The New York Yankees’ division lead isn’t stable, per se — in fact, they’re only three games up in the loss column entering a three-game home series with Tampa — but the Bombers were at least able to maintain things after giving their season a tourniquet with Sunday’s win at The Trop.
If the Yanks had lost that Clay Holmes tightrope game, they would’ve been just three games up and reeling after a sweep. Instead? Five games (four in the loss column) with a Tampa-Toronto five-game marathon slated for this week that will always have both a positive and negative outcome baked in for the Yanks’ playoff chances, no matter what.
Smash cut to the end of another Twins series, and the Yankees (mostly) took care of business. They will now take on the Rays on their home turf with a 4.5-game lead and a magic number of 22 to clinch the AL East.
Ah, 22! The vaunted number of Yankees legends like Roger Clemens … Greg Allen … Jacoby Ellsbury … agh, please make it 20 with a win Friday night, will you?
22 is pretty unsightly.
Yankees playoff odds, magic number entering Rays series
There’s a bit of a debate rolling at the moment about what the Yankees’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth really is. NJ.com’s coverage cites that number as 15, but it currently depends on the distance between the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, the first team out of the newfangled Wild Card picture.
According to MLB.com, the O’s elimination number is 15, but if the Yankees and Orioles end up tied, that’ll be broken by season record between the two teams. New York has already clinched the season series, up 11-5 with three games to go.
That’s led to other outlets reporting the number as 14. Either way, it’s approaching a bit faster than the division crown marker — which is exciting news, if you want to play a best-of-three series on the road to open the postseason.
FanGraphs, which has been realistic about the Yankees’ playoff chances for months, believes the Bombers enter their final series (!) with the Rays with about an 86.8% chance of polishing off the AL East; Tampa is at 6.2% to steal, while Toronto sits at 6.9%.
Add in New York’s supposed 13.2% chance at a Wild Card berth, and FanGraphs still has the Bombers making the playoffs with 100% likelihood with 24 games remaining.
There are plenty of reasons to be cautious here. This isn’t the same Yankees team from May and June trying to protect a 10.5-game lead over the O’s with 24 remaining or a 4.5-game advantage on the division. Most of the lineup isn’t here anymore. Anthony Rizzo isn’t sitting up straight without experiencing headaches. And once they theoretically get to October, there isn’t much to be excited about beyond passing the threshold.
But … still … postseason baseball in the Bronx would be a welcome change from these past few years. The Yankees haven’t had a playoff home game since pre-pandemic. It would be nice to finish the season strong enough to ensure that occurs.