October is right around the corner. Not only are the Yankees one game away from officially heading back to the postseason, but they are also one game away from officially being American League East champions.
So now it’s time to look ahead. The Yankees are either going to be the one-seed or the two-seed in the American League and as of now have a total of four potential opponents for the ALDS. If they can edge out the Astros by at least one game, they will host the winner of the Wild Card. If they don’t, they will face the Twins. Here’s my ranking of their possible opponents for the first round, ranked from most favorable to least favorable.
1. Cleveland Indians
The Indians currently sit only 0.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. But they are the most favorable matchup. The reason is because of all the injuries they have accrued. One of the advantages of finally not having to play in the Wild Card Game is that we don’t have to burn our ace. The Indians would use Shane Bieber in such a case, which means he wouldn’t be available until Game 3 in all likely hood. Add that to the fact that they could be without the following list of players:
That’s a lot of firepower missing, and the Yankees should be able to take advantage. It’s the least likely scenario at this point, as Cleveland is on the outside looking in, but give me the Indians in the ALDS.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, the Rays are tough. Yes, they’re pesky. And yes, we don’t seem to thrive against openers. But the Yankees are 12-5 against them this year. They have also dominated them at home going 8-2 while outscoring them 62-25.
What scares me about Tampa is their starting pitching. Blake Snell is back, and the one-two punch of him and Charlie Morton is nothing to scoff about. Sure, one of them will pitch the Wild Card Game, but you’re still looking at three starts between the two if the series goes five games. Not to mention Tyler Glasnow, who likely won’t be a full-length starter but could be used as a dangerous opener.
However, the Rays wouldn’t frighten me that much in comparison to the next two teams on this list.
3. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have made history this season with the long ball. They broke the Yankees record 267 home runs that was set last year (as have the Yankees). One player who has contributed a lot to that is Nelson Cruz. The 39-year-old has hit 37 homers while leading the league in barrels per plate appearance percentage (12.2). The Twins have seven other players with at least 20 home runs and four others with at least 30.
Entering Thursday, they’re fifth in the American League in ERA (4.18) and fourth in the majors in run differential (+170). The Yankees are sixth (4.35) and third (+196), respectively. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi are not too shabby atop Minnesota’s rotation.
But the Yankees have historically owned the Twinkies in the playoffs. They beat them in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, and most recently 2017. So I feel pretty good about that. But there’s something different about this year’s Twins: they have the firepower to be a tough out.
4. Oakland Athletics
I do not want to play Oakland. Mostly because it means we would have to win the first two games. We do not want to go cross-country to Oakland tied 1-1 or worse down 0-2. The Yankees are 1-9 at the RingCentral Coliseum since 2017. The A’s are pesky; they had a shot to sweep up in our home ballpark right before Labor Day. There’s not a ton that stands out when you look at their roster: Matt Chapman and Matt Olson are very good players but aren’t well known around the league. Throw in the emerging Marcus Semien and the powerful Khris Davis and they have a tough lineup. They ranked sixth in the majors in hard-hit rate at 40.8 percent.
Their starters don’t scare many people, but they have some solid arms out in the bullpen in Liam Hendriks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Ryan Buchter. Not to mention previous standouts Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen.
Are the Yankees a better team? Sure, and I think we have a good shot at winning the first two home games. But I said it once and I’ll say it again: I don’t want to play in Oakland.