By Brad Carroll
The New York Yankees just went through a stretch where they lost six straight games and 10 of their last 11, but after sweeping a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals, they are again a first place team in the AL East. It's an amazing feat to pull off, but only possible with the assistance of the rest of the division, which has exactly zero teams above .500 for the season. The Yankees, who are three games over .500, lead the Rays, losers of five straight, by 1.5 games, the Orioles by 2.5 games and the Blue Jays and Red Sox by four each.
After pulling off the sweep of the Royals, who just might be the best team in the American League, the Yankees travel cross-country to take on the Oakland Athletics, a team that owns the second worst record in all of baseball, for four games starting Thursday night. Here is a closer look at a series the Yankees can add some more distance between themselves and the rest of the AL East, if they can take three of four, which they should.
New York Yankees (25-22, 1st Place AL East)
at Oakland Athletics (17-32, 5th Place AL West)
Thursday, 10:05 p.m.
CC Sabathia (2-6, 5.47) vs. Kendall Graveman (2-2, 6.04)
Friday, 10:05 p.m.
Chris Capuano (0-2, 7.36) vs. Sonny Gray (5-2, 1.77)
Saturday, 10:05 p.m.
Nathan Eovaldi (4-1, 4.27) vs. Jesse Hahn (2-4, 3.69)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Adam Warren (3-3, 3.91) vs. Jesse Chavez (1-5, 2.44)
Just when the Yankees were written off as dead, much like their start to the season, they answered that with a huge three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, who still own first place in the AL Central, although now tied with the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees had lost six straight and 10 of their last 11, but have to be feeling great heading to the West Coast on a three-game win streak. Facing the AL's worst team in the Athletics could make for an even bigger win streak come Sunday night. Oakland is 4-10 over its last 14 games and is 13.5 games back of AL West-leading Houston. The A's had a stretch of eight losses in nine games broken with a three-game win streak earlier this week, but come into this series on a two-game losing skid.
Three A's To Know
1. Gray, who pitches Friday's game for Oakland, is one of the best pitchers in baseball, holding a 5-2 record and 1.77 ERA in 10 starts. Just imagine how good his win-loss numbers would on a good team. In seven of his 10 starts, he's allowed one run or fewer and in only two did he allow three runs or more (three in one start and four in the other). Gray does have an ankle injury, after getting hit by the ball during his last start, but threw a successfully bullpen session Tuesday, so he should be good to go for Friday. Gray was a first-round draft pick (18th overall) by the A's in 2011.
2. Stephen Vogt could be the best catcher in the AL, as he's batting .319 with 10 homers and 33 RBI in 45 games this season. He's in the top 10 in six offensive categories. He went 5-for-11 in three games against the Tigers leading into the Yankees series. This is the first season Vogt has had a chance to play full-time, and he's making the most of it.
3. Ben Zobrist just returned from the disabled list and has already made an impact in the A's lineup, going 3-for-8 with a double in two games against Detroit. In 16 total games, Zobrist is batting .259 with a homer and eight RBI. He spent the first nine years of his major league career with the Tampa Bay Rays, coming over to the A's this offseason on a six-year, $30 million deal.
The Yankees head to Seattle for a three-game series with Robinson Cano and the Mariners. The Yanks face Felix Hernandez in the opener.