By Brad Carroll
The New York Yankees continued their ascension as the top team in the AL East this weekend, sweeping three games from the rival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The Yankees have now won 13 of their last 15 games, taking five series victories in a row, and hold a three-game lead over both the Orioles and Rays in the division.
Next up for the Yankees on his torrid streak in the so-far disappointing Toronto Blue Jays, who reside in last place in the division. Here is our insider's look at three-game series in Toronto.
New York Yankees (16-9 1st Place AL East)
at Toronto Blue Jays (12-14, 5th Place AL East)
Monday, 7:07 p.m.
Chase Whitley (1-0, 1.80) vs. RA Dickey (0-3, 5.23)
Tuesday, 7:07 p.m.
Michael Pineda (3-0, 3.73) vs. Marco Estrada (1-0, 0.84)
Wednesday, 7:07 p.m.
CC Sabathia (0-4, 5.40) vs. Mark Buehrle (3-2, 6.75)
The Yankees have all the momentum they could want right now, sweeping three games from the Boston Red Sox and winning 13 of 15 games overall. They've opened up a three-game lead in the AL East and are emerging as the team to beat in the division. The Blue Jays have gone just 3-7 over their last 10 games, including a four-game split against Cleveland heading into this series. The Blue Jays did take two of three from the Yankees to start the year.
Three Yankees Storylines
1. Is Jose Pirela on his way to replace Stephen Drew at second base? With Pirela returning from a concussion rehab soon, he will either join the big league club or be sent to the minor leagues. He could be used as a utility infielder or to take over Drew's job. Most Yankees fans would love nothing more than to see Pirela take over for the ineffective Drew full time.
2. Alex Rodriguez reached Willie Mays on the home run all-time list, doing so dramatically Friday night with a pinch-hit, game-winning home run. The Yankees have already said they won't pay the $6 million bonus, which should end up being decided in court. Simply put, when A-Rod comes to bat in any game at any time, it's an event. No other player has that appeal for the Yankees. He fills the Stadium and the Yankees need to realize that and pay what's in his contract. We're beating a dead horse at this point. Next up for A-Rod is Babe Ruth and 714 home runs.
3. Could this Yankees bullpen be the greatest ever? Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all-time, so that has to be taken into account. Any bullpen led by Rivera has automatic all-time status. But Rivera never truly had a set-up guy that was feared. This year, the Yankees have two guys in the bullpen that are feared, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Neither is anywhere near as good as Rivera, but combined, through one month anyway, they are as good as anyone closing games. Betances has allowed six hits and no earned runs in 14.2 innings, with 25 strikeouts and a 3-0 record. He also has a save. Miller has allowed no runs on just three hits over 13.1 innings, saving all 10 chances. He has 23 strikeouts. Best ever? Who knows. But after one month, they are well on their way for a season.
Three Blue Jays To Know
1. Tuesday's starting pitcher, Estrada, will make his first start of the season after spending time in the bullpen. He takes the spot of rookie Daniel Norris, who was sent back to the minors. Estrada has been a solid arm in the pen for Toronto, but has struggled when given the opportunity to start. He pitches the important middle game of the series, so the Yankees could set themselves up for a series win with a big showing against Estrada.
2. Russell Martin, the former Yankees, won't get the start Monday night against his former team, and that's a good thing considering what he's done over the past two games. Martin went 5-for-10 with four runs scored, a double, two home runs and a pair of RBI. He's batting just .227 overall for the season, though.
3. Jose Bautista has a four-game doubles streak, going 6-for-16 with five doubles and four RBI over that span. The stretch is big for the struggling power hitter, as he's batting .203 overall with five homers and 17 RBI in 22 games.
The Yankees return home Thursday to start a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees hit the road once again after that.