Maybe an “opener” isn’t such a bad idea.
Luis Severino on Tuesday and Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday night did not exactly make strong cases to be the guy the Yankees should start in the American League wild card game. Tanaka went just four innings in the Yankees’ 8-7 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
While Aaron Boone said he would not consider an “opener,” for the wild card game, he did not dismiss a potential “bullpen” game.
“Absolutely, it’s a consideration,” the Yankee manager said Wednesday afternoon on “The Michael Kay Show” on 98.7 ESPN NY, but added that it would be a regular starter — J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka or Luis Severino beginning the game. “I could see Happ, Masa or Sevy, even if they are pitching well not going deep. We’ll be rested and lined up, so I can see getting two, three, four or five innings from (the starter) and then roll it out.
“We will consider it.”
First, the Yankees have to try and clinch home-field advantage. They needed a win and an A’s loss to host the wild card game in the Bronx. They couldn’t pull that off Wednesday night, despite a three-run rally in the ninth that left the tying run on third base. The A’s won their game over Seattle, 9-3 — the Yanks lead is now at 1.5 games.
Tanaka allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits, including a home run, and a walk. He struck out four and committed a throwing error.
The Yankees still have Happ to make his case, starting Friday night in Boston.
That, coincidentally or not, lines him up on regular rest for the Oct. 3 wild card game.
The bullpen gave the Yankees three scoreless innings Wednesday until David Robertson allowed three in the eighth. That was the only bump for the bullpen.
Monday night, the Yankees used a “bullpen game,” with eight pitchers holding the Rays to one run. They used Jonathan Holder as the “opener,” who then gave way to Stephen Tarpley, Sonny Gray (who allowed the run), Chad Green, David Robertson, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Zach Britton.
The Yankees acquired Britton at the July non-waiver trade deadline to bolster that back-end of the bullpen and give them insurance with Chapman’s balky left knee. While Boone has said that Chapman, who is coming off the disabled list because of the knee, will eventually work his way back to closing games, he said Wednesday Britton could also be pitching in save situations in the playoffs.
The bullpen will be a strength for the Yankees in the postseason.
With four pitchers with closing experience — Robertson, Betances, Britton and Chapman — and likely having Lance Lynn there for multi-inning outings, they can lean heavily on this bullpen down the stretch.
The bullpen is a strength that the Yankees are going to have to use effectively in the playoffs. Boone may not be considering a reliever as an opener, but Yankees fans will see them early and often.