The Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays were scouting Johnny Cueto yesterday

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My theory — which is probably wrong given that it involves a prediction — is that whichever of the AL East teams picks up a good starting pitcher will have the inside track on that tight race. Well, unless it’s the Rays, who need a bat. Among the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles, however, a top starter should help elevate them to favorite status.

All three were on the scene in Washington last night to scout Johnny Cueto, Joel Sherman reports. They likely liked what they saw, given that he tossed a shutout.

Given how many teams could use a starting pitcher — add the Astros, Dodgers and Tigers to this list — and you have to figure Cueto will come at a higher price than most three-month rentals would. That could pose problems for the Yankees, who don’t exactly have a ton of top team-controlled talent to woo the Reds. That’s not quite as true for the other AL East teams, but it’s not like their systems are loaded either.

Over at Sporting News today Jesse Spector floats a neat idea: someone willing to eat some salary could trade relatively little for Cueto in terms of talent but maybe take on a bad contract from the Reds such as Brandon Phillips’. Intriguing, NBA-style idea, much like the Braves did in their trades with San Diego and Arizona recently.

Cueto may be the top pitcher available right now. So he’s worth watching. And everyone seems to be watching him.

On a night full of letdowns, Yankees’ defense let them down the most

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Game 4 of the ALCS was a gigantic letdown for the Yankees for myriad reasons. They lost, first and foremost, 8-3 to the Astros to fall behind three games to one. Their fans continued to act boorishly. CC Sabathia exited with an injury, likely the final time he’ll pitch in his career. The offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

The biggest letdown of the night, though, was the Yankees’ defense. They committed four errors, their highest total in a postseason game since committing five errors in Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS.

Make no mistake: the two three-run home runs hit by George Springer and Carlos Correa, given up by Masahiro and Chad Green respectively, were the big blows in the game. But the errors contributed to the loss and were downright demoralizing.

The first error came at the start of the top of the sixth inning, when Alex Bregman hit a cue shot to first baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu couldn’t read the bounce and the ball clanked off of his knee, allowing Bregman to reach safely. He would score later in the inning on Correa’s blast.

The Yankees committed two errors in the top of the eighth, leading to a run. Yuli Gurriel hit another grounder to LeMahieu, which he couldn’t handle. That not only allowed Gurriel to reach safely, but Bregman — who led off with a double — moved to third base. He would score when second baseman Gleyber Torres couldn’t handle a Yordan Álvarez grounder.

Error number four occurred when Altuve hit a grounder to Torres to lead off the top of the ninth. The ball skipped right under his glove. Facing Michael Brantley, Jonathan Loaisiga uncorked a wild pitch which advanced Altuve to second base. Brantley followed up with a line drive single to left field, plating Altuve for another run. Loaisiga would throw another wild pitch facing Bregman but that one didn’t come back to haunt him.

The Yankees can’t control injuries, the behavior of their fans, or how good the Astros’ pitching is on any given night. They can control the quality of their defense. On Thursday, it was a farce, and now they’re staring down the barrel of having to win three consecutive games against the Astros to stave off elimination.