Yankees: A radical but sensible idea for the one-game shootout

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Yankees, barring a total collapse by the Red Sox, are in line to play one game on October 4 that will decide the fate of their season. And who the starting pitcher is for that game figures prominently in the outcome. But that decision might not be as complicated as it seems.

The Yankees will be one of the two Wild Card teams playing in a decisive one-game shootout against what looks to be the Minnesota Twins. But regardless of who they are facing, Joe Girardi has a weighty decision to make in selecting his starting pitcher in the all or nothing game.

Between CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, and Masahiro Tanaka, Girardi could pick any of them and the Yankees would maintain a solid chance of winning the game.

Tanaka took a step back on Friday when he tossed a clunker against the Rangers, and Sabathia’s future will largely be determined by how well his knee responds to treatment. So, the choice would seem to be between Severino and Gray.

Neither player has playoff experience so that get’s thrown out the window as a qualifier. Gray does have more overall experience pitching at this level, and he seems to thrive when the going gets tough. But, on the other hand, Severino, who was under the masterful tutelage of Pedro Martinez, appears to be pitching like he is 32 instead of only 24.

Why choose at all, though

My argument, though, is why does Girardi need to choose at all. And why can’t he elect to pitch all four in the same game? Think about it and the force it would bring to the Yankees, not to mention the opposing team having to face the equivalent of four aces in the same game.

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Girardi would need to plan ahead, of course, to line up the stars, so each is ready with adequate rest to pitch in that game. But if the Yankees maintain their current level of play, it’s likely the last few games of the season will not mean anything in the standings, and the road would be open to pitching Jaime Garcia more, as well as a few of the recent call-ups to finish out the season.

Imagine being able to tell each of the four, “Look, I only expect two or three innings from you today, so go out there and leave nothing on the field for that time because this is our real “must win” game of the season.”

Planning ahead is the key

The key though is for each pitcher to know well in advance that this is going to be the team strategy, and therefore, they will be expected to prepare themselves, not only physically, but mentally as well for the aberration in their routines.

Of the four, Sabathia, because he’s been there before in the playoffs, demands the opportunity to “start” the game. He doesn’t know what butterflies are and he can be relied on to throw strikes. I’d put Tanaka in the second spot, but limit him to just two innings. And then, the flamethrowers would take over with Severino followed by Gray to close out the game.

And if any one of them looks a little “off,” Girardi yanks them immediately going to his bullpen choosing between David Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman as their bailout, even if the game dictates using, for example, Chapman in the second inning to get one out.

Hey, I never said this would or should be considered “normal” practice. But the shootout game needs to be treated like it’s seventh game of the World Series when it’s all hands on deck.

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