Well folks, we made it. It’s the last day of August, and somehow, by the grace of the baseball gods, we’ve emerged much better off than when we started. Thanks to a miraculous 13-game win streak, the Yankees are now 21 games over .500 and two games up in the Wild Card standings. With a 21-7 record over the course of the month, the Yankees are entering September with a sense of urgency.
In the coming weeks leading up to the postseason, it’s imperative for the team to hold onto the progress they’ve made, and continue to improve in their performance if they want to have any hope of overtaking the Rays in their quest for the pennant. Let’s take a look at the slate they’ll face in season’s final chapter.
The Yankees’ Race to October
Over the course of September, the Yankees will finish off their series against the Angels before returning to New York to take on the Orioles, the Blue Jays, the Mets at Citi Field, and the Twins back in the Bronx. Afterwards, they’ll travel to Baltimore to wrap up their season series with the O’s, and then they’ll come back to Yankee Stadium for six against Cleveland and Texas.
The Rangers series marks the end of a grueling stretch of 20 games in 20 days between Friday, September 3rd, and Wednesday, September 22nd. At the very least, they will find a great opportunity in their games against the O’s to bolster their record, as they are scheduled to face off in two separate three-game sets against the 40-90 Baltimore team.
The Yankees will have a much-appreciated off-day on September 23rd, and then they’ll travel to Fenway Park for three games to conclude their 2021 head-to-head with Boston. Another off-day follows on September 27th, after which they’ll play three in Toronto to end September. The season comes to a close via three games at Yankee Stadium with the AL East-leading Rays from October 1st through the 3rd.
Likewise, their series against the slumping Mets (63-67) and the Rangers, who are securely out of the running with at 46-85, are must-wins if they want to gain ground on the dominating Rays who are currently seven games ahead of the Bombers. While Cleveland’s team will certainly struggle to make up ground as they sit nine games out of the Wild Card spot, New York cannot afford to turn their back on Toronto, who is only four and a half games out and may be able to make a run with a month of excellent play.
Rays, Red Sox, and A’s
As previously mentioned, the Rays have been a force to be reckoned with throughout the entirety of the 2021 season. Even during the Yankees’ 13-game win streak, the Rays have answered in kind with a 20-6 record on the month of August and their own winning streak of seven games in a row. Tampa Bay now sits seven games ahead of New York in the AL East. Their month of September promises to be slightly more challenging, as they will need to fend off the Red Sox for five games and battle against the first-place Astros (79-53).
The Red Sox are in a rather similar situation to the Yankees with regards to their schedule. In addition to five games against the Rays, the Sox will meet the Orioles six times and Mets twice. They’ll also likely be helped by their final series of 2021 — a three-game set against the lowly Nationals, which could help them make up ground late in the Wild Card race. The one major difference between Boston and the Yankees during their last complete month of the season is that the Red Sox will face off against the first-place White Sox, who we can hope will push Boston just a bit farther away in the Wild Card race.
Finally, the Athletics, who finally put an end to the Yankees’ win streak by serving them two straight losses, are also a serious contender for the Wild Card. Only two and a half games back, they have consistently competed as a middle-of-the-road team throughout the month of August. With their toughest opponents in the home stretch being the White Sox for three and the Astros for six, it’s difficult to tell whether they will be able to step up and threaten the Yankees for the Wild Card. The Blue Jays and Mariners are both nipping at Oakland’s heels too, and will have some head-to-head opportunities to cut into their deficit. Still, it would be a mistake to completely count the A’s out.
Despite the fact that there are several teams gunning for a spot in the postseason, the Yankees have a solid shot of at least securing the Wild Card in September. Compared to the Red Sox, Rays, and A’s, their schedule supplies the most opportunities to string together solid wins against some less-than-impressive teams. If they’re able to keep their foot on the pedal as they did in August, they’d maintain that slim chance of catching the Rays. So, not to be that person, but the Yankees need to win. Every game is a big game this month, and we’re going to need see some big hits and clutch hitting from the Bombers to finally put it all together.