Tanaka gets call to start se­ries opener for Yan­kees

Orlando Sentinel - - BASEBALL / SOCCER - By Mike Mazzeo

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.

ERIC GAY/AP

In­ter­preter Shingo Horie, left, with Yan­kees Game 1 starter Masahiro Tanaka dur­ing a work­out Thurs­day in Hous­ton.

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