Expectations were so high for the New York Yankees — and their roster is so strong on paper — that seemingly every emotional win is viewed as a potential turning point in their frustrating season.
They won five games in a row this past week, although once again, it wasn't all good news.
The Yankees have made some progress in the postseason race. They're still 6 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, but they've won 10 of 13 while Boston has dropped 10 of 13. That leaves New York just 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox and Athletics for the American League's two wild cards.
The Yankees could also have Gio Urshela back soon, but that doesn't mean they'll be at full strength. Shortstop Gleyber Torres was set to get an MRI after hurting his thumb on a stolen base in Sunday's loss to Seattle. And COVID-19 continues to be a thorn in the Yankees' side. Anthony Rizzo tested positive after Saturday's game, and Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and Gary Sánchez have all been sidelined recently.
If there's a National League version of the Yankees, it may be Atlanta, a team with a shot at its fourth straight division title despite an underwhelming season so far. The Braves, who lost Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season-ending knee injury, are just two games out of first place after winning five of their last six. Atlanta is also the only NL East team with a positive run differential.
The team at the top of the NL East changed recently. Philadelphia has won eight in a row, including a three-game sweep of the Mets, who have dropped from first place all the way to third. Up next for the Phillies is a three-game home series against the defending champion Dodgers.
The Baltimore Orioles began the week with a 7-1 win over the Yankees on Monday night. Since then, Baltimore's pitching has been getting drubbed. The Orioles allowed at least 10 runs in four consecutive games — then allowed nine Sunday.
In its past five games, Baltimore has allowed 22 runs in the eighth inning alone. The Orioles only scored 19 runs total in those games. Baltimore has had some bright spots this year — particularly outfielder Cedric Mullins — but the Orioles are dead last in the majors with a 5.62 ERA. They host Detroit starting Tuesday night — with Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera needing only two homers to reach 500.
Zack Wheeler of the Phillies earned his second shutout of the season when he blanked the Mets 3-0 on Sunday. Who are the only two other pitchers with multiple shutouts this season?
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That performance by Wheeler — in which he allowed two hits and struck out 11 — was special for a number of reasons. The Phillies retired the jersey of the late Roy Halladay on Sunday, and Wheeler retired 22 consecutive batters during one stretch — the most by a Phillies pitcher since Halladay's perfect game in 2010.
The novelty can wear off quickly when a position player takes the mound to pitch, but Texas infielder Brock Holt found a way to keep it interesting by working in a few high-arcing eephus pitches when he faced Oakland on Saturday. The Rangers lost 12-3, but Holt didn't allow any runs in his inning.
Anthony DeSclafani and Sean Manaea also have two shutouts apiece.