Yankees: Who should start Game 1 of the ALDS?

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 3: James Paxton #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Yankee Stadium on September 3, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 3: James Paxton #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Yankee Stadium on September 3, 2019 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /
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The Yankees will have some tough roster decisions to make before the playoffs begin, but when it comes to who should be their starter for Game 1 of the ALDS the decision should be an easy one.

The Yankees have yet to make an announcement on who will get the start to open up their quest for #28 next Friday in the Bronx and probably won’t until the regular season is over. However, behind closed doors, I think the Yanks already know who they’re going to go with and that’s James Paxton.

Paxton has earned the opportunity to get the nod by completely turning his season around since the start of August. He’s won each of his last 10 starts pitching to a 2.25 ERA and has emerged as the front-line starter the Yankees were hoping they acquired from the Mariners last offseason. The 30 year-old southpaw has always had ace type stuff but it took him a while to start pitching like one in New York. He had a 4.72 ERA through July 27th, but after his latest win on Saturday, he’s lowered that all the way down to 3.73 by allowing only 15 runs over his last 60 innings pitched.

Paxton is in the midst of the best stretch of his career right now and looks like a horse the Yankees can ride throughout the month of October. That ride will start on October 4th because there’s no doubt that he’s the best option to take the mound in Game One, regardless of who the opponent is.

There are probably some fans out there who want to see Masahiro Tanaka get the ball given his terrific postseason track record, but I’d rather have him start Game 2 for a couple of reasons. The first is he’s way better at home than he is on the road. He’s pitched to a 3.10 ERA this season in the Bronx compared to a 6.16 ERA on the road so he needs to pitch in one of the first two games at Yankee Stadium.

The second and main reason is he’s the guy I’d want on the mound in the event that the Yankees and Paxton lost Game 1. Tanaka has had some huge moments in the postseason during his career in pinstripes and a couple of them have come with the Yankees facing a series deficit after they lost the previous game. In the 2017 ALDS, with the Yanks down 2-0 to the Indians and facing elimination at home Tanaka saved the season by throwing 7 shutout innings to lead New York to a 1-0 win.

In 2018 against Boston he pitched in Game 2 at Fenway after the Yanks lost Game 1 and delivered five innings of one-run ball before handing the ball off to the bullpen in a 6-2 win. Tanaka has proven that he’s a guy who doesn’t succumb to pressure under the bright lights while Paxton has yet to do so. I’m confident that he will and that’s why I want him starting Game 1 but if the Yankees did lose Game 1 with Tanaka on the mound Paxton would face way more pressure in Game 2 which is something he’s never experienced before.

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As for Luis Severino who’s looked outstanding in his first two starts of the season off the IL, he should be the Yankees Game 3 starter. That is if he doesn’t pitch out of the bullpen in one of the first two games. If Paxton or Tanaka gets into early trouble in their starts I don’t think the Yanks would hesitate to bring in a rested Sevy on in relief to pitch multiple innings. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that though because after Severino the Yankees rotation doesn’t exactly have any trustworthy options to start a playoff game.

Heading into October I think the Yankees now feel really good about their top three starters with Paxton leading the charge. I don’t think they could go wrong with any of them starting Game One but they can’t ignore what Paxton has accomplished over his past 10 starts and need to go with the hot hand to open up the ALDS.

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He might be a playoff rookie but as he’s as locked in as he’s ever been and as long as he stays within himself and continues to execute his gameplan his dominance should carry over into the postseason.