A month ago, it seemed highly unlikely that the New York Yankees would reach the postseason. With just a few weeks left, though, the defending American League East champs have seen their odds increase.
A come-from-behind win on Monday put the Yankees just 2.5 games out of the final wild card spot. Since early August, they’ve pulled ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Royals. Now, just the Tampa Bay Rays stand in their way. The Oakland Athletics currently hold the first wild card spot.
On Aug.8, New York was just one game above .500 with a two percent chance of making the postseason. The Yankees have proceeded to 17-8, raising their playoff chances to 11 percent, according to Baseball Prospectus.
The Yankees are virtually out of the race to win the division. The Boston Red Sox lead them by eight games with less than 25 games to play. Because of the inception of the second wild card spot, though, the Yankees can make one final push to keep their season alive into October.
Both New York and Tampa Bay have very similar schedules going forward. Each team has three series remaining against non-contenders. The season may, ultimately, come down to the second-to-last set of the year. New York will host Tampa Bay from Sept. 24-26. The Rays currently lead the head-to-head season series 9-7. The Baltimore Orioles, who are just a half-game behind the Yankees, will play more four games each against New York and Tampa Bay.
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New York should be in very good shape if they can make it to the final weekend either tied for the final spot or trailing by one game. They close out the season on the road against the Houston Astros. Houston is easily the worst team in baseball with a .326 winning percentage. They are even worse at home with a record of 22-49.
Shortly after the All-Star Break, it appeared that the Yankees were destined to miss the playoffs for just the second time since 1995. Injuries to the team’s top stars like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson hampered the offense, making it one of the worst in the MLB.
Recent additions to the Yankees lineup have improved a previously anemic offense. In 25 games, Rodriguez has hit as many home runs as the rest of New York’s third basemen combined. The biggest change in the offense came when the club traded for Alfonso Soriano. While wearing pinstripes, the outfielder has hit 12 home runs in 36 games. Only Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay have hit more homers for the Yankees in 2013.
With the hitting finally improving, New York’s top pitcher will have to step up, as well. C.C. Sabathia has been disappointing all year, pitching to just under a 5.00 ERA. Hiroki Kuroda was one of the best pitchers in the MLB for 4.5 months, but the veteran has struggled of late. He hasn’t had a quality started since Aug. 12. Andy Pettitte has been terrific in the past month, but he’s found it difficult to pitch late into games.
It won’t be easy for the Yankees to make the playoffs. They dug themselves a deep hole and have a few other teams to contend with. However, their chances have increased exponentially in recent weeks, and they remain a threat to make a run to the World Series.