By Sweeny Murti
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The Yankees are no fluke. And they are fun to watch.
That’s what the first third of the season has told us. The result? A 32-22 record and first place in the AL East.
After a few weeks you wonder if it’s for real. After two months you realize that as long as they stay relatively healthy, this team can make things happen.
They weathered early injuries to Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius and roared to a 21-9 start. Since then they are a shade under .500, but still in good shape as they try to put together another winning streak, while dealing with still more injuries to key players.
You worried about their pitching from the first day of spring training, but, honestly, the only pitching problem they have at the moment is Masahiro Tanaka. He needs to figure it out quickly. Tuesday night’s game against the Red Sox, whom he dominated in April at Fenway Park, is a good place to start.
The Yankees have managed to keep their lead in the AL East with Tanaka throwing more clunkers than quality starts of late. That’s not a great long-term plan, but think of the run that could be possible again if he straightens out. The rest of the rotation is doing better than expected and the bullpen is doing exactly what you’d expect, despite Sunday’s blown lead in Toronto and Aroldis Chapman missing the last few weeks with an injury.
Think about this for a second: the Yankees have already placed their starting catcher, shortstop, center fielder (Jacoby Ellsbury), first baseman (Greg Bird), and their closer on the disabled list and they are still in first place with a third of the season in the books. It shows you the depth of this team and gives you an idea of how good they can be when everything is moving in the right direction again.
Fun to watch — that’s what many scouts and executives were saying about the Yankees on the last road trip, which featured only three wins in seven games. In taking to people around the league, it’s apparent they are once again scared of what the Yankees could be — and not two years from now. Right now. In the last week, people from the Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Astros all told me how good they think the Yankees are. They had not said that to me in recent years.
This is a big week for the Yankees. They have played well at home and will need to continue to do so over the next six games against the Red Sox and Orioles, the very teams they are trying to fend off in the division. A lot is riding on Tanaka on Tuesday. If his slider and splitter are still eluding him and hanging in the strike zone with “hit me” signs on them, the AL East race will get a lot tighter. Tanaka is set to face both rivals this week as he is scheduled to open and close the homestand.
If he can hold up his end, by this weekend you might start to feel about this Yankees team the way folks around the league do — that they are good, they are fun, and they are for real.
Please follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN