ARLINGTON, Texas — By losing two straight to the Rays to start the week, the Yankees all but assured themselves an American League Division Series date with the Twins as the AL’s No. 2 seed.
And, though no one with the organization would ever say so out loud, there are worse fates.
The Yankees, off Thursday before starting a three-game regular-season-ending series against the Rangers to close out Globe Life Park, would be relegated to the second seed if the Astros beat the Angels late Thursday night. But, with a magic number of one, only the unforeseen will keep Houston from grabbing the top seed.
Which means several things.
While the Astros would enjoy homefield advantage against the Yankees if the teams meet in the ALCS, the former just might have the more difficult first-round matchup to get there.
As the No. 1 seed, Houston would get the winner of the AL wild-card game, which will be one of three teams — the Indians, A’s or Rays.
The Rays’ pitching is collectively as good as anyone’s and completely shut down the Yankees Tuesday and Wednesday (they were one-hit Wednesday in a 4-0 loss).
The Yankees have owned the A’s in the postseason the last 20 years, including in last year’s wild-card game. But the A’s have been scary good the second half (44-22 entering Thursday), and the Yankees have been brutal at the Oakland Coliseum this decade (7-17 there since 2013, including a sweep this season).
The danger of a battle-tested Cleveland team managed by Terry Francona, should it get in, speaks for itself.
Well, no Yankees fan, or Twins fan for that matter, needs a primer on the recent history between the clubs, history that will once again undergo a thorough examination before Game 1 at the Stadium Oct. 4.
In short, the Twins, a franchise with its own proud history, has been nothing short of abysmal against the Yankees the last 17 years.
Minnesota has lost 13 straight consecutive postseason games overall, with 10 of those coming against the Yankees. The most recent was the 2017 wild-card game, an 8-4 Yankees victory.
Counting the postseason, the Yankees are an astounding 99-37 vs. the Twins since 2002, winning, naturally, the season series this year, 4-2.
Still, a familiar narrative will accompany the lead-up to the series: that it will be different with this year’s Twins, who on the surface are formidable. Under first-year manager Rocco Baldelli, they’re 99-60 after beating the Tigers Thursday afternoon, hitting two more homers to up their regular-season record to 301 (the Yankees are at 299).
“They’re a beast,” Aaron Boone said of the Twins. “Obviously, we played a pretty epic series with them [in July].”
That was July 22-24 at Target Field when the Yankees, in taking two of three, outscored the Twins, 30-27, and hit eight homers to Minnesota’s 12.
“We know how dangerous they are,” Boone said before making sure to cover all of his bases for prospective playoff teams. “I look at everyone that’s in this playoff mix as very real, very scary and capable of beating anyone. So, we know it’s going to be a challenge, whoever it is that we end up playing and we look forward to that.”
The Yankees have lost five of their last nine going into this weekend, where the focus will be on staying healthy, getting healthy — Gary Sanchez and Edwin Encarnacion are expected back — and determining bullpen spots and roles .
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, speaking to The Associated Press Thursday at the minor league complex in Tampa after an instructional league game, praised Boone for the Yankees’ performance despite putting a record 30 players on the injured list.
"The team just stayed positive and somebody else came up to fill in a void and guys took advantage of opportunities that they knew they might otherwise not have," Steinbrenner said. “You couldn’t ask for more. It's a tremendous story, but we've got to see it through.”
He called the Yankees lineup “fearsome.”
“We've got,” Steinbrenner said, “as good a chance as anybody."