The Yankees began the weekend leading the Orioles by one game, and that’s exactly where they are this morning. It was a pretty uneventful weekend, really, if you don’t count the ninth-inning lead they blew on Friday, the Russell Martin walk-off to win that game, the lead they blew in the seven inning on Saturday, the three home runs they allowed in the top of the thirteenth inning of that same game, the four-run rally in the bottom half of that inning to tie the score, the would-be winning runner an inning later missing third base after an Alex Rodriguez single, the actual winning run scoring later in the inning on one of Oakland’s five errors on the weekend, and the missed opportunity for the sweep yesterday, when, after falling behind 3–0 and taking a 4–3 lead, the Yankees allowed runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and couldn’t push across the tying run despite having it in scoring position on two separate occasions. Otherwise, totally uneventful.
Let’s not kid ourselves: This was an ugly weekend of baseball (or at least, it turned into an ugly weekend shortly after CC Sabathia threw the final pitch of his excellent outing Friday night). It was a series victory for the Yankees (who finished their homestand at 7-2), and maybe it’s silly at this critical point in the season to debate the quality of wins, but these weren’t victories that suggest the Yankees are firing on all cylinders as the seasons winds down. They were victories that suggest Yankees fans prepare themselves for a wild final ten days, and, hopefully, more madness once the regular season ends. The American League East race has been historically tight this month, and Baltimore, which won yet another extra-innings game on Saturday, kept pace this weekend. If you’re curious, Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees’ playoff odds (meaning their odds of either winning the East or securing a spot in the scary Wild Card game) at a comfortable 99.4 percent. Their odds to win the division, though, are at a less secure 76.5 percent.
Something to keep in mind, though, even as Baltimore refuses to go away in the divisional race: Texas lost two of three to Seattle this weekend, and have just a two-game lead over the Yankees in the race for the best record in the American League. (So actually, the Yankees aren’t in exactly the same situation they were on Friday: They’re still one game in front of Baltimore, but they gained a game on the Rangers.) And remember, this year, not only does the team with the best record get home-field advantage throughout the A.L. playoffs, they get to face the winner of the Wild Card game, which won’t be rested for the ALDS and might have to use a top starting pitcher just to advance that far. So, with ten days to go, there’s a wide range of outcomes for the Yankees: There’s a very real chance they could end up with the best record in the American League, and a very real chance they could end up playing in the scary one-game Wild Card round. In between, there’s the possibility they could win the division without beating out Texas for the league’s best record — and there’s also that 0.6 percent chance they’ll totally collapse and miss the playoffs entirely.
Next up for the Yankees: the 64-89 Twins, beginning tonight. The Orioles, meanwhile, play Toronto four times over the next three days, including twice today. By this time tomorrow, the Yankees have be anywhere from two and a half games ahead of Baltimore to a half-game behind them. There are just ten games left in the regular season, but this is far from over.