Kahnle a postseason force for Yankees

Kahnle a postseason force for Yankees

HOUSTON -- When Brian Cashman was volleying trade proposals with White Sox counterpart Rick Hahn in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Yankees' general manager refused to go any further in negotiations unless right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle was included in the deal.

The Yankees were attracted to Kahnle's splendid strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well as the fact that he would be under team control for years to come, while viewing him as a significant upgrade to what had already been viewed as a power bullpen. Even so, Cashman and the Yankees wouldn't have expected Kahnle to emerge as such a force in the postseason.

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While Dellin Betances has struggled with his command, unable to record an out in each of his last two appearances, Kahnle has picked up the slack with aplomb. The 28-year-old has turned in six scoreless postseason appearances for New York, four of them spanning at least two innings, while limiting opponents to just two hits.

Game Date Results Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 13 HOU 2, NYY 1 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 14 HOU 2, NYY 1 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 16 NYY 8, HOU 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 17 NYY 6, HOU 4 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 18 NYY 5, HOU 0 WATCH
Gm 6 Oct. 20 HOU 7, NYY 1 WATCH
Gm 7 Oct. 21 HOU 4, NYY 0 WATCH

"Believe me, it's been really nice to have," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I know that we have weapons down there. We got those weapons to win games with those weapons. I'm not afraid to go to them."

Kahnle has walked two and struck out nine in 10 innings entering Friday's Game 6 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"It wasn't really a question of if he was ready, because he was an eighth-inning guy in Chicago and he flourished," Girardi said. "I think my real question was how much could I use him in multiple innings? I kind of stayed away from it because there weren't a lot of times that we needed it, and I didn't want to mess up what he was doing so well. I've been forced to do it, and it's worked out really well."

The Yankees acquired Kahnle from the White Sox on July 19 along with infielder Todd Frazier and right-hander David Robertson, shipping a four-player package to Chicago that was headlined by outfielder Blake Rutherford and left-handed pitcher Ian Clarkin.

Kahnle had originally been a product of the Yankees' farm system, but control issues early in his pro career prompted the Yanks to leave him unprotected ahead of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, during which he was taken by the Rockies.

Rough road
With the ALCS shifting back to Minute Maid Park, Aaron Judge will be challenged to maintain the adjustments that he made during the three contests at Yankee Stadium. Judge is hitting .333 (7-for-21) with three homers and 10 RBIs in six postseason games at Yankee Stadium, but he was just 1-for-19 (.053) with 12 strikeouts and no RBIs in five postseason road games entering Friday.

"It's nothing monumental," Girardi said. "It's probably recognizing how they're pitching you and what they're trying to do to you. You've got to adjust to that. That's the mental approach. He's been pretty good at it, and I think it's probably because he's had to do it a couple of times. It seems like people, when you have to make adjustments, each time it becomes a little quicker."

Judge's RBI double to left

Judge's 24 strikeouts this postseason are two shy of tying Alfonso Soriano (26 in 2003, also for the Yankees) for the most in a single postseason.

No limits?
The Yankees have no physical concerns about Game 6 starter Luis Severino, who exited his previous ALCS start after just four innings when the Yanks' bench spotted him gesturing strangely with his pitching shoulder, but Girardi acknowledged that they are proceeding cautiously due to Severino's growing innings total.

Severino worked 193 1/3 innings in the regular season and has fired 11 1/3 more in his first three postseason starts, far exceeding any tally in his pro career. His previous high came in 2015, when he threw 161 2/3 innings.

"I feel good about him. I've said all along, there's really no limitations on him," Girardi said. "We feel pretty good about where he's at. But he is in a new territory. You are going to be maybe a little bit more cautious, in a sense, and that's what caused me to take him out of the last game."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.