Posted on September 12, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
When the New York Yankees made a series of trades leading up to the August 1 trade deadline that gave a massive boost to the team’s farm system at the expense of the major league roster, the thought of reaching the postseason seemed laughable. Yet, with three weeks left in the season, the Bronx Bombers are just two games out of a wild card spot and four games behind the Boston Red Sox, who currently lead the AL West.
The caveat to New York’s unlikely playoff hopes is that the Yankees will play a difficult schedule over the final three weeks of the season, a schedule that will undoubtedly challenge a team that saw its seven-game winning streak snapped on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees will play 17 of their final 20 games against teams that would be in the postseason if the season ended today. However, the Yankees are looking at their remaining schedule less like a challenge and more like an opportunity, as it will give them the chance to control their destiny and earn their way into the 2016 postseason.
“As I’ve said, everything’s in front of us, and it still is because we have so many games in our division,” said manager Joe Girardi over the week. “And it’s the teams we’re chasing.” The Yankees have seven games left with the division leading Red Sox, as well as four games with the Toronto Blue Jays and three with the Baltimore Orioles, the two teams currently tied for the two wild card spots in the American League.
The remaining schedule for the Yankees begins Monday night with a three-game series against the NL West leading Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that also has a lot on the line over the final three weeks of the season. After those three games with the Dodgers, the Yankees play every game against a divisional opponent. It’s pertinent to note that the Yankees are three games under .500 against AL East opponents this year, but most of those games were not played with the current team that’s composed of young players who have helped to bring the Yankees back into contention.
The energy and spirit those young players have brought to the Bronx have the Yankees believing anything is possible. “I love the way we’re playing. I love the way guys are competing. We’re getting contributions from everybody,” said third baseman Chase Headley after Sunday’s loss.
Headley adds that the difficult schedule ahead does give them the opportunity to play their way into the postseason. “The teams we’re trying to catch, we’re playing,” he said. “You either look at it like, ‘Hey, these are tough teams and we have a tough road.’ Or you look at it like an opportunity to play those guys. I think that’s the way we’ve looked at it. We’re confident we can go out and beat anybody playing the way we are now. It’s not going to be easy. But I’d rather be playing the guys we need to pass than hoping somebody else can beat them.”
Headley is correct to say that it won’t be easy, but the Yankees definitely have a chance to reach the postseason with three weeks to play, which is something few would have predicted six weeks ago. The odds remain stacked against the Yankees, but their young team looks ready and willing to fight for a postseason spot. If nothing else, it’ll be fascinating to watch how things play out over the next three weeks.