Yes, this list easily could’ve been 20 Blue Jays long, but we’re classier than that.
While Toronto seems most uniquely prepared to knock the Yankees out of the postseason race — as they’ve been begging them to for several weeks now — there are several teams bunched up atop the standings, and it might take the full breadth of the regular season to sort this out.
The Jays are in flames. The Red Sox alternate clutchness with devastation, but their schedule’s not going to allow them to go anywhere. Seattle and Oakland are lurking out west. And the Yanks can’t seem to handle the Orioles the way everyone else does, so yes, we have to throw them in here, too.
New York’s road series in Boston and Toronto at the end of the month might be the most determinative ones along their playoff track, but there are a few individual players catching fire at the best (or worst) possible time who might just sting the Yankees all by themselves.
Aaron Judge proved on Saturday night that he might just put the Bombers on his back and facilitate a path to October. But he’s not alone.
Both the Jays and Red Sox have specific advantages now they definitely didn’t earlier in the season, and the Orioles — despite their pitching performances against Toronto — can’t be discounted as a thorn.
After all, the offense has continued punching back, and nearly stole both games of Saturday’s doubleheader.
We know it takes a lot of energy to keep your eyes on our team, but Yankee fans should also be worried about these three rival players down the stretch.
Yankees fans should be worried about these 3 red-hot rivals.
3. Ryan Mountcastle/Anthony Santander
Why are we writing about the Baltimore Orioles? Because they’ve had the Yankees’ “number” (relatively speaking) all year long, and though their pitching has been particularly weak in recent days, their bats have woken up after returning home to Camden Yards.
And, again, nobody tames themselves like the Yankees lineup when faced with an all-out random Orioles pitcher. You just can’t count on a blowout. We’re not Toronto.
That means it’s time to worry about Ryan Mountcastle, who just equaled Cal Ripken Jr.’s Orioles rookie home run record, as well as Anthony Santander, who’s gotten back in sync just in time to slice up the Blue Jays from both sides of the plate.
Mountcastle, still just 24, terrorized the Yankees in 2020, and has hit .276 with five homers in his past 15 games. He possesses an effortlessly sweet swing, and it’s in rhythm right now.
Meanwhile, Santander will hope to manifest his hot bat this week, with one more chance left on the board to keep the Yanks out of October. Rest assured, this three-game set in Baltimore is going to be annoying.
In his past seven games, the 26-year-old Santander is hitting .348 with a pair of homers. An All-Star-level bat in 2020, the youngster has rediscovered his juice for the stretch run … just in time to hit the Yanks where it hurts.
If New York has any hope of holding off Toronto and catching the Red Sox, this final Baltimore series had better go smoothly. No promises. The two teams’ battles have been annoying enough in 2021 for us to finally call the Orioles a “rival” again.