Vincent Carchietta | USA TODAY Sports

The odds that Andrew Benintendi’s vaccination status will become a major issue for the Yankees have increased in recent days. Which is an issue in of itself.

Benintendi said he is “open-minded” to getting the jab over the weekend. But he hasn’t gotten it, or committed to it, since being acquired from the Royals. When the deal was made moments after the second Subway Series loss to the Mets, it didn’t seem like it mattered. The Bombers were running away with the AL East, they only had to deal with Canada’s border mandate once more — a late-September series at the Blue Jays — and it felt unlikely they would see Toronto in the postseason.

About all that.

The Bronx Bombers have lost five straight and are 14-17 dating back to July 1. Their division lead over the Blue Jays is back in single digits (it’s now 9.5 games). And they have just a half-game edge on the Astros for home field advantage in the postseason.

Take a look at the schedules. This is the Yankees’ slate between now and the start of the Toronto series on Sept. 26:


• Nine games vs. Red Sox (54-56)
• Nine games vs. Rays (58-50)
• Four games vs. Blue Jays (60-48)
• Four games vs. Athletics (41-68)
• Four games vs. Twins (57-51)
• Three games vs. Mariners (59-51)
• Three games vs. Angels (46-63)
• Three games vs. Brewers (58-50)
• Two games vs. Mets (70-39)
• Two games vs. Pirates (44-64)

And this is the Blue Jays’ schedule:

• Twelve games vs. Orioles (56-52)
• Nine games vs. Rays (58-50)
• Four games vs. Yankees (70-39)
• Three games vs. Guardians (56-52)
• Three games vs. Red Sox (54-56)
• Three games vs. Angels (46-63)
• Three games vs. Cubs (43-64)
• Three games vs. Pirates (44-64)
• Three games vs. Rangers (48-60)
• Two games vs. Phillies (60-48)

Even if the Yankees snap out of their funk soon, Toronto is well-positioned to make up further ground over the next 40 or so games. If the Blue Jays can get within seven games of the division, much less five or six, there is going to be some juice that week. Plus the games will almost assuredly mean something to the race with the Astros.

This is all speculation, of course. None of it may come to pass. But if it does and Benintendi isn’t available, all hell is going to break loose.

James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.