ESNY’s State of the New York Yankees: Sprint to the finish

The New York Yankees have plenty of momentum heading into the final week of the 2021 regular season.

Josh Benjamin

Josh Benjamin

CUE THE MUSIC!

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New York is alive. The Bronx might not be burning, but it’s certainly got a similar energy. The Tampa Bay Rays may be the 2021 AL East champs, but not even that can bother a New Yorker who bleeds pinstripes.

We’ve got business to tend to, so I’ll keep it short. This time last week, the New York Yankees had just lost two of three to the Cleveland Indians, and badly. They had stumbled out of a Wild Card spot and needed, basically, a perfect week to right the ship.

Enter the last place Texas Rangers. They got swept out of the Bronx.

Cut to the pesky, disgusting, ever-irritating and forever despicable Boston Red Sox. The New York Yankees swept them too, and at Fenway Park. And here I was thinking the new Cowboy Bebop sneak peek would rule the weekend. Boy, was I happy to be wrong in this case!

But there’s no time to follow the song’s lead and jump up and down in happiness. No, not for long.

It’s the last week of the regular season and the Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a single game. The Boston Red Sox own the second berth, but with a one-game lead of their own.

Everything is set up for a photo finish, and the New York Yankees control their destiny.

O boy, Canada…

Any other week, this might be garbage time for the Yankees. A late-season trip to the Great White North just as a courtesy goodbye to the Toronto Blue Jays at the end of the season. Tim Horton’s in the morning, Molson and poutine after the game. The leaves look pretty along with Lake Ontario, basking in the shadow of the CN Tower, and everyone’s happy.

Nope. Not this time, hosers. We’re subbing out Rush for Metallica and preparing for these next three days to be long and hard. You know, just like a sequel to Canadian Bacon would be nearly 30 years after John Candy’s death.

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That’s because starting today, the New York Yankees should be out for revenge. The Blue Jays swept them across four games in the Bronx last time the two met. At no point in the series did New York ever lead a game. That’s not just a bad series, but downright embarrassing.

Toronto ranks third in runs scored, first in home runs, and second in team batting average with a mark of .265. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would probably be a unanimous MVP if Shohei Ohtani weren’t a two-way sensation. Robbie Ray faces the Yankees on Thursday and could very well win the AL Cy Young.

This time, the New York Yankees have no choice but to humble the Blue Jays and remind them who runs this game.

The war at home

While the Blue Jays series is not a full must-win, it might as well be. The Yankees have to make up for that forgettable four-game series, when they could have literally buried Toronto and made this upcoming three-game set moot. Yet, New York cannot afford to lose any momentum.

The last regular season series is three games with the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Consider this the final phase of, as we aptly dubbed it early in the season, The Florida Project. But this isn’t about adjusting to playing well in unforgiving Tropicana Field.

Rather, this is about a clean sweep to finish the season. Were it not for the lineup being so damn streaky, maybe these Yankees would be the AL East champs, or at least in the hunt for it by this point.

Not to mention, even though Tampa Bay has the division crown already, they won’t bench their regulars. These teams don’t like each other. At all. Kevin Cash would love nothing more than to embarrass the New York Yankees out of a playoff spot, and on their home field too.

Well, Kevin, you can try all you want. Try to kick the New York Yankees to the ground one too many times, they keep getting back up. And they’re madder and madder each time.

Do not make these Yankees mad, not after this roller-coaster season. And certainly not after Giancarlo Stanton just hit .583 with three home runs and 10 RBI in three games against Boston.

Final Thoughts

Ladies and gentlemen, the late, great Tony “Duke” Evers.

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