Go AL East young men!

New York Daily News - - SPORTS -

THE FALSE NAR­RA­TIVE of the Yan­kee sea­son con­tin­ues to be this one: Be­cause they seem to be set up for fu­ture sea­sons, that they are just some underdog team this sea­son, as if they’re the Lit­tle Pin­stripers That Could. Only they’re not. Say it again: The gen­eral man­ager didn’t make all those moves at the trade dead­line just to get the first wild card in the Amer­i­can League. He made the deals to win the AL East. Which the Yan­kees still should.

The Yan­kees, I be­lieve, are a bet­ter team right now than the Red Sox, even run­ning out of games and time. The Yan­kees, even with ground to make up on the Red Sox be­tween here and the fin­ish line, are set up bet­ter for the play­offs than the Red Sox are, and that in­cludes with start­ing pitch­ing, some­thing no­body would have be­lieved when the sea­son started, just be­cause the Red Sox were sup­posed to have Chris Sale and David Price and Rick Por­cello, last year’s Cy Young Award win­ner, as their three top start­ing pitch­ers.

Then Price got hurt in the spring and later got hurt again and is now com­ing out of the bullpen. Por­cello has turned into a guy mak­ing a run at los­ing 20 games af­ter win­ning 22 a year ago, and the Red Sox’s most re­li­able starter af­ter Sale (who has not beaten the Yan­kees this sea­son) is Drew Pomer­anz. Of course at the other end of the game, the Red Sox have Craig Kim­brel, who has been a force of na­ture. But the Yan­kees, once their starter is out of the game, come at you with Chad Green, David Robert­son, Dellin Be­tances and Aroldis Chap­man.

But it is more than just pitch­ing. The Yan­kees have some­thing that the Red Sox, who chose to pass on Ed­win En­car­na­cion, do not, and that is home-run dan­ger up and down their lineup.

It might not mean any­thing if they don’t win the East and then don’t pitch or hit in a one-game, hit-or-miss wild-card game. Be­cause bad things can hap­pen, and fast, in a one-game sea­son and, if you don’t be­lieve that, ask Mets fans about what Conor Gil­laspie did one year ago.

Ev­ery­body can see that this Yan­kee team is worlds bet­ter than the one that Dal­las Keuchel shut out the last time the Yan­kees made it to the play­offs, against the Astros. They still need to win the East be­cause if they don’t and even if they do win a wild-card game, the In­di­ans (in a close race with the Astros for best record in the league) might be wait­ing for them in the first round. I think the Red Sox are young and tal­ented and fun to watch and, boy, did they win a big game in 15 in­nings against the Rays on Fri­day night af­ter en­ter­ing the ninth down three runs. The Red Sox are an­other team set up for the fu­ture with Mookie Betts and Andrew Ben­in­tendi and Rafael Dev­ers and Xan­der Bo­gaerts. Sale is still just 28 years old, even as he has faded slightly in Septem­ber. Kim­brel’s not go­ing any­where. They aren’t go­ing any­where for years to come. But with all these kids, and all this tal­ent, the play­off re­sume on this team — with the ex­cep­tion of Dustin Pe­droia — is as thin as the Yan­kees’. The Red Sox may well hold off the Yan­kees in the East. The Yan­kees are still a bet­ter team. Cash­man brought in amaz­ing re­in­force­ments at the end of July. David Robert­son and Todd Fra­zier have become huge pieces on this team. So has Sonny Gray, who has pitched like a star for months, all the way back to when he was still with the A’s. But if you won­der why Gi­rardi has been man­ag­ing as if it’s Oc­to­ber al­ready, cer­tainly when he pulled CC Sabathia against the Rays at Citi Field the other night, it’s be­cause he sees what the draw might look like if the In­di­ans stay hot. And if you think the In­di­ans are peak­ing too early, think again. It was the Dodgers who peaked too early.

Cash­man did ba­si­cally turn over a fifth of his ros­ter. If the Yan­kees don’t win the divi­sion, they will kick them­selves all the way to the wild-card game for the games they kicked away af­ter the trade dead­line, one in par­tic­u­lar, the worst lost of the sea­son, af­ter Chap­man let the kid, Dev­ers, take him out of Yan­kee Sta­dium, the op­po­site way, one Sun­day night.

This isn’t about what we thought would hap­pen with the Yan­kees back in the spring. This isn’t the sea­son we thought they might have, even af­ter they started fast in April, be­fore they turned into a .500 team for over 100 games. This is the team they are right now, the one you’re see­ing in Septem­ber. Aaron Judge is back, Didi Gre­go­rius con­tin­ues to have a break­out sea­son. Gary Sanchez has 31 homers in 111 games, and has just 10 fewer RBI than Judge de­spite hav­ing played 30 fewer games.

It may mean noth­ing by Oc­to­ber that the Yan­kees re­ally are a more com­plete team than Bos­ton. They should have enough to win the East. Not a lot of time left. But enough.

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