The New York Yankees have had a pretty successful 2015, and barring a catastrophic collapse, they will return to the postseason for the first time since 2012. While they won’t end up with the AL East crown, the will play in the Wild Card game, which will likely be against the Houston Astros. The Yankees will probably face Houston ace Dallas Keuchel, who is the frontrunner for the American League Cy Young award this year. But the decision Joe Girardi has to make is who will oppose him?
The Yankees spent a lot of money on acquiring Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, signing the right-hander to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the hopes that he would be their ace for the future. He has been very reliable in his short career in the Major Leagues, posting a 3.09 ERA with a 25-12 record. He has struggled during 2015, seeing his ERA jump 0.60 points up from last year. One reason is that he is leaving too many good pitches over the plate, and hitters are capitalizing. He has given up 24 home runs this year, which is nine more than in 2014. With Houston being a team that relies on the long ball, this can be a cause for concern. Tanaka has had one start in 2015 against Houston, not getting a decision, but giving up six runs and seven hits over just five innings. His 10.80 ERA against the Astros is his worst ERA against a team this year by more than four points.
When a team is in an elimination game, they are supposed to do whatever it takes to win and stay alive. This means not necessarily pitching their ace, but pitching the guy who gives them the best chance to win. Nathan Eovaldi has been that guy for the Yankees in 2015. The Bronx Bombers always seem to play their best whenever Eovaldi toes the rubber; with a record of 18-9 in games he starts. Eovaldi has been shut down for the remainder of the regular season with elbow inflammation, but that doesn’t mean he can’t return for the postseason. In his two starts against the Astros in 2015, Eovaldi is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA, allowing only two runs and nine hits over 14 innings. This is Eovaldi’s lowest ERA against an opponent, besides his 0.84 against the Angels. In addition to Eovaldi managing to give the Yankees a chance to win, he has received the best run support in baseball. The Yankees are scoring an average of 7.2 runs whenever he is on the hill, the best in baseball by 0.3 runs. With his 4.20 ERA, seven runs should be plenty.
While this game is very important for the Yankees and their fans, it should be an interesting move to see whom Girardi puts on the bump. Both of these men are great pitchers, and will give it their all when given the chance. With Keuchel being as dominant as he is, the Yankees are going to need all the runs they can, and need to hold Houston to as little offense as possible. That being said, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Nathan Eovaldi with the ball in his hands. If he is healthy and his elbow is good, then this is the move that Girardi should make.
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