Though Sonny Gray has only been a member of the Yankees for a short time, a win in Game 1 of the ALDS will go a long way towards boosting his confidence.
When Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Sonny Gray as his American League Division Series Game 1 starter, I was a bit surprised. Perhaps not as much the Indians going with Trevor Bauer over Corey Kluber to begin the series, but still.
When trying to figure out Girardi’s plan for the starting rotation, a quick look at the numbers tells you the majority of the story.
Although the Yankees failed to offer much run support during Gray’s 11 outings this season — highlighted by a number of defensive blunders, pitching Gray away from Yankee Stadium where he allowed 11 long balls and 27 walks in 65.1 innings is as good a reason as any to instead let him loose in Progressive Field.
In eight career regular-season starts against The Tribe, Gray is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA. This season alone, the 27-year-old right-hander was 1-2 with a 4.86 ERA versus the club that reeled off 22 straight wins.
Though Gray has only appeared in a total of two postseason contests — back in 2013 with the A’s, he was stellar both times. Without much offense to back him up, Gray went 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA against the Tigers.
Sure, Gray has only been a Yankee for a short time, but he understands what it means to take the ball in the opener, with an opportunity to win a game on the road even before Corey Kluber toes the rubber. Per Newsday:
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"“This is kind of why you play the game,” said Gray, who will be opposed in Game 1 not by Indians ace Corey Kluber but by righthander Trevor Bauer, who posted a 2.42 ERA in his last 12 starts, including 1.38 in two against the Yankees. “I’m definitely ready for it.”"
Not only would the win throw home-field advantage back to New York’s side, it would send a resounding message that this Yankees team is up to the challenge of competing with and potentially beating a club that went 102-60 in the regular season — the best record in the American League.
For those thinking, Masahiro Tanaka should have gotten the call in Game 1, his road ERA in 2017 was a dreadful, 6.48. Inside the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, he was 9-3 with a 3.22 ERA — hence Girardi holding him back for Game 3 in the Bronx.
As for CC Sabathia, sending him out there in Game 2, in an environment he spent parts of the first eight season’s of his career in — against likely ’17 AL Cy Young Award Winner Corey Kluber, is a stroke of genius by Girardi. In my opinion, Girardi should receive a handful of AL Manager of the Year votes, but we’ll save that for another time.
Yes, it’s a big task for Gray to undertake, and it would certainly help if the Yankees’ offense were to back him up with more than a run or two, but this is why general manager Brian Cashman gave up three of his 10 best prospects.
A win on Thursday night will set Gray up for continued success the rest of this postseason run and springboard him into a successful 2018 season.