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FAQs Yankees face as they head to playoffs

September 26, 2018

The Yankees savored their first celebration of the season Saturday at Yankee Stadium, as Aaron Hicks' 11th-inning double chased Didi Gregorius home with the run that stamped their entry into the American League Wild Card Game, the seventh Wild Card berth in franchise history.Following a brief speech from manager Aaron

The Yankees savored their first celebration of the season Saturday at Yankee Stadium, as Aaron Hicks' 11th-inning double chased Didi Gregorius home with the run that stamped their entry into the American League Wild Card Game, the seventh Wild Card berth in franchise history.
Following a brief speech from manager Aaron Boone, they donned goggles and popped the corks on more than 100 bottles of Moet & Chandon. Rookies Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres excitedly doused each other in the aromatic bubbly, while some of the more experienced Yanks looked on knowingly.
"They feel great every time," Aaron Judge said. "Any time you get a chance to play in the postseason, it's a blessing. It's a lot of hard work all around, from top to bottom in this organization, but we're not done yet. We've still got a lot of work to do. This is just the first step. We've got to keep working and keep playing through October."
Here are some of the frequently asked questions that Yankees fans have as the club approaches the postseason:
Q. Who will the Yankees face, where and when?
A: The Yankees will host the Athletics on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised by TBS.
Q. Who will start the Wild Card Game for the Yankees?
A: No decision has been announced, and Boone said on Friday that the Yankees plan to dig into that topic further during the weekend series at Fenway Park. J.A. Happ started Friday vs. the Red Sox, which would put him on regular rest for the Wild Card Game, but Boone said that Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino are also being considered.
Q. What do the numbers say?
A: Severino started last year's AL Wild Card Game, though he recorded just one out and has been in a second-half slide after being selected as an AL All-Star. Even with solid recent efforts against the Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees appear likely to save Severino for a potential AL Division Series against Boston, leaving Boone to choose between Happ and Tanaka.

Happ has been excellent in 11 starts since joining the Yankees in late July, pitching to a 7-0 record and 2.69 ERA. The Yanks are 9-2 in his starts, including a Sept. 4 victory at Oakland Coliseum in which Happ worked six innings of one-run, two-hit ball, walking one and striking out five. His only blemish was a second-inning Stephen Piscotty homer. Happ is 4-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 11 career games (nine starts) vs. the A's.
Tanaka stumbled in his final two starts of the regular season, completing just four innings in outings against the Red Sox and Rays while allowing nine runs (eight earned) and 14 hits. Tanaka has not faced the Athletics in 2018, but he is 3-2 with a 2.53 ERA in five career starts vs. the A's. He also pitched some of the Yankees' best games in the 2017 postseason.

Happ is a lefty and Tanaka is a righty, but the A's handle left-handers and right-handers similarly.
Q. How significant is home-field advantage?
A: The Yankees were 53-28 during the regular season at Yankee Stadium this year after going 51-30 there in 2017. They did not lose a single postseason game played in New York last year, defeating the Twins once, the Indians twice and the Astros three times. Derek Jeter used to say that you can't compare seasons, but it's clear that playing in the Bronx makes for the Yanks' best bet.
"It's important, but we don't mind where we play," Judge said. "We obviously want to play at home in front of the best fans. They come out in numbers."
Q. Could the Yankees "bullpen" the Wild Card Game?
A: Using relievers to start games has been in vogue this year. Boone and general manager Brian Cashman have not ruled the idea out, but they've indicated that it is unlikely. Then again, whoever starts could have a short leash; remember, they didn't plan to get 26 outs from the bullpen in last year's Wild Card Game vs. the Twins. It's all hands on deck, and Boone feels like he has the weapons to go to the bullpen early.
Q. Who will catch the Wild Card Game?
A: Boone has said that he will have Gary Sanchez behind the plate, regardless of who pitches. Boone has said that while Sanchez must improve his blocking, he believes Sanchez's ability to receive pitches, call games and slow down runners have been "really strong" since he returned from the disabled list.

Q. What will the roster look like?
A: There shouldn't be many surprises; Cashman said that "in most cases, the answers will be obvious. We're just going to put our best out there." For example, given how Boone filled out his September lineups, it would be a significant surprise if Luke Voit did not start at first base.
It is worth mentioning that the Yankees will have the flexibility to carry extra relievers and bench players for the Wild Card Game, since their intended starters for the ALDS would be left off the roster. That roster would be reset if they advance.
Q. Who is the Yankees' closer?
A: Boone mixed and matched while Albertin Chapman was on the disabled list with left knee tendinitis, offering late-game opportunities to Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, Chad Green and Player Page for David Robertson. Of that group, Britton has impressed in particular, though Boone has said that he envisions Chapman returning to the closer's role in time for the postseason.

Q. Let's say the Yankees defeat the A's. What's next?
A: The winner of the Wild Card Game will face the Red Sox in the ALDS, which opens on Oct. 5 at Fenway Park. Game 3 will be played at the Wild Card winner's home park on Oct. 8; if necessary, Game 4 would be played at the same park on Oct. 9. Start times have not been determined, but those games will be televised on TBS.
The Yankees are 8-9 against Boston this season. New York won six of nine games vs. Boston played at Yankee Stadium, and is 2-6 at Fenway Park this year, with the final two games of the regular season to be played this weekend.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.