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Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka (Elsa/Getty)

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Girardi sets Yankees pitching rotation for ALCS

Masahiro Tanaka will start Game 1, followed by Luis Severino in Game 2.

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi had some options when deciding his pitching rotation for the American League Championship Series.

Girardi will give the ball to Masahiro Tanaka when the ALCS begins Friday with Game 1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Following Tanaka will be Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, and Sonny Gray.

The big question was who would pitch Game 1. Tanaka has been noticeably different on the road than he was at home in Yankee Stadium this season. His 6.48 ERA in 15 road starts during the regular season is cause for concern. However, by pitching Game 1, Tanaka will be able to come back for a potential Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees have a chance at winning this series, it’s likely Tanaka would need to pitch twice, so this is a good decision by Girardi.

Tanaka is coming off possibly his best big game performance as a Yankee. He threw seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in ALDS Game 3 on Sunday to keep the Yankees alive. The dominant performance, albeit at home, surely gave Girardi confidence in handing the ball to Tanaka despite his up and down regular season.

Saturday’s Game 2 start will go to right-hander Luis Severino, the young starter who turned out to be the Yankees ace this season. After a brutal outing in the Wild Card game, Severino bounced back and threw seven innings of three-run ball, striking out nine, in New York’s Game 4 win over Cleveland.

Sabathia, while short outings, pitched two great games for the Yankees in Game 2 and 5 against the Indians. He will start Game 3 when the ALCS moves to New York. Many will tell you Game 3 is the swing game in a seven-game series and the Yankees will feel confident in their veteran presence on the mound. The big lefty has found a groove with his offspeed stuff, keeping hitters off balance early in games.

Gray will get the ball for Game 4. Gray has been ok for the Yankees since they acquired him from Oakland prior to the trade deadline. He’s run into some unfortunate scenario’s and not received much run support, but he has also not look dominant for the most part. He is however a very capable starter, one with experience.

Regardless of who is on the mound, they will be faced with a tough challenge. The Houston Astros have scored more runs than any team in baseball this season and they sport a dangerous lineup from top to bottom. AL MVP candidate, Jose Altuve, is the spark plug as arguably the best hitter in baseball. This is a team that combined speed, average, and power better than any other.

The Astros have announced Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander as their starters for Games 1 and 2, respectively.

Game 1 will air at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.

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