Home Sports How Yankees should line up playoff rotation after dodging crisis

How Yankees should line up playoff rotation after dodging crisis

0


OK, crisis averted. The Yankees will not embarrass themselves by failing to qualify for the most inclusive postseason in the game’s history.

Now let’s work on that postseason starting rotation.

Gleyber Torres’ pinch-hit, eighth-inning, two-run double off Tanner Scott propelled the Yankees to a 3-1 win over the Orioles Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, completing a four-game sweep against the rising club that tormented them in Baltimore just a week ago and lifting their overall winning streak to five games. Only the Mets’ continuing futility against the Blue Jays (26-20), who will start a big, three-game set here in The Bronx on Tuesday, kept the Yankees (26-21) in the American League East’s third place, a half-game out of that guaranteed October invitation.

Second place or third place, though — and hey, making up four games on the Rays (30-17) to overtake the division altogether remains mathematically possible — the Yankees will join the party, having created sufficient space between themselves and the O’s (20-26) and other such pretenders while reinforcements Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela could arrive in the next few days. They climbed out of their 5-15 funk on the backs of their starting pitchers, which should hearten them as they look ahead. During this five-game run, the Yankees’ starting pitchers posted a 1.21 ERA (four earned runs in 29 ²/₃ innings pitched) while striking out 34 and walking two.

“This was a strange season, and is,” Sunday’s starter J.A. Happ said afterward. “Hopefully we’re settling in a little bit.”

We’ll dive deeper on Happ shortly, but let’s map this out from the outset. The wild-card series, as they’re calling it, will be the best-of-three. If the season concluded with this game, here’s how I’d map out the Yankees’ starting rotation.

Game 1: Gerrit Cole. We need not waste too many words on this, right? The ace. $324 million (now $301.3 million).

Game 2: Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees’ most consistent, reliable postseason pitcher in the post-Core Four era. If Cole wins Game 1, Tanaka goes for the kill. If Game 1 goes sideways, Tanaka won’t be freaked out by the high stakes.

Game 3: Deivi Garcia. Yeah, he has impressed that much in only three big-league starts. The rookie turned this beat around when he defeated the Blue Jays last week in Buffalo, and he’ll start Tuesday night’s series opener against the Jays.

Deivi Garcia
Deivi GarciaGetty Images

Already, that trio marks an upgrade over last year’s top three — Tanaka, the untested and injury-prone James Paxton (who’s injured right now, again) and Luis Severino, who missed the first five-plus months with injuries. Beyond that, you’ll remember, the Yankees trusted no one else, including Happ, to start, which is why they tabbed opener Chad Green in what turned out to be their final competition of the season, AL Championship Series Game 6 against the Astros.

If they can advance past that challenge round — they’re currently the seventh seed, lined up to play the second-seed Rays — they’d require more starting pitchers, and this time, they possess some intriguing extra options in Happ and Jordan Montgomery.

Happ tossed five strong innings Sunday, allowing a run on five hits and no walks while striking out five. Since struggling out of the gate in his first two starts, he has posted a 2.45 ERA in his past five starts, striking out 27 and walking five.

“I feel really good about the way he’s throwing the ball,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s had a lot of good outings since he got here for us in ’18, but right now I feel like he’s throwing the ball about as well as we’ve seen.”

“I felt like I had a good run in ’18,” Happ said, upon being presented with Boone’s assessment, “but I do feel good. I feel like I’m throwing the ball the way I’m capable, for sure.”

I’d go with Happ as my fourth starter, which will be necessary in the best-of-five Division Series, because of his experience and his consistency. Montgomery possesses a higher ceiling than Happ yet recorded two poor starts before rebounding Saturday.

Sounds not awful, right? For the Yankees and their fans, it sounds like a far better discussion than whether there’ll even be a playoff rotation to contemplate.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here