The Yankees have just six games left on their regular season schedule before the postseason begins with the Wild Card Round. If things were to end on Tuesday, the Yankees would be facing off against the Minnesota Twins in the best-of-three series.
At Target Field in Minneapolis.
That is why in these last few games the Yankees are gunning for that fourth seed in the American League, which is the last team that earns home-field advantage in the Wild Card Round. Of course, the AL East division title is still in reach, but it is a pretty tough task to pick up 4.5 games with six left to go. The fourth seed is the more realistic goal.
Home-field advantage will only be felt by eight teams, four in each league, during this postseason. The new playoff bubble format will have teams stationed in San Diego, Los Angeles, Arlington and Houston where they will remain until the World Series in Arlington.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone speaks for his team when he said on Tuesday that he would love to have that home field. But at what cost?
“You’ve got to be able to strike that balance, so you got to line up your pitching to a degree, and the most important thing is that we’re healthy,” he said. “That being said, we want to try to win out here and put ourselves in a position to play at home. Obviously, [we] feel an advantage when we play at home and love playing in our ballpark.”
Injuries have decimated this Yankees lineup in the shortened season and is a big reason why they lost that top slot in the AL East to begin with. Players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela recently returned from the IL, so the last thing Boone wants to do is stretch him out over these next few games with the potential they get hurt before the real, high pressure contests begin.
But then again, do you want to play a Twins team that is 21-5 at home this season compared to 12-17 on the road? The Yankees have been able to handle the Twins in the past couple of postseason matchups they’ve battled through. Looking at those matchups, though, the Yankees were the ones with home-field advantage – the AL Wild Card Game in 2017 and ALDS in 2019.
With the tides reversed, who knows what to expect?
Looking at both team’s schedules, the Yankees need to capture some wins over these next three games with the Toronto Blue Jays – who also sit just three games back of their fifth seed in the AL. Gerrit Cole on the mound Tuesday is a great opportunity to do so.
The Twins, on the other hand, have an easier opponent in the Detroit Tigers, who they play their next two games against. But the kicker is opponent strength switches in the final series of the season for both teams. Minnesota faces off against an NL playoff team: the Cincinnati Reds. The Yankees will play the Miami Marlins, another playoff team but an easier one to handle.
A lot can happen seeding-wise over this final stretch, and the Yankees would obviously love for that to work in their favor. Home-field advantage, though just for the first series, would still be crucial. Having those short porches at Yankee Stadium always come in handy compared to a deeper Target Field, for instance.
But once again, Boone’s top priority is making sure that his team is healthy when postseason play begins – as it should be. So the Yankees will remain competitive, but not to the point of wiping players out before the playoffs.
“If we’re going to be champs, we’re going to have to win a lot of games away from home,” Boone said. “So wherever we end up playing, I expect us to go out and play well and the same will be said for those guys in there.
“We’re going to try to win these games to give us that [home field] opportunity, but not at the expense of any of our main guy’s health.”