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James Paxton (Seth Wenig/AP)

Baseball

A case for each Yankee starter to take the ball for Game 1

For the first time in the post-Jeter/Rodriguez era, the New York Yankees will open the postseason without the duress of a one-game playoff.

Luis Severino, having started the last two Yankees wild card games, seems to have come back and returned to form just in the nick of time to make a postseason impact.

His history in October has been a mixed bag with a brief but effective start in last season’s wild card game against Oakland, and a first-inning meltdown in the 2017 game against Minnesota, the team he would face Friday night.

If he were to take the ball in Game 1, its only his fourth appearance of the season, but a start falling right in the heat of an early-half of 2018 Severino-like run. He’s pitched to a 1.5 ERA in 12 innings pitched this season with 17 strikeouts. Those numbers might be too good to not warrant a Game 1 start.

Masahiro Tanaka, who started and lost the first wild card game in the Bronx back in 2015, statically has been the Yankees best postseason starting pitcher over the last two playoff runs.

His overall numbers this year paint the picture of yet another inconsistent season. But in the deeper details, exist some un-hittable Tanaka moments. He’s had a handful of similar moments in the post-season, most commonly at home.

The argument could be made that he should be set up to get as many home starts as possible this October, starting with Game 1.

James Paxton is considered the favorite by many speculators at this time. Even as a veteran, Game 1 would still be Paxton’s first career playoff start. He also struggled earlier in the season as a newcomer in the Bronx under the pressure that many veterans face when putting on the pinstripes for the first time.

Pressure that is only emphasized in October. He has pitched seven straight quality starts but in little-to-no-meaning late-season baseball.

But, the strategy could be to set up the more-experienced likes of Severino and Tanaka up to pitch in the early-games of the ALCS if the Yankees are to advance.

Game 1 against the Twins could end up being one of the least consequential in the span of the Yankees 2019 post-season when all is said and done, so starting with an effective-but-mid-tier pitcher could set the club up for success in the later rounds.

CC Sabathia has already been reportedly ruled out of the Game 1 nod, but in a hypothetical world of denial, the same argument could be made that he open the Yankees post-season.

An argument similar to that of Paxton but combined with argument that he has the greatest degree of postseason experience of all the Yankees pitchers.

More of a relic for the Yankees now than a starting pitcher, Sabathia is the last remaining player from the franchise’s last World Series championship from exactly a decade ago. The presence and Aura of Sabathia on the mound to open the playoffs could serve a starting point for destiny this October.

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