Yankees Playoff Rotation: Who’s Going To Start That Critical Third Game?

Yankees Seeking That Elusive 28th

The Yankees playoff rotation is set for the first two games of the Wild Card Series. After that, Boone ponders – who comes next?

The Yankees playoff rotation is not without choices for Aaron Boone to make for the initial best two-of-three Wild Card Series to kick off the 2020 MLB postseason next Tuesday.

But the Yankees playoff rotation will be led by Gerrit Cole in Game One, followed by Masahiro Tanaka, back to back for Game Two.

Yankees Playoff Rotation: Not As Easy As You Think

Any number of scenarios will exist following those two games. The Yankees can be up or down by two, or one of the two will falter, and Game Three then becomes The Game to break the tie that determines which team moves on to the next level.

The Yankees have clinched a spot in the expanded 2020 playoffs, which take the form of a seeded tournament – a la March Madness – but their exact seeding is still being played out.

The remaining drama of the regular season centers on which team gets the coveted fourth seed that ensures all three games will be played on their home field.

Presently, the Yankees are seeded fifth, and that would require the team to travel to Minnesota to meet the Twins at Target Field. There is still a chance the Twins can overcome the Cleveland Indians to win the Central Division, and the two teams would flip-flop in the seeding.

In either case, the Yankees are currently focused on securing that fourth seeding position by running the table from here to the season’s end on Sunday.

No matter what evolves over the next few days, though, the Yankees playoff rotation has an equal bearing on the minds of Aaron Boone and his staff, even as the Yankees take the field tonight to face the Blue Jays.

Yankees Playoff Rotation – Eeny, Meeny, Minie, Moe?

It’s not as though Aaron Boone is limited in his choice for that third game starter. One can argue he has too many candidates to choose from.

But when you look back at the pre-season Yankees playoff rotation, there is a cause for concern.

In all likelihood, Boone’s choice will not be learned until the moment comes when MLB requires him to submit his lineup for Game Three digitally. A lot will, of course, depend on where the series sits after Game Two.

But here are a few thoughts on what Aaron Boone and his staff may be processing beforehand as they weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each potential starter.

James Paxton (1-1, 6.64)

Typically, James Paxton is the ideal candidate to fit the bill. But the injury-riddled lefty is on the shelf again and will not be available this year (or next as the Yankees will not engage with his status as a free agent for 2021).

Jordan Montgomery (2-2, 5.12)

Jordan Montgomery has shown signs of brilliance, but he has only entered the sixth inning once in nine starts. He throws strikes (39 K’s versus nine walks), but he lacks that putaway stuff that typically spells success in the postseason.

Bullpen usage in the first two games will likely determine whether or not Montgomery gets the call, since almost certainly, the A-Team in the Yankees bullpen will be forced into action for as many as four innings to finish out Game Three.

Deivi Garcia (2-2, 5.12)

Deivi Garcia represents the most intriguing decision for Aaron Boone. A rookie at 21, Garcia has emerged as a trusted and effective pitcher for the Yankees, with an uncanny ability to exhibit the body language on the mound that exudes self-confidence.

That works both ways, though, leaving Boone with the possibility that Garcia will implode once the FOX TV lights come on, and he’s pitching in a major league postseason game with millions of viewers and those dreaded TV Analysts watching his every move.

Is Arron Boone in a gambling mode?

Garcia will fit the bill if he decides to go that way, but then again, that’s what these crapshoot playoffs are all about.

J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25)

J.A. Happ created the only bit of controversy for the Yankees when he charged the team with conspiring to hold him back from starts that would enable him to reach the number of innings pitched to claim the $17 million option for the 2021 season.

Given his performance during the second half of 2019, and the Yankees need a lefty to replace CC Sabathia in their rotation, his point had some zest.

Brian Cashman wasted no time firing back at Happ, who bit his tongue, choosing instead to attack the strike zone. 

Since then, Happ has (arguably) been the Yankee’s most influential and reliable starter in the team’s ever-changing rotation.

In recent days, the Yankees seem to be coming around to Happ’s way of thinking, as indicated in this softening change from Aaron Boone.

“He’s obviously going to be on the team [in the postseason] and playing a big role,” Boone told MLB.com’s, Bryan Hoch. “This season, he showed me a level of mental toughness and professionalism that has been really admirable. He’s been one of the anchors in the rotation.”

Happ is running out of time and will not qualify for the inning pitched count to trigger the team option.

It’s a team option, though, and the Yankees can still extend the offer to Happ, or they can pursue him as a free agent during the offseason.

Who Will The Starter Be For G3?

Jordan Montgomery has pitched himself out of consideration as the Game Three starter in the Yankees playoff rotation, and he knows it after getting pummeled by the Blue Jays in an embarrassing loss.

Garcia is what he is – a rookie who has shown the Yankees he can pitch at this level. 

The dilemma with Garcia, of course, is how do you gain playoff experience if you don’t pitch in the playoffs? Garcia will get a start somewhere along the line during the playoffs, dependent on how far the Yankees go and the situation the team is in at that moment.

But the start has to go to the veteran Happ. Boone hinted as much in his statement to Brian Koch (above), and it’s clear that Happ has gained the confidence, not only of Boone but the team itself.

More and more, it’s looking like the Yankees will not qualify for the fourth seed. This means they’ll be on the road to either Target Field or Progressive Field to face the Twins or Indians, depending on who wins the AL Central Division.

Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka are expected to lead the way, but it’s that crucial game three and Boone’s choice of a starter that will determine the series. J.A. Happ is the right man at the right time to make that start.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.