The playoffs are only 12 days away. The Yankees are almost certainly going to be part of it — all that remains is seeding. The new “Wild Card Series” will be a best-of-three series with the winners moving on to the ALDS in California. All games in the Wild Card Series will be held at the higher seed’s home ballpark. At the moment, the Yankees hold the fifth seed and would face the Twins in Minnesota. I am going to give my rankings on the best matchups for the Yankees, from worst to best. This will be based on the other seven teams currently holding a playoff spot. Of course, some of the following matchups are very unlikely, but they will be included anyway.
Facing the Rays in itself would be a challenge. Facing the Rays at the Trop? Count me out. Since 2017, the Yankees are 12-19 at Tropicana Field. Add in the fact that the Rays are 8-2 against us this year and it could end up being a recipe for disaster. We will be at near full strength and it would be great to knock Tampa out in the first round, but I’d rather avoid this matchup.
As bad as we are at the Trop, we are even worse in Oakland. Since 2017, the Yankees are an abysmal 1-8. In recent history, the A’s have been similar to the Rays in that they are a scrappy team that don’t have a roster of truly notable players. This matchup becomes a little better for the Yankees given that Oakland’s best overall player Matt Chapman is out for the rest of the year, but teams tend to go to the confines of the Coliseum and not come out happy.
The Indians main weapon will be their starting pitching. Bieber, Carrasco, Civale, Plesac, and McKenzie all are quality starting pitchers that the Yankees do not want to face. They’ve lost eight in a row and their offense hasn’t been that great (they rank 27th in baseball with a .686 team OPS), but their pitching alone is enough to scare me.
4. White Sox
The White Sox seem to be ahead of schedule. Who knows how good they would have been over a full 162-game season, but they lead the AL Central by two games over the Twins. Therefore, if the Yankees end up playing them it would be in Chicago (unless the Yankees overtake the Rays and the White Sox don’t win the division). Chicago would likely feature Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Dallas Keuchel, in some order, in a three-game set. They all have been performing well this year. Offensively, they have Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, and young studs Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. They may not have experience in the postseason, but they can be dangerous.
Like the Rays, the Astros would be another team I would love to see the Yankees knock out. Even with Verlander expected to be back, I still don’t think this Astros team poses as big a threat as they did the past couple of years. They are a game under .500 and their star second baseman Jose Altuve is hitting .219 with an OPS+ of 61. Even though they have the potential to be scary in a best-of-three series, I just don’t think they are that scary.
Toronto has put together a pretty good season. Even after being outscored 33-8 in the first two games of the current series, they are still above .500 at 26-22. They have a really solid core of young position players such as Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. However, their pitching is nothing to write home about as evidenced by the last two games. That is even after picking up Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray at the trade deadline. If the Yankees can stay healthy and stay ahead of the Jays in the standings, they will be able to feast on Toronto’s pitching.
I think this one is pretty obvious. The Twins have lost 16 straight playoff games, 13 of which have come at the hands of the Yankees. The Yanks have knocked them out of the postseason six times since the turn of the century. As good as the Twins may be in any given year, the Yankees just find a way to beat them in October.