The New York Yankees are rolling right now. They sit on top of the AL Wild Card Standings by two games with five to go and they have Gerrit Cole scheduled to pitch game two against the Toronto Blue Jays. They are currently on a seven-game winning streak, including a crucial sweep of the Boston Red Sox over the weekend and taking game one against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. They have two more games against the Blue Jays before concluding their season with a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, who may have nothing left to play for at that point.
AL Wild Card Game
Unless they suffer a complete meltdown in these last five games, the Yankees are more than likely going to appear in the AL Wild Card Game. The location of the game, as well as their opponent, is yet to be determined. The Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland Athletics are alive and still in the race. The keys to the Yankees’ success in getting them to this point are the same things that are going to determine how deep of a run they can make in the postseason.
After struggling for a large part of this season, the bullpen of the Yankees has been solid down the stretch. Interestingly, they have done it without their best reliever this year in Jonathan Loaisiga, who is out with an injury. The Yankees recently received some pitching reinforcements with the return of Luis Severino and Domingo German. If they can continue to pitch quality innings out of the bullpen, it will be a huge boost to the Yankees’ chances moving forward.
The other major factor is going to be the production of their big bats. Most importantly, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton need to keep hitting. As a tandem, they have been excellent over the last two months and have really carried the offense of the Yankees. Since the beginning of August, the two of them have combined for an incredible 35 home runs and 96 RBI. If they can continue this pace into the month of October, the Yankees have a real shot to beat anyone in the postseason.
The Gerrit Cole Factor
Gerrit Cole is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday night in game two of a three-game set with another Wild Card contender in the Toronto Blue Jays. This means that Cole will be on normal rest and fully ready to go for the AL Wild Card game as long as the Yankees do in fact punch their ticket. Alternatively, if the final game of the season were to be a game that the Yankees needed to win to get into the Wild Card game, then Cole would be available to pitch on short rest. He is no stranger to doing this and has done so before in the past when the situation has called for it.
Having a true ace for the winner take all formats of the Wild Card game is massively important. Situations like these are exactly why the Yankees went out and signed Cole in the first place when he was an available free agent. He is a competitor who always wants the ball in a big spot and has generally delivered stellar results. Last year in the postseason for the Yankees, Cole was excellent. In 18.1 innings he pitched to a 2.95 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with 30 strikeouts against just four walks.
Cole is obviously capable of pitching lights out in big spots. He will have to be as good or better than he was in the postseason last year if the Yankees want to achieve their ultimate goal of a World Series. He will be ready to take the ball for the Wild Card game as long as the Yankees take care of business over the next few days first and clinch their spot. If the offense can score runs with Cole on the mound, the Yankees are in great shape to advance.
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