With Expectations Higher, Bombers Can't Afford To Go One-And-Done In Playoffs

By Ernie Palladino
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Unless the Giants plan to turn things around in a huge way and the Jets prove their win over the Dolphins is more than a blip on their radar for the top draft pick, the Yankees have become New York’s best bet for a happy autumn.

For that, they’ll need to have a nice, deep postseason run from the wild-card spot they clinched Saturday. And they’ll certainly have to pitch better than they did in Sunday’s 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays, a setback that put them five games back of the AL East lead and all but obliterated the possibility of catching the Red Sox in this final week.

The Giants could have joined them, if only they had scored a little bit in the first three quarters in Philadelphia. But getting stuffed on fourth-and-1 just before halftime didn’t help matters. Nor did the self-inflicted mistakes and curious refereeing decisions that kept them off the board until they scored 24 points in the fourth quarter. But rookie Jake Elliott’s mammoth, 61-yard field goal as time expired did the 0-3 Giants in and may well have ended their season.

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge hits a two-run home run in the third inning against Minnesota Twins on Sept. 20, 2017, at Yankee Stadium. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Jets? Nobody could have imagined they would still have life in them at this point. And yet, they pulled off a 20-6 win over the Dolphins, as the defense held Miami to 225 total yards and quarterback Josh McCown found Robby Anderson for a 69-yard touchdown throw.

Still, the idea of the Jets doing much more than winning just enough to ruin their draft position for a top quarterback is far-fetched. This win, against a middling AFC East foe, could well go down as their highlight victory. And that’s not saying a lot.

Even the Knicks, after trading away top scorer Carmelo Anthony, and the Nets being the Nets, don’t have a prayer of exciting anyone.

Hockey? That’s always a crap shoot.

The biggest Mets story will probably involve the search for Terry Collins’ successor.

So we are left with the Yanks who, barring a miracle finish, will face a one-game wild card Oct. 3. It’s a good bet Luis Severino will start that game unless another batting practice liner finds his shoulder again. But aside from any unforeseen catastrophe, the Yanks should be in good hands starter-wise for one game against the Twins.

A big part of the problem Sunday involved the bullpen, particularly Bryan Mitchell. After Jaime Garcia was charged with five runs in the first 2 1/3 innings, Mitchell came on and gave up four runs in a third of an inning. By the time Ben Heller ended the fourth-inning carnage, the Blue Jays held a 9-1 lead, and even Aaron Judge’s 47th and 48th homers didn’t help.

They did, however, put him one homer away from Mark McGwire’s 1987 rookie record. And it will certainly be fun to watch him in the wild-card game.

But advancing in the postseason depends on pitching, something they haven’t done so well in two of the last three games.

Masahiro Tanaka proved Friday that he’s not the guy manager Joe Girardi wants out there in a wild card after giving up eight runs (seven earned) in 5 2/3 innings. And Sunday’s game showed some cracks in what had otherwise been a strong relief corps.

They will need both starter and relief to click next Tuesday. If they can’t get past the wild card — a game they will in all likelihood host, by the way — the area could be in for a long, cold stretch.

The Mets were done ages ago.

The Giants and Jets aren’t going to provide the warmth. Neither will the Knicks or the Nets.

And they play hockey on ice.

The Yanks are the last hope for some feel-good vibes. But those won’t happen unless they get past the wild card.

The expectations have risen. A one-and-out postseason will no longer suffice.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino