The New York Yankees crushed the Tampa Bay Rays, 9-3, to win Game 1 of their American League Division Series matchup at Petco Park in San Diego. Perennial Cy Young candidates Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell were the starting pitchers in a game that featured a combined six home runs (four by the Yankees). The Rays will send hard-throwing righty Tyler Glasnow to the mound in Game 2. Somewhat surprisingly, the Yankees will counter with rookie righty Deivi Garcia.
"That means a lot to me and to my family, which will be supporting me from the Dominican Republic," Garcia told reporters, including James Wagner of the New York Times, on Monday. "I'm grateful to God for this opportunity."
Garcia, 21, was New York's top prospect coming into the season. He made his MLB debut on Aug. 30 and pitched to a 4.98 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings spread across six starts. One disaster outing against the Red Sox on Sept. 20 (six runs in three innings) skews his overall numbers a bit (3.73 ERA in other five starts).
The Yankees will be looking to gain a 2-0 series advantage, and starting a rookie over a veteran like Tanaka certainly qualifies as unexpected. Manager Aaron Boone declined to explain the decision Monday but three possible reasons jump to mind:
- The Rays have never faced Garcia and the element of surprise is typically advantage pitcher.
- Cole and Tanaka are New York's most trusted workhorses and they're spreading them out to spare the bullpen.
- Garcia may be used as an opener or a one time through the order starter only (then do the same in Game 5?).
The alternative to Garcia and Tanaka are southpaws J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery. The Rays punish lefties though -- Tampa had a 112 OPS+ against lefties during the regular season compared to a 100 OPS+ against righties -- so the Yankees will begin the series with three righties. Happ is the safe bet to start a potential Game 4.
At 21 years and 140 days, Garcia will become the youngest postseason starting pitcher in Yankees history, according to YES Network researcher James Smyth. Hall of Famer Whitey Ford was the previous youngest at 21 years and 352 days.