The Yankees buried one potential threat going into the All-Star break. Coming out, they can bury a few more - or be dragged back to the pack in the AL East.
After taking three of four from the Red Sox in their last action before the break, the Bombers will welcome a resurgent Albert Pujols and the Los Angeles Angels (48-38) - who currently hold the first wild card spot - to Yankee Stadium for a three-game set starting Friday The Angels have been one of baseball's best since a 10-17 start, a rise that's mirrored in star-signing Pujols' re-emergence (.194, 0 home runs and 5 RBI in that span, .305 with 14 homers and 46 RBI since).
After that, the Yanks play three with division foe Toronto (43-43), who - despite being in last place in the AL East - is just two-and-a- half games back of the second wild card spot. Yankees pitchers will thank the heavens that slugger Jose Bautista (league-leading 27 home runs) bats from the right side of the plate, and will be less likely to target Yankee Stadium's short porch in rightfield.
After a seven-game road trip with stops in Oakland and Seattle, Joe Girardi's club will come back to host division rivals Boston (43-43) and Baltimore (45-40) as the trade deadline approaches - two series that, thanks to the extra wild card, will likely still have big playoff implications for the visiting teams.
If they take care of business in this stretch, the AL East race could be over by August. If they don't, things could be wide open once again.
The Mets picked a bad time to have question marks surrounding the starting rotation.
With Dillon Gee (blood clot in shoulder) out indefinitely, and the status of Johan Santana unclear after he rolled his ankle in his last start, the Mets come out of the break with something less than a full deck in the starting rotation. And their schedule will do them no favors.
The Amazin's (46-40), half a game back for the final wild card spot, play their first 12 games of the second half against teams with a winning record, including six against NL East-leading Washington. They first travel to Atlanta to play division-rival Braves (46-39), before heading to D.C. to play against the Nationals.
At least they are projected to avoid Nats ace Stephen Strasburg the first time around, because they return to Citi Field to host the Dodgers (47-40, first in the NL West), who will be boosted by the return of star Matt Kemp. Then, it's three more with the Nationals - where they will almost surely see Strasburg as well as the 12-3 Gio Gonzalez.
It'd be nice to say that it's all smooth sailing if they can make it through that stretch still alive in the NL East, but it won't be. Their next trip is an 11-game West Coast trek; the Mets won't play home game against a team below .500 until Aug. 7.