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Yankees in battle with Red Sox, Blue Jays as playoff race intensifies

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BALTIMORE — The Yankees finish the regular season at home against the Rays on Oct. 3. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. 

After the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox all won on Tuesday night, the Yankees were even with Toronto for the final two AL wild-card spots and percentage points ahead of Boston. 

It figures to set up for an intense last few weeks of the regular season, as the Yankees face both Boston and Toronto in the final week before that last series against Tampa Bay, which seems to have the AL East locked up. 

“This is what you play for,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s going to be exciting.” 

The Yankees seem to be getting positive news on the pitching injury front, with Gerrit Cole coming out of his Tuesday start in good shape after dealing with left hamstring tightness and Jameson Taillon and Domingo German close to returning to the staff. 

Aaron Boone
Julio Cortez/AP

Taillon threw his first bullpen session in his attempt at coming back from an injured right ankle and was encouraged by how he felt, leaving open the possibility of making a start early next week for the Yankees. German, who tossed two scoreless innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday night, is expected to make one more appearance before potentially taking a spot in the bullpen after being out since July with right shoulder inflammation. 

Michael King, who missed much of the season with a finger injury, tossed three scoreless innings in Tuesday’s win in relief of Cole and may provide a boost to a pitching staff that has seen a number of key arms go down. 

What the Yankees would like to avoid is having a series of must-win games in the last week and a half of the season, since they close with visits to Boston and Toronto followed by a finale versus Tampa Bay. 

Following the rest of their set against the Orioles are series in The Bronx against sub-.500 Cleveland and last-place Texas. 

The streaky Yankees entered Wednesday having won consecutive games and three of four as they try to keep their stretch of eight losses in nine games in the rearview mirror. 

Clearly, they’re not comfortable with how things are looking, with Boone sticking with the struggling Gleyber Torres at second base in his last-minute infield reshuffle. 

Baltimore Orioles' Austin Hays reaches second base safely on a throwing error by New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres.
Baltimore Orioles’ Austin Hays reaches second base safely on a throwing error by New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres.
Julio Cortez/AP

To add to Torres’ issues, Boone admitted Wednesday that he pulled Torres not as much for his error on a “tailor-made double play” in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s win, but his failure to run out a grounder to third in the top of the eighth. 

Asked if that was the reason for the move, Boone said, “A little bit.” 

Not exactly a vote of confidence for the 24-year-old who has been a huge disappointment for the last two seasons. 

As the Blue Jays bludgeon much of their opposition in storming up the wild-card standings and Boston looks to defy expectations and make the postseason once again, the Yankees need Torres to bounce back. 

In the meantime, they’ve got a lot to sort out over the next three weeks, while also holding off either Toronto or Boston — if not Seattle and Oakland, who are lurking close enough to still present a threat.



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