Entering Sunday's slate, the Yankees have a hefty five-game lead over the Twins for the top AL wild-card spot. At the same time, they trail the Red Sox by three games in the AL East. That's why in , the Yanks were given a 77.8 percent chance of making the postseason but just a 31 percent chance of winning the division. So while the AL East is still in play, the Yankees are very likely to host the AL Wild Card Game.
On that front, the Yankees may already be making pitching plans. Veteran lefty CC Sabathia was supposed to start Sunday's home tilt against the Orioles (BAL-NYY GameTracker), but instead manager Joe Girardi reshuffled and gave Sonny Gray the start. According to Girardi, he did it so that Sabathia could avoid pitching on the Rogers Centre turf during the series in Toronto that starts Friday. As Peter Botte of the New York Daily News points out, though, the real reason is probably more forward-looking. Botte writes:
The switch – with Sonny Gray taking Sabathia's spot on Sunday against Baltimore, and Jaime Garcia (Monday) and Masahiro Tanaka (Wednesday) sandwiching CC's rescheduled outing – also means that Severino now won't pitch again until Friday in Toronto.
That sets up the first-time All-Star for one more regular-season start the following Wednesday or Thursday, and then not likely again until Tuesday, Oct. 3 for the potential AL Wild Card game.
Twenty-three-year-old Luis Severino has indeed been the Yankees' best starting pitcher this season, and it's not an especially close call. After 29 starts, he's pitched to a 2.93 ERA (156 ERA+) with a 4.45 K/BB ratio. In related matters, Severino is also perhaps the hardest-throwing starter in baseball today. So he's in line to pitch the Wild Card Game. If the Yankees back-slide and end up fighting for their playoff lives or, alternatively, have a chance to catch the Red Sox in the final series of the regular season, then Severino could pitch then instead.
If the Yanks are able to stick to this implicit plan, then they'll have a rested Severino pitching in front of what's become a powerhouse bullpen. That sets the Yankees up pretty nicely.