After losing back-to-back games to the Boston Red Sox, getting outscored 15-5 in the process, the Bombers look to ace Masahiro Tanaka to save the sinking ship in the Bronx.
Barring any collapse by the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees are bound for the wild-card.
The Yanks helped Toronto get within a game of clinching the American League East after falling flat on their face against the Boston Red Sox in the final home series of the season, losing 5-1 to the Sox on Monday and 10-4 Tuesday night in a game that saw Boston light-up Yanks starter Michael Pineda for six runs in the first inning.
The Bombers get their ace Masahiro Tanaka back for Wednesday’s game in hopes that he can save the Bombers hope for their first postseason appearance since 2012.
If the Yankees can get the win Wednesday night, they still have a chance to clinch their playoff spot if the Twins and Indians split their doubleheader, and either the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels lose tonight.
Wednesday night would be Tanaka’s first start since Sept. 18, when he suffered a Grade 1 strain in his right hamstring trying to beat out a bunt. Tanaka’s 12-7 so far in his sophomore season, with a 3.38 ERA and 136 strikeouts. With a win, he’ll tie his win total from last year and with six strikeouts he’ll surpass his strikeout total from last season.
Tanaka will have no pitching limits Wednesday night and is expected to pitch in next Tuesday’s Wild Card game.
“If he gets through (Wednesday’s start) and is healthy, I’d feel pretty good,” Yankee manager Joe Girardi said of Tanaka pitching in a one-game playoff next Tuesday night.
“I think it’s important because I don’t think you want anyone to sit that long without making a start. For us, we want to get him back out there and know he’s capable of doing everything he needs to do.”
Despite the Yankees needing a win to keep their playoff destiny in their hands, let alone avoid a possible sweep, Tanaka claims that he’s not approaching Wednesday night’s game as anything other than a game in the regular season, even with the Wild Card game in the Bronx coming in just less than a week.
“I’m not looking at this as a tune-up,” he said through a translator. “As I’ve done for each and every one of my starts, I’m going to go out there and give the best I have.”
Since returning this summer from forearm and wrist-injuries, Tanaka returned to his ace-form on the mound, allowing four runs over his first 21 innings (1.71 ERA) in his first three starts off of the disabled list. He’s won two of his four starts so far this month, earning a no-decision in the Yanks 2-1 loss to the Orioles back on Sept. 8 and has allowed a total of just three runs in his last three starts.
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“Sometimes that extra rest is really helpful to players,” Girardi added. “We saw how he came back after he had that rest from the forearm, those three starts how good he was when he came back. This could be really helpful, especially this time of year.”
The Yanks haven’t given up on the title, and technically speaking, they’re still in it. However, the recent losing stretch has all but killed the Yanks hopes of another divisional pennant while pushing the Jays to their first one in years.
Since winning two of three against the Mets, a series where many thought the Yanks turned things into full-gear for their playoff push, they lost a crucial two games against Toronto and have lost three of their last five going into Wednesday night. The Yanks would have to win-out the rest of their schedule and would need the Jays to lose at least four of their next six in order to have a shot at the pennant in the final days of the regular season.