BOSTON – The Yankees are going to keep 'em guessing.
Though Aaron Boone said “I feel like I’m close to a resolution in my mind” about who will start the American League wild-card game against the A’s on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, the manager said an announcement wouldn’t be forthcoming Sunday and probably not on Monday, either.
Boone would say only that his starting pitcher likely will be J.A. Happ, Masahiro Tanaka or Luis Severino. The A’s also have not made an announcement about their starting pitcher, although reports out of Oakland on Sunday suggested that righthanded reliever Liam Hendriks could be their “opener” for the game.
“We feel like option A, B, C, D, whatever way we go, is capable of really working out positively,” Boone said before the Yankees (100-62) lost to the Red Sox, 10-2, in Sunday’s regular-season finale. “So I kind of lean on everyone and take all the information and try and make the best decision that hopefully works out the best for us Wednesday. I view it as we’re working from a position of strength. Any way we go, I have a lot of confidence in the ability to get it done.”
The Yankees’ club hierarchy, which included general manager Brian Cashman, members of the analytics department and members of the coaching staff, met Saturday to do a thorough deep-dive on the decision, as well as the composition of the rest of the 25-man roster. Though Boone said a final call hasn’t been made, the fact that Cashman went home on Sunday morning likely indicated that a rough game plan for Wednesday night’s pitching has been reached.
Boone said Sunday that “everything’s on the table” in terms of who might get the start, though throughout the week, he said the Yankees won’t be going with an “opener,” meaning a reliever, to begin the game, something he repeated Sunday. “It will be a starter,” Boone said after the game.
Happ is 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts since joining the Yankees, but he’s a lefthander, and Oakland features a predominantly righthanded-hitting lineup. Still, Happ faced the A’s one time this season and was more than successful, allowing one run and two hits in six innings Sept. 4 in Oakland.
Also something to consider: Of the three potential starters, Happ has by far the best 2018 and career numbers against the Red Sox: 1-1 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts this season and 8-4 with a 2.98 ERA overall. If the Yankees get past Oakland and Happ does not pitch against the A's, he in theory could pitch twice against Boston in the best-of-five Division Series. Game 1 of that series will be played Friday at Fenway Park.
Boone said that possibility would have “very little” impact in his choice of a Wednesday starter.
“There’s no tomorrow on Wednesday,” Boone said after Sunday’s game. “You pour everything you can into Wednesday trying to win that game. I guess there’s always a big picture involved and we’re in this thing to win the whole thing, but first things first. Pouring everything we have into winning Wednesday.”
Severino had mixed results against the A's this season, going 1-1 with a 6.32 ERA in two starts. Tanaka did not face the A’s this season, which could be factored in. Overall, righthanded hitters had a .227/.268/.378 slash line with 13 homers against Severino and a .243/.293/.465 slash line with 17 homers against Tanaka in 2018.
“It’s all baked in, all of that shapes your context on these things,” Boone said. “You take in information, you take in different people’s voices and their thoughts and opinions, and it all shapes the context and what goes into the decision ultimately.”