Opposite dugout: Yanks hold wild card, could vie for East title

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Joe Girardi (10th season)

Record: 73-63

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: 2B Starlin Castro (.309), RF Aaron Judge (38 HR, 85 RBIs), C Gary Sánchez (79 RBIs, 28 HR), LF Brett Gardner (18 steals, 20 HR), SS Didi Gregorius (.290, 62 RBIs), RHP Dellin Betances (10 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 7-5

Pitching probables:

Sept. 4: LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Dylan Bundy, 2:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 5: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 6: RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Kevin Gausman, 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Yankees:

The Yankees hold the top spot in the American League wild card chase coming into this series, two games in front of Twins, who are a game and a half in front of the Orioles and Angels for the second slot. And after being swept at home by the blistering-hot Indians, the Yanks bounced back to take two of three from the Red Sox this weekend. So the AL East crown is not out of the question for the Bombers.

Some folks in the Bronx might have viewed Aaron Judge's August as a sign of impending apocalypse, but not just because the rookie's torrid home run pace cooled. Judge (.275/.407/.572) batted a paltry .185 while striking out 41 times last month. The right fielder played just three games in August in which he did not take a K. We must note, however, that Judge took Red Sox ace Chris Sale deep -- 469 feet, to be exact -- last night for his 38th homer. Fellow All-Star Gary Sánchez (.276/.344/.527) had a much better August. The Yankee catcher batted .287 while hitting 12 dingers and driving in 26 runs last month. Shortstop Didi Gregorius (.290/.323/.471) has been hugging .300 since mid-July, and trails only Judge and Sánchez in the club's RBI department. Speedy outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (.253/.330/.394) and Brett Gardner (.258/.348/.429) are, predictably, vying for the team lead in steals, but leadoff man Gardner has a career-high 20 home runs this season. The Yankees missed the bat of second baseman Starlin Castro (.309/.346/.469).while he was out for nearly a month with a hamstring strain. He went 3-for-5 with three RBIs in last night's win over the Red Sox..

Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery (7-7, 4.15 ERA) starts the Labor Day opener. Unless he makes a dramatic improvement today, expect Joe Girardi to be on the phone to the bullpen early. Montgomery has gone past the fifth inning just once in his last five starts. He last pitched on Wednesday, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks to the Indians in just four innings. Tuesday starter CC Sabathia (11-5, 3.71) is enjoying something of a renaissance in 2017, despite two stays on the disabled list. The veteran has already posted his best win total since 2013, and if his ERA stays where it is, he'll finish 2017 with his best mark since 2012. His last three starts have been strong, including a six-inning, four-hit, one-run performance that got him a win against the Red Sox. Since the Yankees got him from the A's at the non-waiver trade deadline, Sonny Gray (8-9, 3.36 ERA), who starts Wednesday's finale, has gone 2-4 while simultaneously bringing his ERA down slightly. In his last start, Gray went seven innings but gave up four runs as the Yankees lost at home to the Red Sox Sept. 1.

The intimidating Yankees bullpen -- especially flame-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman (4-3, 4.12 ERA) -- has shown some signs of wear recently. From Aug. 13 through 25, Chapman pitched to a 10.50 ERA, giving up seven runs on seven hits over six innings of work. Even his last save, on Aug. 15, came by the narrowest margin possible after Chapman surrendered a two-run homer to Amed Rosario before getting the final out in a 5-4 Yankees win. Seventh-inning type Adam Warren (3-2, 2.40 ERA) has seen his ERA climb by more than half a run in his last four appearances. Setup man and sometime closer Dellin Betances (3-5, 2.29 ERA), though, has been a rock. Since July 8, Betances has recorded nine holds and four saves and has taken just one loss while pitching to a 1.14 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .114 average. Since the White Sox dealt them in mid-July along with third baseman Todd Frazier, David Robertson (6-2, 2.32 ERA) and Tommy Kahnle (2-4, 2.85 ERA) have performed well for the most part. Robertson's only blemish, as far as the Yanks are concerned, came July 29 in the form of a blown save against the Rays. Meanwhile, he's notched three holds, two wins and a save for his new team. Kahnle has recorded five holds for New York, but also two blown saves. He gave up one hit and struck out two in the Yanks' Sunday night win over the Red Sox.

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