With ten games to play in the regular season, the Yankees sit atop the American League Wild Card standings. They would’ve signed up for that in April, but now they’re greedy, they want to win the AL East.
Following their three game sweep of the Twins, punctuated by an 11-3 rout Wednesday, the Yankees lead Minnesota, the second Wild Card team, by a comfortable seven games. Barring an epic collapse, the Yankees, at the very least, will be hosting the AL Wild Card game.
Going into the penultimate weekend of the season, the Yankees trail Boston by three games for the top spot. Both teams have played very well down the stretch so the Yankees have not been able to lessen the deficit. To their credit, the Yanks have kept their focus on the game at hand and not the “big picture.” “I’m more concerned about the way we’re playing,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Wednesday’s game. “That’s the only thing you can really control.”
The numbers say the Yankees can still catch the Red Sox. Three back with ten to play certainly seems manageable, but the schedule is the obstacle because the rivals are done with their head-to-head meetings.
Both teams are off on Thursday so this weekend’s results will be pivotal. The Yankees need to be within two games (and maybe one) of Boston to have any real shot at overtaking them. Don’t forget, if the teams are tied at the end of the regular season, there would be a one-game playoff at Yankee Stadium for the division title on Monday. (The Yankees get the home advantage as a result of their season series win against the Red Sox) The implications for the loser of that potential game would be enormous beginning with having to play in the Wild Card game the next day.
The Yankees will complete their road schedule this weekend with three in Toronto while Boston heads to Cincinnati for their final road series. You have to figure that the Red Sox are going to get at least two of three and maybe all three against the lowly Reds. Despite being out of the race, the Blue Jays won’t make it easy on the Yankees. (Yanks are 6-7 vs. Jays this season)
Assuming the race is status quo on Monday morning, and the Yankees still trail by three, the Red Sox will finish the regular season at home with three against Toronto and four against the Astros who may still be in the running for the AL’s best record. The Yankees are home for a make-up game against Kansas City; three against the Rays and three to complete the regular season against Toronto.
From here on in, the Yankees have a very tall task if they hope to be division winners, but wouldn’t it be delicious if the teams are tied or within one game of each other going into the final Sunday?