Yankees: Clarke Schmidt’s first MLB start is biggest game of 2020


Yankees rookie Clarke Schmidt’s first MLB start will determine the team’s postseason fate. No pressure or anything.

You wanted Clarke Schmidt, Yankees fans? You got him, in a Game 60 that determines where the team will fly to begin their postseason journey.

But since 2020 is the year of rookies under pressure who feel no pressure, why not, right?

Schmidt, who got far from a fair shake in his first two MLB opportunities, will have a clean slate to work with in the ’20 finale, attempting to parlay his overwhelmingly impressive Spring Training and Summer Camp performances into a victory over a post-clinch (yes, really) Marlins team.

With a win, the Yankees head to either Chicago or Cleveland for a three-game series. With a loss, the team will have to scoreboard watch the Toronto Blue Jays, but will likely be packing their bags for Tampa.

It was a long journey for Schmidt to finally make the bigs, though when he went down at the end of July, Aaron Boone assured us he’d have a chance to meaningfully contribute this season. And what’s more meaningful than the start that determines where the postseason will begin?

This is either the biggest or second-biggest start of the year, both of which will end up in the hands of rookie aces. The other contender would be the Yankees’ “rock bottom” game in Buffalo — suddenly at .500, it was up to Deivi Garcia to deliver a gem to avoid a precipitous fall from the playoffs. The Yanks took that game 7-2, then won nine more in a row.

Schmidt’s of a new generation, and seamlessly blends analytics with the god-given baseball feeling that no one can beat him on any given day. Like Garcia, he does not lack for the requisite confidence.

Schmidt’s long-awaited MLB debut didn’t deliver — it came in the back half of a doubleheader in Baltimore, with runners on base and a one-run lead. He got BABIP’d to death, and surrendered several runs, unable to pull off a high-leverage high wire act in his very first appearance. We maintain it was the right call (the bullpen had evaporated) but it was still … very weird.

His second appearance? A scoreless inning in the back half of a blowout in Buffalo.

This start will be an entirely different animal, sure, but it’ll be a bear that’s much deeper in Schmidt’s wheelhouse than the mop up work and stressful relief he’s been subjected to so far.

If he plays his cards right, the Yankees might even be impressed enough to carry him along for the journey into October, however long. So much about the next month depends on Schmidt’s right arm, for his own personal schedule, and the team’s fate.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course. If Schmidt wins, Chicago loses and Cleveland wins to swipe the four spot, Shane Bieber might be more terrifying than anyone the Rays have to offer. But the Yankees want to win and they’re asking Schmidt to do so instead of Michael King or a bullpen overload.

It’s the right call.