Tanaka gets call to start series opener for Yankees
HOUSTON — Masahiro Tanaka had his worst performance of the season against the Astros, allowing four home runs and failing to get out of the second inning.
Yet Joe Girardi and the Yankees are giving Tanaka the ball Friday night in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series.
They’re not concerning themselves with his favorable 3.22 home ERA as opposed to 6.48 on the road and essentially picking him on regular rest over Sonny Gray, who has had three bad starts in his last four outings.
Luis Severino, who struggled against the Astros in two starts in the regular season — 7.2 innings pitched, 15 hits, 9 runs — will go in Game 2.
Lefty CC Sabathia, who didn’t face the Astros in 2017, will start Game 3.
Gray, who surrendered five runs on seven hits over five innings against the Astros on June 20 when he was with the A’s, will pitch on 12 days’ rest when he gets the ball in Game 4.
The commonality here is this: None of these guys pitched well when facing the Astros’ complete and potent lineup, which features Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer and led the majors in runs scored.
But Girardi is understandably opting to lean on the recent successes of Tanaka and Severino over Gray, acquired at the trade deadline for prospects James Kaprielian, Jorge Mateo and Dustin Fowler. Tanaka has 22 strikeouts in his last two starts, and Severino got 21 outs in the AL Division THE SCHEDULE Series against one in the wild-card game.
To stay sharp, Gray threw a three-inning simulated game Thursday. And Girardi likes the idea of Tanaka getting a chance to potentially start a potential Game 5 at Yankee Stadium.
Of course, when Tanaka’s splitter-slider combo is on, he can be as tough to hit as anyone. But he also has been extremely inconsistent.
Still, Gray hasn’t performed well, trying to be too fine while struggling with walks and mistakes that turn into home runs.
“We just talked about who’s thrown well, how their stuff kind of sets up, and we decided to go this way,” Girardi said. “Obviously when you look at the splits for this (Astros) club, it really doesn’t matter. They hit righties the same as lefties. So we decided to go this way just based on what’s been going on the last month of the regular season and the playoffs so far, and go from there.”
The Yankees will likely need their high-octane bullpen just as much in this series as they did against the Indians. The group was pushed to the limit but managed to excel at the same time.
Aroldis Chapman hasn’t allowed a run since August. David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle recorded huge outs multiple-inning appearances. Chad Green, who hasn’t pitched since Game 2, could also play a huge role.
Interpreter Shingo Horie, left, with Yankees Game 1 starter Masahiro Tanaka during a workout Thursday in Houston.