Tuesday night the Yankees beat the Rays (NYY 4, TB 1) for their seventh win in their last nine games, improving their record to 75-44. Trade deadline pickup J.A. Happ held Tampa to one hit in seven scoreless innings.
The 75-44 record puts the Yankees on pace for 102 wins, and, amazingly, they are 10 games back in the AL East. The Red Sox are having a historic season and the division race is pretty much over. The current AL East standings:
- Red Sox: 86-35
- Yankees: 75-44 (10 GB)
- Rays: 60-59 (25 GB)
- Blue Jays: 54-65 (31 GB)
- Orioles: 36-84 (49 1/2 GB)
The Orioles were mathematically eliminated in the AL East race last week, if you can believe that. As good as the Yankees have been -- they currently own baseball's second best record -- they are already out of the division race. Getting swept in four games in Fenway Park last weekend more or less crushed any chance New York had at the AL East title.
So, at this point, the Yankees are essentially playing for the top wild card spot. They have a seven-game lead on a wild card spot in general, though it's only a 3 1/2 game lead for the top wild card spot. The Yankees wanted to win the AL East. That won't happen. The next best thing is hosting the AL Wild Card Game in Yankee Stadium.
Who do the Yankees start in that AL Wild Card Game? For months the answer was Luis Severino and very clearly so. Severino has struggled lately though, pitching to a 7.50 ERA with 11 home runs allowed in his last seven starts and 36 innings. Masahiro Tanaka has given up 22 home runs in 19 starts this year and CC Sabathia is currently on the disabled list with a knee problem.
"The Yankees have an issue in a one-gamer," said former Marlins president David Samson on CBS Sports HQ ( ). "Severino can't get anyone out. Tanaka is completely inconsistent. Sabathia can't walk. J.A. Happ is mediocre for me. Good last night against a bad team, but in a one-game playoff, I don't want to see him. So I'm in a straight panic."
Panic is a strong word. It is only Aug. 15, after all. The AL Wild Card Game will be played on Oct. 3. Exactly seven weeks away. That is an eternity in baseball years. Severino could right the ship before then. Sabathia is only expected to miss one start with his knee issue, so he'll be an option as well. Lots can and will change between and then.
"What (GM Brian) Cashman is doing in New York right now, however, they're not worried about the one-game playoff and (who is) going to start. They're not lining it up yet. We didn't line up for wild card until mid-September," Samson added. "What they're trying to do is make sure the game is in New York. They do not want to fly west."
Keep in mind the worst case scenario played out for the Yankees in last year's AL Wild Card Game. Severino started and recorded just one out. The Twins tagged him for three runs and two homers in the first inning. The Yankees were able to lean on their bullpen -- a bullpen that is even deeper and stronger this year -- the rest of the way to win the game.
At this point, it is unclear who would start the AL Wild Card Game for the Yankees because Severino is struggling, Sabathia is injured, Tanaka is inconsistent, and both Happ and Lance Lynn are new to town. This is not a decision that has to be made for several weeks though. The Yankees have time to let things play out, and to see whether Severino gets back on track. If he doesn't, well, then they'll call and audible and figure out what to do.