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Thoughts before rubber game with Toronto

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The sun came up again this morning, meaning that the Yankees will play their biggest game of the season yet again tonight. Is everyone having fun yet? Stressed out? Just a little bit of nerves for all of you, I’m sure.

The Yankees magic number sits at three entering tonight’s rubber match against the Blue Jays. If they win out, not only will the Bombers clinch, but they’ll also ensure a home game in the Bronx for the Wild Card game. They could still get that without winning the next four games, of course. Here are the current standings:

Seattle eliminated Oakland last night, so the possibility of a five-way tie is no more. There’s still a chance for some madness with three or four-way ties now, and you can see how things could shake out by reading Jay Jaffe’s piece over at FanGraphs from yesterday. My head’s spinning from reading it, so I won’t even try to summarize. Just take a look for yourself. But before you do that, here are some thoughts entering tonight’s game with Toronto:

Game 154: Stanton and Cole lead Yanks to biggest win of year so far

That might be the best Yankees-Red Sox win probability graph I’ve seen. In the most important series of the year, the Yankees showed up to take game one with a commanding 8-3 victory behind a huge game from Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole. He said pressure is a privilege, and he came through tonight with that pressure. The Yankees have won 4 in a row and are now just a game back of the Sox for the first Wild Card spot. To the takeaways:

Game 138: Insult and Injury

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The Yankees lost again, but the big story tonight is Gerrit Cole’s health. He exited this one in the fourth due to hamstring tightness, and though it sounds like he and the team may have dodged a bullet, it was a pretty scary sight to see him depart with the trainer.

Healthy Cole or not, the Yankees weren’t going to win this game with one run. The offense sputtered once again in tonight’s 5-1 loss at the hands of the Blue Jays. That 13 game winning streak seems like a distant memory now that the Yankees have lost 8 of 10 and have the Blue Jays breathing down their neck in the standings, huh? There’s still two more games to play against Toronto this week, but first, let’s get to tonight’s takeaways:

Gerrit Cole exits game with injury

Update, 8:48pm: Exhale, for now. A tight hamstring is much, much better than any sort of arm problem for Gerrit Cole, certainly in terms of long-term injuries. Hard to say if this is a better short-term outcome than a blister or fingernail issue, though. I’m sure we’ll find out more in the postgame press conferences from Aaron Boone and Cole himself.

Game 133: Gerrit Cole Rules

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Gerrit Cole put an end to the Yankees’ losing streak in spectacular fashion, to say the least. Cole delivered a scintillating 15 strikeout performance as the Yankees topped the Angels, 4-1. Wow, what an absolute joy to watch. It’s actually remarkable that the Angels managed to scratch across a run against him in this game.

Performances like tonight are exactly why the Yankees signed Cole to a $324 million contract. He’s paid like an ace and pitches like one. As much as I want to win the division, and as unlikely as that may be because the Rays just won’t lose (except tonight!), I feel pretty darn good about Cole in a do-or-die Wild Card game. I have plenty more to say about Cole’s outing tonight, so without further ado, let’s get to the takeaways:

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