The New York Yankees are all of a sudden in jeopardy of having to head to the state of Texas to begin the playoffs.
They can ensure they will host the AL wild-card game by winning Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Baltimore Orioles and red-hot Manny Machado.
New York (87-74) is sliding toward the postseason by losing five of six after being swept in Saturday’s doubleheader at Camden Yards.
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The Yankees no longer have any margin for error to host Tuesday’s contest. A loss Sunday and a victory by Houston at Arizona would force New York to go on the road in two different scenarios.
If the Yankees and Astros are tied for the wild-card spots, Houston will host the one-game showdown by virtue of winning the season series. If the Yankees lose Sunday and Houston wins and finishes in a tie for the AL West crown with Texas, those division rivals will play Monday to settle the West and the loser would host New York on Tuesday.
"I think you’d have to have your head in the sand not to know what we need to do," manager Joe Girardi said. "We need to win."
Girardi will start Michael Pineda (12-9, 4.24 ERA) and the manager indicated that his entire bullpen will be available Sunday, though he said he wasn’t sure whether he will use reliever Dellin Betances. The right-hander said he’d be ready.
”If they want me to go, why not?” said Betances, who has made 15 appearances since Sept. 1 and leads all relievers with 84 innings pitched.
Pineda went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA in five outings before allowing seven runs in six innings in Tuesday’s 10-4 home defeat to Boston.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts against Baltimore (80-81) this year, including a career-best, 16-strikeout effort in a 6-2 win May 10.
Machado is 5 for 11 against him this year without going deep.
That could change Sunday since the third baseman is enjoying the best power stretch of his career with homers in four straight games. Machado has connected five times in that span with solo shots in each game Saturday. He has career highs of 35 homers and 86 RBIs.
”We’re just trying to finish the season strong,” Machado said. ”That’s the way we’ve played all season and we’re not going to stop now.”
The Yankees will try to take advantage of Orioles starter Chris Tillman (10-11, 5.05), who is 2-4 in 10 day outings with a 7.80 ERA that is baseball’s second-worst mark in such games. He is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in his last four home starts.
The right-hander has a career 3.14 home ERA against the Yankees compared to a 7.30 mark versus them on the road. Alex Rodriguez is 6 for 12 with four homers off Tillman.
Rodriguez, however, is batting .218 since the All-Star break for one of the league’s worst marks.
He’s got company in that department since Brian McCann is batting an AL-worst .199 since the break and Brett Gardner is second-worst at .210.
Baltimore has won four straight and needs a win to avoid its first losing season since 2011. Chris Davis, who has 45 homers, will try to hold off Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the major league lead in that category.