They lead the American League East by two games. They are 10 games over .500 as they return home to Yankee Stadium for a critical home stand against two division rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.
Life is good if you’re a Yankee fan, there’s no denying that.
Aaron Judge is the talk of baseball. The lineup is relentless. You feel as if this team is never out of a game and the proof is in the pudding.
However, there is one legitimate and major concern that could derail the Yankees first division crown in five years.
The performance of Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka has been the ace of the Yankees staff since his arrival from Japan in 2014 and that is not debatable.
Since 2014, Tanaka has given the Yankees everything you could ask for and that’s what makes his drop off in performance so startling.
Tanaka is in the middle of the worst pitching slump of his entire professional life.
Over his last four starts, he is 0-4 with an era over 11.
Forget about ace like, that’s the sort of performance that will usually get you demoted from a rotation.
Anytime Tanaka has struggled, fans wonder about his partial tear within his UCL, a ligament in his elbow that could be the cause of his poor performance.
The Yankees insist he is fine, Tanaka insists he is fine, so I am going to take them at their word.
Tanaka’s struggles are a direct result of not being able to locate and find command with his secondary pitches: his splitter and his slider.
He needs to find that command in a hurry.
The Boston Red Sox, the Yankees main competitor within the AL East has one of the best starting pitchers leading their staff in Chris Sale.
In addition to Sale, the Red Sox welcomed back David Price from an injury and now have a chance to have a legitimate one-two punch led by those two pitchers.
The Red Sox pitching has a chance to be outstanding, and it’s what makes them a very scary team within the division.
They can count on their ace. Can the New York Yankees?
If the Yankees want to win the American League East, yes they’ll need to continue to score runs and yes they will need their other starting pitchers to deliver, but they’ll need Masahiro Tanaka to figure it out in a hurry.
They will need their ace to rediscover his mojo to once again be the guy that is a reliable bet for a win every fifth day.
The Yankees hopes for a division title are riding on it.
You can listen to me on Sunday from 2 to 6 a.m. on WFAN Sports Radio 660 and 1019 FM.