Enjoyed An Off Day…
Monday, Monday. I am glad it’s in the books but it was nice having an off-day while the Yankees enjoyed their free time in Toronto. But it’s now Tuesday and back to work.
Last month, I was in favor of a trade for a proven first baseman like Yonder Alonso (then with the Oakland A’s) or Lucas Duda (then with the New York Mets). Alonso’s bat cooled about the time Chase Headley started heating up so Headley probably blocked any potential deal that would have brought Alonso to New York as either part of the Sonny Gray trade or a separate trade. There’s also speculation that the Mets had a similar offer from the Yankees to one they accepted from the Tampa Bay Rays for Duda which showed the only way the Mets would work with the Yankees would be in an “overpay” situation.
So, where does that leave us with the latest speculation that Jay Bruce would be a good fit for the Yankees? Primarily an outfielder, he has played 11 games at first base this year making him at least as experienced at the position as Headley. He is left-handed and has mashed 29 homers this year to go with 75 RBI’s. He is batting .260/.324/.528. The 30-year-old is a free agent at the end of the year so he’d be a true rental. Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of Bruce as he has seemed too much like a feast-or-famine type of hitter. But, like Duda, he might have the swing for Yankee Stadium. So, I’d have to say that I am intrigued by this one to say the least. With so much uncertainty around Matt Holliday and Greg Bird, Bruce would bring a big stick to first base/DH for the rest of the year.
Nevertheless, if the Mets insist an overpay because it’s the Yankees, then it is not worth it. The Yankees are also included in Bruce’s limited no-trade clause but that’s nothing $$$ couldn’t solve. I am skeptical that the Mets would ever give the Yankees a player that could potentially help them make the play-offs and risk losing market share as a result.
I am not sure what I think about rumors the Yankees should pursue Mike Napoli. He is a proven winner. His numbers in his age 35 year are down from last year but he still has some thump in his bat with 22 HR’s albeit with a batting average that is south of the Todd Frazier line. Napoli’s contract carries a 2018 club option that can be bought out for $2.5 million. A costly measure, unless the Texas Rangers pay some or all the freight, to add the potential for a few late season bombs. If only Chris Carter had done what he was paid to do.
I hate to see any more prospects shipped away for a six-week need unless it is for someone that can truly be the difference-maker at this point in the season (a player with the potential to help for an October push). I want to see what Aaron Hicks and Tyler Austin can do, and then there’s, hold your breath, Greg Bird at the end of the month. Okay, maybe don’t hold your breath. I suspect that unless Matt Holliday is able to come back after his DL stint to resemble the player we saw in the first half (unlikely), the DH position is going to be very fluid on a day to day basis with player rotation.
More than anything, the Yankees need Gary Sanchez to step up and deliver the promise he showed us last August and September. At the moment, he’s the most maligned Yankee. The key will be how he responds to the criticism. The Yankees are a better team with El Gary in the lineup but he needs to make the defensive plays and wait for his pitches at the plate. The Yankees play 6 of the next 13 games against the Boston Red Sox and will face Chris Sale twice. Between the two Red Sox series, the Yankees play a home and away set against the New York Mets for four games. This is a very crucial two weeks that could go a long way toward deciding the eventual AL East winner.
According to Baseball America, the Los Angeles Dodgers have released former Yankees LOOGY Tommy Layne. The Dodgers also removed former Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien from the 40-man roster and outrighted him to Triple A. The Los Angeles Angels signed former Yankees reliever Branden Pinder, who was released earlier this summer by the Bombers. I am sure that Angels GM Billy Eppler is relying upon past information about Pinder to take a chance. I hope it works out for Pinder.
Next Up: Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada…
The Toronto Blue Jays may be the AL East cellar dwellers but they always play the Yankees very tough. The Yankees will see old friend Rob Refsnyder who is currently on the Blue Jays active roster as a backup infielder.
The scheduled pitching match-ups are:
Yankees: CC Sabathia (9-4, 3.81 ERA)
Blue Jays: J.A. Happ (4-8, 3.92 ERA)
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (8-10, 4.93 ERA)
Blue Jays: Cesar Valdez (1-1, 7.63 ERA)
Yankees: Sonny Gray (6-6, 3.41 ERA)
Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (4-7, 5.12 ERA)
I am not trying to look ahead but it’s a bummer that we won’t have Sonny Gray for this weekend’s series against Boston at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox have gone out of their way to ensure that Chris Sale gets three starts against the Yankees in the coming weeks.
Farewell to #25…
Former Yankee Don Baylor died Monday at age 68 from cancer. Baylor was American League MVP for the then California Angels in 1979 and he won a World Series with the Minnesota Twins at the end of his 19-year playing career, but I remember his toughness as the Yankees DH from 1983 to 1985, playing along side Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield. He was a magnet for baseballs with 267 HBP’s. I wasn’t a fan of the March 1986 trade that sent Baylor to the Boston Red Sox for Mike Easler. Rest in peace, Mr Baylor…
Have a great Tuesday! Let’s turn a two-game win streak into three! Go Yankees
|Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports|
Yankees 5, Rays 4…
Aroldis Chapman to stop the top of the 9th and Brett Gardner to walk it off in the bottom of inning. This formula seems to be working. Chapman has long been a high end finisher, but Gardy is the one who seems to come through in the clutch when you need him the most. He is the first Yankees player to two walk-off’s in the same series. The Yankees used this formula to pull out another victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, their third consecutive win over the Rays and sixth overall.
|Credit: Julie Jacobson-AP|
Caleb Smith, perhaps making his final start for the Yankees this year, was in a hole immediately when Peter Bourjos homered to left center with the game’s second pitch. He recovered to get out of the inning without any further damage.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Gary Sanchez led off with a ground-rule double to right. Matt Holliday hit a grounder to the left side but Sanchez wisely read that third baseman Trevor Plouffe was committed to throwing to first so he was easily able to take third on the play. Didi Gregorius hit a sacrifice fly to center and Sanchez tagged and scored standing up. Game was tied.
The Rays had a huge opportunity to break the game open in the third inning. Jesus Sucre led off with a single to left against Smith. Peter Bourjos hit a grounder to Didi Gregorius which erased Sucre at second. Steven Souza, Jr hit a hard liner which Gregorius almost snared (man, that would have been a brilliant play) but the ball bounced out of his glove toward third. Runners at first and second. Evan Longoria walked to load the bases, still with only one out. Lucas Duda hit a sacrifice fly to center as Bourjos scored, giving the Rays the 2-1 lead. With runners at the corners and two outs, I thought Todd Frazier had one of the plays of the game when he made a barehanded grab on Trevor Plouffe’s grounder and his throw to Garrett Cooper just beat Plouffe to first. If the Rays had been able to score multiple runs, the game would have had a much different look.
Caleb Smith pitched into the 4th inning. After striking out Corey Dickerson, he walked Tim Beckham. Even the YES Network announcers were commenting about Smith leaving his pitches up in the strike zone. All things considered, he was very lucky the Rays weren’t more successful against him. Smith’s departure after 71 pitches underscored the Yankees need for a quality starter. Adam Warren replaced Smith and struck out Adeiny Hechavarria. Beckham attempted to steal on the swinging strikeout, but the throw from Gary Sanchez to Ronald Torreyes was on target to nail the runner for the final out.
The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the 4th when Gary Sanchez homered to left center. But this seemed like one of those games where the Rays continually had the answer for the Yankees runs. In the top of the 5th, Steven Souza, Jr homered to left as the Rays re-took the lead, 3-2.
Dellin Betances pitched the the top of the 6th inning. It wasn’t clean as he walked the first batter, Lucas Duda, on four straight balls. But he retired the next three batters to get out of the inning, leaving Duda stranded at second. In the bottom of the frame, Matt Holliday opened with a single to left. A fly out by Didi Gregorius ended the day for Rays starter Blake Snell and he was replaced by former San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo. The Yankees sent Chase Headley to the plate to pinch hit for Garrett Cooper. Good call by Manager Joe Girardi as Headley homered to left to give the Yankees their first lead of the game, 4-3.
|Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports|
The 7th inning brought Tommy Kahnle to the mound to replace Betances. A couple of hits had runners at the corners with one out but he was able to strike out Steven Souza, Jr and get Yankee killer Evan Longoria to pop out in foul territory to strand the runners. Steve Cishek, acquired during this series by the Rays from the Seattle Mariners, entered the game in the bottom of the 7th in relief of Romo. Last Saturday in Seattle, Aaron Judge had homered off Cishek but it was not to be this time around as Cishek struck out the side including Judge who went down swinging.
David Robertson took over for Kahnle in the 8th but he was immediately victimized by Lucas Duda who absolutely crushed the D-Rob pitch into the right field upper deck. Duda has been the Ben Gamel of this series. Watching how tailor-made Duda’s swing is for Yankee Stadium makes one wish that GM Brian Cashman had been more aggressive in his talks with the Mets before the first baseman was acquired by the Rays. Robertson gave up another single was was able to get out of the inning with the game tied at 4.
|Credit: Julie Jacobson-AP|
9th inning and it was time for Aroldis Chapman. It wasn’t a perfect inning as Wilson Ramos was awarded first base on catcher’s interference (if the bat touched El Gary’s glove, it must have only been one of the strings as it wasn’t readily apparent watching replay). A ground out by Steven Souza, Jr eliminated Ramos at second but Souza, Jr subsequently made it to third when he stole second and advanced another base on an error. With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, Chapman retired Evan Longoria for the final out on a pop up in foul territory.
|Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports|
For the bottom of the 9th, the Rays replaced reliever Tommy Hunter with Brad Boxberger. He walked his first batter, Chase Headley, and the Yankees replaced Headley with the $153 million pinch-runner, Jacoby Ellsbury, sporting stylish shades. Ellsbury successfully stole second with Todd Frazier at bat but it didn’t really matter as Boxberger plunked Frazier with a pitch to give him first base. Ronald Torreyes then laid down a beautiful bunt to third which left all three runners safe and the bases loaded. The Rays then pulled Boxberger and replaced him with former White Sox reliever Dan Jennings. Maybe Rays manager Kevin Cash didn’t catch the fact that this was not the best of games for former White Sox relievers (see Kahnle and Robertson). Brett Gardner came the plate and nicely laid down a single to center to score Ellsbury with the winning run. The Yankees win!
|Credit: Julie Jacobson-AP|
The Yankees (56-46) remained the AL East division leaders with the win, but the Boston Red Sox stayed just a half game off the pace with their comeback win over the Kansas City Royals. The Sox won in 10 innings with a walk-off grounder by former Yankee Eduardo Nunez which scored Sandy Leon with the winning run. It was a big game for Nunez. He was 3-for-6 with 2 homers and 3 RBI’s. With the loss, the Rays fell 4 1/2 games behind the leaders.
Matt Holliday was 2-for-4 in the game with a run scored so hopefully it is a sign that his bat is starting to unthaw. Todd Frazier is still cold as he was hitless in 3 at-bats.
Odds & Ends…
Gray skies are forming over Yankee Stadium. I am not referring to the weather but as we near the final 24 hours before the trading deadline, the Sonny Gray rumors will not go away. Twitter was abuzz with words yesterday that Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s had moved off their demand for either Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier in the deal. I think most of us are expecting outfielder Estevan Florial and 2B/SS/OF Jorge Mateo to be included so it is a matter of what other pitching prospects will comprise the package and whether or not Yonder Alonzo will be coming the other way. It seems like there is strong room for agreement at this point.
This morning’s news brings word that the Yankees are nearing a deal for lefty starter Jaime Garcia of the Minnesota Twins. Pitching prospect Zach Littell (currently in Double A) is a healthy scratch today for the Trenton Thunder which has led to speculation that he’ll be the prospect heading to the Twin Cities. Littell was acquired by the Yankees last fall in the trade that sent reliever James Pazos to the Seattle Mariners and has been terrific in the Yankees system this year. But he is a casualty of the roster-crunch as the Yankees must protect him on the 40-man roster this year or risk exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft. Garcia does not appear to be a fall back plan for Gray considering he is nowhere near the same level of pitcher. He represents rotation insurance, with Jordan Montgomery nearing a career high in innings pitched (and is potentially working with an innings limit) and would be hedge for good health with CC Sabathia and potentially Gray.
Garcia came up with the St Louis Cardinals where he was a starter for the majority of the Matt Holliday years. He was traded last December to the Atlanta Braves. Garcia, who turned 31 earlier this month, was traded to the Twins a week ago for the pennant push. But a string of losses subsequently caused the Twins to re-think their strategy. Entering play today, the Twins find themselves 7 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Garcia has only pitched one game for the Twins. He was the winner in Oakland on Friday night (6.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 7 SO).
If the Yankees successfully acquire Gray, Alonzo, and/or Garcia, the MLB roster losers appear to be Caleb Smith, Luis Cessa, and Garrett Cooper. GM Brian Cashman will have to get very creative with his 40-man roster moves.
Word is now breaking that the Yankees have, in fact, acquired Garcia for Littell and Triple A pitcher Dietrich Enns. The Twins will also pay some of the money remaining on Garcia’s contract. My initial reaction is that the cost seems very high to acquire a journeyman starter but Enns held a highly valued spot on the 40-man roster.
Sounds like we are in for a turbulent ride until the trading deadline.
Have a great Sunday! Let’s make the Rays series a sweeping success! Go Yankees!
Yankees 6, Rays 1…
Masahiro Tanaka was dealing on Friday night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Rays for the second night in a row. He was backed by homers from all three starting outfielders and amassed 14 strikeouts over 8 innings before David Robertson capped off his brilliant game. The win vaulted the Yankees back into first place in the AL East.
|Credit: Julie Jacobson-AP|
The first inning showed that Tanaka was potentially on top of his game when he struck out the side. Brett Gardner, Thursday night’s hero with the walk-off home run, started the scoring for the Yankees with a home run. He became only the third Yankee with walk-off/walk-on home runs, joining Joe Gordon (1940) and Roberto Kelly (1990). Gardy’s homer, his 19th of the year (a career high), landed in the bullpen in right field under the Toyota sign. Rays right-fielder Stephen Souza, Jr climbed the wall with thoughts of making a spectacular catch but the ball was just beyond his reach. It was an interesting stat coming into the game that the Yankees are 15-0 when Gardy goes yard. We can make that 16-0.
After Rays starter Austin Pruitt gave up the lead-off HR to Gardy, he proceeded to strike out the side so it looked like we would be settling into a pitcher’s duel. Tanaka picked up two more strikeouts in each of the second and third innings, before striking out only one in the 4th. In the bottom of the 4th, the Yankees picked up their second run when Aaron Judge hammered a Pruitt pitch to left for his 33rd home run of the season.
After Tanaka set the Rays down in order in the top of the 5th, picking up another K, the Yankees added to their lead. Pruitt alternated strikeouts and walks with Chase Headley (out), Todd Frazier (walk), Ronald Torreyes (out), and Brett Gardner (walk). After a coaching visit to the mound by Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, Clint Frazier completed the outfield trifecta with a monster blast to left center, traveling 455 feet into the left field stands. Red Thunder continues to amaze with his blazing bat speed. I know that I am one of many who feel the Yankees would be very foolish to send Frazier back down to Triple A when Aaron Hicks returns. The team’s resurgence this month has been driven, in large part, by Red Thunder’s energy and heart.
Leading 5-0, Tanaka took a perfect game into the 6th inning but it was spoiled with two outs when Adeiny Hechavarria hit a grounder past a diving Didi Gregorius for the Rays first hit. In the 7th inning, the Rays marred the shutout when they got their only other hit, a homer to right by former New York Met Lucas Duda. 5-1, Yankees.
Tanaka completed the eighth inning exactly as he started the first by striking out the side. It was the end of the night for Tanaka but what a game! If he continues to pitch like this down the stretch, it will mean great things for the Yankees.
|Credit: Mike Stobe-Getty Images|
The Yankees picked up their final run in the 8th inning. After Rays reliever (and former Yankee) Chase Whitley shut down the Yankees for two innings, setting down all six batters he faced in the 6th and 7th innings, the Rays brought in Adam Kolarek to start the 8th. He hit Brett Gardner with a pitch to put Gardy at first. He struck out Clint Frazier and induced Aaron Judge to hit into a ground out which moved Gardy to second. Kolarek intentionally walked Gary Sanchez, but a passed ball advanced both runners to second and third. Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Gardner but Gary Sanchez was nailed at the plate as he attempted to score too.
David Robertson finished up the 9th with his usual “no drama”. Just another day at the office for D-Rob, and the Yankees emerged with their 55th victory of the season. Boo yeah! Yankees win!
|Credit: Mike Stobe-Getty Images|
As mentioned at the top of this post, the Yankees (55-46) moved into first place in the division standings. The Boston Red Sox, who had received disappointing news earlier in the day with the placement of David Price on the DL, fell to the Kansas City Royals, 4-2. It was the Royals’ ninth consecutive victory. The Red Sox now trail the Yanks by a half game, while the Rays are 3 1/2 back.
Aaron Judge visited the dentist earlier in the day to temporarily repair his chipped tooth. He’ll have to make a trip back for permanent work but it was very good to see Judge back out on the field. I liked the YES Network’s reference to “Babe Tooth”…
|Credit: Paul J Bereswill-The NY Post|
A last note about Masahiro Tanaka. His masterpiece against the Rays follows largely horrific performances on the road against them. In two games at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, FL, Tanaka was 0-2 with 20.67 ERA. Tanaka improved his record to 8-9 and ERA to 5.09 with the victory. Simply an excellent game by the right-hander.
Odds & Ends…
Robert Refsnyder is expected to return to the Major Leagues today for the Toronto Blue Jays. The utility man would take the place of Troy Tulowitzki who sprained his right ankle and will undergo further tests. The thought is that Ref could play some second base while Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney cover short during Tulo’s absence. All the best to Ref as he tries to make his mark north of the border.
|Credit: James P McCoy-Buffalo News|
The division foes are being very active on the trade market this week. The Rays have been the loudest with their acquisitions of Lucas Duda, Dan Jennings, Sergio Romo and Steve Cishek. The Baltimore Orioles, only 7 1/2 games back, acquired Philadelphia Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson overnight. With David Price going on the DL, it will be interesting to see if the Boston Red Sox make any further moves after their acquisition of former Yankees third baseman/infielder Eduardo Nunez. The Red Sox “say” they are not going to chase down another starter but that remains to be seen.
It was incredible game for outfielder Billy McKinney yesterday as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders crushed the Charlotte Knights, 15-8. McKinney was 4-for-5 with a double, two triples and a grand slam and a career high 6 RBI’s. His outfield throw also nailed a runner at home plate in the third inning. Miguel Andujar, making a statement that he wants to be the Yankees third baseman in 2018, was 2-for-6 with a homer and has raised his batting average to .324 as he continues to feast on Triple A pitching.
Have a great Saturday! Here’s hoping the Yankees can continue their success against the Rays. Go Yankees!
|Credit: Elsa-Getty Images|
Yankees 6, Rays 5…
For the games that the Yankees have lost which they should have won, it’s nice when they win a few that they probably should have lost. It took extra innings but Brett Gardner ended the long night with a game-winning walk-off home run as the Yankees overcame the Tampa Bay Rays.
Early, it looked like it was going to be the Yankees way. CC Sabathia was backed by a few runs while the Yankees took the early lead. They scored first in the second inning. With one out, Chase Headley singled to right and scored when Jacoby Ellsbury, the $153 million man making his second consecutive start, doubled to left. Todd Frazier singled to right to score Ellsbury with the second run of the inning. The Yankees added a run in the bottom of the 3rd when Gary Sanchez blasted his 15th homer of the season to left. It was 3-0 Yankees.
But it started to unravel for CC Sabathia in the top of the 4th inning. Evan Longoria led off and his numbers against Sabathia were ridiculous. Prior to the game, Longoria had hit .405 with 7 home runs and 16 RBI’s in 74 at-bats against CC and held a career .355 batting average against the Yankees. While I was thinking it was probably best not to give Longoria anything to hit, he promptly parked in right center to draw the Rays within two runs, 3-1. It was Longoria’s 35th career home run against the Yankees. After striking out Tim Beckham in the top of the 5th (Sabathia’s 2,800th career strikeout), Adeiny Hecchavaria and Peter Bourjos hit back-to-back doubles (down the third base and first base lines, respectively) to score another run. After walking Stephen Souza, Jr, Manager Joe Girardi pulled a visibly disappointed Sabathia (“C’mon, man!”) and replaced him with Chad Green. The move backfired as Brad Miller doubled to the right field wall, scoring Bourjos and Souza, Jr. The Rays were up, 4-3.
|Credit: Elsa-Getty Images|
With Green still on the mound in the top of the 6th, Corey Dickerson homered with a high fly ball to right center to increase the Rays’ lead to 5-3. The Yankees had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the 6th inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with only one out. But both Todd Frazier and Tyler Wade struck out against Rays starter Chris Archer to end the inning. Maybe it was just me, but Tyler Wade looked very over-matched in this game.
After Tommy Kahnle pitched a clean 7th inning, Dellin Betances came on in the 8th. He struck out the first two batters but then allowed back-to-back singles. Fortunately, he was able to retire Adeiny Hecchavarria to get out of the jam. In the bottom of the 8th, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley both singled off Rays reliever Dan Jennings (who was acquired earlier in the day from the Chicago White Sox). The Rays replaced Jennings with Brad Boxberger with the runners at the corners. Matt Holliday, pinch-hitting for Jacoby Ellsbury, hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Headley at second. Meanwhile, Gregorius scored to make it a one-run game, 5-4. Ronald Torreyes was inserted as a pinch-runner for Holliday at first. Todd Frazier followed with a single, but the Yankees were unable to add any runs when Tyler Wade hit into an inning-ending double play. I didn’t really understand the decision to pinch-hit for Ellsbury. I would have pinch-hit for Wade and then used Torreyes to replace him at second. It’s easy to second guess but Wade seemed like such a little boy among men in the game.
Adam Warren kept the Rays off the board in the top of the 9th and then the Yankees were given a gift in the bottom of the inning. With Rays closer Alex Colome taking over for Brad Boxberger, Brett Gardner led off with a triple to the left field wall, splitting the outfielders. After both Clint Frazier and Aaron Judge failed to advance Gardy, Gary Sanchez hit a playable ball between shortstop Adeiny Hecchavarria and second Tim Beckham (“You take it”…”no, no, you take it”) for the game-tying run. Didi Gregorius grounded out and it was off to extra innings.
Aroldis Chapman took over for Adam Warren in the 10th and easily set down the Rays. Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge replaced Alex Colome and walked Chase Headley to start the bottom of the 10th. Ronald Torreyes successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Headley to scoring position at second, but Clint Frazier failed to advance the runner with a fly out. Tyler Wade came up and it seemed like it would be an unsuccessful at-bat before it even got started. He was swinging at balls outside of the strike zone and clearly had a death grip on his bat as he struck out to end the inning.
The 11th inning was the perfect scenario for Yankee fans. Aroldis Chapman came out for his second consecutive inning and struck out the side. Brett Gardner, the first batter up in the bottom of the 11th, sent the Andrew Kittredge pitch to the right field stands for the game-winner. Yankees win!
Manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the bottom of the 7th for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Stu Sheurwater. Girardi was right. Sheurwater did a horrible job behind the plate and could have potentially altered this game away from the Yankees with his inconsistent calls.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-AP|
Tyler Wade was 0-for-5, with three strikeouts. He also left a game high 7 runners on base.
After the game, Aaron Judge suffered a broken tooth during the on-field celebration for the victory. It is not believed that the injury will cause any lost playing time for Judge but it was not the way you want to end such a dramatic win.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-AP|
The Yankees (54-46) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle Boston Red Sox in the AL East Standings so they only trail by a half game entering play today. Boston begins a three-game set against the suddenly hot Kansas City Royals at Fenway Park tonight. The Rays fell 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees.