With a loss to the Mariners to conclude their West Coast trip, the Yankees stand just 2.5 games ahead of the Oakland Athletics for the first Wild Card spot. They are now just 4-4 in September, and Brett Gardner’s exasperation equals that of his teammates right now, too.
While the Mariners face an insurmountable deficit for the second Wild Card spot, their tendency to play the role of the spoiler has irked the Yankees yet again.
Multiple players who have proven to be the most instrumental have faded away during this month. Giancarlo Stanton has an OPS barely hovering around .200, Gary Sanchez’s defensive ineptitude has become even more prominent, Luis Severino, anointed as the AL Cy Young winner prior to the All-Star break, has continued to look less like his 2017 and first-half-of-2018 self and more like Kevin Brown during the latter’s days in pinstripes.
If there is any optimism to be unearthed from this, it would revolve around the fact that Didi Gregorius has returned, and the fact that Aaron Judge will be back very soon (for real this time).
There is no mistaking a Wild Card game defeat as a cataclysmic way to end the season for these Yankees. Brian Cashman made all the moves to create a championship team this year, and perhaps needed to make a few more to solidify that notion.
Of course, there is still time for Boone and his troops to recover. The Yankees cannot afford to be playing at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 3rd, where they are just 1-6 since last season. They have an opportunity to widen the gap between themselves and the A’s once more with six series to go.
Of those six series, three are against losing teams, and that includes the upcoming series against the Twins. After Minnesota, they face division foes the rest of the day; the order being Toronto, Boston, the Orioles, the Rays, and then the season finale at Fenway Park against the BoSox.
Oakland has an easy path the rest of the way, with the only winning opponent remaining on its schedule being Tampa Bay. Bob Melvin and Co., however, are still in pursuit of a bigger prize, as they have just a three-game roadblock between themselves and the Astros, though Houston has won seven consecutive games.
While hosting the winner-take-all Wild Card game is certainly no guarantee of advancing to the ALDS (during which their opponent would almost certainly be Boston), it would definitely boost their odds, as the Yankees have the second-best home record (48-24) in the majors, and the A’s own a 2-4 record at Yankee Stadium since last year.
Whatever the case may be, the Yankees could find themselves cleaning out their lockers earlier than expected next month if they falter down the stretch.