After suffering a four-game sweep at Fenway Park, the Yankees are now 9.5 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. New York has posted only a 18-20 record over its last 38 games, and this slump has not only seemingly put the division title out of reach, but also raised some concern that a turn-around is needed just to ensure a wild card berth. As the New York Post’s Joel Sherman puts it, “the Red Sox are no longer the Rivals in 2018. The A’s and Mariners are.” The Yankees are just 2.5 games ahead of the red-hot Athletics for home field advantage in the wild card game, while Seattle (who also been struggling lately) is 2.5 games behind Oakland. It’s worth remembering, of course, that the Yankees are still 68-42 on the season and one rough series doesn’t write them off as World Series contenders, particularly since the club will eventually get key players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez back from the disabled list.
Some more from around the AL East…
- While Chris Sale won’t be activated from the disabled list as soon as he’s eligible, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato) that the delay isn’t due to any setback with Sale’s shoulder. The team was simply lining up its rotation so that Sale wouldn’t be starting, and thus batting, during an interleague series in Philadelphia next week. The ace left-hander will likely make his return to start against the Orioles on August 11 or 12, Cora said.
- In other Red Sox health news, Eduardo Rodriguez threw 30 pitches off a mound on Sunday and came away “feeling good,” he told reporters (including Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe). While it isn’t yet certain what the next step in the left-hander’s recovery process will be, or even if Rodriguez will be able to return before August is through, Sunday’s throwing session was a good sign given that Rodriguez looked to have suffered a particularly severe ankle sprain back in mid-July. Rodriguez hopes to come back as a starter but is open to pitching out of the bullpen; Abraham notes that returning as a reliever would likely mean a shorter rehab process. One would think that Rodriguez (3.44 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.44 K/BB over 104 2/3 IP) has pitched well enough that the Sox would want him back in the rotation, but with Nathan Eovaldi now in the fold, Rodriguez may have more value in a Boston bullpen that currently lacks any left-handers.
- With the Orioles now in full rebuild mode, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko looks ahead to what the team might have in store for the offseason. The O’s could quite possibly continue to move veterans such as Mark Trumbo or Tim Beckham if any trade partners could be found, or potentially keep a familiar face around to serve as an experienced clubhouse voice on what is shaping up to be a much younger roster in 2019.
- It also remains to be seen if the Rule 5 Draft will continue to be a significant part of the Orioles’ offseason strategy. The O’s have put a notable focus on acquiring young talent via the Rule 5 Draft in recent years, including selecting three players last winter. One player the O’s considered but didn’t select last winter was left-hander Austin Davis, Kubatko reports. Davis has since made his MLB debut and posted some strong results (3.38 ERA, 4.33 K/BB rate, 26 strikeouts in 21 1/3 IP) out of the Phillies’ bullpen this season. Given that the Orioles and Phillies were heavily involved in trade talks for such players as Manny Machado and Adam Jones in the lead-up to the July 31 deadline, it’s fair to wonder if Baltimore again tried to acquire Davis as part of negotiations.