Coming off a strenuous ALDS series against the Cleveland Guardians, the Yankees were backed into a corner regarding the usage of their starting pitchers.
With Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortés, and Luis Severino all unavailable for Game 1 against the Houston Astros, they were forced to pick between Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán. Unfortunately, it was a losing decision, no matter what Aaron Boone chose to do.
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The Yankees got more than enough from Taillon to compete:
The Yankees actually got decent production out of Taillon, who lasted 4.1 innings, giving up four hits and one earned run. He needed a few big-time plays in the outfield to get the job done, but that’s what it takes during postseason baseball.
Nonetheless, the very moment Boone took Taillon out of the game, his bullpen completely shut down. In fact, the usage of his bullpen was a clear indication that Boone wasn’t trying to utilize his more prevalent arms in big moments. In addition, not utilizing German for a few innings seemed like malpractice, electing to go with Clarke Schmidt instead.
Schmidt came in and immediately helped his team out of a jam, forcing a double play. Boone should’ve taken Schmidt out immediately after that one moment, as he proceeded to give up two solo home runs in the sixth inning, walking two batters in addition. That gave the Astros a 3–1 lead, putting the Yankees in an incredibly difficult spot against a dominant bullpen.
To make matters even worse, Boone tossed Frankie Montas in there, having not pitched in weeks, immediately giving up a solo home run to Jeremy Peña, Houston’s star rookie shortstop. To close the game, the Yankees threw out Miguel Castro, who was always considered a last-resort arm.
Given the usage of the bullpen and the fact Taillon was starting, to begin with, the Yankees had no choice but to give some of their more prevalent players rest. If they managed to win on Wednesday, it would’ve given them a significant advantage, provided the pitching matchups, but now they will have to rebound in Houston before returning to the Bronx for a three-game set.
The idea here was to rest Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, and some of the more integral bullpen pieces. With Severino on the mound Thursday, the Yankees have a much better opportunity to split the series in Houston before returning home to the Bronx.
However, Framber Valdez had a fantastic regular season, enjoying a 2.82 ERA with 17 wins. In his most recent performance against the Seattle Mariners during the ALDS, he gave up four hits, and two earned runs across 5.2 innings. He finished the season on a bit of a shaky note, so the Yankees may have an advantage with fatigue seeming to settle in.