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Tanaka, Paxton, Severino slated for Gms 1, 2, 3

Japanese righty on facing Astros: 'It's going to be a challenge'
@BryanHoch
October 12, 2019

HOUSTON -- Masahiro Tanaka has continuously embraced the challenge of pitching in big games, building a reputation for his postseason presence. The Yankees' right-hander can add to that resume on Saturday, when he will draw the start against the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Before

HOUSTON -- Masahiro Tanaka has continuously embraced the challenge of pitching in big games, building a reputation for his postseason presence. The Yankees' right-hander can add to that resume on Saturday, when he will draw the start against the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

Before the Yankees departed New York, manager Aaron Boone informed Tanaka that he should prepare to pitch Saturday. Tanaka will be followed by left-hander James Paxton for Game 2 on Sunday and Luis Severino for Tuesday’s Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

“Facing the Houston lineup, it's going to be a challenge,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “You try not to do anything sort of different going into the game. You prepare for it. You make your plans, and basically, you go out there and execute.”

Game Date Time Matchup/
Result
TV/
Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 12   NYY 7, HOU 0 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 13   HOU 3, NYY 2 (11) Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 15   HOU 4, NYY 1 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 17 8 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
Gm 5 Oct. 18 7 p.m. HOU vs. NYY FS1
*Gm 6 Oct. 19 8 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1
*Gm 7 Oct. 20 7:30 p.m. NYY vs. HOU FS1

That sets up some heavyweight matchups for the beginning of a showdown between a pair of 100-plus-win division winners: Tanaka against Zack Greinke in Game 1, Paxton against Justin Verlander in Game 2 and Severino against Gerrit Cole in Game 3.

“I felt like it was a good decision,” Boone said. “It was a tough one to be made, similar to the Division Series [against the Twins], where I was going back and forth a lot. I just felt like Masa here in Game 1 is the way I wanted to go.”

Game 1 will follow a similar script as the 2017 ALCS between these two clubs, when Tanaka took the ball in the series opener at Minute Maid Park and put together six innings of two-run ball, allowing four hits and one walk. But Tanaka was outdueled by Dallas Keuchel's seven scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts as the Astros eked out a 2-1 victory.

Yanks-Astros ALCS rematch 'going to be a blast'

Tanaka was even better in winning Game 5 of that series at Yankee Stadium, shutting out the potent Houston lineup over seven innings while allowing three hits and one walk. He has been the Yankees’ most consistent postseason starter during his tenure in the Bronx, compiling a 1.54 ERA while winning four of his six October starts.

“One thing I can say is that we've been here, in 2017,” Tanaka said. “We know what it's like in here. I think that experience will definitely help going into the game. The other part is just really going into the game with good focus and concentration and really pitch your game, just execute your pitches.”

Who has edge? NYY-HOU position by position

Should the series advance beyond four games, Boone’s decision could permit Tanaka to pitch Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, rather than a potential Game 6 on the road. The right-hander was 8-3 with a 3.10 ERA while holding opponents to a .238 average at home during the regular season, as opposed to 3-6 with a 6.05 ERA and .287 opponent average on the road.

Tanaka held the Twins’ powerful offense to one run on three hits over five innings in Game 2 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium.

“You just need to be better than the opponent,” Tanaka said. “I think it comes down to the individuals being able to execute and really go on that field and be able to do their job. I think that would be key.”

Paxton had mixed results in two starts against the Astros during the regular season, taking a loss with five runs and two homers allowed in Houston on April 10 before rallying for five solid innings of one-run ball on June 21 in the Bronx. The southpaw struck out eight Twins while allowing three earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALDS.

Severino missed both of the Yankees’ series against the Astros, as he didn’t make his season debut following rotator cuff and lat ailments until late September. But the hard-throwing righty was strong in the Yanks' ALDS Game 3 against the Twins, shutting out Minnesota with four strikeouts over four frames in the series-clinching win.

“We're going for broke,” Boone said. “We'll try and do everything we can each and every day to win a ballgame.”

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