Winning one-run games certainly isn't exclusively a mark of skill for MLB teams. Some of it's absolutely luck. Sometimes, your closer white-knuckles his way to the finish line. Sometimes, the bloops drop in instead.
But ... there is a degree of late-game execution involved. You can make your own luck. You can buckle down and hit through the right side with the ghost runner standing on second in extras. You can put down a well-placed bunt to outsmart and out-hustle your opponent. If you can command your best pitches nine out of 10 times in the ninth inning rather than seven out of 10, you'll have a smoother ride to the finish line.
The 2023 Yankees have rarely made things smooth. Sure, they still carry the best bullpen ERA in baseball, but the overworked unit certainly spent most of the summer in Meltdown Mode (Michael King in Anaheim, Clay Holmes in Miami). And when they reach extra innings on the road, they've almost guaranteed themselves a heartbreaker.
As you'd expect, a redditor's recent exercise to determine what the MLB standings would look like if all one-run games had been reversed in 2023 revealed that the Yankees would be sitting much prettier. They'd gain five wins, placing them in second in the AL East and a fingernail ahead of the Orioles and Red Sox for the third Wild Card spot.
You know what? Don't like seeing the Red Sox that close, either. Why don't we just reverse it again?
Yankees could've been involved in playoff race if one-run games had gone differently
Instead of playing meaningful baseball down the stretch, the Yankees and Red Sox are battling it out to avoid a spot in the AL East basement. If both teams had been able to execute better in tight ones -- and had a higher degree of luck -- this could've been another September classic for nearly all the marbles. All you've got to do is get into the postseason, right?
This version of the rivalry is better for the blood pressure, but worse for baseball.
Of course, the Yankees have many more regrets than just their one-run losses. We catalogued all their unfathomable gags last week, and if they'd been able to hold on in, say, six of these ~30 winnable games, they'd be in the same spot at the edge of the Wild Card race. They can't even play out the string right, either, losing Jasson Dominguez and Jonathan Loaisiga long-term after throwing in the towel. It's been a brutal season, but it's one we have to accept, living in this one-run reality.