After 162 long games, everything comes down to tonight for the 2021 New York Yankees. Much like what happened 43 years ago on an October afternoon at Fenway Park, they’ll be on the road in Boston facing the Red Sox in a one-game showdown to see whose season will stay alive. Will any current Yankees have a Bucky Dent Moment in the Wild Card Game tonight? Join us in tuning in at 8:08pm ET on ESPN to find out (or if you prefer the Statcast edition, ESPN2).
The Yankees have announced the 26 players who will be active for the playoff. As a reminder, if the team is fortunate enough to advance, they’ll have the opportunity to make changes ahead of a possible Division Series matchup with the Rays. So in that case, there will probably be fewer bench players and more arms by then since standard starting pitchers like Jordan Montgomery, Corey Kluber, and Jameson Taillon would be back in the mix after being off today.
The Red Sox made their selections, notably leaving off J.D. Martinez due to a Game-162 injury and Chris Sale, who was ineffective that day and might not have helped much in short relief today anyway. But that’s the opposition; here’s who the Yankees will bring to Boston:
With DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit stuck on the IL, there aren’t many surprises here. Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka will be the catchers, and Rob Brantly was added to the 40-man roster to serve as an emergency third. That allows the team some flexibility if they want to pinch-run for the two primary fellas later on at various points. Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela (good to go after his tumble on Sunday), Rougned Odor, Tyler Wade, and Andrew Velazquez will also be available in the infield.
Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and Joey Gallo should start the outfield with Giancarlo Stanton almost certainly getting the start at DH rather than on the Fenway green. Greg Allen is back with the Yankees for the first time since early August to serve as a potential pinch-runner and defensive replacement. To make room for Allen and Brantly, on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated pitchers Brody Koerner and fan favorite Andrew Heaney for assignment. (What a trade that was! But whatever, it’s at least now in the past.)
Higashioka is a near-lock to start over Sánchez behind the plate because the man on the mound at the outset of the Wild Card Game will be Gerrit Cole. He’s the ace, but hopefully, manager Aaron Boone doesn’t hesitate to go to his bullpen if Cole doesn’t look sharp. If it was a suspect bullpen behind him, we’d understand the hesitance, but look at the arms that Boone has at his disposal:
RHP Jonathan Loáisiga
RHP Clay Holmes
RHP Luis Severino
RHP Chad Green
RHP Michael King
RHP Domingo Germán
LHP Aroldis Chapman
LHP Wandy Peralta
LHP Lucas Luetge
LHP Joely Rodríguez
LHP Néstor Cortes Jr.
That roster looks good enough to get the job done, and with a capable ‘pen rested and ready, Boone shouldn’t feel like he has to push Cole. Almost all of those pitchers — especially those top three righties — should give the Yankees a blueprint to the finish line if the offense can scratch out a lead off Nathan Eovaldi.