Like it or not, the New York Yankees simply have to put out a lineup for (clears throat) the Wild Card Game on the road at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
It is happening. The Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. One game. Road game. Blechhhhh. Better to be here than not, right? …Right? Blechhhhh.
Both teams are entering this contest limping, somewhat. The Yanks got all the juice extracted from their bodies en route to clinching, needing just a single win against the Tampa Bay Rays to move onto the dance, and not securing that win until there was one out in the bottom of the ninth of the series’ third game.
What, couldn’t wait one more out, Yankees? What gives?
The Red Sox, on the other had, enter the showdown in nearly the same situation they were in last Friday when these two teams met with Gerrit Cole on the mound.
Last week, Boston had rampaged over the hapless Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets, believing in the power of their yellow jerseys only to get the wrong outcome three times out of three against the Bombers. This time? After dropping five-of-six to the Yankees and O’s, they swept Washington, nearly blowing both the Saturday and Sunday games.
In terms of high-profile injuries, both sides are basically even, too. DJ LeMahieu is out and on the IL for the Yankees. JD Martinez tripped over second base en route to the outfield in DC (no DH!) and is questionable for this game, though we bet he’ll find the physical fortitude to play. They always do. Bottom line, if your first name is made up of initials, you’ve thrown a wrench into your manager’s plans for this one.
Oh, and then there’s Gio Urshela, who ran full speed into a gap in the Yankees’ dugout wall and slammed against 25 different pieces of metal. Theoretically, he should play Tuesday, too.
What’s the Yankees’ projected lineup for the AL Wild Card Game vs Boston?
All things considered, I expect Urshela to play; I’m not sure, though, if he can handle shortstop. It was extremely surprising when the 29-year-old daredevil came out for the top of the seventh. It was even more shocking when he batted in the bottom of the eighth, clearly unable to run to first at full capacity.
It seems as if the Yankees really lucked out that no Ray laced a hard-hit, 50/50 ball into the shortstop hole in either the seventh or eighth. Might’ve changed the entire game.
Supposedly, Urshela’s malady is a thigh bruise, but he sort of looked messed up in multiple ways for the remainder of Sunday’s Game 162. It seems like a better bet that he’ll play third on Tuesday, barring a flawless workout session in between.
With that in mind, our lineup:
- Gleyber Torres, 2B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Aaron Judge, RF
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH
- Joey Gallo, LF
- Gio Urshela, 3B
- Brett Gardner, LF
- Kyle Higashioka, C
- Andrew Velazquez, SS
It’s not quite the Bronx Bombers you expected to see in April, and there are … well, two positions specifically where, at first blush, it seems like there’s a theoretically worse option on the field.
But Kyle Higashioka is catching Gerrit Cole. That’s not up for debate. At this point, would we prefer Gary Sánchez at DH, Stanton in left field, Judge in center, and Gardner out of the lineup? Counterpoint: Why?
In the second half, Sánchez hit .183 with eight home runs and 19 RBI. On the year, he hit .186 with a .629 OPS in road ballparks. In the year as a whole, he turned out to be a solidly valuable player at home (.839 OPS) and a borderline unplayable one in harsher, unfamiliar environments. After a promising start, he wrapped the season with a 99 OPS+, slightly below league average.
Could some of Sánchez’s dropoff have been due to haphazard usage patterns dictated by Aaron Boone? Possibly. But it’s too late for that now. There’s nothing from Sánchez’s second half indicating his bat is worth losing Brett Gardner’s defense and offense; Gardy has posted an .803 OPS over the past 28 days.
As for Velazquez? It’s just a hunch. Perhaps Urshela rallies everything within his body and mans short. Maybe he sprawls into the awful, cramped Fenway dugout and catches some looping pop-up to seal a win.
There’s no real downside to starting Velazquez over Rougned Odor, though, considering the clear defensive upgrade, the speed, and the fact that Odor could theoretically run into one, but hasn’t in any of the four games he’s started over the past 28 days.
This is our lineup. What’ll Aaron Boone’s be? Something more nonsensical that shoehorns Sánchez into the mix? Based on what he’s valued over the second half, we think ours is more likely.