First and foremost, thank you to the Arizona Diamondbacks for defeating the Houston Astros and giving the Yankees home field for the Wild Card game, this coming Tuesday. Doesn't mean it's gonna be a sure win, but it gives the Yankees somewhat of a better chance.
My goodness, talk about a gift. Not only the Yankees managed to get a playoff berth by having a 1-6 record this week, they clinched home field!
Whatever. They got home field and that's all it matters.
As for the Yankees' opponent the Astros, they named lefty ace Dallas Keuchel as the starter for this Tuesday night's Wild Card game. It was crucial for the Yankees to have this game in Yankee Stadium since Keuchel is 15-0 at home with a 1.46 ERA at Minute Maid Park. Don't wanna face that.
Keuchel has pitched a gem in Minute Maid Park against the Yankees on June 25th - going the complete game shutout with 1 walk and 12 strikeouts.
Then Keuchel shuts out the Yankees again at Yankee Stadium this season on August 25th, where he went 7-innings, struckout 9 batters and no walks.
But that in that August game, Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and gave up 5 runs in the first inning. The game was out of reach early, that night.
There's also another difference this time around for Keuchel and that is, he'll be pitching on three days rest. Something he's never done before. Could mean nothing, could mean something.
Last time the Yankees faced a young, great pitcher in the postseason with three days rest, was Josh Beckett in the 2003 World Series, in game six. We all know how that turned out.
What worries me about this game is the Yankees disability for the lefty bats to hit homeruns over that short porch. Sure, lefties like Brian McCann and Greg Bird can still hit homeruns off lefty pitchers, but for the switch hitters who have to turn around to the right side to face Keuchel, like Carlos Beltran, it's tough to lose a lefty bat like that.
It looks like Rob Refsnyder will be in the lineup for this game and start at second base. I don't know if Joe Girardi would mess around with this idea, but I'd bat Refsnyder second in the lineup for the Wild Card game. Not only because of he's got a solid bat, for the fact he can run. He doesn't have great speed, but good enough speed to go from first to home, off a deep double.
Normally Chase Headley would bat second against a lefty pitcher. And Headley is 3-for-13 career off Keuchel with a homerun. Though Refsnyder can really jump start the offense in the first inning. With him batting second, the Yankees lineup looks a lot deeper with Headley and Chris Young in the bottom of the lineup.
I wonder if Girardi would play catcher John Ryan Murphy instead of McCann? Murphy is 2-for-5 off Keuchel. Girardi could start Murphy at first base, which would be terrifying since he's hardly played the position in his life. Risky to do in a one game playoff.
Or, McCann could end up being the first baseman, while Murphy catches.
Either way, McCann has to play because of his bat in Yankee Stadium.
Brett Gardner will most likely not start in this game, since he's a lefty and (Chris) Young is 6-for-20 off Keuchel, which is the most hits any current Yankee has against the Houston ace.
Bird could get the start, even though he's a lefty. With Keuchel pitching on three days rest, maybe there's fatigue where Bird can take advantage of.
Girardi has a lot of decisions to make, before Tuesday. All