The Yankees have lost six of eight and finished September just 12-15. Their starting pitchers won just five games over the course of that month. And yet this morning, heading into the final weekend of the season, they’re technically tied for first, and tied for the best record in the American League. The Rays, you see, have dropped four out of five themselves, and last night lost to Zack Greinke and the Royals to fall back into a tie with the idle Yankees.
A tie, in this case, is not really a tie, of course. Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker, so the Yankees will need to finish atop the standings by themselves in order to win the division. And with their magic number at three, the Rays control their own destiny. But all the Yankees need to do now is win one more game than the Rays this weekend. Considering how poorly they’ve played over the past month, it’s amazing that it’s that simple.
The loser gets the 93-win Twins (who got Joe Mauer back last night, but won’t get Justin Morneau back for the ALDS), while the winner gets home-field advantage but also Cliff Lee and the Rangers (who get Josh Hamilton back tonight). Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, and “TBD” will pitch this weekend for the Yankees at Fenway. Meaning that “TBD,” whoever he is (Phil Hughes, perhaps?), may very well take the ball with the division — and perhaps home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs — on the line.