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5 Ways the New York Yankees Can Lock Down A Spot in 2013 Playoffs

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5 Ways the Yankees Can Lock Down A Spot in the 2013 Playoffs

CC Sabathia
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians are in the best position to win one of the Wild Card spots. They are only a half game out of the lead and eight of their remaining games are against the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Furthermore, their manager Terry Francona is no stranger to pennant races with two World Series rings to his name.

Luckily for five other teams, Major League Baseball added a second Wild Card last year.

The New York Yankees have endured injuries since Opening Day. They could form an All-Star team with the guys they have had on the DL. Their most recent casualties of Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner could be the most costly. Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano are shaken up as well.

Their rotation has been terrible. Their horse, CC Sabathia, has struggled all year. Replacement-ace Hiroki Kuroda seems to have lost his touch. Andy Pettitte can only throw so many 87 MPH cutters before he starts to get hit and his age greatly limits the number of innings he can pitch. Ivan Nova has been inconsistent all year, and Phil Hughes has been consistently bad. Even the bullpen, arguably New York’s greatest strength all year, has faltered recently costing the Yankees crucial wins when they were up late in games.

Their offense has been stagnant and sometimes nonexistent – they are the only team in baseball above .500 with a negative run differential.

Yet after all this, the New York Yankees are only 2.5 games back in the hunt for the Wild Card. What is more, the remaining schedule could greatly help New York in their hunt for October. Despite all the adversity the Yankees have faced this year, they can still make the playoffs – but they’re going to need some help.

These are the five ways the New York Yankees can lock down a spot in the 2013 playoffs.

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5. Texas Rangers Continue To Free Fall

Washington
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Rangers have won two games in September. They’ve lost their lead in the AL West and at this rate they are going to lose even more. Although they lead the Wild Card race, they have three games left against the Tampa Bay Rays, followed by three more against the Kansas City Royals. Both teams are looking to take Rangers’ playoff spot, and they are more than capable of doing so.

Texas lost their division on the last day of the season last year. They’re going to blow their playoff spot much sooner this year. The way the Rangers are playing, the Yankees will not have to worry about them.

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4. Kansas City Royals Get Shut Down By Dominant Pitching

Sale
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals play two more games against the Cleveland Indians and three against the Rangers before finishing out their season against the lowly Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox. Though it seems like they can coast into October against two of the worst teams in the American League, they are likely to see Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Sale in a back-to-back series.

These two own ERAs of 2.87 and 3.08, respectively. Both will get votes for the AL Cy Young Award, both are absolutely filthy and both could derail the Royals’ playoff hopes. The Yankees will be extremely grateful.

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3. Baltimore Orioles Fold Under A Tough Schedule

Camden Yards
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have 13 remaining games. 10 of them are against the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, and seven of those are road games. The Sox will continue to play all out until they clinch the division and even when they do, their intensity will not diminish. They want to stay hot heading into October and they'll play to win regardless of how many backups on the field (and their backups are pretty good). The Rays, too, could end Baltimore's playoff hopes.

Of all the teams contending for the AL Wild Card, the Orioles have the most difficult path. The Yankees will thank the schedule gods when they finish the season against the Houston Astros.

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2. Help From the Tampa Bay Rays

Maddon
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays play the Rangers and Orioles in consecutive series while the Yankees play the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants. Tampa could potentially be the Yankees’ best friend coming down the stretch, eliminating the competition as New York moves up in the standings. As long as the Yankees win their games – which they're more than capable of doing against two weak teams – they will gain ground in the Wild Card race.

If both teams take care of business, they can separate themselves from the pack before facing each other for the final Wild Card spot.

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1. Sweep the Tampa Bay Rays

handshake line
Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

If the Yankees want to make the playoffs, they need to win baseball games. More specifically, they need to sweep the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees have a fairly easy schedule for the rest of the year: they’ve owned the Blue Jays this season and the Giants and Astros are both teams the Yankees can beat. The only team that should pose a problem for New York is the Tampa Bay Rays.

A three-game sweep of the Rays could put New York ahead of Tampa and lock up a Wild Card berth. Before they come to Yankee Stadium, the Rays play eight games against the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Those will no doubt be gritty, hard-fought contests as all three teams are fighting for their lives. Those games could potentially wear down Tampa’s pitching and make them ripe for the taking upon arriving in the Bronx.

It will no doubt be the biggest series of the year for the Bombers, but they have home-field advantage. With some help, the Yankees can control their own destiny and play themselves into October.