3 keys for Yankees to stave off elimination in Game 4 of ALDS against Rays

Danny Abriano
Jordan Montgomery pitching vs. Phillies
Jordan Montgomery pitching vs. Phillies

After dropping the last two games of the ALDS to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees are on the brink of elimination in Game 4 on Thursday night.

On the mound to start will be Jordan Montgomery, who did not pitch particularly well during the regular season and will be on an incredibly short leash.

If the Yanks are able to tame the Rays and get to a winner-take-all Game 5, they'll almost certainly hand the ball to Gerrit Cole on three-days rest.

Getting to Game 5 won't be easy, though.

Here are three keys to the Yanks pulling it off...

Jordan Montgomery needs to be close to perfect, or else...

If you believe that Montgomery will be taken out of the game at the first sign of trouble, then it's fair to think he'll have to be very much in control in order to stay in the game long enough to face the Rays' lineup a second time.

In the event Montgomery stays in beyond the first few innings, he'll need to find a way to avoid the damage that was inflicted on him in innings four-through-six during the regular season, when he had a 6.06 ERA.

If Montgomery struggles early, the game could get out of hand. And the Yanks will be forced to turn to an already-overworked bullpen that would also likely be needed in a potential Game 5 with Cole pitching on short rest.

Get to Ryan Yarbrough

Ryan Thompson is the Game 4 starter for the Rays, but the expectation is that Ryan Yarbrough will be piggybacking and is penciled in for the middle innings.

The left-handed Yarbrough was strong during the regular season, with a 3.56 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

While Yarbrough isn't a big strikeout pitcher, he has impeccable control (he walked just 1.9 batters per 9 in the regular season). So the Yanks, who have employed a data-driven, smartly aggressive approach at the plate, will need to pounce on Yarbrough's mistakes.

If the Yanks can get to Yarbrough, they can throw off Tampa's plan of using him as a bridge to their late-inning power arms.

All-out and all hands on deck

If the Yankees have another gear, they need to find it in Game 4.

Grind at-bats out even more, play aggressive (but smart) on the bases, and empty the tank on the mound.

If the Yanks lose, there is no tomorrow, so manager Aaron Boone needs to manage like it.

Every single pitcher but Cole should be available, including Deivi Garcia (who will be on his throw-day and should be able to contribute if needed).

On the offensive side of things, if the Yanks have a potentially game-changing scoring chance and the matchup isn't great, Boone needs to pull the trigger and go to his bench.

The Yanks could be running on fumes if they reach Game 5, but that's better than the alternative of not getting there at all.