The New York Yankees are about to finally learn if their roller coaster of a regular season has been a nauseating path to the postseason or not. They enter their first off-day in nearly three weeks sitting in possession of the second wild-card slot with six games against the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays coming up in the next week.
In preparation for their season-defining stretch, the Yankees needed to do a few things for themselves, first: They needed to sweep the rebuilding Texas Rangers, they needed to boost their energy and morale, and they needed to add some quality depth to their taxed pitching staff to help them survive the final stretch.
New York went 3-for-3 against the Rangers and 3-for-3 on the checklist. They get to enjoy a high note and a reprieve before Gerrit Cole faces Nathan Eovaldi on Friday in Boston with their season on the line.
“Honestly, what’s comforting is we’re in control of things. Regardless of what would have happened tonight, we’re in control of things. Regardless of what happens to start this trip, we’re in control of things,” manager Aaron Boone said after the Yankees’ 7-3 win on Wednesday. “There’s some comfort in that, we know it’s on us. It’s right in front of us: We go out and play well, we’ll get to where we want to go. We don’t, we’re going home. There’s some comfort in knowing that. We don’t have to get help from anyone else. We don’t have to look to anyone else. It’s on us.”
Against the Rangers, the Yankees essentially offered up fan appreciation week-style games. On Tuesday, they beat their opponents on home runs from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo, with Luis Severino making his first appearance on an MLB mound since Oct. 15, 2019. On Wednesday, they turned around a game that started out sloppy and sluggish, ultimately beating Texas comfortably on a big hit from Gleyber Torres and an off-the-bench home run from Gary Sánchez.
Contributions from the team superstars? Check. A feel-good moment watching Severino sling sliders again? Check. A big night for their embattled second baseman and catcher? Check. Contributions from throughout their roster? Check.
Spiritual tune-up against the Rangers complete, the Yankees head back to the AL East gauntlet.
The Yankees are about to find out if this years team is cut out for postseason baseball. For all the highs and lows they’ve endured since March, none of it matters in the present.
Destiny is in their own hands. Boston and Toronto are the two teams between them and a chance at chasing title 28 this October. Luckily for the Yankees, they have back to back series with those very teams.
The math is simple, win the series and you’re in the postseason. Lose them and kiss the 2021 season good bye and likely your manager and half the roster.
First up the Yankees visit the Redsox at Fenway Park which always equates to baseball heaven every time.
Boston obliterated the Mets in a two-game series to give themselves a seven-game winning streak and a two-game lead for the first slot in the wild-card race.
The pitching matchups are projected to line up as such:
- Friday: Gerrit Cole vs. Nathan Eovaldi
- Saturday: Nestor Cortes Jr. vs. Nick Pivetta
- Sunday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Eduardo Rodriguez
The Yankees are always confident with AL Cy Young Award candidate and ace of the team Gerrit Cole on the mound. But Eovaldi, the former Yankees pitcher has pitched very well over his last eight starts. So expect a good matchup in game 1.
Game two with Cortes Jr. on the bump also favors the Yankees as the deceptive, always meme ready left hander has been great all season. For the Redsox, Pivetta has struggled since mid August and may be succumbing to the dog days on the baseball season.
And on Sunday with Montgomery on the mound, who has been arguably the most consistent Yankees starter outside of Cole, offers yet another favorable matchup for New York as Rodriguez has been inconsistent and could serve up the deep ball to the stacked right handed lineup the Bronx Bombers feature.
The Blue Jays lost two of their three games against the Rays this week, and fell from wild-card position to a half-game behind the Yankees in the standings. They’ll have four games against the sputtering Twins before facing the Yankees for three games in Toronto.
The big question for the Blue Jays is how quickly starter Hyun Jin Ryu can return from his stint on the IL with neck tightness. Ryu was put on the IL on Sept. 19, so he could be available for the Yankees series if his recovery goes well.
Staff ace Robbie Ray is scheduled to pitch Saturday against Minnesota — which will be worth following as Ray and Cole are the top candidates for the AL Cy Young Award — and then would be on schedule to start the final game of the series against the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continues his excellent season, and the team as a whole offers one of the most intimidating offenses in the league.
The Blue Jays have beat down the Yankees in recent memory, giving the pitching staff nightmares. The Blue Jays high powered offense combined with their crafty pitching has had the Yankees distraught in most matchups. But if the postseason is the goal, the Blue Jays are the main navigation point for the Yankees.
The playoff race is won in the next week. It’s up to the Yankees to decide if they are the winners or not.