Before we dive into this post, let’s be clear. This is by no means a white flag. The Yankees are still shooting for the AL East title, and could very well make another trade before Tuesday’s deadline to increase their chances of a comeback. However, the Yanks entered this weekend 4.5 games back of the Red Sox, and just lost Aaron Judge for at least three weeks. Without Judge and Gary Sanchez for almost all of August, it has now become even tougher for the Yanks to mount a comeback in the division. The Bombers have plenty of games remaining with the Red Sox to make up ground, but should this deficit be too much to overcome, they will have to gear up for another do-or-die situation in the Wild Card Game.
Fortunately for Aaron Boone and the Yankees, there is no team in baseball more equipped to handle a one game playoff, especially after the acquisition of Zach Britton. The Yankees’ bullpen (which leads the league in ERA and strikeouts) is somehow even more loaded now, which plays right into the hand of a winner-take-all situation like the Wild Card Game.
Britton showed his potential and All-Star pedigree with a breezy 1-2-3 inning against the Royals on Thursday night, his first outing in pinstripes. His inning of work included a strikeout and a very economical ten pitches. Britton gives the Yankees more bullpen balance in the form of another southpaw, and also can lighten the load on Aroldis Chapman, who needs to recover from the knee tendinitis that has been bothering him through much of his All-Star season.
To win a Wild Card Game, the biggest necessity is often a deep and effective bullpen. The greatest need for Wild Card success just happens to be the Yankees’ greatest strength. That was clear in last year’s Wild Card Game, when the bullpen put together 8 2⁄3 innings of one run ball, allowing the Yanks’ high-powered offense to bail out Luis Severino and advance to the ALDS. Without bullpen arms like Chad Green escaping a huge jam in the first inning, or David Robertson turning in an impressive 3 1⁄3 innings, the Yankees may not have had the chance to mount their incredible ALDS comeback against Cleveland.
Everyone knows that a one-game playoff is a crapshoot. Baseball is painfully unpredictable, and anything can happen in just one game. Still, should it come to it, Yankee fans can breathe a little easier knowing that their team is more prepared for the challenge than any other in the league. They have the ace in Luis Severino, the big bats to put up runs, and the bullpen that has the ability to shorten a game considerably. The Wild Card Game is far from ideal, but the Yanks have the ideal roster for such a scenario.