The Yankees and Rays just finished a tense series in the Bronx. And it obviously was a disappointing series for the Yankees. The Yankees now sit 4.5 games behind Tampa for first in the A.L. East (only three games back in the loss column). The two teams will not play each other again this season, so I wanted to take a look at the remaining schedules for both teams. Keep in mind, however, that winning the division isn’t as big a perk as it usually is this season, as the postseason will all but certainly be in a bubble.
The Yankees have only played the Orioles twice and they have yet to play the Blue Jays at all. That means that they have eight games left against Baltimore (all within the next 12 games) and all ten games left against Toronto (seven of which are on the road in Buffalo).
We all knew coming into the season that the Yankees would have a relatively easy last month of the season after they got past all of their Rays games. But the games against the Blue Jays especially will not be easy, as they are a pesky, up-and-coming team and above .500 at the moment.
Besides those games, the Yankees play the Red Sox three more times (yay!) and end the season against the currently postseason-bound Marlins. The cumulative winning percentage of the teams the Yankees will play down the stretch is .456.
While the Yankees have only four different opponents coming up, the Rays have six. They have three against the Marlins, four against the last-place Nationals, four against the Red Sox, four against the Orioles, three against the Mets, and three against the Phillies. The cumulative winning percentage of those teams is .431.
Overall, the Rays have a slightly easier schedule down the stretch based on records from this year. They also have four off days left (including today) while the Yankees only have one. The Yankees have three games in hand against the Rays because of some cancellations due to COVID-19.
Expanded playoffs scenarios
As aforementioned, the Yankees are only three games back in the loss column in the A.L. East, and if they can get key players back to health and take care of business against teams they have recently done well against, they still have a chance to win the division. But the Rays also have a fairly easy schedule remaining and also will get some players back from injury.
All in all, does it really matter if the Yankees win the division? As of today, they would be the six seed and play the Indians (based on current winning percentages). That in itself is daunting given Cleveland’s starting pitching, even after trading away Mike Clevinger. The Rays would “host” the pesky Blue Jays. Since the postseason is almost certainly going to be in a bubble, home-field advantage won’t be an advantage at all. The only advantage would be batting last.
It will be an interesting last few weeks, and while winning the division may not be the most critical thing in a weird 2020 season, it would definitely be nice to have some bragging rights.