New York Yankees: What to Expect This Week Heading Towards the Postseason
All right, after 159 games, here's what we know about the Yankees.
After Sunday's 9-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees are 92-67 and are in first place of the A.L. East.
With that win and a Los Angeles Angels loss, the Yankees clinched a berth into the postseason for 2012.
The Yankees will play their final three games of the regular season against the Boston Red Sox, who have lost five in a row and currently are in last place.
However, the Yankees aren't alone in first place.
The Baltimore Orioles are also 92-67 and tied with the Yankees in first place in the A.L. East.
The Orioles will play their final series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
What should we expect in this final week of the regular season as the Yankees look to secure the A.L. East title for a second straight year and attempt to go for a 28th World Series?
Let's find out.
Yankees-Red Sox Series
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The Yankees will play their final three games of the regular season against Boston.
In the month of September, Boston is 7-19 and are headed for an even worse finish from the year before when they tanked to the point of getting eliminated from the playoffs and got Terry Francona fired from his job.
Bobby Valentine has been no better in his first season and there has been a lot of talk that he may not be back in 2013.
Heading into the series, Boston has lost five in a row, which includes a sweep at the hands of the Orioles.
You would think from the past week, Boston has mailed in their season.
That is why nothing more than a sweep should take place.
The Yankees are the better team who have a purpose, while Boston players are probably scheduling their vacation plans and tee times for golf.
In the season series, the Yankees lead 10-5 and have only lost one series to Boston in 2012.
With Baltimore right on the Yankees heals in the division, the Yankees need to take charge in the next three games and put an end to Boston's misery of a season.
Anything short of a sweep could end up costing the Yankees share of first place.
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While the Yankees and Red Sox will be playing in the Bronx, down in Florida, the Orioles and Rays will be playing in a very meaningful series.
The Orioles need to win every game in order to keep up with the Yankees.
The Rays need to win every game in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Tampa Bay is 88-71 and are three games behind the Orioles and Athletics in the Wild Card race.
They are also tied with the Los Angeles Angels, who have the same exact record at 88-71 and will be playing the Seattle Mariners in their final series.
The fact that Tampa has some hope left in their season and will be looking to play in October will make these three games very tough for the Orioles.
Baltimore is 9-6 against Tampa in 2012 and are heading in having won four in a row.
Down at the Trop, this series will be an early preview of what a playoff series will feel like.
Not only will all eyes from Orioles and Rays fans be on this series, but the same from Yankees, Angels and A's fans, as well.
The Potential Tiebreaker Game
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There's a very good chance that when the final three games for the Yankees and Orioles are all set and done, they could both be tied.
And if that's the case, they will have a one-game playoff to decide the division winner, which would be held at Camden Yards.
That game would be played on Thursday night and the winner would get the A.L. East title, while the loser would play the other winner of the A.L. Wild Card.
Does anyone envision the 1978 one-game playoff at Fenway Park? Because I do.
For those who don't know, the Yankees and Red Sox ended the 1978 regular season tied for the division and played a 163rd game, which was held in Boston.
For many die-hard Boston fans, Bucky "bleepin" Dent will always be a bad memory of that game as the Yankees ended Boston's season by beating them and moving on to the playoffs.
Do the Yankees really want a one-game playoff against Baltimore to decide if they get a guaranteed five-game series in the ALDS, or get to play in a one-game playoff to advance to the ALDS?
They probably don't, but there's a good chance that by the end of Wednesday night, both teams could still be tied and playing one more game against each other.
At Camden Yards, the Yankees are 6-3 against the Orioles, but in that kind of game, you can take all the records and throw them out the book, because all that would matter is one game.
Honestly, I don't know how I'd feel going into that kind of game against an Orioles team that has been so resilient all year long.
Predictions for the Final Outcome
All right, how do I think the final three games end for each team?
For the Yankees, I do think they'll sweep the Red Sox because they know what's on the line.
I think they play with a sense of urgency and know they cannot afford to lose a single game, because if they do, they could lose their share of first place.
And if they do, they are stuck in a one-game playoff to win the Wild Card.
The Yankees do not want that scenario at all. They want to go for the division and guarantee that they are playing at least three more games in a series.
For the Orioles, I think Tampa is going to give them a fight for the ages.
Tampa has really good pitching and the Rays are one of those scrappy teams who simply don't lay down; just look at their finish last season by overtaking Boston for the Wild Card.
I see two scenarios of how the series ends. Either Baltimore wins two out of three or Tampa Bay wins two out of three.
Which means, if that happens and the Yankees do sweep Boston, the Yankees win the A.L. East and Baltimore would play the other Wild Card team, which right now is Oakland.
I think the Yankees are just going to get by Baltimore and end up winning the division.
But the Orioles will in no way make it easy on them, which I think is good.
The Yankees need to earn their spot for October and not coast in.
The Yankees need to sweat and grind out every single win and go in with momentum.
After that, it's the postseason, and it's a brand-new ball game for everybody.
Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.