The Yankees raised eyebrows when they named Deivi García their Game Two starter against the Rays. Turns out, that was a bit of gamesmanship by Aaron Boone.
As soon as García took the mound on Tuesday night, J.A. Happ began to warm in the bullpen. Was it part of his extended routine while García took a turn through the lineup?
Happ came on to pitch the second inning, and that was the plan all along. The Yankees forced Kevin Cash to deploy five left-handed bats in his lineup (Austin Meadows, Brandon Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, Joey Wendle, and Kevin Kiermaier), playing into Happ’s strength.
If the Rays mix and match, that gives the Yankees a place to use Adam Ottavino, a right-handed specialist. If they switch out again, then Boone can go to Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman. The Bombers effectively took control of the platoon matchups for the entire game.
The Brewers did something similar in Game Five of the 2018 NLCS. They named Wade Miley the starter before going to Brandon Woodruff after one batter.
The success of this strategy, of course, depends on Happ’s ability to keep the Rays off the board. He gave up a two-run homer to Mike Zunino in the second inning, which doesn’t exactly bode well. But, the Yankees are the Yankees, and a two run deficit isn’t insurmountable by any means.