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Yankees Claim Sole Possession of First Place in the AL East

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For the first time since April 21 the New York Yankees hold sole possession of 1st place in the AL East. Sporting baseball's best record at 43-26 — one game ahead of Tampa Bay and Boston — the Yankees have overcome incessant injuries and slumps to finally surpass the Rays team that has looked unbeatable at times this season. Baseball's best division has been a brutal three-way battle all season and, even after Tampa fell to Florida on Sunday, the Yankees still had to go through Mets' ace Johan Santana to claim their spot atop the division.

Pitting New York's own ace against the Mets' #1, Sabathia (that guy who could only beat Baltimore) dominated the Mets. Hurling 8 shutout innings, CC allowed only 4 hits while striking out 6 against only 2 walks. Had it not been for an 8th inning rain-delay, Mariano Rivera may not have been needed. But as it was, the legendary closer came in and ended the game in his usual efficient fashion, even with the prospect of a save voided by Mark Teixeira's 3rd inning grand slam.

Although the Yankees have been out first place for nearly two months, the team has proved over that span that they are the most dangerous team in baseball. Faced with slumps by their "best" hitters — Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira — and a plethora of injuries to position players like Jorge' Posada and Curtis Granderson to important bullpen pieces like Alfredo Aceves, New York has consistently found production, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.

Robison Cano has been the standout, raking his way to a likely batting title (leading the league at .367) and possibly an MVP (leading the AL with 99 hits and adding 14 home runs, 49 RBIs, a .416 OBP and a 1.023 OPS). But the team has also benefited offensively from big contributions by Nick Swisher (.293/11/42 with a .377 OBP), Brett Gardner (.312 avg, .394 OBP, 22 steals), and even "back-up" catcher Francisco Cervelli (.292 avg, .375 OPB, and 29 RBIs). And that doesn't begin to address the All Star performances of starters Andy Pettiitte (8-2, 2.47) and Phil Hughes, tied for the AL lead in wins with a 10-1 record to go with his 3.17 ERA and 78 ks in 82 1/3 innings.

And now with the resurgence of Javier Vazquez, Mark Teixeira and possibly even Curtis Granderson, the Yankees are more lethal than ever. Without a weak spot in their lineup, on their bench, or in their rotation, the team is beginning to show how structurally sound and ruthlessly proficient it can be at full strength. This is not to discount their AL East competitors. The Red Sox have been playing outstanding baseball as of late and Tampa has won consistently the entire season. Both teams would be in first place or tied for first (in the case of the NL East) in any other division in baseball. But unfortunately for fans in Boston and Tampa, the Yankees are healthy, emerging from their various slumps, and playing the best ball of their season and in all of the league.

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