Yankees Clinch Playoff Berth with Win vs. Orioles

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2018

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 15:  Giancarlo Stanton #27 and Didi Gregorius #18 of the New York Yankees celebrate a home run by Gregorius in the 3rd inning in an MLB baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 15, 2018 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees won 5-0. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Despite some second-half struggles, the New York Yankees are headed back to the postseason following a 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles in 11 innings Saturday.

The Yankees celebrated the playoff berth on Twitter:

New York's clinching win came in dramatic fashion, as outfielder Aaron Hicks scored shortstop Didi Gregorius on a walk-off RBI double.

While the Boston Red Sox beat the Yanks 11-6 on Thursday to clinch the AL East crown, Saturday's win guarantees that New York will play in the American League Wild Card Game.

It has yet to be determined who the Yankees will face in that game and where it will take place, but they currently own a two-game lead over the Oakland Athletics, who lead the Tampa Bay Rays by seven games for the second wild-card spot.

The Bronx Bombers started the season scalding hot and entered the All-Star break a sterling 62-33 thanks to a power-packed lineup headlined by 2017 American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge and 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton

During that stretch, the Yankees ranked third among all MLB teams in runs scored (493), first in home runs (161) and tops in slugging percentage (.463) as youngsters Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres made leaps ahead of schedule. 

However, New York's torrent pace didn't last forever. 

The Yankees closed out July an unremarkable 15-10, and they finished just four games above .500 (17-13) in August as the Red Sox ran away with the American League East. Not surprisingly, the regression coincided with Judge's trip to the disabled list because of a chip fracture in his right wrist. 

Plus, the Yankees' starting rotation hasn't been able to pull its weight with a cumulative ERA of 4.05 that ranks 15th among all Major League clubs. 

Most notably, that figure has been hurt by Luis Severino's backslide over the past few months.

Although Severino earned his second straight All-Star nod by posting a 2.31 ERA and 14-2 record before the Midsummer Classic, he has largely been a liability since. Over 11 second-half starts, the 24-year-old is 4-6 with a 5.74 ERA. 

Once considered the Yankees' most reliable and overpowering ace, Severino now looks like a dicey starting option in a do-or-die wild card setting. 

The same can't be said of Masahiro Tanaka, who has been one of the Yankees' few bright spots entering the home stretch with a 2.62 ERA across 11 second-half starts. 

Don't be surprised if Tanaka takes the hill when October rolls around as the Yankees hope to extend their playoff lives and make a second straight trip to the ALDS. 

While New York still needs to lock in the No. 1 wild-card spot to ensure a home game in the wild-card round, it can now start looking ahead with the intention of setting up its rotation and resting its bullpen in anticipation of the win-or-go-home contest.

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