games against the Rockies and the Brewers, before hitting the road again for a visit to Citi Field and the New York “Mess.”

Meanwhile, the Red Sox start a 3-game series tonight against a struggling Padres team, but the 9-game road trip that follows will be no picnic. It starts with a visit to PNC Park to face a Pirates team that is playing out of their minds with new manager Clint Hurdle. After that, it’s a visit to Philly against the best team in baseball (at least in terms of record), and then a trip to Houston for a 3-game set against a feisty Astros team.

Over the next two weeks, let’s see if this Yankee team can kick things up a notch and continue their hot streak. This is the first real opportunity the Yanks have had at grabbing control in the AL East since they had a 3-game lead in the division back on May 2. It’s not likely that another chance like this will come around, so in my opinion: It’s now or never for the Yankees.

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