Although overtaking Boston atop the American League East isn’t far-fetched, the New York Yankees are showing that the AL Wild Card game is their main focus.
As the New York Yankees squandered an opportunity to draw within two games of the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox, it became clear: it’s time for manager Joe Girardi to switch his focus from the divisional crown toward creating the best match-up for the AL Wild Card game on Oct. 3.
Thankfully for New York’s sake, Girardi’s rotation shake-up has his squad right where they want to be for whichever opponent they may face in the do-or-die postseason game.
Following Saturday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees announced that they will rearrange their rotation in order to keep CC Sabathia off the turf in Toronto next week. Sonny Gray will start on Sunday, Jaime Garcia will kick-off the three-game series with the Twins on Monday, Sabathia will go on Tuesday and Masahiro Tanaka will get the nod on Wednesday in the series finale.
For those keeping track at home, that means the best Yankees’ starter this season, Luis Severino, will be on track to pitch on Oct. 3 on full day’s rest. Assuming the rotation remains the same beyond this shuffle, the 23-year-old will start on Thursday in Toronto and then again on Wednesday at home versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
That arrangement lines him up to start in the Yankees’ first taste of playoff baseball since they hosted and fell to the Houston Astros in the 2015 AL Wild Card game.
While the divisional race is far from over, no one can truly blame Girardi for switching things up. This prevents the Twins, who would face the Yankees if the postseason began at this very moment, to get some at-bats against New York’s ace. A fresh look at a pitcher will never benefit the hitter, especially when the starter is in the Cy Young conversation and 8-2 with a 2.09 ERA since the All-Star break.
But, without looking much into it, the likely scenario is that they’ll have a well-rested and electric Luis Severino pitching at Yankee Stadium in front of what will presumably be a sellout Bronx crowd with one of baseball’s greatest bullpens looming behind him.
Clinching their first AL East crown since 2012 is still in play, but at least Girardi has a backup plan that has a better chance of getting them into a postseason series for the first time since that very same year.