The brutal September schedule that might not be a problemBy
At the moment, the Yankees have a 99.2% or a 98.9% chance to make the playoffs, depending on who you ask. They’ve gone 8-4 this month to stretch their lead in the wildcard race to nine games in the loss column, and their next 15 games will be played against four sub-.500 teams a combined 38 games below the break-even point. It’s not a stretch to think that they could roll into Fenway Park two weeks from tomorrow a dozen games up on a playoff spot. That cushion is good news, because the schedule at the end of the season is straight up brutal.
The Yankees were originally supposed to play two games from September 19th to 22nd, a two-game set against the Rays both preceded and followed by an off day. Now they’re going to play five games in that four day stretch. The first off day will instead be used to make up an April 6th rain out against the Twins, and the second off day will be used to make up a July 8th rain out against the Rays (because Tampa didn’t want to play a doubleheader the next day). At some point during that series they’ll also play a doubleheader to make up yesterday’s rain out. I guess the good news is that all of those games will be in the Bronx, so it’s the other teams that have to deal with the travel. The Yankees will be coming back from Toronto on the 18th, so not a long flight.
The last ten games of the season will be played against the Rays (seven games) and Red Sox, which are never easy. The Yankees also have to make one more west coast trip in the middle of September, visiting Anaheim and Seattle for three games apiece. With any luck, that road trip and those last ten games will be little more than tune-ups for the postseason, with September call-ups seeing the majority of the action in the doubleheader, day games after night games, stuff like that. Plus their already sizable lead on a playoff berth could increase before the rough stretch of the schedule arrives, making things that less dire. It could also decrease, but that’s another post for another time.
The Yankees are technically half-a-game back of the Red Sox in the AL East, but they’re tied in the loss column. All they need to do is
win one more lose one fewer game than Boston the rest of the way to take the division. They could make a big move over the next week, since the Yankees have that light schedule and the Sox will play seven of their next eleven games against the Rays and Rangers (with a four-gamer against the Royals mixed in). Getting into the playoffs is always the top priority, but winning the AL East would likely mean an ALDS matchup against the Tigers or Indians, not the Rangers. We’re getting way ahead of ourselves though.
With about six weeks left in the season, the Yankees lead baseball in run differential (+175) by a significant margin (32 runs), and are on pace for 99 wins (98.82, to be exact). They took care of business earlier in the season and are in the middle of the soft part of their schedule, which hopefully makes the last two or three weeks of the season relatively meaningless. The division will probably still be on the line then, but as long as a postseason berth is in the bag, we’ll have little reason to sweat what will probably be the toughest stretch of the season.