With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the New York Yankees are still holding out hope that they may be able to steal one of the Wild Card spots. If the Yankees are unable to reach the post-season, then perhaps they could ruin the chances of one of the teams that are ahead of them in the standings, preferably one of the teams in their own division.
The Yankees trail the Toronto Blue Jays, who hold the first Wild Card spot, by 3.5 games, and the Baltimore Orioles by only 2.5 games for the final Wild Card spot. But the Yankees would have to leapfrog the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, and the Detroit Tigers in order to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.
Hope Remains for New York Yankees Playoff Berth
The Yankees have eleven games left in the regular season, all of which are against their divisional rivals. After their series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees head to Toronto for a four-game series. Then New York will finish the season with a six-game homestand that begins with a three-game series against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox and finishes against Baltimore. That will also end their season.
Girardi and the Trade Deadline
After a pretty horrendous start to the season, the Yankees find themselves within striking distance of a post-season berth. Much of the credit to for that belongs to the steady leadership of manager Joe Girardi, who’s arguably done the best coaching job of his career and could find himself in contention for Manager of the Year in the American League. Along with Girardi, the Yankees infusion of young talent has helped the club to catapult itself into the position it now finds itself in, and rookie phenom Gary Sanchez has led the way.
At the deadline, when the Yankees traded away elite closer Aroldis Chapman and setup man Andrew Miller, many fans believed that New York’s season was all but over. The Yankees weren’t done dealing with just Chapman and Miller, they also traded starting pitcher Ivan Nova to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nova has become the latest pitcher to leave the pressure of New York and find success playing in a less intense environment. In fact, Nova has been nothing short of brilliant since joining the Pirates, causing Yankee fans to wonder where this pitcher was while he wore pinstripes. To make the “fire sale” complete, the Yankees traded away their most productive hitter, Carlos Beltran, to the Texas Rangers.
The Rise of Gary Sanchez
Then, just over a month ago, when the Yankees were struggling to just stay at .500, they called up prized catcher prospect Gary Sanchez. They mainly hoped to simply see what they had in the kid and get him some experience at the Major League level in preparation for next season.
Little did the Yankees organization know what their young catcher was about to accomplish. The 23-year-old Sanchez belted his first Major League home run on August 10. On September 21, just 42 days later, Sanchez connected for his 18th and 19th home runs.
In Wednesday night’s game at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays, Sanchez’s 18th homer in 45 games, which came in the second inning, set a new MLB record. Then, just four innings later, the Yankees phenom hit his 19th home run of the season, making him the fastest player in MLB history to hit that many home runs in only 45 games.
The second fastest player in MLB history, who Sanchez passed, was Wally Berger, who reached 19 in 57 games back in 1930.
Not only is Sanchez the fastest player to 19 home runs, but he also has 38 RBI in 45 games, which is the fourth most by a Yankee to start their career. The Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio (46), is first, Tony Lazzeri (42) is second, and Joe Gordon (40) is third.
Tanaka Leads the Pitching Staff
Sanchez isn’t the only player on the Yankees roster who is helping the team play themselves into contention. Their pitching has been exceptional in the second half of the season, led by Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese import has become the true ace of the Yankees pitching staff, posting a 14-4 record on the season with an ERA of 3.07. He is 7-0 in his last nine starts. Tanaka’s ERA is the lowest among any qualifying starter in the American League. His 1.06 WHIP is ranked fifth in the league, while his 5.6 WAR is second among all AL pitchers. Tanaka might not receive any votes for the Cy Young Award, but he has definitely put himself in the conversation.
The likelihood of the Yankees making the postseason is slim, simply because they would need a lot of help from other teams. They’d also need to run the table against divisional foes who’ve had more consistent seasons than New York. Even still, hope remains.