The New York Yankees are returning to the postseason. Sunday afternoon, the Yankees punched their ticket back to October with a walk-off win over the AL East rival Rays. Tampa has already clinched the division title, so the Yankees are locked into one of the two American League wild card spots.
The Boston Red Sox clinched the other wild card spot with a comeback win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday. Boston will host New York at Fenway Park on Tuesday for the AL Wild Card Game. The 2015, 2017, and 2018 Wild Card Games were all played at Yankee Stadium.
Sunday's game was a thrilling pitcher's duel featuring a lot of pitchers. The Yankees started Jameson Taillon, though he was on a limited pitch count given his recent ankle injury. Five relievers kept the Rays off the board until Aaron Judge could drive in the game's only run with a ground ball single.
New York joins the Astros and Dodgers as the only clubs to qualify for the postseason each of the last five seasons. While Houston and Los Angeles have been fixtures atop their divisions, the Yankees have one just one division title during that time (2019), and this will be their fourth ever Wild Card Game (2015, 2017, 2018, 2021). No team has played more.
This was a very up and down season for the Yankees, who alternated stretches of dominance with stretches of incompetence just about all year. Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have been a two-man wrecking crew offensively and the pitching has been very good all season. New York came into Saturday second in the Junior Circuit in both ERA (3.71) and ERA+ (115).
As inconsistent as they've been this year, the Yankees will be a formidable opponent in a short postseason series. Judge and Stanton are at the top of their games, trade deadline additions Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo have added length and balance to the lineup, and others like Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela have been playing their best baseball of the year the last few weeks.
On the mound, the Yankees have a bona fide ace in Gerrit Cole ( ) and a solid collection of starters behind him in Nestor Cortes Jr., Corey Kluber, and Jordan Montgomery. The bullpen right now is as good as it's been all year thanks to Luis Severino and Michael King, who have thrown the ball very well since returning from the injured list.
Simply qualifying for the postseason is not the goal for the Yankees, of course. They came into the season as a World Series contender and are looking to win their first pennant since winning the 2009 World Series. This is Year 5 of the Judge era and New York has come close to a pennant twice (2017 and 2019), but has also suffered some heartbreaking postseason defeats.
Another early postseason exit could spell the end for manager Aaron Boone,. New York does not have many notable free agents (just Kluber, basically), so any sort of roster overhaul would require trades. This could be this group's last chance at a championship together.