If they keep up the pace with which they entered Tuesday, the Yankees would win 110 games, the Red Sox 109, the Astros 107 and the Mariners 104. It seems a strong possibility that the A.L. wild-card game could pit a pair of 100-win teams.
“Unless Tampa or the Orioles got crazy and won like 40 in a row, it’s going to be this way with Boston,” said Yankees ace Luis Severino, who is set to face Seattle’s best pitcher, James Paxton, in a series finale this week that may carry some autumn foreshadowing.
“All the past years it’s been like that, and last year. We’re on top, then behind, then we’re back in front. I think it’s going to be decided by the series we have against each other.”
The season ends for the Yankees and Red Sox with a three-game series at Fenway Park. It may take until then to determine who will be forced into the wild-card game.
Since the double wild-card format was adopted in 2012, only once has a wild-card playoff pitted two teams that have won more than 93 games. That was in 2015, when three teams in the National League Central — the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs — had the three best records in baseball. The Cardinals won 100 games, leaving the Pirates, with 98 victories, to host the Cubs, who had 97 wins, in a one-game playoff.
“You don’t want to be in that position, there’s no doubt about that,” said Yankees infielder Neil Walker, who played in three wild-card games with the Pirates and was on the Mets roster for another. Three times his team was shut out — including by the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta in 2015.
“Playing in a one-game series just to get to the division series — it’s a crap shoot,” Walker added. “You’ve played really good baseball for 162 games, and in 163 you kind of get it shoved — that was my experience on three of the four wild-card games. That’s how everybody felt — if you get the opportunity, you don’t want to be in that wild-card game.”
So, as long as the Yankees are being pushed by the Red Sox, they will continue to push back, hoping that if they do have to see the Mariners again, it is not back in the Bronx in early October for one game with their season at stake.