The Yankees just lost two of three in Toronto to the first place Blue Jays putting the Yanks three back in losses with 11 games remaining, none against Toronto. The division title is very unlikely. The Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins both have five more losses than the Yankees, the Angels six more, and none are likely to even tie the Yanks.
So the Yankees are likely to qualify for the tournament as at least the second wild card team and be safe from:
Tie for first might be worse than wild card. Thursday, September 17, 2015
The New York Yankees are three games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays in the American Conference (AC) Eastern division ... The Blue Jays have already won the season series with 11 wins and 5 losses against the Yankees, so a tiebreaker game between them would be played in Toronto on Monday Oct. 5.
The Yankees regular season ends with a 3:05 PM start on Sunday Oct. 4 in Baltimore, so they would need to travel to Toronto to play the next day...
... the loser of such a tiebreaker game would need to play the wild card the next day. Then if that team won the wild card game, play first round games Thursday, Friday and Sunday: Oct. 8,9,11...
If Toronto has David Price set to start the tiebreaker game against a Yankee starter other than Tanaka, the Yankees might be better off dumping that game and having Tanaka rested for the wild card game. This could get ugly.
Let's put that nasty scenario aside. Masahiro Tanaka currently has a minor injury, which prevented him from pitching in Toronto. Let's assume that Tanaka is the best Yankee starting pitcher and that Micheal Pineda is the second best. How hard should the Yankees try to secure that first wildcard? Since the Yanks finish in Baltimore the team would need too travel at least back to New York to host the second wildcard team two days after the end of the regular season.
A tie for the second wildcard spot is possible among the Astros, Twins and Angels. If so, they would play the dreaded tiebreaker game on the day between the end of the regular season and the wildcard game in Yankee Stadium. In other words, whatever team the Yankees play, that team may be depleted, having used its best available starter with all hands on deck during the tiebreaker game. The winner of that game may have reserved one starting pitcher to start the next day against the Yankees.
Should the Yankees use Tanaka and Pineda as much as possible to play it safe and make sure they are the host of the wildcard game? Or should the Yankees backward schedule their pitchers to have them well rested for the wildcard game? Even more daring, should the Yankees consider holding back Tanaka from the wildcard game so that he can pitch game one and a possible game five in the first round best of five series?
Game 1 Thursday October 8
Game 5 Wednesday October 14
Tanaka would pitch game five on five days rest, his usual amount. That might give the Yankees their best chance to get into round two and then wing it from there.