Aaron Boone is confused about how to pitch his rotation in the postseason. In the Wild Card round, Boone opted for Gerrit Cole in Game 1 and then Masahiro Tanaka in Game 2. In the Divisional Series against a shifty and sneaky Tampa Bay Rays team, he tried something different and it might have cost him the series.
For Game 2, as the Rays counter with their Ace and AL Cy Young Candidate Tyler Glasnow, Boone opts to give the ball to Deivi Garcia, deviating from his Wild Card rotation. It was my original thinking that Garcia or J.A. Happ would get the ball in Games 3 and 4 if necessary, with Tanaka going in Game 2. I’m not the manager of the Yankees, so Deivi Garcia it is.
The first inning from Garcia is tough, as he gets the first two hitters out before giving up a home run to Randy Arozarena, who might be the hottest player on the planet aside from Stanton.
It’s a 27 pitch first inning for Garcia, but Boone already has Happ up in the bullpen warming up. But Giancarlo Stanton gets the Yankees back in the game with a solo moonshot off Glasnow, so the game’s now tied. No harm, no foul right?
In the bottom of the second, Boone makes the switch, and it backfires.
Happ gives up a Joey Wendle single before retiring the next two Rays. However, none of that matters if Mike “I’m hitting below the Mendoza Line” Zunino takes you deep… which he does. Happ gets out of the inning, but the bottom of the third poses similar challenges, as Manuel Margot smacks a two-run shot, giving the Rays a 5-1 lead heading into the fourth.
Giancarlo Stanton to the rescue, as he parks a 3-run shot off Glasnow, his second of the game, bringing the Yankees within one. Happ gets into some trouble in the fourth before being lifted in favor of Adam Ottovino, who gets out of the jam he created.
Four innings, three pitchers, five runs. Not great. But wait! There’s more!
After walking Joey Wendle and getting Willy Adames to ground out, Boone goes to the bullpen to bring in Loaisiga again. What happens? Kevin Kiermaier drives Wendle in on the second pitch he sees from Loaisiga, giving the Rays a 6-4 lead.
The Yankees wouldn’t score again, but the Rays would tack on one more run in the 6th, as Loaisiga gets taken deep by Austin Meadows.
For the Yankees, Game 2 saw Boone use 6 different pitchers in a 7-4 loss that the offense couldn’t bail them out of. That’s not good management, that’s panic, those are barely educated guesses.
When the game finished and Boone was asked about the move to pull Garcia in favor of Happ, the Yankee skipper alluded to an “Opener/Long Relief” type of gameplan. Using the Rays’ own medicine against them backfired big time.
“Just ’cause they’re so good at — their roster’s built to take advantage of the platoon advantage,” Boone said after the game. “Felt like I was gonna go to JA pretty early and aggressively, as long as they went with the heavy lefty lineup”, and that was the reason.
“It was a little lineup-based, but he kinda labored a little bit through that first inning. He was on the verge of getting out of it, though, with two strikes on Arozarena when he gets him, clips him. That was the plan all along: We were gonna go short with him, knowing we will have Deivi available later in the series if need be, too.”
Five of the eight lefties in the Rays lineups got on base against Happ in Game 2.
Aaron Boone could’ve just gone for the win and a 2-0 series lead, giving his team three opportunities to close out the series. Instead, he went with a gameplan the Yankees aren’t used to, and gave the Rays the chance to climb back into this ALDS and swing the momentum their way.
But this isn’t the first time Boone has mismanaged pitching this postseason.
The second game of the Yankees Wild Card series against Cleveland started with a 45-minutes rain delay. Now, 45 minutes is a long time for a starting pitcher to sit there. There’s only so much “staying warm” a pitcher can do before you begin to counteract the benefits. The game gets underway, and the Yankees go down in order. Tanaka takes the mound and gives up one run.
And then the skies open up for a second time, delaying the game another hour and a half.
So Tanaka throws an inning, gives up a run, sits for twice as long as he did prior to his first pitch, and Boone sends him back to the mound. It’s a tough situation, for sure. With his rotation a general mess heading into the postseason, it’s a “pick your poison” kind of play here for Boone. He opts to stick with Tanaka, who gives up six runs in his four innings of work, as Cleveland leads the Yankees 4-1.
It should be mentioned that Gio Urshela‘s fourth inning Grand Slam and Giancarlo Stanton‘s solo-shot off Carlos Carrasco helped bail Tanaka and Boone out of the jam they were in. So the damage done off of Tanaka is all but erased and the Yankees lead 6-4 when he’s taken out.
6-6, tie ballgame.
After a 2-run go-ahead home run off the bat of Gary Sanchez, the Yankees had an 8-6 lead late in the game. After Zack Britton gets the first two outs in the bottom of the 7th, he walks the next two hitters. Bitton’s pitch count is getting up there as his 20th pitch leads to the second walk, and Boone opts to pull him from the game. Jonathan Loaisiga enters the game and gives up a game-tying double to Jordan Luplow, the first batter he faces.
That’s the second time a relief pitcher gives up a game-tying double to the first batter he faces.
And for some reason, perhaps his reluctance to completely blow up his bullpen should they lose this game, Boone keeps Loaisiga in the game, despite a shaky bottom of the 7th where he gave up the lead and hit a batter.
Guess what happens. Say it with me “[Insert Yankees Relief Pitcher] gives Cleveland the lead on the first batter he faces.”
That’s now the third move to the bullpen that has backfired on Boone in this game alone. Luckily for him, the Yankee bats bail out Chapman and they take the series 2-0, on the heels of their 10-9 Game 2 victory.
The ALDS featured a matchup with a familiar foe: the Tampa Bay Rays.
In Game 1, the Yankees get a solid performance from Gerrit Cole, who pitches six innings, giving up three earned runs, all of which came courtesy of the longball. The Yankees bullpen holds their one-run lead until Giancarlo Stanton’s 9th inning Grand Slam closes the book on Game 1. Yankees win 9-3 Two more wins and the Yankees reach their third ALCS in four years.
That Game is almost identical to Game 1 of the Wild Card series, where Gerrit Cole led the Yankees to a 12-3 win against AL Cy Young hopeful Shane Bieber.
If the Yankees lose this series, the blame falls on Aaron Boone. Plain and simple. All he had to do was follow the blueprint laid out in front of him from the regular season and the series before. The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here, except in this scenario it’s “If it ain’t broke, it is broke, find something new, and don’t read the instructions before using.”
And now the Yankees are facing elimination after an 8-4 loss in Game 3.
The Yankees Game 4 starter? Jordan Montgomery, who owns a 2-3 record, with a 5.11 ERA in 10 regular-season starts in 2020. In his one start against Tampa Bay, Montgomery got rocked giving up four earned runs in less an inning.
So, this is going to be a game where the Yankee bats will need to bail out Boone again. Meanwhile, the Rays look to close out their ALDS win with a bullpen game.
If this series ends badly there’s no one to blame but Aaron Boone. Reckless managerial moves can sink this team’s World Series hope faster than a few injuries to the roster. That’s the truth.
And it’s possible we’ll see it happen in 2020.
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