ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No, Aaron Boone said, even the unqualified success that was the Yankees’ first “bullpen game” of the season Monday night doesn’t change his mind regarding the upcoming AL wild-card game.
The Yankees are all but certain to go with Luis Severino, Tuesday night’s starter, Masahiro Tanaka or J.A. Happ.
Still, the manager indicated, whomever starts that Oct. 3 game probably won’t have the longest of leashes with the caliber of arms he can summon.
“We feel like our pen is really deep with a lot of guys that you would consider high-leverage guys, so we feel like when we’re at our best, when we’re rested, we can shorten the game on you with the guys we can run out of the bullpen,” Boone said. “There’s probably going to be playoff games where you do see a starter that goes short and we can kind of roll out our guys an inning apiece and that’s definitely one of the formulas for us to be successful.”
It’s hard to imagine it being any more successful than it was in Monday night’s 4-1 victory over the Rays.
After Jonathan Holder stranded two in a scoreless first, rookie lefty Stephen Tarpley pitched a scoreless second. Sonny Gray gave up one run in two innings, allowing the only two hits the Rays managed in the game, and Chad Green struck out the side in the fifth. David Robertson, aided by a huge inning-ending catch in center, pitched a scoreless sixth, and Aroldis Chapman produced a scoreless seventh, striking out two. Dellin Betances and Zach Britton finished the job in the eighth and ninth.
“We kind of envisioned it playing out like that,” Boone said. “But it doesn’t always work to the plan.”
The only change, Boone said, was the order in the early innings.
“We did consider before the game maybe go to Sonny first and save Tarpley for maybe the next round through but we figured once it was starting with the lefty the next inning [Brandon Lowe leading off the second], we felt like it was a good lane for Tarpley there and he delivered,” Boone said. “And Sonny gave us two strong innings. And then we felt like if we could get the game close or get a lead into the fifth inning, we felt like we could roll our guys out.”
The score tied at 1 going into the top of the fifth, Boone got his wish. Aaron Judge walked with two outs and a passed ball put him on second. Brett Gardner, a replacement for an injured Aaron Hicks – the centerfielder departed with left hamstring tightness but an MRI Tuesday came back negative – then drove Judge in with a single. Giancarlo Stanton’s double made it 3-1 and the bullpen continued dominating from there.
“A lot of good pitchers,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose club has been “bullpenning” effectively pretty much all season. “I don’t think it’s fair for them to say a ‘bullpen day.’ More like a ‘closer day.’ They all just kind of come in there and have wipe-out stuff from the second that Green steps on the mound and then from then on out [their pitchers] are very special.”
Regardless, Boone said Monday, when the wild-card game rolls around against the A’s it’s likely going to be Severino, Tanaka, who is Wednesday’s slated starter, or Happ.
“No, I don’t think we’d necessarily do that,” Boone said of a bullpen game. “Especially with the three starters we’re considering, I would expect it to be that. Anything can happen as the week unfolds and whatever, but I feel like it will probably be one of those three.”