First thing Joe Girardi was asked this afternoon was about how nice it will be to finally have clear playoff picture after tonight’s game.
“Well, we hope we do,” Girardi said. “It would be nice. It’s unusual that you’re at this point in the season and you have no idea where you’re going.”
If the playoff picture is crystal clear, that will mean the Yankees have clinched the division. If it’s still murky, it will mean a one-game tiebreaker in Baltimore. Here are the scenarios.
No scoreboard watching necessary. If the Yankees win tonight, they will clinch the division and home-field advantage through the American League Championship Series. Their first-round opponent would be determined by Friday’s wild card play-in game.
Yankees lose, Orioles lose
This would be the backup plan. As long as the Orioles lose tonight, the Yankees will clinch the American League East regardless of their own outcome. In this scenario, the Yankees’ seed in the postseason would depend on the outcome of the Rangers-Athletics game. If the Rangers win, then the Yankees would be the top seed and play the wild-card winner in the first round. If the Athletics win, then the Yankees would be the No. 2 seed — Oakland has the tiebreaker over the Yankees – and play Detroit in the first round.
Yankees lose, Orioles win
This is the worst-case scenario. If this happens, the Yankees would travel to Baltimore tomorrow for a one-game division tiebreaker. If the Yankees won that game, they would win the division and have either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the playoffs (again, depending on the outcome of the Rangers-Athletics game). If the Yankees lost the tiebreaker, they would become the top wild card team and host the wild card play-in game on Friday.
• Mild lineup shuffle tonight, with Nick Swisher batting fifth and Mark Teixeira sixth. That’s usually been swapped, but Swisher is hot and it’s hard to know what to expect from Teixeira. “It just keeps some space between our left-handers with the two switch-hitters between them, and I love the way Swish is swinging the bat,” Girardi said. “We were fairly consistent when guys are here for a period of time, but when guys aren’t and they’re coming into the lineup, you have to see where people are at. Sometimes you have to shuffle things around, but it’s nice to be getting all our pieces back where we have our switch hitters and we can break up the lefties. That’s a good thing.”
• Girardi said he remains committed to keeping Alex Rodriguez in the No. 3 spot. “He has been getting on base,” Girardi said. “That’s important in front of Robbie Cano. We want those RBI opportunities, and guys are driving him in. At any point, we know the damage that he can do, so right now, yeah.”
• Today is CC Sabathia’s throw day, but Girardi said Sabathia will not be available out of the bullpen tonight. Starters are occasionally available on their throw day in must-win situations, but that won’t be the case with Sabathia.
• Andy Pettitte remains the scheduled starter for tomorrow if the Yankees do fall into a tiebreaker.
• It’s still uncertain whether Rafael Soriano will be available after his 43-pitch outing last night. Soriano said he would play catch pregame before telling Girardi one way or the other.
• Girardi said he still has no regrets about using Soriano for such an extended appearance last night. “You lose that game last night because he doesn’t pitch the second inning, then you’re playing a possible (extra) playoff game and you end up playing in the wild card game,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot that can go wrong in one game. The one thing that everyone has talked about is how this has given credence to winning your division. We’ve said all along that the one thing that you don’t want to do is get in a one game shootout. Could be a ball lost in the sun, could be a wind blown home run, could be a guy who makes an error who never makes an error. Could be a missed call. Pitcher could be off that day. I think in this situation sometimes you have to ask someone to do a little bit more. You hope that they’re able to bounce back the next day, if he needs a day he needs a day. I think you have to take a little bit more of a risk worrying about today and not focusing on tomorrow or the next day in this situation.”
• Major League Baseball announced that a Thursday tiebreaker would have a 7:10 p.m. first pitch. The American League wild card game will be an 8:37 p.m. start.
Associated Press photos