The Yankees will play their wild card playoff game tonight at 8:00 p.m. against the Astros at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees win then they will play the Kansas City Royals (95-67) in the American League Division Series since the Royals had the best record in the American League.
Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP), who allowed four runs in five innings against the Red Sox in his last start on September 30, will take the mound for the Yankees to begin tonight’s crucial game. Tanaka’s sub-par performance during his previous start might have been because he was rusty after not having pitched in the previous 12 days. Tanaka will have to keep the ball down in the zone and have his plus splitter tonight against the Astros.
Tanaka is the team’s ace and in his three starts before September 30, he allowed three runs combined while striking out 21 and only walking one batter. On September 13 against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup, who scored the most runs in all of baseball, he threw a shutout in seven innings while recording seven strikeouts and no walks. The Yankees will need Tanaka to pitch with that kind of effectiveness tonight and not pitch like he did during his previous start against the Astros when Houston scored six runs (three homers) off of him in five innings.
The Yankees need a solid start from Tanaka because the Astros starter, Dallas Keuchel, has had a Cy Young caliber campaign. Keuchel, who finished the regular season with 20 wins and an outstanding 2.48 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 216 strikeouts, dominated the Yankees in his two starts against them during the season. In two starts against the Bronx Bombers, he did not allow a run in 16 innings while striking out 19 batters.
Keuchel throws a sinker (90 mph), slider (80 mph), change (80 mph), cutter (87 mph) and a four-seam fastball (90 mph). He can command all of his pitches for strikes, which makes him hard to hit. Keuchel is coming into tonight’s start with momentum as he gave up four runs combined in his previous three starts and on September 27 he allowed one run in seven innings while recording 10 strikeouts. That was the fifth time this season that he struck out 10 or more batters.
However, one advantage that the Yankees could have against Keuchel is that he will be pitching on short rest for the first time in tonight’s game. Also, Keuchel and all of the Astros position players except Carlos Gomez, Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus will be playing in the postseason for the first time.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Keuchel said Monday at Yankee Stadium. “I think a lot of the guys do in there as well. And we’ll always carry that.”
The Yankees will need the same kind of offensive production from rookies Rob Refnsyder and Greg Bird that they received during the last few weeks of the season. In Bird’s last 13 games of the season, he had 14 hits in 48 at-bats (.292) with three doubles, four homers, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs. That is very good production from a rookie who is playing in place of the injured Mark Teixeira.
In Refsnyder’s eight starts at second base in the last 11 games of the season, he had 11 hits in 28 at-bats (.393) with three doubles, one homer and three RBIs. He has had the majority of his starts against lefties and has hit them very well.
The Astros, who were 53-28 at home this season, were only 33-48 in away games. That has to do with Houston being a young team. Keuchel has also been much better at Minute Maid Park than in away games this season since he had a 1.46 ERA at home and a much higher 3.77 ERA away from Houston. Keuchel pitching on short rest and the game being at Yankee Stadium could be factors in this wild card game.
Here is the roster that the Yankees will use for tonight’s game against Houston:
John Ryan Murphy
After clinching a spot in the wild card game on Thursday against the Red Sox and having their game against the Orioles rained out on Friday, the Yankees will play a double header in Baltimore today. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium and with the win they snapped their two-year postseason drought. The Yankees also won their 10,000th game in franchise history after previously losing three games in a row.
The Yankees were an underdog coming into the season since some predicted them to finish in last place, which makes this postseason appearance especially meaningful.
“This was really rewarding because I’ve had a chance to be on a lot of teams that have made the postseason fortunately and this one was probably as much of a grind as any one,” Joe Girardi said. “This one, there was probably as much uncertainty even on a daily basis. There were a lot, a lot of moving parts, so I think this was probably as rewarding as any club that I’ve been on that made the playoffs.”
Thursday’s postseason clinching win was made more significant because it was at home and it came over the Red Sox. The Yankees had lost four of their previous six home games and it was great for the players on the team that they were able to get this win in front of their home fans and be able to celebrate in their stadium.
The Yankees currently have a 2.5 game lead over the Houston Astros for the first wild card spot with three games to play, which means that it is almost a guarantee that the wild card game will be played at Yankee Stadium. Houston has a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card and the Minnesota Twins are a game behind the Angels. It will be a better matchup for the Yankees if they play the Angels in the wild card game because the Astros ace, Dallas Keuchel, has a 2.48 ERA this season and did not allow a run in his two starts against the Yankees.
Joe Girardi is prioritizing resting his regulars during today’s double header over putting his best players on the field in Game 1 to try to clinch home-field in the wild card game. However, if the Yankees do get a win against the Orioles, who are not playing for anything, they will clinch home-field in the wild card game.
Austin Romine will make his first career start at first base, Jose Pirela will play right field giving Carlos Beltran the game off, John Ryan Murphy will get his second consecutive start at catcher and Brendan Ryan will play shortstop instead of Didi Gregorius.
Murphy gave an epic interview during the Yankees post game celebration on Thursday. He has hit very well for a back-up catcher this season and in his last four games he is 4-13 (.308) with one run scored and one double. It can be hard for back-up catchers to hit for a high average because they usually get inconsistent at-bats.
Rookie Rob Refsnyder has also hit very well recently while getting increased playing time at second. In his six starts during the home-stand, Refsnyder had eight hits in 20 at-bats (.400) with one runs scored, one homer, one steal, two RBIs and two doubles. He will likely get the start in the wild card game, against Keuchel if they play the Astros, based on his performance in those six games.
Girardi announced that Ivan Nova will start today’s game at 12:05 p.m. and that Luis Severino will start the second game, but that could change if the Yankees secure home field advantage before the second game starts. Michael Pineda will get the start on Sunday.
Brett Gardner CF
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Chris Young LF
Chase Headley 3B
John Ryan Murphy C
Jose Pirela RF
Austin Romine 1B
Brendan Ryan SS
Masahiro Tanaka will get the start for the Yankees (86-71) tonight in Game 3 of their four-game series against the Boston Red Sox (77-80). In three starts against the Red Sox this year, Tanaka has gone 3-0 and held Boston to a .234 average. However, Tanaka will look for better results tonight since he has allowed four, three and three runs in his starts this season against Boston.
Tanaka is currently lined up to start the wild card game for the Yankees. He is the logical choice because he has allowed three runs combined in his last three starts while not giving up more than two runs in any of them and besides Luis Severino is the most reliable pitcher in the rotation right now. He held the powerful Blue Jays lineup to zero runs in seven innings on September 13, which proves that he is capable of shutting down the Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros or Minnesota Twins.
The Yankees have a three-game lead with five games left to play for the right to have home field in the wild card game. The Angels are currently in sole possession of the second wild card spot and the Astros are half a game behind. The Twins are only half a game behind the Astros after their win today over the Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota would be the best matchup for the Yankees in the one-game playoff.
If the Angels stay in second that would be better for the Yankees because they have really struggled against Houston’s ace Dallas Keuchel this season. However, if they are going to keep the top spot and win the wild card game their offense will have to improve. The Yankees have gone 3-4 in their last seven games and have averaged only 2.57 runs per game. They have scored less than three runs in four of those games.
One player who has been hitting very well recently has been Jacoby Ellsbury. In Ellsbury’s last 13 games, he has a .347 average (17-49), a .429 slugging percentage, three steals, four doubles and eight runs scored. The Yankees need him to continue to hit well at the top of the lineup.
The Yankees can clinch a wild card spot if they win tonight and if they get help from the teams below them. The Yankees will also have won their 10,000th game in franchise history with a victory tonight over their rivals. Wade Miley, who has a high 4.39 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, will take the mound for the Red Sox and he allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk in his last start.
The lineup that the Joe Girardi is sending out tonight is the one that will likely be on the field for the wild card game if a lefty is pitching. Rob Refsnyder is getting another start at second against a lefty and he has a .417 average (5-12) in his four starts against lefties this month. Here is the lineup for tonight’s game against the Red Sox.
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chris Young LF
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
In the first game of their four-game series in Houston against the Astros, the Yankees were shutout 4-0 after a gem by Dallas Keuchel. The Astros ace pitched his third complete game of the season and recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts.
Keuchel lowered his ERA to 2.17, which is third best in the American League, and he lowered his WHIP to 0.96, which is the second best WHIP in the AL. His command of all four of his pitches, in addition to changing speeds, kept the Yankees off balance during the whole game. He only allowed six hits and one walk & retired the side in order in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th innings.
The ninth inning was the only inning that the Yankees were able to get a runner into scoring position against Keuchel. After Keuchel retired Chris Young and Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez singled, Mark Teixeira walked & then Carlos Beltran hit a single past third baseman Luis Valbuena’s glove to load the bases. However, with the bases loaded and a chance to drive in two or more runs, Jose Pirela grounded out to third to end the game.
“He (Keuchel) stays done in the zone, attacks all night, he just pitched well,” Joe Girardi said. “The guys were looking for a pitch and if they got a pitch early they were trying to hit it, and that didn’t work too well. I thought he might make a change but he is their ace so they let him go.”
Adam Warren pitched well overall in what was likely his last start before being moved to the bullpen. Warren allowed two earned runs (three overall) in 5.2 innings before Chris Capuano came on in relief. However, it did not help that Stephen Drew and John Ryan Murphy both had an error while Warren was pitching. Warren had a throwing error that allowed Evan Gattis to advance to third before being taken out of the game, but Capuano got Preston Tucker out to end the sixth.
“He (Warren) pitched really well again tonight,” Girardi said. “He has been consistent and it’s too bad we didn’t score him some runs tonight.”
For the Astros, Jose Altuve was 3-3 with three runs scored, Gattis was 2-4 with two RBIs, Colby Rasmus was 1-2 with an RBI and Tucker’s opposite field double to the wall off of Warren in the second drove in the Astros first run. The only run that the Astros scored off of Capuano was Gattis’s double that sent Altuve home in the eighth.
The Yankees hit zero extra-base hits for the fifth time this season. Brett Gardner (.292 with 55 runs scored), who was out of the lineup on Thursday after having gone 16-32 in his previous seven games, is back in center field tonight. Gardner has scored six runs over his last three games and will look to be the same spark at the top of the lineup that he has been the past few weeks.
Brian McCann is also back in the lineup after getting a routing game off like Gardner on Thursday. McCann has a .328 average with three homers and 12 RBIs in June and has had a much better start to the season than he did in his first season as a Yankee. McCann is also coming into the game with a five-game hitting streak with five RBIs in that span, so he will be one of the hitters that the Yankees will count on to drive in runs.
Nathan Eovaldi (4.95 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees tonight and Vincent Valasquez will take the mound for Houston. Valasquez (4.15 ERA), whose three starts in June were the first three of his career, didn’t pitch more than five innings in any of those starts. He allowed five earned runs in his second start but threw a shutout in five innings against the White Sox in his third start.
Eovaldi pitched very well in his previous start against the Detroit Tigers as he limited them to two earned runs on three hits in 6 innings. He had success because he commanded and located his secondary pitches.
Beltran will be the DH tonight since Rodriguez will be getting the night off. Rodriguez, who could come into the game as a pinch hitter, is on a nine-game hitting streak with five multi-hit games in that span.
His average was .267 before the hitting streak started and it is now a solid .289. A-Rod has performed better than anyone could have expected to this point and the Yankees would not be 1.5 games out of first in the AL East without him. He is tied for 13th in the AL with his 44 RBIs, is tied for eighth in the AL with his 15 homers and is tied for 12 in the league with 42 runs scored.
Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10 EST and can be seen on the YES Network.
After winning the final game of their series at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees (39-33) will play the first game of their four-game series in Houston against the Astros tonight at 8:10 p.m. EST. The Astros, whose 42-32 record is better than anyone could have predicted, lead the American League in homers (107) and are third in slugging percentage and total bases.
Adam Warren will start the first game of the series against the Astros. This could be his last start before going back to the bullpen because Joe Girardi said that he didn’t think the six-man rotation will go past the series against the Angels. Warren, who has a solid 5-4 record with a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts this season, has allowed three runs or less in his previous eight starts.
In Warren’s last start, he had his best performance of the season as he pitched a season-high eight innings while allowing two earned runs and striking out a season-high seven batters. However, he was not as effective in his start on June 14 since he only threw 4.2 innings while allowing three walks, six hits and three earned runs on 92 pitches. He has been an asset to the rotation to this point of the season, and can definitely give the Yankees another quality start against the Astros, but with Ivan Nova’s return he will be more valuable as an impact reliever in the bullpen.
Dallas Keuchel, who is the Astros ace and will get the start tonight, is a lefty who has an 8-3 record with an outstanding 2.35 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. His 2.35 ERA is third in the American League, his pitching WAR is tied for third in the AL and his 0.98 WHIP is tied for second in the AL.
His home ERA (1.62) is much better than his road ERA (3.14), but he has struggled in his previous two starts as he has allowed five and three earned runs, respectively. In his last start, Keuchel gave up a season-high three homers and three walks in his start in Seattle against the Mariners.
Brett Gardner is 16-32 (.500) in his last seven games with 12 runs scored, four homers, 10 RBIs. He is having the best month of his season as those outstanding numbers in the last week have given him a .326 average in June with a .607 slugging percentage, six doubles, 24 runs scored and 17 RBIs. His 55 runs scored are third in the American League and his 15 steals are tied for second in the AL.
Gardner has the game off tonight even though he has hit so well over the last seven games. Joe Girardi has given him the night off because Keuchel is lefty and Gardner has a .239 average against southpaws this season. Gardner has also started every game since May 16 and not had the game off since May 6 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees activated Stephen Drew from the paternity list today and recalled middle infielder Gregorio Petit from Triple-A Scranton. These moves complete their 25-man roster and will mean that the Yankees will have a back-up middle infielder and that Garrett Jones will be the only true back-up outfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury is close to returning from the disabled list, which means that Chris Young will return to his back-up role.
The Yankees lineup will be less powerful than normal because Girardi has also decided to give Brian McCann the night off against the lefty starter. McCann is hitting .421 with two homers and five RBIs in the last seven days and has a .328 (20-61) average with 12 RBIs in June. Jose Pirela, whose best position is second base, will replace Gardner in the outfield.
Here is the lineup for tonight’s game:
Chris Young CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran RF
Jose Pirela LF
John Ryan Murphy C
Stephen Drew SS
Gregorio Petit 2B