Young gets start in Wild Card Game over Ellsbury
All year Yankees manager Joe Girardi has given one of his two left-handed hitting outfielders a night off against a left-handed starting pitcher. For Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, Jacoby Ellsbury was the one who had to grab the pine.
Girardi wanted to make sure Chris Young, who had a strong year against lefthanders, was in the lineup and chose to sit Ellsbury and have Gardner move from left field to center against AL Cy Young Award candidate Dallas Keuchel, who pitched 16 shutout innings against the Yankees this year.
Young batted .327 with 15 doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 153 at-bats against lefties this year. Neither Gardner nor Ellsbury finished the season on a high note. Girardi decided the statistics favored Gardner, who hit .276 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI in 170 at-bats against lefties, over Ellsbury, a .253 hitter with five doubles, three homers and eight RBI in 154 at-bats against southpaws.
Tuesday night marked the first time the Yankees played in the AL Wild Card Game in the four-year history of the event and was their fifth Wild Card berth overall. They reached the postseason through the wild card in 1995, 1997, 2007 and 2010. The Yankees clinched the 52nd playoff appearance in franchise history, most for any major league club. They have appeared in the postseason in 18 of the past 21 seasons. The Yankees are 12-11 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games, most recently winning 2012 ALDS Game 5 against the Orioles, 3-1. The Yanks have won the opening game of four consecutive postseasons (2009-12) and are 6-1 in postseason openers since 2005.
Of the 25 players on their AL Wild Card Game roster, 10 have prior postseason experience: Alex Rodriguez (75 games), Carlos Beltran (51), Ellsbury (38), Gardner (33), Brian McCann (12), Young (12), Andrew Miller (5), Brendan Ryan (3), Justin Wilson (3) and Ivan Nova (2). Of those 10, only Rodriguez, Gardner and Nova have appeared for the Yankees in the postseason. The roster includes eight rookies — Greg Bird, Slade Heathcott, Bryan Mitchell, Rico Noel, John Pazos, Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino. Bird and Refsnyder were in Tuesday night’s starting lineup.
Three Yankees players previously appeared in Wild Card Games — Beltran was 1-for-4 in the 2012 NL Wild Card Game with the Cardinals in a 6-3 victory over the Braves; McCann drew a walk in one plate appearance with Atlanta in that same game; Wilson pitched for the Pirates in their 8-0 loss to the Giants in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game and allowed one hit and one walk with one strikeout in one-third of an inning.
Yankees batters hit a club-record 47 home runs of at least three runs in 2015 (40 three-run homers, seven grand slams), 18 more than the next-highest team (Blue Jays with 29). It was the third-highest total in major-league history history, behind the 53 by the Mariners in 1996 and the 48 by the Cardinals in 2000.
Yankees relief pitchers set a single-season record with 596 combined strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 589 by the Rockies in 2012.
Yankees catchers combined for 28 home runs and 106 runs batted in, the highest HR and RBI totals among any team’s catchers. The Yanks used just two catchers this season, fewest in the majors, the first major-league team to use only two catchers for an entire season since the Pirates in 2012 with Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry). It was the third time in team history that the Yankees used only two catchers in a full season. The other years were 1972 (Thurman Munson and John Ellis) and 1940 (Bill Dickey and Buddy Rosar). Sanchez and Austin Romine were on the roster in September but neither went behind the plate.
Ironically, the Yankees had three catchers on the Wild Card Game roster: McCann, Murphy and Sanchez.