For six months, the New York Yankees displayed extreme forms of streakiness, taking their fans on a roller coaster of devastating losses along with stretches of standout performances.
It seems appropriate that the Yankees are still unclear of their postseason situation heading into their regular-season finale against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon.
The Yankees (91-70) began this weekend with a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners for the first wild-card spot. After two losses to the Rays, they can clinch a wild-card spot with a win Sunday.
Performances similar to Friday’s 4-3 loss or Saturday’s 12-2 setback will make things murkier for a team that followed up a 13-game winning streak by dropping 15 of 22 contests.
The Yankees are assured of at least a tiebreaker to reach the playoffs but are no longer assured of hosting the wild-card game. To do so, they need a loss by Boston, which is even with the Yankees and also holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Yankees are also one game up on the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s nice knowing that we still have a chance,” New York outfielder Brett Gardner said. “The way the season has gone, it kind of makes sense that it would come down to the very last day. Seems about right.”
Tampa Bay (100-61) is 7-2 this year in New York after tying a season high with 19 hits to reach 100 wins for the first time in team history.
The Rays are also 51-24 against AL East teams this year, including a 26-6 clip since July 29. Tampa Bay also has a few individual milestones on the table for Sunday.
Brandon Lowe is one away from 40 homers and 100 RBIs after he went deep three times and drove in seven runs Saturday.
Nelson Cruz is one away from taking sole possession of 40th on the all-time list with 450 homers to break a tie with Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Jeff Bagwell after he went deep Friday.
Randy Arozarena needs one more steal to reach the 20-20 club after he swiped two bases and had three hits Saturday.
“It’s a huge testament to just everybody that we have in the clubhouse, on the staff, everything,” Lowe said. “You kind of see that in the win column, it’s definitely special and something that we’ll all have for the rest of our lives. But we have a chance for 101, and we’re going to try to do that.”
The Yankees will start Jameson Taillon (8-6, 4.40 ERA) and hope he resembles the pitcher who was 7-0 with a 3.63 ERA in a 15-game unbeaten streak earlier this season. Taillon returned from the injured list Tuesday in Toronto but lasted only 2 1/3 innings before re-injuring his right ankle.
Taillon is 1-2 with a 3.94 ERA in three career starts against Tampa Bay. This year, he is 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in two starts against the Rays.
Michael Wacha (3-3, 5.26), who is coming off five hitless innings, starts for Tampa Bay. Wacha pitched the longest hitless outing of his career in Tuesday’s no-decision at Houston when he struck out six, walked two in a 61-pitch effort.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven career outings against New York and 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four appearances (two starts) against the Yankees this year.
–Field Level Media