Opposite dugout: Yanks look to nail down home field in wild card game

yankees-logo.jpgManager: Aaron Boone (1st season

Record: 93-59

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: DH Giancarlo Stanton (35 HR, 93 RBIs), RF Aaron Judge (.279/.391/.534 with 26 HR), 3B Miguel Andújar (.295/.329/.520 with 84 RBIs), SS Didi Gregorius (84 RBIs, 10 SB), LHP CC Sabathia (3.80 ERA), LHP Aroldis Chapman (31 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 10-6

Pitching probables:

Sept. 21: RHP Yefry Ramírez (1-6) vs. LHP CC Sabathia (7-7), 7:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 22: RHP David Hess (3-10) vs. TBA, 4:05 p.m., MASN
Sept. 23: TBA vs. TBA, 1:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Yankees:

Mathmatically eliminated from contention for the American League East title in last night’s loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees now have but one task: hold on to the No. 1 wild card spot so that they can host the Athletics in the play-in game instead of having to travel to Oakland for it. And with their stars back in action and a 1 1/2-game lead over the A’s with 10 games left in the regular season - the next three of them against the historically bad and now rebuilding Orioles - the Bronx Bombers are in the pilot’s seat. However, apart from taking two out of three from the Red Sox this week, they’ve underperformed lately, and will need to get airborne if they’re to make a playoff run.

Back for just a week since he completed a seven-week stay on the disabled list with a wrist fracture, right fielder Aaron Judge is still trying to find his stroke. He’s 1-for-12 in four games. Another recent returnee, shortstop Didi Gregorius, has fared better, knocking four home runs since the end of his second stint on the DL two weeks ago. Gregorious, center fielder Aaron Hicks (.244/.364/.452) and the left field platoon of Brett Gardner (.237/.323/.366) and Andrew McCutchen (.254/.367/.425) each can steal a base, giving the Yanks a dimension beyond their well-known power game. Catcher Gary Sánchez (.184/.287/.398) missed all of August with a groin strain. He has not in 2018 come close to the impressive production at the plate he displayed the previous two seasons, and his year hasn’t improved since he came off the disabled list. Designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton had been having a lackluster month until yesterday, when he blasted a grand slam off Red Sox reliever Heath Hembree, just his second homer in September. Miguel Andújar, who is just 23, hits for both average and for power (25 homers). He and Gregorious are tied for second on the club in RBIs behind Stanton. Burly first baseman Luke Voit (.306/.385/.630) has bounced between the Yankees and their triple-A team in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but being traded in late July by the Cardinals - for whom he hit just .180 this season - seems to have done him good, and he’s been turning heads with his power.

Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia starts tonight for the Yanks. The Blue Jays bounced Sabathia early in his last start, scoring five runs on seven hits, including three homers. He’s pitched to a 9.28 ERA over his last three starts. He’s had trouble with the Orioles this year, too, going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA. The Yankees have not listed starters for the final two games of the series, as they tinker with the rotation to get a starting pitcher lined up for the all-important wild card game.

While the starting rotation has been a sore spot for the Yankees at times, their bullpen, already strong before general manager Brian Cashman shored it up with trades, is as formidable as any in the baseball. The Yankees relief corps’ 3.30 ERA trails only that of the Astros ‘pen. Middle relievers Chad Green (2.64), Jonathan Holder (3.02) and David Robertson (2.81) hold the line before Zach Britton (3.38) (who seems to have settled down since he blew a couple of saves after the Orioles traded him away), Dellin Betances (2.73) and fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman (2.64) come in to shut the door. Chapman is just back from a stay on the disabled list. His left knee has been giving him trouble for much of the year.

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