From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
It was fitting Monday night that the Yankees played the Braves in the first of two interleague games this week.
The Yankees (72-52) entered winners of nine straight games, while the Braves (68-56) came into Monday also riding a nine-game win string.
They are MLB’s two hottest teams, with the only notable difference between them is that Atlanta holds a five-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East Division, while the Yankees are still 4 1/2 games behind the AL East Division-leading Rays but have zoomed into the AL’s No. 1 wild-card spot.
You don’t have to be an Albert Einstein to figure out how the Yankees and Braves each became hot market items. They are each in playoff position because of their respective general managers being aggressive at the July 30 trade deadline, after they floundered during the season’s first half.
The Yankees needed a breath of renewed life after they were a disappointing 41-41 through 82 games, thanks to woeful at-bats by some slump-ridden performers.
GM Brian Cashman, whose team all season has been hindered by injuries and COVID-19 infections and some devastating walk-off defeats, first reshaped the bullpen though All-Star Aroldis Chapman remains out with injury.
New York has geared its roster to resemble a little bit of Tampa Bay’s — featuring lineup maneuverability, better speed, defense and athleticism.
Acquiring Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo were much-needed lefty power bats in a predominant right-handed hitting lineup. These two essentially replaced Clint Frazier and Miguel Andujar, who each underachieved most of the time.
If Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton can play center and right field, respectively, it allows power hitter Luke Voit to stay in the batting order as the DH.
Next the Braves. They streaked past the former first-place Mets in recent weeks, thanks to GM Alex Anthopoulos’ trades, necessitated by MVP-leading candidate Ronald Acuna Jr.’s serious ACL injury suffered July 10.
To fill the void, Anthopoulos dealt for Adam Duvall, who previously played for the Braves, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson to complement Freddie Freeman, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies in the lineup.
Meanwhile, the Mets’ trade for Javier Baez hasn’t reaped much rewards because he has been hurt and coincides with All-Star pitcher Jacob deGrom’s most likely season-ending arm injury. The Mets, who held first place for 90 days between early May to early August, trailed the Braves by seven games in the NL East standings entering Monday.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org