Back in May, these two teams met for the first time this season, with the Yankees emerging victorious in two of the three games, though they tied in total runs scored during the series at 18-18. After taking the first game 10-5, the A’s were bested by the Yankees in the remaining two games, and they were 19-21 and trailed Houston by six games.
But that was then, this is now.
The AL East has been decided for a month now, the AL Central has been locked down by the Indians for several months, and the Yankees still play down to their competition, but what remains an enigma is the positioning of the Wild Card hopefuls.
The Yankees, 24-18 since the end of the All-Star break, now have their most important test of the season as they prepare for a three-game series at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum against an Athletics team that has won 20 of its last 30 games and capped off August with an 18-9 record.
Oakland remains 4.5 games behind the Yankees for the first Wild Card spot, and they will be looking to make a significant dent in that deficit in hopes of hosting the Wild Card game, if not even potentially usurping the Astros for supremacy in the AL West yet again (2.5 games behind Houston currently).
For the Yankees, a series win creates more breathing room, and it also facilitates the transition into the final month of the regular season. In September, after the completion of this series, the Yankees will face the reeling Mariners (whose playoff hopes are on the precipice right now), the Twins, the Blue Jays, the Red Sox, the Orioles, the Rays, and then conclude the season at Fenway.
On the mound for the Yankees will be Sabathia, Happ, and Severino. Sabathia has allowed no more than three earned runs in each of his last four starts, and southpaw counterpart Happ has been excellent in all but one start for the Yankees, as he owns an ERA+ of 131 in six starts in pinstripes coupled with a 3.38 ERA.
Severino will be looking to put his atrocious August behind him, as hitters registered an .801 OPS against the struggling Yankees ace last month. It also goes without saying that the Yankees as a whole must put August behind them, as it was their worst month of the season.
This is the greatest test for the 2018 Yankees. They will face off against a team with two legitimate MVP candidates in third baseman Matt Chapman and designated hitter Khris Davis, the latter of whom just compiled his third consecutive season of 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, to go with an OPS that has gradually increased (.866 this year).
Keep in mind that Davis has accomplished that while playing in a ballpark where the vast majority of hitters suffer.
No more meandering against the worst teams in baseball, and no more late-season shortcomings. These Oakland Athletics are for real, and the Yankees’ worst nightmares will be for real if they fail to win this series.