Yankees: Does JA Happ deserve a playoff start?
By Adam Weinrib
The Yankees have to figure out whether JA Happ will be part of their postseason plans. No, for real.
The column I never thought I’d write. The Yankees pitching streak I never thought I’d witness. It’s all coming together.
After the Yankees worked their hardest to maneuver JA Happ’s appearances around to the point where he’s now due to hit exactly nine starts when he needed 10 for his option to vest, Happ has now beaten the odds and become a continually impressive presence in this rotation.
Whether he lit a fire under himself when he went after Aaron Boone for the rotation chicanery or not, we’ll never know. But before his start was skipped, Happ sported a 10.29 ERA with a battle with the Red Sox looming. Afterwards? A 2.45 mark in his next five starts, getting his season ERA all the way down to 3.96.
And that streak includes a blown four-run lead against the other team in New York. If you remove that game, Happ’s been downright dominant against the Blue Jays, Orioles, Sox and Mets (again).
So … with the Yankees now inching up the standings and scoreboard watching the Jays again instead of the O’s and Tigers … has Happ earned himself the right to a potential postseason start in 2020? Has he flipped the narrative entirely? To that, we say: Sure, but wait a round.
If the Yankees make the postseason, a terrifying three-game series with a (favored, seeding-wise) team awaits them. That’s it. That’s why you should never have gotten so emotionally invested in this 60-game slate, and yet, here we are. With two-out-of-three necessary for advancement, the Yanks have no choice but to line up Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka for the first two contests — their pair of playoff locks.
The third game, if necessary, should go to the exceptional kid Deivi Garcia, with the full bullpen behind him (including Happ) and a quick trigger from Boone if necessary.
But if the Yanks advance past the first round and enter the best-of-five ALDS, there’s a good chance that Game 4 of the series will come down to a battle between Happ and Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery was special on Saturday against Baltimore (9 Ks in 5.2 innings on just 72 pitches), but his previous two outings were unplug-the-controller situations: four immediate earned runs without recording an out against Tampa Bay, followed by a nibble-fest in Buffalo where his stuff didn’t look MLB-ready.
It’s much more likely Happ starts a potential Game 4, saving Cole for Game 5, and with Montgomery caddying in case Happ falters, rather than the other way around. If the Yanks are up 2-1 in the series, the likelihood of this course of events only intensifies.
So no, as of now, inserting Happ into the best-of-three doesn’t seem prudent. But if New York advances, he has definitely joined the conversation for a Game 4 start, and is probably the favorite, in the clubhouse.
Just a few weeks after starting a fight in the clubhouse. Man, time flies.