As the Yankees push for 100 wins, the mark will likely come up well short of the Red Sox, forcing New York to participate in the Wild Card Game for the second straight season. There are currently three teams -- all in the AL West -- that could be potential opponents. How would the Yankees stack up against the clubs and which team might be the best matchup?
The defending champions are nursing a 2.0 game division lead and -- like the Yankees -- have not been playing great baseball of late. The Astros have been dealing with injuries to Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, just like the Yankees are without Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
The Astros' rotation is not as dominant as it was earlier in the season, but they are still the best collective group in the big leagues. And the bullpen has the majors' top ERA (3.07). However, the Astros' offense is ranked 19th in all of baseball in wRC+ (94) over the last 30 days. Now that Correa is back in the lineup, the club needs to get Altuve back as well in order to try and put some space between them and their AL West counterparts.
The Yankees played a classic series against the Astros in the 2017 ALCS and went 5-2 against Houston in the regular season, so there is that going for New York. The biggest issue the Yankees would have against the Astros is Justin Verlander. He steps up in big games and takes it up another notch against the Yankees. For the Yanks, their starter simply won't match Verlander one-on-one. And that could be a problem.
Baseball's newest darling is making waves as they are closer to the Astros for the AL West lead than they are to the Yankees (3.5 GB) for the top wild card spot. If the upstart A's cannot catch Houston, they seem like a very legitimate force in a one-game playoff.
The A's have one of the more potent offenses in the game, solid starting pitching without a household name in the rotation, and a deep bullpen. They have also won their fair share of close games and done so in amazing fashion at times.
The Yankees, who are 2-1 against the A's this season, might like this matchup better in that they can go toe-to-toe with each aspect of the game (rotation, bullpen and offense) and would not be considered overmatched despite the A's incredible surge. The Yankees would also have a slight advantage in the experience department with several players at least having had a taste of the postseason.
No pun intended, but the Mariners feel like the wild card of the group in terms of chances to reach the postseason.
After James Paxton, who went on the DL Wednesday, the Mariners rotation is certainly no better than the Yankees and that's saying something as it is the Yankees' clear weakness. The Mariners' bullpen features one of he elite closers in the game in Edwin Diaz (1.95 ERA), but his brilliance included, the bullpen's collective ERA stands at 3.91. Regardless, the Mariners' one-two punch of Paxton (if healthy) and Diaz is enough to get the team through a one-game matchup.
The Mariners' offense is just a bit above average according to the team's wRC+ (101) and is led by a collection of veteran players including Robinson Cano (ineligible for postseason play due to his PED suspension), Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager. The club's defense does not grade out well per defensive runs saved (-27 this season; ranked 23rd).
The Mariners would present a problem for the Yankees, similarly to the Astros, in that if Paxton is 100 percent he can dominate any squad and pass the ball to Diaz -- who has been lights out all season. However, if Paxton does not make the start or is not fully up to speed, the Yankees would have an advantage against a team that they are 3-0 against this season.
I feel the Mariners have a lesser chance than Houston or Oakland to reach the postseason.
The interesting aspect here is that the Yankees might well end up with the rematch they wanted in the Astros, but it could be in a one-game scenario instead of an ALCS reboot. That's not something the Yankees should desire, simply from a starting pitching perspective.
Feet to the fire, the Yankees might want to play the A's in a one-game playoff simply because they appear to match up better, mainly because there isn't a dominant starting pitcher to be concerned with. The notion of wanting to face the A's considering the way they are playing might seem outlandish to suggest, but that's how I see it right now.