In an all-hands-on-deck Game 5, Yankees' pitching deck is full of aces
And thus, the only pitcher of the 12 on the ALDS roster manager Joe Girardi won't think about going to in the decider is Luis Severino, who tossed seven strong innings in Game 4 Monday night to push the Yankees to Game 5.
"Everyone should be available. The only guy that I probably wouldn't use would be Sevy, and everyone else is probably available," Girardi said on Tuesday evening.
That includes Game 1 starter Sonny Gray, who hasn't pitched since last Thursday, and also Masahiro Tanaka, who threw seven shutout innings in Game 3 Sunday night and could possibly give an inning or two on what would be, during the regular season, his normal throw day between starts.
"I know he's done it before in Japan, but that's something obviously I would talk to him about before I made a decision," Girardi had said prior to Game 4 when asked if Tanaka might be available for a Game 5. "But I have to see how he feels. That's the important thing with him; it's one thing to say I'm going to use him out of the bullpen, but if he doesn't feel good and his stuff's not up to par, then it doesn't make a lot of sense. So it's more of let's get to Game 5 and then I'll see how he feels."
The Yankees will be happy to have (almost) all hands on deck, and as is their mantra, anyone could realistically enter the game at any time.
"In trying to draw up scenarios, it's determined on the game and how it's going," Girardi said when asked of his possible relief plan for Game 5. "What you're going to do is based on what's available, and how much distance you get from your starter, and the score and match-ups. A game like this could be really close, or go extra innings…we've seen some pretty tight games in the four that we've had, and there's a lot of things that could happen in a game like this."
Girardi has had to lean heavily on his bullpen so far this postseason, starting when Severino's quick exit in the Wild Card Game left 26 outs to be had by the relievers. Two days later, the skipper needed 4 2/3 inning behind Gray in ALDS Game 1, and Friday's 13-inning affair required the bullpen to toss 6 2/3 official innings in Game 2.
However, with Tanaka and Severino each going seven in Games 3 and 4, respectively, much of the bullpen got a nice respite, and many of them should be as fresh as optimal. Thanks in part to off-days preceding Games 3 and 5, Chad Green hasn't pitched since Friday, Adam Warren and Jaime Garcia haven't pitched since relieving Gray last Thursday, and the four relievers with multiple appearances over Games 2-4 have had three of the last five days off.
Add in the potential that, if the Yankees win Wednesday, they'd have another day off before the ALCS begins Friday, and Girardi doesn't have to worry about burning one arm out like he might have had to in that Wild Card Game. That's huge when it comes to someone like David Robertson, who threw a career-high 52 pitches over 3 1/3 innings against Minnesota and subsequently wasn't as sharp as usual in his appearances in Games 2 and 3 of the ALDS.
"I think the two days off probably helped him. I think part of his - when you look at the last couple outings with him, he's still been pretty darn good, but probably some of it goes back to the 52 pitches," Girardi said of D-Rob. "We've gotten pretty far away from that, and I have not used him more than 22 or 23 since then. I think he'll probably be pretty fresh (for Game 5)."
It's also big for Tommy Kahnle, who has gone from matchup reliever to multi-inning weapon over the season's final weeks, and was called on to get the final six outs of Game 4 after Dellin Betances walked two consecutive batters.
"Over these two months, we've learned a lot about him," Girardi said of Kahnle. "I put him in many different situations and talked about how I might use him, but the one thing we weren't sure about was multiple innings with him, because he didn't do it in Chicago a lot this year. He'd had success in Chicago, and you wonder if the reason the guy's having a ton of success is because he's not being used multiple innings, but he's responded pretty well with that lately."
And speaking of multi-inning appearances, Girardi also said he won't hesitate to use closer Aroldis Chapman, who pitched two full innings in Game 2 and got five outs in Game 3, in similar fashion.
"I don't think that you can really say, 'well, this is how we're going to do it,' because the game determines that, but I think he's probably available for a couple innings if I need him," Girardi said.
So, too, is Betances, who pitched a flawless eighth inning in Game 1 but allowed the walk-off run in Game 2 and then walked both batters he faced in the eighth inning of Game 4.
"I still believe in Dellin; he's pitched really well in the other two games he pitched, so I look at it as a one-game (struggle)," Girardi said. "There's a good chance we're going to need him tomorrow, and he's going to have to pitch well."
And no matter whether CC Sabathia's start Wednesday more closely mirrors Severino's in the Wild Card Game or the lefty's own last postseason victory - a complete game in Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS versus Baltimore - Girardi believes all 10 of his choices behind Sabathia are good ones.
"I believe in all of our guys. We wouldn't be to this point if they hadn't had success along the way."