|Yankees play Rays with eye on wild card game vs. A's|
Masahiro Tanaka is one of the three candidates to start the New York Yankees' wild card game against the Oakland A's next week.
As speculation flies -- among J.A. Happ, Luis Severino and Tanaka -- manager Aaron Boone hasn't let the world know who it will be. Could it depend on where the game is played? They know the opponent, but you can't have any more difference in ballparks than the one between Yankee Stadium and the Oakland Coliseum.
Tanaka, who faces the Rays in the third game of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Trop Wednesday, would have almost a full week off before next Wednesday's wild card game -- and has always benefited from extra rest.
The Yankees used a seven-run third inning to cruise to a 9-2 victory Tuesday night -- their 97th win of the season, Severino winning his 19th of the year.
New York is 2 1/2 games ahead of Oakland for the AL wild-card home-field advantage after the Athletics lost 10-8 in 11 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Tanaka, 12-5 with a 3.67 ERA on the season, is coming off a rough start against the Red Sox in New York. He is 3-2 with a 2.53 ERA lifetime against the A's -- 1-1 with a 4.91 in two starts in Oakland.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA against Tampa Bay this season, 8-3 with a 3.56 in 13 career starts against the Rays, 4-2 with a 4.41 at the Trop.
Monday, Boone said, "I think a lot of people have read too much into how Happ is set up right now.
"Happ is very much in the picture as a possibility for us and one of those good choices ... but how it lines up right now isn't by design or anything."
Ryne Stanek will be the "opener" for the Rays Wednesday, with Yonny Chirinos getting the bulk of the work in relief.
Meanwhile, there were all kinds of medical updates for the Yankees, who seem to lose a player every day at the very worst time.
Didi Gregorius, who suffered torn right wrist cartilage diving into home plate Saturday, continued to feel better and even took grounders -- without throwing -- Tuesday. He sees the doctor Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone saying, "Hopefully that goes well, and it moves thereafter, but until that happens I think we're all kind of speculating a little bit.
"(Wednesday) is a big day. It's been exciting to hear that he seems like he's improving every day and you see the optimism with Didi, but I think he'll see the doctor and then he can get a bat in his hand and really test it out."
Aaron Hicks, who left Monday's game with left hamstring tightness, had a successful MRI but will rest at least until the club goes to Boston for the weekend. Boone said, "we feel like we dodged a bullet."
More trouble: Gleyber Torres was scratched Tuesday with tightness in his groin, expected miss just one game. "I thought it was the smart thing to do," the manager said. "He'll be available. I don't think it's a big deal. He certainly felt like he could have played, but I think it's the right thing to do."
For the Rays, Ji-Man Choi made his debut at first base after playing exclusively as a DH and pinch hitter. But he only got as far as the third inning, leaving the game with concussion-like symptoms and an ear laceration after a collision at home plate with Gary Sanchez. Choi was bloodied and needed stitches in his ear.
Before the game, the Rays announced catcher Michael Perez, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 31 with a hamstring injury, will not make it back this week after a setback.
"I think Mikie, probably his season has come to an end, which is unfortunate," manager Kevin Cash said. "Fluke play that happened. And I think we all, himself included, thought he would be back in shorter time. But for whatever reason, (that) hasn't responded."
C.J. Cron is 3-for-6 (.500), Kevin Kiermaier 7-for-22 (.318) with a home run and Carlos Gomez 3-for-10 (.300) lifetime against Tanaka, while Matt Duffy is 1-for-7 (.143) and Mallex Smith 2-for-11 (.182).