Yankees: Does Luis Severino or J.A. Happ get the Wild Card start?
What do you do if you’re Aaron Boone and you’re faced with a one-game playoff? Do you play the hot hand and put in the veteran J.A. Happ or are you sticking with Luis Severino – a struggling kid who’s an ace on paper but hasn’t pitched like one in over a month?
If things stay the same and Severino’s struggles continue, I don’t see how the Yankees go with him. Look at how awesome Happ has been since coming over.
5 – 0, 2.37 ERA, 32 k’s, 8 BB’s
If you remember when the Yankees last faced Happ in Toronto it seemed like he failed his audition. He gave up a ton of baserunners and the Yankees were able to get to him early. Happ gave up 6 runs in 2.2 innings. In his next start against Boston Happ gave up 5 runs in 3.2 innings. The nail in the coffin for that game came after a long at-bat by Mookie Betts ended in a grand slam.
It seemed like getting Happ was going to be a bad idea. After his recent success though, Cashman just looks like a genius right about now. His struggles may have just been a positive that drove his price down.
Perfect timing too with Severino attempting to figure out what’s wrong. The Yankees needed Happ and nobody even knew how perfect of a fit he’d be. That’s baseball though. It’s a wild ride. One day you’re shutting everybody down. The next J.A. Happ is knocking on the door and he’s asking for the keys to your team.
This isn’t to say we all still don’t love Sevy. The Yankees still call him their ace. The thing is, we as fans love other things too. Some of those things include making the playoffs and winning a World Series.
These days it seems like if Severino goes 5 scoreless we all consider that a massive achievement. Unfortunately, those atrocious starts against the Mets, Rays and Red Sox are hard to be erased by a single mediocre start against a bad team.
Right now the Yankees are faced with a very real possibility that whatever Severino is going through now won’t be resolved during the regular season. If he has a few more bad starts peppered in until the Wild Card, Happ is pretty much a no-brainer to take the mound. He might already be now.
All the Yankees need to do is keep playing the well and avoid any catastrophic losing streaks. That’s how they’ll keep that wild card spot. Now, who they face is up in the air.
For now, it’s looking like Justin Verlander’s Houston Astros or an Oakland A’s team sporting a brand new arm in Mike Fiers.
Yankees vs. A’s
The Oakland and Fiers scenario is intriguing given the history between him and Giancarlo Stanton. If you don’t know, Fiers is the guy who accidentally hit Stanton in the face with a pitch and nearly ended his career.
The two faced off again recently in Detroit and Fiers, once again, hit Stanton with a pitch. It just wasn’t as brutal and didn’t end in bloodshed. Stanton responded by taking him deep in the next at-bat and stared him down as he rounded the bases.
If Oakland makes it in, those two will surely dance for round 3. No pun intended, but Fiers is on fire right now. The A’s would be nuts not to use him. Just like Happ, he’s undefeated since coming over to them.
3-0, 1.50 ERA, 28 K’s, 1BB
Yankees vs. Astros
The next scenario is the one that Yankee fans want to see the least. That one includes Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros.
With the way Fiers is playing and how Oakland has won at a rate similar to the Red Sox since the break, I’m more afraid of the A’s than I am the Astros. The Astros are trending downward while the A’s just keep winning. Houston is dealing with injuries and an ace that is having a hard time keeping it together on the mound.
Look at his stat line for August:
5.33 ERA, 16 ER, 9 HR, 39 K’s, .275 BAA
Verlander’s struggles have come against division rivals. Against the A’s and Mariners, Verlander gave up a combined 10 runs. The two teams blasted 6 home runs off the man holding the title belt as well. Since the Yankees are struggling to keep themselves healthy and easy games against bad teams are not always guaranteed wins, it’s some of the best news they probably heard all year.
There was a time when the thought of seeing Verlander in the Wild Card was a complete nightmare. Think back to his last start at Yankee Stadium this year where he left the field to a smattering of boos after giving the Bronx faithful a sarcastic curtain call. That day Verlander showed why he sported a 1.11 ERA as the Yankees, yet again, couldn’t figure him out.
After everything the Yankees have gone through because of the Astros, it would be so fitting to end their season in a one-game playoff. We can see an exorcism of demons in that game too with the Yankees conquering their fear of Justin Verlander.
Hopefully that Kate Upton magic continues to wear off and the Yankees could get a few bombs off of Verlander if that day comes. Let’s see if Fox or ESPN decide to pan their cameras on Upton then.