This weekend’s four-game series in the Bronx could end up playing a major role in the final American League playoff picture. The New York Yankees (52-18) are hosting the Houston Astros (43-26) with a chance to create even more separation atop the 2022 MLB standings.

The Yankees extended their lead over the Astros for the AL’s No. 1 seed to 8.5 games Thursday night. Aaron Judge hit a walk-off RBI single to give New York a 7-6 victory, further solidifying the team’s spot as the best team in baseball.

Despite just over 43% of the 2022 schedule being complete, the Astros appear to be the Yankees’ only real threat to finish with the best AL record. The Toronto Blue Jays (39-30) are third in the overall AL standings, trailing New York by 12.5 games. The Boston Red Sox (39-31) are 13 games behind their rivals.

If the Yankees win three out of four games against the Astros, their lead for home-field advantage in the AL will increase to 9.5 games. A sweep of Houston, though unlikely, would put New York 11.5 games ahead of the Astros.

Falling any further behind the Yankees would make it extremely difficult for the Astros to catch New York by season’s end, given how well the team has played for two and a half months.

The Yankees are on pace to set an MLB record with 120 regular-season wins. New York has a plus-146 run differential, well ahead of Houston’s plus-60 run differential. The Yankees lead the AL in runs scored, OPS, ERA and defensive runs saved.

New York leads MLB with 21 comeback wins and nine walk-off victories. The Yankees are the only major-league team that has a winning record in games during which they were losing at some point.

The Astros have reached the ALCS in five straight seasons with a 1-2 record in the World Series during that span. The Astros defeated the Yankees in the ALCS in 2017 and 2019. Houston had home-field advantage in both series and punched their ticket to Fall Classic at home both times.

New York has a 15-game winning streak at home and an overall 30-7 record at Yankee Stadium.

Josh Donaldson New York Yankees
Giancarlo Stanton #27 holds back Josh Donaldson #28 of the New York Yankees after Donaldson's benches-clearing dispute with Yasmani Grandal #24 of the Chicago White Sox during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium on May 21, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Sarah Stier/Getty Images