Making the playoffs usually is a foregone conclusion for the New York Yankees. But it’s taken until the final weeks of the season for them to actually admit it will likely occur this year.
The Yankees seek a seventh consecutive victory and to increase their AL wild card lead Wednesday when they continue a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
New York (82-62) moved a season-high 20 games over .500 with Tuesday’s 9-2 victory. While New York may see its run of nine straight AL East division titles end - it trails the Boston Red Sox by six games with 18 to play - the Yankees’ four-game lead over reigning AL champion Detroit for the wild card has made them more confident about reaching the postseason for the 13th straight year.
“When you make 20, you have to be seriously considering playing in October,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Right now we have our fate in our hands. If we go out there and keep winning ball games, we’ll be fine.”
Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada homered for New York, with Giambi going deep for the first time since Aug. 26. The slugger hopes it leads for better things to come after hitting .074 (2-for-27) in his previous 10 games.
“That was a big one to get off my back,” Giambi said. “It was exciting. It came in a big situation and I got a big hit.”
Despite not homering for the first time in six games, third baseman Alex Rodriguez did post his seventh consecutive multihit game for New York, and is 15-for-27 (.556) with seven homers, 11 RBIs and 10 runs in that span.
Mike Mussina (8-10, 5.51 ERA) gets an opportunity to show he belongs in the Yankees’ postseason rotation. The veteran right-hander made his first relief appearance of his 17-year career on Sept. 3, allowing three runs and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings after replacing Roger Clemens in a 7-1 defeat to Seattle.
“It’s just fun to go out and pitch again,” said Mussina, who last started Aug. 27 against Detroit. “If I didn’t get in today, I don’t know when I was going to get in.”
He has yet to face the Blue Jays this season, but is 21-11 in 39 career starts against them. Mussina, who has won his last three decisions overall against them, is 8-8 in 21 starts at Toronto, where he has not lost since Aug. 29, 2004.
Toronto (72-72) has dropped four straight, and in danger of falling below .500 for the first time since July 30. This recent slide has left them 10 games behind the Yankees, all but ending their playoff chances.
“Reality does set in sometimes,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “There’s so few games left.”
Dustin McGowan (10-8, 3.90) has won consecutive starts for Toronto, limiting opponents to three runs in 16 innings. The right-hander struck out a career-high 12 Friday at Tampa Bay, yielding just two runs and four hits in a 7-2 victory.
“I felt like I had control of my own pitches,” said McGowan, who hadn’t struck out more than seven in a major league game. “I was able to get ahead most counts and put them away.”
He is 2-0 in as many starts against the Yankees this season, giving up four runs and nine hits in 14 2-3 innings.