Division Crown No Longer Out of Reach for Surging Yankees

After taking the first two of a three game series against the AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees are just 4.5 games out of first place in the division.

The Yankees barely held onto a 7-6 heat-stopping win over the Blue Jays Tuesday night. They survived a ninth inning meltdown from closer Dellin Betances to put up their second straight victory against the rival Jays. They will go for the sweep Wednesday night at 7:05 pm ET with the newly promoted Bryan Mitchell making his 2016 debut in the Bronx.

Coming into this series, Toronto was 18-7 against New York since last year’s trade deadline. Most of those losses have been crushing blow outs too. The Yankees haven’t looked remotely competitive against the Jays for the last year-plus, so it’s nice to see them finally putting up a fight.

With a win Wednesday, the Yankees could find themselves just as close to first place in the American League East as to the second Wild Card spot. They come into the game 4.5 games out of the division lead and 3.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the Wild Card. 

In either case, New York has three clubs they will need to leap-frog to win a postseason berth. As close as they are in the race, the Yankees remain in fourth place in their division. In the Wild Card race, they are 2.5 games behind the Tigers and 1.5 back from the Astros.

At this point, however, the Yankees may actually have a better chance of taking home the AL East crown than the Wild Card because they have so many games remaining against their division rivals. Aside from a three game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, all of New York’s remaining 25 games are against AL East opponents.

After this series with Toronto, the Yankees still have seven games to play against the Rays, seven against the Red Sox, four against the Blue Jays, and three against the Orioles. That’s an undeniably tough schedule, but it does give New York direct control over whether they make the playoffs in 2016. At the very least, it’s in their hands if they get in. 

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Fresh off his game-saving catch Monday night, leftfielder Brett Gardner told Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media, [The division] is not something we’ve ever given up on, I think.” However, he did point out that the team was “running out of time” if they were going to make a push for first.

Regardless of what happens, the fact that New York is playing meaningful (not to mention fun) games in September is a bonus after selling at the trade deadline. This is a group whose real contention window isn’t really supposed to open until 2018, so any noise they can make down the stretch here is just icing on the cake.

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