The Yankees have extra incentive in their next seven games because they are all against AL East foes — the Red Sox and Blue Jays — and the results of those games could impact where they play the first round of the playoffs.
The Yankees went into the weekend one game behind the Twins for the fourth seed in the AL. The teams are not locked into fourth and fifth seeds, but it is their likely outcome with a week-plus left in the regular season. Whichever team finishes fourth gets all the games in the best-of-three in their home park in a 4-5 matchup.
The Twins are 21-5 this year at Target Field and the Yankees are 21-7 in The Bronx. Those are the best two home records in the majors. In fact, the Twins’ .808 home winning percentage is currently the best ever for a season — albeit a shorter home schedule than ever before. The Yankees are 131-59 at home in Aaron Boone’s two-plus years as manager, the .689 winning percentage by far the best in that time.
So there is stronger motivation than usual for these teams to finish no worse than the fourth seed and, thus, to gain advantages just in case they finished tied.
In case of a deadlock, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head results. But because of regional play this year, the Yankees and Twins did not face each other.
The second tiebreaker is intra-division record. The Twins began the weekend 21-17 within the AL Central and have two games left, next Tuesday and Wednesday against the Tigers. The Yankees are 20-13 and have the seven left against Boston and Toronto. Thus, the Yankees’ intra-divison magic number against the Twins is four.
If the teams finish with both the same overall record and the same intra-division mark, the third tiebreaker is how they did in their final 20 intra-division games. The Twins are 10-8 with the two games left against the Tigers. The Yankees are 8-5 with the seven remaining against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. A 5-2 mark against Boston and Toronto would assure the Yankees have a better record than Minnesota in this area.
If the teams also have the same mark for their final 20 intra-division games, the next tiebreaker is to just go back one intra-division game at a time until the deadlock is broken. The Yankees have the edge there because if you go back to a 21st intra-division game they won and the Twins lost.
If the Yankees and Twins face each other, it would be the seventh time since the turn of the century they did so in the postseason. The Yankees have won all six, taking the last 13 games in a row. The Twins have a 16-game playoff losing streak.