Yankees on Top in AL East Again

The New York Yankees picked up arguably their biggest win of the 2012 season last night over the Baltimore Orioles 8-5. The two squads were tied atop the AL East standings and have been involved in a tug-of-war with each other over first place the last few days. The Orioles have significantly tightened the race over the last few weeks and for the first time in months, had things even with the mighty Yankees after beating them in the first game of the series. New York’s win in game two put them back in front by a single game as we enter the home stretch of the season.

“It was huge,” Yankees third-baseman, Alex Rodriguez told ESPN. “Every game now is huge, especially when you get to September. One of the challenges I have for the offense is that we should be able to score six runs every night. If we’re disciplined and put up great at-bats, six runs is a good number.”

A-Rod goes yard in the fifth inning in last night's Yankees win

The Yankees accomplished that goal last night, as New York got off to a hot start offensively, scoring seven runs in the first five innings. That flurry was capped by Rodriquez two-run homer, the 300th of his Yankee career and 16th of the season.

The O’s then battled back with an Adam Jones three-run shot in the 6th and a Robert Andino solo bomb in the 7th to make it 7-4, but they weren’t able to continue the rally against Yankee relievers, Boone Logan and David Robertson.

Yanks starter, Phil Hughes limited the Orioles to only three runs in his six innings of work and picked up his 14th win of the season. Hughes has been steady for New York this season and that’s due to his even-keeled approach to each start, even in meaningful games like the one last night.

“I treated it like any other game,” Hughes said in an ESPN.com article. “I tried to pitch the best ball game I could. That doesn’t really change from start to start. It was a good win for us.”

Hughes pitched six strong innings in the win

With 24 games left in the regular season, both teams still have plenty of time and ample opportunity to create their own postseason destiny, but the race could be decided in the games they play against each other. The Yankees have struggled in past meetings with the Orioles, losing eight of twelve games, so if New York wants to distance themselves from the O’s, they will need to play well in the next two in the current four-game set with their division opponent.

Tonight’s third game will see New York send out its ace, C.C. Sabathia against Baltimore’s Joe Saunders. Sabathia, who is 13-4 on the season, has lost his last two outing while pitching seven innings into each of those games. Saunders is just 7-11 on the season and will need the support of the home crowd to shut down the powerful Yankees lineup.

On paper, it looks as if the Yankees have the edge in game three and the runline says they do as well. If the Yanks reach A-Rod’s goal of six runs in this one, it should be plenty enough to win with Sabathia on the mound. I like New York to take this one and grab a two game advantage over the O’s by covering the -1.5 line. The Orioles have been a great story and have had an amazing season, but their inexperience in big games may hurt them down the stretch and in the next couple battles with New York.