The Yankees will play their first postseason game since October 18, 2012 tonight, hosting the Houston Astros at The Stadium in the American League Wild Card game. For an organization with the Yankees' history that has failed to reach the postseason the previous 2 years, I feel like that should be a bigger deal, but the Yankees have seemingly been written off heading into this game. They staggered to the finish of the regular season, losing 6 of 7 and needing a Houston loss to secure the home field advantage for this game. Then they got hit with the weight of yesterday's announcement by CC Sabathia that he will be entering rehab for alcohol abuse immediately and will not be pitching in the postseason. It's not the happy place I remember it being when the Bombers were in the dance, but it is the postseason in Yankeeland and that's always a good thing in my book. With the game a little less than 14 hours away as of me writing this sentence, let's talk about some stuff heading into the game.
- First the CC news. I was as shocked as anybody when it first broke. That's never something you expect to find out on your average sports day, and certainly not at the time that CC announced it. Good for him for recognizing that it had become such a huge problem in his life and deciding that fixing that problem was more important than playing baseball.
I said it on Twitter yesterday after the story had been out for a few hours, that we as a society still forget from time to time that professional athletes are human beings first and foremost. They can and often do have the same problems that us "regular" people have. It sounds like alcohol has been a problem for CC for a while now and there's nothing wrong with him making the decision he made to fix it. The timing of it sucks for the Yankees and CC Sabathia the baseball player, but it's the right thing to do for CC Sabathia the person. Everybody needs to understand, accept, and respect that.
- Now onto the baseball. I have no clue what to expect tonight. I don't think anybody does and I think that's pretty typical for this still kinda new 1-game Wild Card format. The Yankees as a whole have looked bad for a while now. All of their best and most important hitters are slumping badly, Masahiro Tanaka looked shaky at best in his first start post-hammy strain, and the bullpen is basically a 3-man unit. Even with the home field advantage, it feels like the Yankees are the underdog tonight. Who would have thought that would be the case against the Astros in a playoff game in 2015?
- Dallas Keuchel has a lot to do with that. He's owned the Yankees in his 2 starts against them this season, I mean really owned. 16 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 21 K. That's pure, utter dominance, and while I don't expect him to be that dominant on short rest tonight, I do expect him to be very good and I expect he's going at least 7 innings.
- Because of that, I hope Joe doesn't let veteran loyalty decide the lineup card tonight. Keuchel eats lefties alive and the Yankees have a lot of slumping lefties in their lineup right now. I'd start Refsnyder at second, JRM behind the plate, and Chris Young in left field. McCann, Gardner, and Ackley would be my first lefty pinch hitters off the bench once Keuchel was out.
- My full starting lineup would look like this: Ellsbury, Young, A-Rod, Beltran, Greg Bird, Headley, JRM, Refs, Didi. Make of that what you will.
- I hope that extra day of rest has helped Tanaka out the way we've seen it help before. I still say he was pitching to protect the hamstring in that last start. There wasn't the same life to his pitches that I'm used to seeing and the ball was staying up a lot, like he wasn't driving all the way through his delivery. That's my own personal eyeball test, nothing more, but I'm definitely going to be watching his delivery and pitch location early to see if he's got that downward bite back.
- Sounds like we aren't going to see Chasen Shreve on the WC game roster. Good. As much as I liked earlier in the season, he's been atrocious in the second half and he's basically admitted that it has gotten to him mentally. That's not a guy you want to have to count on in a big spot.
- In a perfect world, I think Joe is looking to get out of here without using anybody beyond Warren-Wilson-Betances-Miller tonight. If he gets 6 from Tanaka and has the lead, I think that will be all we see of Tanaka. What will be more interesting is seeing how long Joe lets him go if he doesn't have it. Warren was a lifesaver last Thursday in the lone win against the Red Sox. Would Joe go to him for multiple innings in the 3rd or 4th?
- And who would he go to if the game goes into extras and those 4 have already been used? With no Shreve and no CC, I have to think Chris Capuano is going to be on the roster tonight. Imagine that. The New York Yankees could put a playoff game in the hands of a guy with a 7.97 ERA who they DFA'd 900 times during the year. If you want something to really criticize the front office for, there it is.
- I'm feeling a big game from A-Rod tonight. I imagine that's the A-Rod homer in me more than anything, but he's come up big in a lot of big spots this year and he's rested. The script is right there for him to write tonight.
Closing in on 13 hours 'til first pitch. Can't wait. Win, lose, or draw tonight, it's going to be fun watching the Yankees play real October baseball again.