Aaron Boone is making the biggest gamble of his Yankees career

Eufemia Didonato

ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 25: New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone returns to the dugout in the sixth inning of game one of the MLB doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on August 26, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) Injury update on Joe Looney […]

Aaron Boone usually plays things safe for the Yankees. His decision to start Deivi Garcia in Game 2 of the ALDS is the biggest gamble of his career.

Starting Gerrit Cole in the first game of the ALDS was a no-brainer for Yankees manager Aaron Boone. Things get a lot more interesting for New York in Game 2. Choosing Deivi Garcia to follow Cole in the team’s starting rotation represents the biggest risk of Boone’s managerial career.

That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong call. There are plenty of reasons to believe that Garcia is the right pitcher to insert into this big spot. His poise during his brief time in the majors has been unbelievable. Garcia isn’t the sort of rookie who’s going to be intimidated by the pressure of pitching playoff baseball.

Garcia is still a starting pitcher that put up mediocre numbers during the regular season. Guys who pitch to a 4.98 ERA in six starts don’t typically get the nod to start high-pressure postseason games. The 21-year-old right-hander flashed brilliance for the Yankees down the stretch, but that doesn’t change the reality that he wasn’t a very productive starter in the majors this season.

Boone’s decision to back Garcia is an upside play. When he’s got his best stuff, he can dominate elite hitters. The Rays have a star-studded lineup that is capable of dominating mediocre pitching. Boone correctly understands that any pitcher he selects to start Game 2 will need to pitch at a high level to succeed. Average pitching will be punished by Tampa Bay.

Conventional wisdom would have led Boone to select Masahiro Tanaka as his Game 2 starter. He had an uneven outing against the Indians in his first postseason start of the year, but his overall playoff numbers are outstanding. Ironically, Tanaka’s made more playoff starts than Garcia made during this year’s regular season. His postseason ERA of 2.70 illustrates just how dominant the Japanese veteran has been for the Yankees during high stakes games.

Starting Garcia in Game 2 does buy an extra day of rest for Tanaka. That’s a big reason why Boone is making the unorthodox choice. Even so, he’ll face a ton of criticism from Yankees fans if Garcia goes to the mound and gets shelled. New York wants no part of a best of three series with a club that went 8-2 against them during the regular season.

Next: 5 Yankees who haven’t lived up to the hype in 2020

No matter what happens with Garcia tonight, Boone deserves credit for rolling the dice and taking a big swing that could tilt the series in his favor. Yankees fans have understandably criticized him for playing things too conservatively during the regular season. His playoff choices have been the exact opposite. They show that Boone knows it’s World Series title or bust for the Yankees in 2020.

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