The Yankees locked up the playoffs a while ago. They are locked into the second seed in the American League and the first-round bye that comes with it. They can’t overtake the Astros for home-field advantage in these final seven games. Aaron Judge is still sitting on 61 home runs after going without a home run Friday night in the Yankees’ 2-1 loss to the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
But, there is still some importance to these last games for the Yankees (96-60). They have plenty of question marks about their playoff roster makeup that they need to figure out over this final regular-season series at the Stadium and the four games in Texas. They need to find answers about DJ LeMahieu, Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton among others before they make the decisions on who will be playing for them in the postseason.
Judge went 1-for-2 with a single and three walks, but is still tied with Roger Maris for the most home runs hit in a single season by an American League or Yankee player.
Oswaldo Cabrera seems to be locking in his spot. He hit his fifth home run Friday night. The rookie is 20-59 with 10 extra-base hits and 14 RBI over his last 17 games. He hit just .187/.225/.253 in his first 21 big league games. Domingo German allowed two runs on three hits over 5.1 innings. He walked three and struck out six.
Friday, Britton struggled with command again in his third appearance since returning from Tommy John surgery in just 12 and a half months. After walking a batter, Britton summoned the trainer after throwing a wild pitch, leaving the game mid-at-bat with what the team announced as “left arm fatigue.”
LeMahieu came off the injured list Friday night and went 0-for-3 before being pulled in the eighth in his first game since Sept. 4. He has been playing through painful inflammation in his right big/second toe area since before the All-Star break when he had a cortisone shot to try and get some relief. Lately, the Yankees have been talking about ways to limit the pain, including shots.
These last few games of the season will be a test for LeMahieu, who admitted the other day he will be “useless,” to the Yankees if he can’t get good swings off. The torque on the toe during swings has been a particularly tough issue for him. So, he will see if he can contribute enough to be on the playoff roster.
“I think it will just show itself,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said when asked how he will know if LeMahieu can be a productive member of the playoff roster. “We’ll see how he responds, see how he reacts to it. And then try and make determinations about if he’s really able to get his swing off what that does to him. How does it affect them as the game unfolds? The next day? All those things, so we’ll just kind of make those evaluations as we go.”
LeMahieu admitted the injury has affected him, hurting him as he tries to push off on his swing.
The Yankees also got a look at Chapman, who was their closer until losing their confidence this season, Friday night. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but the 34 year old has the lowest strikeout rate and the highest ERA and walk rate of his career. The Bombers have largely only used him against the bottom of the lineup or lower-leverage situations this year like when he pitched to the bottom of the order in an 8-3 game against the Blue Jays this week.
When asked if Chapman had locked up a spot on the playoff roster, Boone did not directly answer.
“I’m really excited about where Chappie is physically. And, he has an outing like he did the other night in Toronto where you see it. It’s like, that’s it right there. I mean, that’s dynamic,” Boone said. “And we know he can be that guy. So it’ll be an important week for him to, you know, hopefully get some regular work and continue to kind of have that consistency.”