The New York Yankees and the American League’s second wild card have suddenly become an extremely fathomable match.When a team enters the season’s final month, all they can possibly ask for is a fighting chance. The New York Yankees have been granted that chance thanks to a stellar 17-11 record (.607) in the month of August, effectively catapulting themselves into the thick of the playoff picture.
On August 1, if you had told a 52-52 Yankee team that they would be within 2.5 games of a playoff spot, with only three teams left to jump, by the end of the month, there is a strong chance you would have received a slight chuckle directed towards the claim.
The subtractions of Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman came off as too tall of a task to conquer.
With that said, here they are.
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Leapfrogging the Mariners and Royals, the Astros, Tigers, and Orioles are the only teams left to clear in their path to the promise. Oh, and they start a three-game set in Baltimore tonight.
If the Yankees want it, they can go and get it.
What can be viewed as a taxing September schedule can just as easily be interpreted as an opportunity. An opportunity to accomplish the unthinkable. The promising chance to erase any thought of a tear-down rebuild. A direct pathway to earn a playoff game in a year which had essentially excluded the Bronx from the list of October destinations.
It is right there for the taking, and now it is on New York to replicate their best month of the year.
30 games remain between today and October 2, the final day of the regular season. 27 of those games are against AL East opponents. 6.5 games separate the Yankees from the division lead. The second and third place teams in the division – Red Sox and Orioles — currently hold the two respective wild cards.
Can it get any better than that?
Following the crucial series at Camden Yards, the Yankees get a nine-game home stand which features meetings with the Blue Jays, Rays, and Dodgers. A substantial home swing considering their most telling road trip of the year follows it up.
An 11-game, three-city swing in Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto will likely determine the fate of the pinstripes.
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When they come back home to play six season-concluding games with the Red Sox and Orioles, the previous road trip will be the deciding factor as to whether they are playing for anything.
Put it this way: they will not be short sided when it comes time to capitalize. If they reach a point where they are within spitting distance approaching the final six days of the season, the chance to punch a ticket will not be dependent on other teams faltering. The focus will rather be on the matchups they partake in.
The question is which side of the Yankees prevails?
The former, which led the ballclub on a downturn eventually resulting in the current 21-28 record against AL East foes. Or the latter, which has the potential to beat those clubs on a consistent basis.
In fact, the Sanchez-led Yanks possess a 7-5 record against divisional opponents.
Should that be a plausible reason for optimism? Who knows. Will the early struggles be too large of a detriment to overcome? That remains to be seen.
Know this, though: this is a different team, this is a fueled team, and this is ultimately a team that will not give in.
Giving a squad with those characteristics a schedule which entails controlled destiny is a frightening maneuver. Why? They seize it.
No longer are the playoffs a “nice” and incentive-driven feat. The playoffs are now a realistic feat which the Yankees should feel entitled to.
A 6-3 clip against three playoff projected teams proves that they focusing on business and business only. That state of mind provides hope.
It is okay to get excited, Yankee fans. This team is not a laughing matter, and if they punch that ticket, it will be a case of realism rather than fool’s gold.