Yankees: 3 series that will determine NYY’s playoff fate

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OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 14: Sean Murphy #12 of the Oakland Athletics rounds the base s against the Los Angeles Angels at RingCentral Coliseum on June 14, 2021 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

After the nightmare first half all Yankees fans witnessed — as well as a nightmarish second half that the team has been somehow able to shake off thus far — it’s hard to believe we’re still having a postseason discussion.

The Yanks might not be favored to make the dance, but they’re firmly in the mix, an arm’s length away from A’s, Red Sox, and fearsome Blue Jays.

Do you believe in ’em? Our belief goes as far as the power bats of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo. Can two of the three of them catch fire while we all wait for Anthony Rizzo’s healthy return, Gary Sánchez’s comeback, and Gleyber Torres’ troublesome thumb to heal?

My goodness, this team has been slammed. It’s a wonder they’re still here. They just won two full-on bullpen games, neither by design. Enjoy the journey, we guess.

The Yankees have already battled some fearsome opponents and stretches this season, and luckily, some of their biggest challenges have already been completed. Eight games against the Red Sox in just over a week? Well, it became seven thanks to the rain at Yankee Stadium, but they survived (barely). They don’t have to go back to Tropicana Field in the final two months of the season…at all, which is nice (and ended up winning their final two series there, FWIW).

The nonsense Seattle/Houston swing just before the All-Star Game with a burnt-out bullpen? Took four-of-six, should’ve taken five.

As we see it, the following three series will be the most important ones this team plays for the remainder of the season, and could directly affect their shot at grabbing the last rung of the playoff ladder.

With all due respect to the rest of their opponents, the Yankees will not make the playoffs if they don’t show up in these three key matchups. Luckily, all of them occur slightly down the line, at a point where at least the current batch of COVID IL participants should be activated.

God, what a full-on nightmare this has been. Hey, let’s make the playoffs!

These 3 series will determine the 2021 Yankees’ playoff fate.

1. 4 Games at Oakland, Aug. 26-29

The Yankees never have fun when they travel to the Oakland Coliseum, and wackiness typically follows against an A’s team that loves to take their shots at the big guns.

Of course, this year it’s the Yankees attempting to come from behind and catch the Swingin’ A’s. Slightly different mentality, but Oakland will surely be motivated to protect what’s theirs and catch the jetlagged Yanks (coming off an off day, luckily) at an opportune time.

Remember the dropped Starlin Castro popup game back in 2017, though? Remember the series at the end of 2018 where Luis Severino couldn’t find the plate? This time around, the Yanks can’t afford any of those shenanigans, assuming they’re still an inch or two behind the A’s in the Wild Card standings when they clash.

West coast road sets are always a complete slog. Mix in the fact that this is a four-gamer with direct playoff implications, and you’ve got yourself something worth staying up for (or rage-sleeping through).

The one sliver of good news? Only two late night games; Thursday and Friday at 9:40 EST, Saturday will begin in the late afternoon at 4:07, and Sunday was just moved to ESPN for Sunday Night Baseball. Normal ol’ 7:00 PM EST start, nasty west coast shadows. Game on.