Today is the first off-day for the Yankees in three weeks. The last one came on the heels of a west coast trip that saw them extend their winning streak to 13 games, lose four in a row, and then salvage the final game thanks to a 15-strikeout performance by Gerrit Cole.
On the morning of that last off-day, September 2, the Yankees were 77-56 (.571, 93-win pace) and two games up on the Red Sox for the first Wild Card spot (three in the loss column). The Blue Jays were 6.5 games behind (six in the loss column). Even after a brief skid following the big win streak, things were still looking good. I hate to make you relive that. Because since then the Yankees are 9-11 (.450, 73-win pace) and are now sitting at 86-67 (.562, 91-win pace) with nine games left. This has left the Yankees on the outside looking in recently (now back in a playoff spot at the time of writing), but they control their own destiny.
Although they do have one more off-day next Monday, it doesn’t offer much of a respite as they have to fly up across the border to play in Toronto for the first time in 745 days. Tomorrow starts the most important six games of their season by far. Three in Boston followed by those three in Toronto. You can easily make an argument that the A.L. East is the best and toughest division this year, with four teams either in a playoff position or within a half-game of one. As of now, it looks like it is a three-team race between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays for the two Wild Card spots.
Back on September 2, I was looking for the team to try and secure that first Wild Card spot to get home-field in the do-or-die game. At this point, while home-field would be nice, I’m just hoping they get in at all. There is a very high chance that we even see a Game 163 if there are two teams tied for the second Wild Card. In case of any tiebreakers, the Yankees would be on the losing end, as they already lost the season series with both teams. I’m not sure how feasible it is to sweep either of the upcoming series on the road. So the task is simple: win both series, and you feel much better.
Assuming we don’t sweep and can take two out of three from both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays, we will have only gain one game on each. Or we can sweep both series and be sitting pretty. I actually prefer that option. Luckily, we will miss Chris Sale this weekend and have Gerrit Cole scheduled to pitch in both series. With Boston (three against Baltimore, three against Washington) and Toronto (four against Minnesota, three against Baltimore) each having much easier schedules outside of these crucial series, the Yankees really need to take care of business. Otherwise, they could be going home in ten days.