The New York Yankees may still have the American League East in their sights but this series is far more important than a first-place finish.
The regular season is winding down and this year already has a far better outcome than last year. The New York Yankees have, at least, punched a ticket to the postseason, with the chance to potentially steal the American League East.
While those chances are incredibly slim, the Yankees have all the pieces to make that happen. The Boston Red Sox have to take on the Houston Astros. The Yankees are coming in hot. It all has to go just as planned.
But this weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays is important, perhaps their most important series of the season. No, not because they are so close they can taste the AL East crown.
Actually, it’s perhaps the most important because they are potentially heading into the Wild Card game.
The Yankees participated in the one-game playoff two years ago against the Houston Astros. They had all the chips in line: They were the home team and had their stud starter, Masahiro Tanaka, on the mound. However, they couldn’t overcome Dallas Keuchel and the Astros.
The Yankees ended up getting shut out at home, giving up home runs to Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez in the process. They had all signs pointing towards victory and they blew it.
Why? Not just because they drew the short stick by having to face Keuchel. Instead, they blew it because they went into the playoffs on a cold streak.
In September of 2015, the Yankees went 14-14 en route to the playoffs. Not only that, but they went 3-7 in their final 10 games, getting outscored 54-to-33 in that time frame.
Sure, people could place the loss on the fact that the Yankees went toe-to-toe with Keuchel, the AL Cy Young Award winner. However tough that may have been, it also is incredibly difficult to win a one-game playoff when coming in ice-cold.
That’s why this series is so important. If the Yankees lose all three to the Toronto Blue Jays, they’ll be going into that Wild Card in a situation very similar to that of 2015.
They need to head into the Wild Card matchup red-hot. Even if the Minnesota Twins have a worse record than them, anything can happen in just one game.
Who knows? Ervin Santana may show up in his ace form. Luis Severino (should he start) may implode early on in the game. The Yankees offense could be non-existent, as has been prone to happen this season.
It’s just one game. The winner goes on to face the Cleveland Indians, the loser gets bounced out of the playoffs after just barely being in it. That’s how the game goes now.
So the Yankees need to demolish the Blue Jays. They need to show up. No time for resting, despite the fact that they’ve already clinched a spot. If they want to make it through the “unfair” Wild Card round, they must go in prepared and ready to go right away.
So the Yankees may be gunning for the division. But right now, they should be focusing on preparing for the worst. They’ll have to build a hot streak if they want to have any chance of making sure this year isn’t a repeat of 2015.
Completely different year, completely different team. All this Yankees team needs to do is come in hot and the Wild Card is theirs.