The New York Yankees had their seven-game winning streak snapped on Sunday when the Oakland Athletics salvaged the final game of their three-game set at Yankee Stadium with a 5-4 win.
The loss did not hurt the New York in the American League East standings, though, because the Baltimore Orioles had their six-game win streak broken with a 2-1 loss at Fenway Park to the Boston Red Sox.
With 10 games left in the regular season, the Yankees are still clinging on to a one-game lead over the Orioles in the division. Baltimore, meanwhile, holds the first wild-card position, one game ahead of the Athletics and 3½ games clear of the Los Angeles Angels.
On paper, it would appear the Yankees are positioned to not only take control of the divisional race, but to also make a late run for the No. 1 seed in the American League. By winning nine of 11 and 12 of 17, New York is 88-64 and trails the Texas Rangers by only two games in the overall AL standings.
Texas has a tough stretch ahead with four games at home against Oakland beginning tonight, three over the weekend in Arlington with the Angels and finishes with three at Oakland to begin next week. The Rangers go into play today with a four-game lead over the Athletics in the AL West.
On the other hand, the Yankees have what appears to be a cakewalk of a schedule the rest of the way with three series—two on the road—with teams that may finish dead last in their respective divisions. The final stretch begins tonight with the opener of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis. Minnesota currently leads the Cleveland Indians by one game in the race to avoid the AL Central basement.
Then it’s on to Toronto for four games Thursday through Sunday. The Blue Jays are 1 ½ games behind the Red Sox and are currently last in the AL East.
Finally, it’s back to the Stadium for the final three games Oct. 1-3 against Boston.
The combined record of the Yankees’ final three opponents is a less-than-robust 199-259. But as the Twins showed on Sunday, records often don’t mean a thing. Minnesota swept a doubleheader in Detroit that the Tigers desperately needed, winning the opener 10-4 and coming back in the nightcap with a 2-1, 10-inning victory that left Detroit one game behind the reeling Chicago White Sox, who have lost five straight after being swept by the Angels in Anaheim this weekend.
Baltimore’s remaining schedule includes four games at home with Toronto, beginning with a doubleheader today, three over the weekend at home with Boston and the final three games next week at Tampa Bay.
Infielder Eric Chavez told ESPNNewYork.com Sunday that it’s still incumbent upon the Yankees to finish strong and that the team can’t afford to take anything for granted at this point:
“You still got to play the games. That’s what (Derek) Jeter always says, ‘You’ve got to play the games.’ But are we supposed to beat the teams we are supposed to beat? Yeah. We need to go ahead and have another good week and try to finish this thing up as good as we can.”
For his part, manager Joe Girardi appeared to be channeling Alabama football coach Nick Saban when he talked to ESPNNewYork.com about the upcoming series in the Twin Cities.
“You are going to Minnesota playing a team that plays the game fundamentally right. You know that. They have some guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. They have some really good hitters. I don’t ever look at a team and say, ‘Their record is not where they thought it would be and it is going to be games that you should win.”
Sure, Joe. Sure. But it’s clear that New York is in a good position to close the season out and wipe away the stink of blowing the 10-game lead it held in July. And, hey, the Yankees might just come out of the deal with home-field advantage to boot.