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Yankees tap Masahiro Tanaka to start Game One of the ALCS

Tanaka gets the ball at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night

MLB: ALDS-Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to start Game One of the ALCS, said Aaron Boone to members of the media on Friday evening. The team deviated from its ALDS rotation to get Tanaka the ball in Minute Maid Park against the Astros.

Tanaka, 30, pitched to a 4.45 ERA (4.27 FIP) across 182 innings in 2019. The right-hander pitched significantly better at home, with a 3.10 ERA (3.78 FIP ), than on the road, where he sported a 6.05 ERA (4.85 FIP). Encouraged by his strong postseason track record—including the club’s best start of the ALDS—the team entrusted Tanaka with the series opener.

“A tough one to be made,” manager Aaron Boone said of the decision to start Tanaka on Saturday night. “Similar to the Division Series where I was going back and forth a lot, just felt like Masa here in Game One was the way I wanted to go in the end.”

For his part, Tanaka feels up for the task.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he explained to Bryan Hoch. “You try not to do anything different going into the game. You prepare for it, you make your plans and you go out there and execute.”

Opposite Tanaka, the Astros will start Zack Greinke. The right-hander joined Houston at the trade deadline and pitched well down the stretch, logging a 3.02 ERA (3.28 FIP). The Tampa Bay Rays, however, roughed Greinke up Game Three of the ALDS. He allowed three home runs and failed to compete four innings of work.

After Saturday’s game, the Yankees turn to James Paxton on the road before Luis Severino at home in Game Three. It remains unknown who will start Game Four for the Bombers, but one has to expect J.A. Happ to be in the mix.