With their 12-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the New York Yankees magic number is down to one. One win separates the Yankees from having the AL Wildcard game in the Bronx. But it will be no easy task as the Bronx Bombers will close out the season in Boston against the Red Sox.
It has been well documented this season the bouts of inconsistency the Yankees have dealt with this season. But they have also gone through periods of success as well. It may seem as if the Yankees are limping into the playoffs because they did not claim the AL East Division Crown from the Red Sox. But that is not the case. The Bombers currently sit at 98-61, the significance of this is that the Yankees can help make history. Because at no point in the history of the MLB have three teams in the same league finished with over 100 wins in a single season. So with two more wins, the Yankees, Red Sox and Houston Astros will have won one hundred games in a single season.
The AL Wildcard game will be on Wednesday, October 3rd and the Yankees have not said who will start that game for them. This weekend against the Red Sox the Yanks have JA Happ, Lance Lynn, and Luis Severino lined up to start. Following that pattern, that would place Happ in line to start the Wildcard game against the Oakland A’s on regular rest. Since his acquisition, Happ has been remarkable for the Yankees. And he has solidified a starting rotation that has struggled since the Allstar break. But the question remains, is JA Happ the right man to start the AL Wildcard game.
In my opinion, No. I think the Yankees would be better served to play the long game. For the New York Yankees, the objective is and always will be to win the World Series. And the best case for that is to make sure that JA Happ is starting as often as possible against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. The Yanks must think ahead without looking past the A’s. Something that sounds like an oxymoron, I know. However, for the Yankees, the goal must be winning the World Series, not just making it to the playoffs.
So then the question becomes who starts the Wildcard game for the Yanks? And while many different options can be given, my choice if I were managing the Yankees, would be to deploy an opener.
Now I know that for many people even suggesting the use of an opener will just cause anger and hostility. But the Yanks have a level of depth that few teams have and therefore should exploit that depth. The Bombers bullpen can shut down any opponent on any given day. And in a test run against the Tampa Bay Rays proved successful. The A’s will likely be employing the same strategy, which brings to mind that old axiom “If you can’t beat, join em.” And the Yankees need to keep their starters rested and ready for the battle with Boston.