What we're watching: Halladay's Jays finale?

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– Roy Halladay could be making his last start for the Blue Jays, or he
might even be moved before the game. With rumors of a Phillies deal
swirling, Halladay is set to face the slumping Rays tonight. The Rays
will look to bounce back after going 27 up, 27 down against Mark
Buehrle on Thursday. Matt Garza, who has started the month 0-2 with a
6.06 ERA through three starts, is set to oppose Halladay.

– The Twins are going to have to try to shake off another tough loss
after Joe Nathan blew his first save in two months last night.
Francisco Liriano will get the ball for Minnesota in game two of a
four-game series. He’s steadily lowered his ERA from 6.60 to 5.33 with
eight respectable starts in a row, but he hasn’t dominated at any
point. Angels starter John Lackey was sort of in the same boat a week
ago, but he pitched a three-hit shutout against the A’s last time out.
His ERA has fallen from 6.61 to 4.39 over the course of his last seven
starts.

Game of the Night

Florida vs. L.A. Dodgers – Two of the NL’s best young pitchers will
face off, with Josh Johnson dueling against Clayton Kershaw. Both enter
the night with eight wins and sub-3.00 ERAs. Johnson has just two
losses in 19 starts and hasn’t allowed more than three runs since April
18. However, he has a 7.71 ERA in three career starts against the
Dodgers. Kerhsaw has won five in a row and given up a total of three
runs in his last seven starts. He’s faced the Marlins once, beating
them with seven innings of one-hit ball back on May 17.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.