Yankee manager Aaron Boone dropped a big hint that has most baseball people thinking that Masahiro Tanaka will be his wild card game starter. With Luis Severino and C.C. Sabathia struggling, and Lance Lynn not a viable option, Boone was left with Tanaka or J.A. Happ to choose from. While both have been pitching very well their past several starts, Tanaka has been the stronger of the pair statistically. It would appear that there is more to the decision than just the statistics though.
If the Yankees win, they will face the Red Sox for a five game series. Against the BoSox, Happ has had far more success than Tanaka has. If the rotation is slightly massaged to get Tanaka in line to pitch the wild card game, that would mean Happ could start game one against Boston, and game five if needed as reported by NJ Advance Media.
While Boone has been very clear for the past few weeks that when the Yankees play the wild card game, they will use every weapon in their arsenal to claim victory as it is a win or go home situation. He then hedged that a little today and said that they also had to think about what is coming up after that game if they advance.
“The biggest thing that does come about is that (Wild Card) game, you’re going to do obviously everything you can that you think is right to win that game. That said, if you’re toiling with a couple of decisions, then maybe the next (series) does come into play a little bit. If we think this may be good, this may be good, this may be good, what’s the best for going into the next (series)? That could factor a little bit in there too. But I think for the most part you’re going to pour everything you can into that one game, obviously, with no tomorrow.”
Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ are better options to start the Wild Card game than Luis Severino at this stage. Still, the #Yankees' decision won't be an easy one. Column for @ForbesSports: https://t.co/RXJVfomoCp— Gary Phillips (@GaryHPhillips) September 18, 2018
The Yankees hold a slight lead over Oakland in the race to secure a home field advantage in the wild card, so it is unlikely that Boone will risk shaking the rotation up too much until they are closer to reaching their magic number to clinch. While many thought Happ had the edge to start against Oakland due to a strong outing against them in their last match-up, Tanaka has a 0.43 ERA with 24 strikeouts in his last three outings, which is difficult to overlook.
Similarly, in Happ’s last three outings against Boston, he is 0-1, but with a.054 ERA which indicates his record against them is the product of poor run support. He holds a career 7-4 record with a 2.82 ERA against the Red Sox in 20 games, and is 4-2 with a 2.91 ERA at Fenway Park in nine games. Based on what Boone has been hinting at, and historical numbers versus who is the hottest hand at the moment, it looks like Tanaka gets the wild card, while Happ will be asked to slay the Red Sox should they meet in October.