The Yankees are sitting two and a half games up in the wild card standings over the Oakland A’s for home field advantage, and it looks like they may be ready to start getting their ducks in a row for the one-game showdown.
At this point, it is almost a given that the two teams will square off against each other for the right to advance in the playoffs, barring a near historic collapse. For the Yankees, preparing for Oakland begins now, as every win, — or Oakland loss — brings them closer to playing in the Bronx.
The other aspect of preparing for play against Oakland is figuring out what kind of team they can field to beat the A’s. With Aroldis Chapman back off the DL and claiming he feels excellent, per NJ Advance Media, the Yankees can largely sort out their bullpen. Chapman will close with David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Zach Britton acting as the primary bridge between the 6th and the 9th inning. Justus Sheffield will likely get opportunities if a starter is knocked out early and there is a need for someone to go multiple innings, but he could also find a role as a specialist to get one out.
The Yankees have reinstated Aroldis Chapman from the disabled list. pic.twitter.com/QI5ezZHMYm
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 19, 2018
With Aaron Judge returning from his injury, the outfield should be settled. Judge should be manning right field until the season ends, with Aaron Hicks taking charge in center. Left field is still a point of contention, but it appears as if the newly acquired Andrew McCutchen will be the everyday player now, with fan favorite Brett Gardner working off the bench as the fourth outfielder. This could change slightly if Giancarlo Stanton shifts back to the outfield so that someone else can DH. Baseball analyst Jim Bowden told NJ Advance Media that he thinks Hicks is the key to the postseason for the Yankees.
“Hicks has been in a slump recently, batting just.130 and going 3-for-23 in his last six games with no extra-base hits and no stolen bases. Sounds to me like statistics that are waiting to be corrected. Hicks can beat you with his range in the outfield, his base running and his power. If he can get hot, he could be crucial to the Yankees’ hopes of hosting the wild card game.”
Aaron Judge Back In Yankees' Lineup For 1st Time Since July https://t.co/R7bb8duyP1
— CBS New York (@CBSNewYork) September 18, 2018
Some have argued that Judge is really the key, as he is offensive insurance if Hicks doesn’t get his bat going soon. How long it could take for Judge — and Chapman — to fire on all cylinders remains to be seen. There is little doubt, however, that having those players available certainly provides manager Aaron Boone with extra flexibility and options.
Boone will need to give his team the best chance possible in order to lock-down the wild card — and to then potentially face Boston in the playoffs.