Tanaka’s Turn in Yanks’ WC Playoff Pitching Auditions
In what I really believed would be a series to audition for ace status on the Yankees' starting staff, J.A. Happ and Luis Severino both made strong cases for why they should start the one-game Wild Card playoff.
Happ allowed only one run over six innings Tuesday night and his 0.54 ERA against the Red Sox this season is absurdly good. More on that in a second. Severino shutdown the high-powered Boston bats for seven innings in what was his second straight start allowing only one run. Now, Thursday night, it's Masahiro Tanaka's turn to show Aaron Boone and, maybe more importantly Brian Cashman, that he is deserving of taking the mound on October 3rd when, presumably, the Yankees host the A's.
Back to Happ for a moment. I've been making the case on Big Board Sports for the past couple of days that he shouldn't be in the conversation for the wild card game. Not because he hasn't been the Yankees best pitcher since coming over from Toronto (he has), but because he's too valuable in a potential ALDS matchup with the Red Sox. If you use or better started, burn Happ to get past Oakland, you wouldn't have him available until game three of the ALDS. That's best-case scenario. The goal should be to use Happ twice against Boston and that means choosing between Severino and Tanaka for the gimmicky, fluky one-game playoff.
If Tanaka is good Thursday night against the Red Sox, he stays as my front-runner for the wild card game. Look at what he did last season when it mattered most: three postseason starts and only two runs allowed. Tanaka tossed seven shutout innings in both game 3 of the ALDS and game 5 of the ALCS. He's tested and approved.