Boston Red Sox

By Matt McCarthy,

The Yankees have sent a message loud and clear to the Oakland A’s:

“You won’t beat us. You’re not good enough to beat us.”

If the Yankees didn’t believe that, why else would they willfully, deliberately, and consciously opt not to go with their best starting pitcher in a do-or-die game?

The decision to start Luis Severino over J.A. Happ in the Wild Card game indicates the Yankees don’t take the A’s seriously. Planning for the ALDS against the Red Sox is more important to Yankees manager Aaron Boone than giving his team its best chance to beat Oakland.

That approach is either arrogant or stupid.

I don’t know which is worse.

Boone’s motive is clear: he wants to save Happ, his best and most reliable pitcher, for two starts against the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Why burn him against the pesky A’s?

In Boone’s mind, he’s going to win Wednesday no matter what. Who cares if the widely unreliable Severino melts down again? That would just be a minor speed bump on the way to Boston.

Severino turned into a puddle under the bright lights last year, imploding in the Wild Card game and nearly sinking the Yankees season with a four-hit, three-run, one batter retired meltdown that went down as one of the worst postseason starts in baseball history.

Luis Severino (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Luis Severino (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

But the Yankees mashed their way out of trouble that night. By starting Severino, Boone is telling the A’s that he expects his team to do the same if his righty turns in another ugly performance.

Boone isn’t blind. He knows Severino is liable to turn in a stinker more so than any other legitimate option on his staff. He just doesn’t think it will make a difference.

After all, this is the same Luis Severino that had a Cy Young-caliber first half before going on an 11-start stretch with an ERA of 6.73. One of the highlights of his second half disaster was getting rocked for six runs by the A’s less than a month ago over 2 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of 2018.

But the Yankees will be 1-0 in October no matter who starts, right Aaron? It’s only the Oakland A’s. There’s no need to start your best pitcher in this do-or-die game.

Happ has been outstanding since arriving in New York at the trading deadline, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 appearances in a Yankee uniform. His team is 9-2 in those games.

Why pitch him in the Wild Card game? Does this game matter?

The Yankees specifically acquired Happ to bolster their rotation for October, and now they’re not going to use him in what might be their only October game.

Don’t let Boone in on that secret.

Make no mistake about it: the Yankees are a better team than the A’s. The whole world knows it, and Boone knows it too.

He’s managing like he knows his team is better than the A’s. He’s already on to Boston.

We’ll see who is here at Fenway on Friday. The chances of the A’s coming to town just increased.

The only person who doesn’t think that is Aaron Boone.

You can hear Matt McCarthy on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s own Hardcore Baseball podcast and on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.