The Yankees appear to be leaning toward Masahiro Tanaka, or mid-season acquisition J.A. Happ, as their starter for the wild card game this year. It would take a miracle for the Yankees to catch the division leading Red Sox, so the team is already planning for the inevitable “play in” wildcard game. Earlier this week, it appeared as if the Yankees were prepared to give staff ace Luis Severino the start, however NJ Advance Media reports that their current outlook has changed based on comments from Yankee manager Aaron Boone’s last press conference.
Sonny Gray was given a start, in what, at the time, was called a move to get the starting rotation in order for the playoffs. Using Gray bumped Severino one day, which would have put him on track to start the wild card game on October 3. Gray looked very sharp in that start, however since the All-Star break, he has struggled with his command going 4-5 with a 6.83 ERA, and batters hitting .323 against him over that stretch, as reported by the New York Post.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has worked with Severino regularly, and while his command has improved, his fastball hasn’t had the same action as it did earlier in the season, which is theorized to be a part of why he is being hit hard. It has become quite clear that Boone doesn’t have the same confidence in Severino that he did earlier this year, pulling him after five and two-thirds of an inning in his last start, despite looking good and having only thrown 83 pitches, as discussed by the New York Post.
“J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka, currently better options than Severino to start the Wild Card game.”@AdamSchein has no faith in Luis Severino as the Yankees’ ace heading into the postseason. #T2S pic.twitter.com/OJKG5brspZ— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 12, 2018
Rather than bumping everyone one more day after the Severino start, the remainder of the rotation went on schedule, which would make J.A. Happ the natural starter on October 3, if no further tweaks are made. Happ has been solid this season with a 16-6 record, including going 5-0 with the Yankees. Happ allowed one run in his start against Oakland over six innings, and has had good numbers versus the A’s in the past.
Masahiro Tanaka has been dealing as of late. In his last six starts, he has gone 3-2, but with a 1.80 ERA. Over his last three starts, he has gone 3-o with a 0.45 ERA and 24 strikeouts. For Tanaka to be on schedule for the wild card game, he would need to skip a start or go on short rest. If the Yankees clinch early enough and want Tanaka to go, it is most likely they will skip him for one start. Tanaka told NJ Advance Media he feels like anyone can win if given the ball.
“I think any one of us could pitch in that game. For me, the important thing right now is to just focus on this game and the next game.”