Opposite dugout: Young Yankees powering way toward AL East crown

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Aaron Boone (1st year)

Record: 42-19

Last 10 games: 8-2

Who to watch: 2B Gleyber Torres (.297/.356/.559), SS Didi Gregorius (36 RBIs, 8 SB), 3B Miguel Andújar (.310/.340/.552), RF Aaron Judge (18 HR, 45 RBIs), DH Giancarlo Stanton (15 HR, 34 RBIs), LHP CC Sabathia (3.59 ERA), LHP Aroldis Chapman (17 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (May 15 suspended game to be completed June 18)

Pitching probables:

June 12: RHP Tanner Roark (3-6) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (3-1), 7:05 p.m., MASN
June 13: TBA vs. RHP Sonny Gray (4-4), 7:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Yankees:

Talk about your cliffhangers. The first installment of this potential World Series matchup was supposed to happen May 15-16 at Nationals Park, but heavy rains forced suspension of the first game, which was tied 3-3 after 5 1/2 innings, and washed out the second altogether. Both games are scheduled to be settled in D.C. June 18. This week, though, the Nationals visit Yankee Stadium, where the home team is 22-9. The Yankees have put themselves at or near the top of the American League in a slew of offensive categories, and their pitching has been good. The Yanks are keeping pace with the Red Sox in the fight for the AL East title, leading them by percentage points entering play tonight, and took two of three from the Mets at Citi Field over the weekend.

The Bronx Bombers have the most imposing one-two punch in the majors, in the towering persons of 6-foot-7 right fielder Aaron Judge and 6-foot-6 Giancarlo Stanton, who will likely be in his customary role as designated hitter in his home park. Both personify the contemporary launch angle-oriented, all-or-nothing power hitter. Among the top five home-run hitters in the major leagues, Judge is also one of a handful of big leaguers with strikeouts already numbering in the 80s. Stanton, with 84, is just one behind Judge in whiffs. But when either of them connect, the result is majestic. Judge and Stanton aren't the Yanks' only deep threats, either. Three others on the roster boast double figures in dingers, including shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sánchez, who are also close behind Judge and Stanton in RBIs. Following up Judge's stunning Rookie of the Year season of 2017 would seem a daunting task, but a pair of Baby Bombers are making a go of it. Second baseman Gleyber Torres, just 21, has been making jaws drop since his mid-April arrival, hitting 11 home runs, driving in 29 and posting a slash line most veterans would envy. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Miguel Andújar is batting .310 and has driven in 28 runs. In the first eight games of June he's hit three homers and four doubles while going 12-for-27 (.444). Veteran left fielder and stolen base threat Brett Gardner has heated up, going 9-for-22 over his last 15 games.

Veteran CC Sabathia will throw the first pitch of this two-game set. The big southpaw got the win in his last start on June 5, striking out six over seven innings while the Blue Jays scored just two runs off him. However, two of the three hits Sabathia allowed were homers. He's given up at least one roundtripper in his last five starts. Right-hander Sonny Gray starts for the Yankees on Wednesday. The Angels roughed him up May 26, when Gray made it through just 3 2/3 innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits. Since then, though, he's collected a six-inning win in Baltimore and two-hit the Blue Jays over eight innings while striking out eight on June 6.

The back end of the Yankee bullpen has done fine work to help leads stand up, with Chad Green (2.03 ERA, eight holds), David Robertson (3.94 ERA, nine holds) and Dellin Betances (3.54 ERA, six holds) handling a lot of the heavy lifting. Setup man Betances, who throws a 98 mph fastball, would be closing for almost any other club. But the Yanks' ninth-inning man is lefty Aroldis Chapman, who, in his ninth year in the bigs, still throws a triple-digit heater.

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