Yankees’ end of the regular season checklist

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The Yankees are in the catbird seat with a week to go in the season. No, they may not secure homefield through the postseason, but they’re guaranteed to be home on Oct. 4 to start their playoff run. No regular season game left is a must win, which is neat.

The Bombers still have some business of which to take care in their final five games. Beyond trying to chase down the Astros, they have to figure their final roster, adjust to roles for the postseason and stay fresh all the while. Here’s the checklist for New York the rest of the way.

Chase Homefield, Play Spoiler

The Astros and Yankees have the following schedules ahead of them

Houston: 2G @SEA, 4G @LAA

New York: 2G @TB, 3G @TEX

The Astros (102-54) hold a half game lead over the Yankees (102-55) going into these final games. As a friendly reminder, the Astros have the tiebreaker. That means the Yankees have to lose two fewer games than the Astros the rest of the way.

That’s ultimately unlikely even if the Yankees go full-tilt. The Astros are playing two teams well under .500 and may not even lose two games. Therefore, the Yankees almost certainly have to sweep their final five games to have a chance.

However, the Yankees are also chasing homefield advantage for the World Series. The Dodgers sit at 100-56 with games against the Padres and Giants remaining. By virtue of their series win in Los Angeles, the Yankees have the tiebreak. By finishing with the same record or better than LA, the Pinstripers would be guaranteed to start and end a potential Fall Classic at home.

Lastly, the Bombers can spoil the Rays’ bid to even advance to October. Tampa Bay is tied for the second wild card spot with Cleveland. Win one or two of their pair with the Rays and the Yankees could knock their division mates out of the dance.

Gonna need all this firepower in October. (MLB Gifs)

Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

The Yankees now have a handful of key contributors out for the year with Aaron Hicks and Dellin Betances chief among them. There are only 11 days to get right for ALDS Game 1. Of the walking wounded in the Bronx, there are three players the team needs to get back on the field that could actually return: Gleyber Torres, Edwin Encarnación and Gary Sánchez.

Torres, by all accounts, is fine after his injury scare Friday, but he was out of the lineup for consecutive games this weekend. Just getting him back and fresh over the next five games is a priority.

Encarnación is expected to return in Texas, though he could play in the finale against the Rays, Aaron Boone told reporters. Sánchez has a chance of playing by the end of the Rangers series, but he may have to go into the postseason cold. Not ideal, but he has to remain steadfast in his rehab.

On the stay healthy side, Giancarlo Stanton and Luis Severino looked good in their respective returns this week. The Yankees now have to get Stanton ready for a full game in the field and further stretch out Severino. Do that, and that’s two elite players back.

Adjust to Playoff Roles

Stanton appeared in 36 games in left field last year and has already played eight there this season, including Opening Day. Still, the Yankees can give him more reps as he prepares for his October home.

Meanwhile, Cameron Maybin should probably start another game in center field as he’s the backup there for October. Aaron Judge has all of a few outs of MLB experience in center, so he could handle it in a pinch, but it’s best not to need him. Tyler Wade can handle more outfield reps as well as some pinch running opportunities if he’s going to be a supersub (more on that later).

On the pitching side, CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ figure to pitch out of the postseason bullpen. The plan is for Sabathia to have a scripted start of an inning out of the pen in Tampa, then an unscripted opportunity in Texas. Happ will pitch at some point Wednesday in Tampa, perhaps behind an opener.

Figure out Final Roster Spots

As we’ve detailed in recent weeks, the Yankees have the majority of their postseason roster spots all but decided, provided a few key players are healthy. If Sanchez and Encarnacion are on the roster, there are really only three spots up for grabs, and two of them should be relievers. Here’s a quick rundown of the locks:

Position Players (12): Sánchez, Romine, Voit, Encarnación, LeMahieu, Torres, Gregorius, Urshela, Stanton, Gardner, Judge, Maybin

Pitchers (10): Paxton, Tanaka, Severino, Happ, Sabathia, Ottavino, Kahnle, Britton, Chapman, Green

I’m assuming the Yankees go with 12 pitchers in the Division Series. With two days off in the series, they shouldn’t need more than that. That leaves two spots open for Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Cory Gearrin, Ben Heller and Tyler Lyons, those being the most realistic candidates.

The first three there are the best of those with Loaisiga having the best stuff and looking dominant in two recent low leverage outings. I think Cessa and Loaisiga take the spots, but I’d like to see Gearrin get a chance.

If the last spot goes to a position player, it appears that Wade has the spot. (The Yanks could also eschew Maybin for Wade, but that would be questionable.) Wade can play everywhere on the field outside of pitcher, catcher and first base. He’s the fastest man on the team and would be an excellent pinch runner. Is he needed? No, yet a designated pinch runner likely has more use than another reliever in a short series.

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10 Comments

  1. JG (Ben Francisco)

    I would also add they need to make sure Ottavino gets right.

    • CountryClub

      Looked much sharper in his last outing. Hopefully that continues. I’m more worried about Kahnle.

  2. Regarding Wade, his utilization as a PR is helped by the fact that one of Voit/EE/Urshela will be on the bench everyday. It makes it a little easier to lift EE for a PR even early in the game like the 5th or 6th inning, when you know you can plug in Voit for the next AB in that spot of the lineup.

    I’m hoping Didi’s bat will get going over these last 5 games, there’s more there, and I trust him in the big spots, but I’d like to see some life. That’s my starting SS!

    • Your a Looser Trader FotD

      Yeah, I have to admit I’m more than a little surprised and disappointed that Didi hasn’t hit better.

    • CountryClub

      Didi, Voit and Urshela are all scuffling right now. Need at least one of them to break out.

      • JG (Ben Francisco)

        Voit’s had a recent cold streak but the last few weeks he has been very good.

        • CountryClub

          Just a bad time for a slump (for all of them). We’ve obviously seen them drag into the playoffs with other players. That’s never pretty.

  3. CountryClub

    Man, am I in the minority in not wanting to see Gearrin anywhere near a playoff game? I would much rather see Loaisiga.

    • Steven Tydings

      You’re not. I like Gearrin, but I wouldn’t want any of the relievers outside of their top five guys pitching in high leverage (or CC against a tough lefty). Stick Cessa, Gearrin or Loaisiga in mop up roles to keep the others fresh, but I wouldn’t want to see them in a big spot. If one of them has to be in a big spot, they could use Gearrin against a tough righty, but a full inning out of any of them in a big spot is stretching it.

  4. RetroRob

    Wade seems to have locked down a spot based on his play and how often they’re playing him. They pretty much have to bring Maybin. Can’t risk Gardner going down and then having Judge or Wade take over in CF. Maybin is no longer an even average defender in CF, but he’s passable, and would be better than either Judge or Wade in that situation.

    Cessa has a spot locked in now. The last bullpen spot goes to Loaisiga or Gearrin, I really don’t see them carrying another lefty, especially with both CC and Happ out in the pen. We may get a clue on how Loaisiga and Gearrin are used the last five games. Loaisiga has looked great of late, but they’ve yet to put him in a high-leverage situation. All blow outs. If they really believe he’s a weapon, shouldn’t they be seeing how he does in high-leverage situations now? If they don’t change that, my guess is it will be Gearrin, If we see Loaisiga brought into some tight situations the next few games and he does his job, he probably makes is.

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