A barrage of homers masked some inconsistent starting pitching and enabled the New York Yankees to emerge with the American League's best record at the All-Star break despite using the injured list 24 times for 21 players.
While the front office will attempt to enhance the rotation, the Yankees look to maintain their perch Friday night when they host the youthful Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series.
New York headed into the break at 57-31 with 149 homers, good for fourth in the majors to go along with 503 runs -- the third-highest total in the majors. The Yankees set a major league record by homering in 31 straight games from May 26-July 2 and have homered in 36 of their last 37 games.
"We are in a good spot in first place," said Aaron Judge, who missed two months with a strained left oblique and has played in 33 games. "Our goal is to win the division. It's a start."
New York has led the AL East since June 15 and used two surges to attain the best record in the AL. From April 16-June 1, the Yankees won 32 of 42 games. Since regaining the lead they are 16-4 in their last 20, despite ending the first half with consecutive one-run losses in Tampa last weekend.
"They put us in a great spot, but that is all it is right now," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "We got some unfinished business now and we got a long way to go but we put ourselves in position to have a really special season."
Toronto will see the Yankees 13 more times and headed into the break at 34-57, the fourth-worst record in the majors. It is the most losses by the Blue Jays at the break since 1979, but recent improved play, including three close losses in New York from June 24-26, has given players reason for optimism.
"Within the last month, we've been coming ready to play every day," right-hander Trent Thornton said. "Our bats are hot, pitching's been good. If we can continue to just build off that, we're going to win a lot of games in the second half."
Toronto headed into the break with the second-lowest batting average in the majors at .232, but won 13 of its last 22 games.
Aaron Sanchez (3-12, 6.16 ERA), who leads the majors in losses, starts for Toronto. Sanchez is 0-11 with an 8.11 ERA in his last 13 starts and his losing streak is the longest by a Blue Jay since Ricky Romero lost 13 straight decisions in 2012.
Sanchez extended the streak last Friday when he allowed two runs and three hits in five innings of a 4-1 loss to Baltimore.
The right-hander is 2-5 with a 4.21 ERA in 16 career appearances (six starts) against the Yankees.
Domingo German (10-2, 3.67 ERA) will make his second start since returning from a hip injury. He returned July 3 in a 5-1 win against the New York Mets and allowed one run on five hits in six innings.
German is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in three career appearances (one start) against Toronto.
--Field Level Media
First-place Yankees open second half with Blue Jays