Yankees Back in First Place, Despite Everything

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Mark Teixeira on the run. Photo: Getty Images

It has been only a month since the Yankees were in first place. Heading into a three-game series with a one-game lead on June 9 at Fenway Park, they were swept by the Red Sox (again), and the team was five games out of first as recently as June 24. And now they’ve made it all the way back.

Thanks to another sweep of the Twins (the Yanks ended up 7–0 against Minnesota this year) and the Red Sox’ loss at home to the Royals last night, the Yankees are back in first place. The Yankees and the Red Sox are both 51–34, tied for the second-best record in baseball and a somewhat comfortable four games ahead of the Angels for the wild-card slot in the American League. If you’re concerned about a repeat of last year’s disappointment, realize that if the Yankees play .500 ball the rest of the season, they’ll still have a better record than last season — and they weren’t terrible last year.

What’s perhaps most impressive about the Yankees reclaiming their spot atop the division, as the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand pointed out in an outstanding post late last night, is just how much has gone wrong with the team to this point. Feinsand mentions how Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain, and Robinson Cano have struggled, the amount of time players like Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Xavier Nady, and Brian Bruney have missed to injury, and the struggle the team had in the first month. Imagine if the team starts playing well. If you take away their 0–8 record against the Red Sox, the Yankees would be 51–26, good for a winning percentage of .662, which would be their best record since that epic 114-win season of 1998.

Meanwhile, the Yankees don’t play the Red Sox until a four-game set at the Stadium starting on August 6. They could be four games up by then — and considering how things have gone against the Sox this season, they might need every one of those four games.