The New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, which have formed kind of a modern rivalry over the last few years, are set to face each other in the American League Division Series in San Diego, starting on Monday.
Given the new playoffs format in this shortened 2020 season, the division series will be played in a best-of-five matchup, with no off days. That means two things: the Yankees probably won’t use ace Gerrit Cole in two games unless they want to send him on short rest for a hypothetical Game 5; and that the managers need to be creative and efficient with their use of the bullpen.
Yankees’ skipper Aaron Boone used to have dominant bullpens in the last few years. However, due to some crucial free agent departures and injuries, the unit has been somewhat decimated this season.
There are only three relievers that Boone really trusts: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Chad Green. Adam Ottavino has fallen down in the pecking order, and guys like Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Holder are serviceable, but not quite in Boone’s circle of trust.
The Yankees need their pitchers to step up
To survive the Rays, the New York Yankees will need Cole to cover at least seven or eight strong frames on Monday, and they will also require Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Deivi Garcia and Jordan Montgomery to provide strong performances in the rotation.
â€œMost postseasons that I’ve been in, the bullpen decides the outcome of the game,â€ Britton said to MLB.com. â€œOur guys are willing to embrace it. The series that we’ve played against the Rays are always pretty tight, and it seems that the bullpen does determine the outcome of the game. We know for the most part that theyâ€™re pretty low-scoring, so weâ€™ve got to match their bullpen.â€
Britton, presumably, won’t be opposed to appear in all five games if necessary. The Yankees need him to be at his best.
â€œIâ€™ve thrown four days in a row quite a bit in my career,â€ Britton said. â€œItâ€™s all hands on deck in the postseason. Five days in a row would be interesting; youâ€™d have to be really efficient the first four days for that to happen. But if itâ€™s a winner-take-all game, youâ€™re going to do it.â€