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Wild Card Opponent: All Signs Point To Happ?

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New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins
“Happ, Happ — Hooray!”
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Nothing has been officially announced by either side regarding pitchers for the wild card, with the A’s insisting they don’t even know who is pitching over the weekend. The venue, now almost certainly — but not yet definitely — to be New York, could play a part in the decision.

On the A’s side they will have Mike Fiers perfectly lined up for a Wednesday, October 3rd start as Fiers makes his last regular season start Friday night against the Angels. Tonight’s SP, Edwin Jackson, is still a possibility if the A’s want him to go a week between starts. That does not seem optimal, however, to put someone off their routine into a one-game showdown.

For that same reason, you might now be able to rule out Masahiro Tanaka who is starting tonight for the Yankees. Tanaka will still be available, but not on turn, for the wild card game and you would that if the Yankees wanted to throw him on October 3rd they would have held him back to start tomorrow or Friday, rather than using him 7 days prior to the wild card game.

Many have assumed the nod would go to Luis Severino, despite the fact that in last year’s wild card game he was knocked out in the 1st inning. Inconsistent, Severino is also supremely talented and leads the Yankees with 19 wins.

Yet Severino pitched last night, putting him on turn to start the final game of the regular season on Sunday and be unavailable to start the wild card game. If the Yankees skip his last start, Severino would have 8 days between starts. It would appear the Yankees have decided that they will try their luck elsewhere this time around.

That would leave J.A. Happ, whom the Yankees can line up by starting him tomorrow or Friday, as the presumed wild card opponent. Some, including Vince Controneo, have theorized that the Yankees would prefer to hold Happ back for a possible ALDS given his success against the Red Sox. This would make some sense given that New York has other good options to choose from, but perhaps they feel Happ is their best choice due to his being LHP or due to his having pitched very well for them of late. If so, the Yankees can ill afford to look ahead to an ALDS they will not reach without winning on October 3rd.

Whatever the reasoning, currently all signs are pointing to the selection of Happ for the wild card game, though one can’t rule out Tanaka on long rest or even the remote possibility that Severino could throw a handful of innings over the weekend en route to a wild card start. For what it’s worth, C.C. Sabathia will also be on turn though no one has mentioned him as a serious possibility.

Poll

Who do you think the Yankees would be smartest to throw against the A’s in the wild card game?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    J.A. Happ
    (191 votes)
  • 6%
    C.C. Sabathia
    (25 votes)
  • 25%
    Luis Severino
    (98 votes)
  • 18%
    Masahiro Tanaka
    (70 votes)
384 votes total Vote Now

If Happ is the opponent it probably means a trip to the bench for Nick Martini, likely to join Matt Joyce as strong LH options off the bench. I would anticipate Chad Pinder might get the nod over Mark Canha in LF, partly because of his superior defense. So perhaps a lineup would look something like:

Laureano - CF
Chapman - 3B
Lowrie - 2B
Davis - DH
Piscotty - RF
Olson - 1B
Pinder - LF
Semien - SS
Lucroy - C

On the flip side, maybe the A’s start Fiers with fingers crossed that balls stay in the park, run him once through the order and then finish the 3rd and get through the 4th with Jeurys Familia, before seeing if Lou Trivino (2 IP) and Blake Treinen (3 IP) can take it to the finish line.

As far as Happ is concerned, if he is indeed the Yankees’ choice I think he’s a very good pitcher but I also feel the A’s have a fair shot at getting to him. Tanaka actually scares me more with his disappearing splitter.

In any event, while Jackson and/or Tanaka are still possible on long rest, the signs I see are pointing towards Fiers-Happ. And a lot of relievers.