The Yankees bullpen, and it’s only fitting, will be called on to decide the fate of the Yankees season tonight. But it’s not quite all hands on deck.
That the Yankees bullpen will play a major role in deciding the outcome of tonight’s do or die contest with the Tampa Bay Rays should surprise no one.
Normal rest between starts has gone out the window with MLB’s COVID influenced scheduling for the 2020 postseason – no days off – make the necessary adjustments.
And so it is that both the Rays and Yankees will both be handing the ball to Tyler Glasnow on an unprecedented two days rest, and Gerrit Cole on three days rest. Neither starter has ever pitched on less than four days rest.
For Cole, his answer to Yankees manager Aaron Boone about making a start was a terse four words – “Give me the ball.”
Number Of Pitches Yes – But Execution Counts More
So, it’s not a question of being mentally prepared. This is what staff aces do. But there is the physical side of the equation left to deal with. Cole’s mind may tell him he’s ready to throw 100 pitches – or more if necessary – but how many pitches will his body allow him to execute.
And it’s not just the number of pitches; it’s the execution of those pitches. A 98 MPH fastball thrown into a batter’s known wheelhouse because Cole doesn’t “finish” the pitch due to fatigue is something Yankees pitching coach Mike Blake will be sensitive to.
It’s safe to say the Yankees are looking for four solid innings from Gerrit Cole, or five at the most if his pitch count stays down. After that, the Yankees bullpen will finish out the game.
They say it’s all hands on deck in any game that decides a playoff series. But as Boone and Blake (or is it by Brian Cashman’s fiat) look at the Yankees bullpen, a deeper view is required.
As The Yankees Bullpen Looks Tonight
For instance, Chad Greene has appeared in all four games of the ALDS, and he has more innings pitched except for Cole and Masahiro Tanaka. With 24 pitches thrown last night, it’s safe to cross of Greene unless there’s a state of emergency.
Similarly, both Zack Britton and Luis Cessa have pitched in three of the four games, totaling four innings apiece. Cessa did not pitch last night, while Britton went 1.2 innings on 22 pitches. Depending on the game situation, Cessa will get the ball before Britton.
The closer in the Yankees bullpen, Aroldis Chapman, is in relatively good shape, having appeared in two of the four games, totaling only 3.1 innings. Chapman did pitch last night, but he is the go-to guy in the Yankees bullpen, and Boone will use him as needed.
The Yankees ace-in-the-hole could very well be Deivi Garcia, who threw 27 pitches in his abbreviated start on Tuesday and has not appeared since.
The question for the Yankees is the same as it was then – how confident do they feel handing the ball to a 21-year-old rookie who has tossed only 34 innings in his entire career – and landing him on the world stage in a win or head home game?
Unless he is hurting, Adam Ottavino, one of Boone’s favorites, is eligible for multiple innings. With only one appearance and less than an inning pitched in the series, Ottavino might be the sleeper in the team’s plans for tonight.
Oh Yeah, What About The Yankees Offense
Having said all that about the Yankees bullpen, we need to recall the team does have a potent offense.
Home runs continue to drive the Yankees offense. Two more by Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit last night propelled the need for Game 5.
It’s an offense capable of turning the tables and solving Glasnow in a New York minute, making the outcome of the game only a matter of throwing strikes that eventually record the 27th out by the Rays offense.
Glasnow mastered the Yankees in his previous start, but we can bet the Petco Park video room has been available by reservation only as the Yankees study each of their at-bats and what wrong Monday night.
Aaron Boone On The Hotseat
Another X-Factor in tonight’s game is the spotlight shining on Aaron Boone. Under fire for the Garcia “Opener” game, Boone has not received much if any backing from the Yankees front office for the ruse that fooled no one.
Working the Yankees bullpen will test Boone’s value to the team and his belief in each of the pitchers he sends to the mound after Cole.
Ever upbeat and full of praise for his players, Aaron Boone, like the rest of us, can only hope that each brings the A-Side of their game with them tonight.