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It's now or never for 2013 Yankees

The Yankees go into the biggest homestand of the season five games out of the final American League playoff spot.

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees begin a 10-game homestand tonight against the Baltimore Orioles, and they have 29 games remaining on the regular season. Seems simple enough, right? Here are the current standings in the American League East:

AL East Standings

Boston 79 56 .585 0 Lost 1
Tampa Bay 75 57 .568 2.5 Lost 1
Baltimore 71 61 .534 6.5 Won 1
New York 70 63 .526 8 Lost 1
Toronto 60 74 .448 18.5 Won 1

Ouch. It's not, to use one of Michael Kay's favorite words, an insurmountable deficit, but it would take quite a special run to make up seven games in the loss column as well as jump over three teams to win the AL East. So with that in mind, this is the only other avenue to October baseball:

American League Wild Card Standings

Tampa Bay 75 57 .568 - Lost 1
Oakland 75 58 .564 - Lost 1
Baltimore 71 61 .538 3.5 Won 1
Cleveland 71 62 .534 4 Lost 3
New York 70 63 .526 5 Lost 1
Kansas City 69 64 .519 6 Won 5

Ah, that's better! Well actually, no... it's not. It's still kind of depressing. As we know, MLB Commissioner and revered saint Bud Selig decided that it would be fun to add a second wild card team and have them play in a one-game playoff at the end of the season to get into the Division Series. This was to "create more excitement" in pennant races, which in Selig language translates to "I want more money in my pocket".

However, the second wild card at this point is almost certainly the Yankees' best chance, and it provides the only realistic chance of possibly making a playoff push this September. Oakland finally lost a game to Detroit, and Tampa Bay lost a couple games to the Angels this past week. Now, Oakland and Tampa get to play each other this weekend and beat each other up, so it's a good opportunity for the Yankees to gain some ground. If you want to know which team you should root for... I really don't know. Probably the A's because the Yankees don't get to play them again, and because they have about as easy a September schedule as you can get. But whichever team wins the first game I'll probably root for to sweep.

It is not going to be easy. The Yankees will have to play their best baseball of the season over their final 29 games. They have to pass three teams in front of them in the Wild Card while at the same time holding off the surging Royals. And then, if they're still alive, they have to win a one game do-or-die playoff game and then have to go into the ALDS on the road against whichever team has the best record in the American League.

I'm getting ahead of myself here. Lets look at the Yankees schedule over the final 29 games.

  • 3 games vs. BAL
  • 3 games vs. CWS
  • 4 games vs. BOS
  • 4 games @ BAL
  • 3 games @ BOS
  • 3 games @ TOR
  • 3 games vs. SF
  • 3 games vs. TB
  • 3 games @ HOU
Thats a lot of in division games, and a lot of very important games coming up. Chances are, we'll have a pretty good idea of where this team stands by the time we get to the next scheduled off day. On the season, 17 of the final 29 games are against teams currently ahead of them in the AL East.

And also over the next 17 games, 14 of them are against Baltimore and Boston. I bolded that last sentence, because thats pretty much the season right there. And thats why it's now or never for this team. If they play well in those 14 games and gain some ground, then they may have something to play for over the last 12 games (nine of which are against bad teams). If they go in any kind of a slump against those teams, this season is over and maybe Joe Girardi will give Mariano Rivera his inning in center field.

Those are good teams they'll be playing, and this is in no way easy or likely. But it also is in the Yankees hands, and it can be done. Why do we know it can be done? Well first, because it's baseball, and you can't predict baseball, and anything can happen in baseball. Thats what makes the September pennant races so enjoyable. And then the second reason is, it's been done before. By both the Yankees themselves, and in recent memory.... quite often actually in the last bunch of years.

The 2007 Philadelphia Phillies, the 2007 Colorado Rockies, the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers, the 2009 Minnesota Twins, the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, etc. There might be some teams I forgot, but every one of those teams faced as big a deficit as the Yankees do right now or bigger at this stage in the season. All of them made the postseason (Twins actually won their division). Two of those teams ended up in the World Series. One of those teams won the World Series. And thats a good handful of teams over the last few years.

Over the last six seasons, the average number of wins for the AL Wild Card team is slightly under 94 wins. Since most of those years are with only one wild card team, it's probably safe to assume that number will be slightly lower. So lets say that 92 wins for this team will do it. That would require the Yankees to go 22-7 over their final 29 games. That's about .750 baseball. Joe Girardi talks about winning series. If the Yankees simply won every series for the rest of the season, they would win 90 games on the season. That might be enough, but it also might not. We'll see.

So yes, the 2013 New York Yankees, with all their injuries and distractions and whatever you want to call it, are still in the pennant race. They are still in postseason contention. But they also have their backs completely against the wall and cannot afford even the smallest slip up. The Yankees are the healthiest they have been this entire season, and recently (before this last road trip) have shown they are capable of playing at the level needed to make this kind of a run. Now they need to make that run again, and it needs to last the rest of the season. It needs to start with CC Sabathia against the Orioles tonight.

Is it easy? No. But it's doable and they have a shot at it. And with the 2013 Yankees, the fact that we can say that going into September is a positive in itself.