After Sunday, The Yankees (Mostly) Control Their Fate on Season’s Final Day into October. There was a time this summer, as the season teetered on the brink of disaster, when those words may have inspired a surge of exhilaration among Yankees fans. But, following an embarrassing loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, the idea of playing one more game isn’t necessarily a positive thing, at least not yet.
The Yankees appeared to be set to host a wild-card game on Tuesday as recently as Friday afternoon. They now face the risk of becoming entangled in a crazy four-way tie for the two American League wild cards, which would have to be resolved on Monday.
The Yankees put together an amazing 5-1 road trip and soared into first place in the wild-card rankings, but couldn’t close the deal in their last three-game series, at home, in a familiar storyline for a team that has chased all of its wins with disappointments. The Yankees needed two wins to clinch a playoff position for the seventh year in a row and home-field advantage in the wild-card game.
Tampa Bay surpassed 100 regular-season wins for the first time in franchise history, thanks to three home runs and seven RBI from Brandon Lowe. As the rest of the American League East fought for the two wild-card places, the Rays established themselves as the league’s premier team.
Boone has used that sentence in some form or another multiple times this season, and the squad has responded admirably on several occasions. However, the Yankees’ loss on Saturday, along with triumphs by Boston, Toronto, and Seattle, has put them in risk of having to play an additional game merely to secure a wild-card place. Only a few days ago, one appeared to be within their reach.
“With the way this season has gone, it sort of makes sense that it would come down to the last day,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “It appears to be about right.”
The final-day scramble begins around 3 p.m., Eastern time, for all 30 clubs, with the A.L. wild-card race providing much of the interest.
If the Yankees defeat the Rays on Sunday, they will be assured of one of the two wild-card spots. If the Yankees win and the Red Sox lose in Washington, the Yankees will host the winner of the second wild card game on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. If both the Yankees and Red Sox win on Sunday, Boston will host the Yankees in the wild-card game due to a 10-9 regular-season edge over its opponent.
On Sunday, the Yankees will send Jameson Taillon to face Michael Wacha, while the Red Sox will send Chris Sale to face Joan Adon of the Nationals, who is making his major league debut. Boston has the upper hand.
However, Toronto and Seattle are still in the running, and the strangest scenario is a four-way tie. For that to happen, the Yankees and Red Sox must lose, while the Blue Jays and Mariners must win. Each of the four clubs would then have 91 victories. Then, on Monday, there would be two tiebreaker games in which the four teams would choose or get one of four designations to determine who plays whom and where.
It is also conceivable for there to be three-way ties for the first or second wild card. Those rules are considerably more onerous, requiring two days to execute, and would necessitate a postponement of the American League wild-card game.
The simplest solution for the Yankees is to focus on their own victory and then watch where the other teams fall.
Gardner stated, “Obviously, we can determine our own fate in certain ways.”
By winning on Friday or Saturday, the Yankees could have avoided all of this uncertainty. Instead, Jordan Montgomery allowed seven runs in two and two-thirds innings on Saturday, keeping the Yankees in a conga line of mediocrity alongside Boston and Toronto.
Boston was suffering after being swept by the Yankees at Fenway Park last weekend, then lost two of three to the Orioles, baseball’s poorest team, before returning to win twice at Washington to tie the Yankees.
The Blue Jays, while having a dynamic young offence, lost two of three games at home against the Yankees and five of their past eight games heading into their final series against the Orioles in Toronto.
Only Seattle, which has been the hottest club in baseball since the middle of August, has played with any consistency during the last month. However, the Mariners were defeated at home by the Angels on Friday night before defeating the Angels, 6-4, on Saturday to set up a thrilling final day.
The Rays, who have the best record in the American League, don’t have much to play for until the playoffs begin. Nonetheless, they appeared to be superior.
“That’s a really talented club over there,” Gardner said of the Rays, “but a team that we’re going to have to beat and go through if we’re going to make the playoffs — and eventually get to where we want to go.”
Sunday will be an exciting day of baseball thanks to the Yankees’ terrible timing. Monday has the potential to be even better.