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The (small) path to winning the AL East

Since the Italians came to save the day, the Yankees are in the midst of a good run. During this same stretch, the Red Sox are playing poorly and have not only lost their grip on the East, but have also allowed the Yankees and Blue Jays to creep close. What seemed impossible a month ago, has now became merely not likely. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the Yankees have a great shot or even a good shot at taking over the Rays. What I will say, however, is that at least there’s a chance – albeit a narrow one.

So what would it take to dethrone the Rays and avoid a do-or-die Wild Card game? It really boils down to a few things. Currently the Rays are on pace to win 98 games and 7 games ahead of us in the division. With 47 games remaining, a 36-11 record seems unlikely so we’ll need some help. Outside of that though, here’s what the Yankees CAN do to give themselves the best shot.

Get healthy

For the love of god, stop having a new COVID-IL member every day. I’m not going to speculate on anything having to do with the team or the virus itself – that is not my place – but no other team is having issues like this. Please figure out some sort of solution to this.

Outside of COVID, we’re still not exactly the epitome of health. Currently, the Yankees have 20 people on the IL – the most in baseball. This is where we stand as of today (add Clay Holmes now too).

This is very bad.

HOWEVER, barring any setbacks there is some positivity regarding this list. Barring anything crazy, we should be getting Sevy, Kluber, Cole, Chapman and Monty all back within the next week from the IL pitchers. That is an all star closer and a damn-near a top 5 rotation in the game if all healthy. Add them to Taillon, and we’re sitting pretty.

Outside of the rotation, our best hitter as of late, Anthony Rizzo, should also be joining the team sometime relatively soon. Gary should be back soon which, say what you want, but he is a better option than Higgy and Brantly. Reinforcements are on the way, it is just a matter of keeping them healthy. Once we get everyone back, it is absolutely imperative that they stay back. If you want to have any shot come October, you need to have a full roster.

Take care of business in the East

Entering play today, the Yankees are currently 24-30 against division opponents. Not good. To have any shot at taking over the lead down the stretch, they have to play better against division opponents, simple as that. There is no excuse to be 8-5 against the Orioles. The Orioles have 38 total wins this year – take care of business there.

Where this is really going to matter, though, is playing the Red Sox, Rays, and Jays. 3-10, 7-9, 6-6, is not going to get the job done. All 3 of these teams are still in the hunt. I’m not saying we need to sweep every series against them down the stretch, but we need to at least be winning series.

Remaining on the schedule are some tough games. The stretches of Marlins, Orioles, and Royals are over. In the last 47 games include:

White Sox – 2 games
Red Sox – 6 games
A’s – 3 games
Braves – 2 games
Blue Jays – 7 games
Rays – 3 games

Sprinkle in some tricky ones against teams like the Indians, Mets, and Angels and this is by no means an easy way to close out a division race. Most importantly, the Yankees need to finish up the East contenders somewhere in the neighborhood of 11-5 to have a shot. Beyond that, just take care of business against the average and below average teams.

Here’s a look at all 4 of the East contender’s schedules for reference.

Beat the teams you’re supposed to

No more implosions against the Orioles. No more implosions against the Royals. In order to win the division, the Yankees have to minimize the mistakes against the bad teams. Some of this will come with getting healthy , i.e. no more Nick Nelson in important games, but a lot of this just comes down to inconsistency. Find a way to show up and play the 38 win Orioles like you do the Rays and move on.

As of August 11th, we currently have a 24-15 record against teams at or below .500. 9 games over .500 is respectable in these games, but to win the division, it has to better. Again, I realize that this is a huge ask. If you want to win the division, though, this is just what has to happen.

21 of the remaining games are against sub .500 teams. In order to keep pace with the 98-win Rays, a record of 17-4 or 16-5 is going to be necessary to keep the division lead in sight.

Wait and hope

As I’ve mentioned already, the Red Sox are in the midst of a slide. Their pitching rotation is not great and have finally started to show signs of cracking. I know Chris Sale is coming back soon. I know Evoldi is still in that rotation. There are weaknesses in this team though. Couple that with a relatively tough schedule, there is room for optimism that the Yankees can leapfrog them soon.

More concerning is the Rays. They have the best record in the American League and show zero signs of slowing down. To catch them, they’re going to have to go on a Red Sox-esque streak AND will probably have to be swept by the Yankees to end the season.

A huge ask to have the best team in the American League so far choke, but it is possible.

So you’re saying theres a chance… With some pretty good odds too… Interesting…