The Yankees head into the postseason not quite on fire but prepared for the challenge lying ahead. Do not, however, place any bets during the playoffs…
The Yankees, in this scenario, are tied at one apiece as the teams meet for the third contest at Target Field in Minnesota. The Yankees are up by two going into the eighth inning.
Taking no chances, Aaron Boone goes with the horse that brought him here, bringing in Aroldis Chapman to close out the game for two innings. A rarity for Chapman, but he looks up to the task as Max Kepler goes down swinging. Jorge Polanco is sent up as a pinch hitter and gets plunked with a 101 mph fastball from Chapman. Oops, no problem.
It’s C.J. Cron‘s turn now. Chapman quickly disposes him on a called third strike. Two outs now with a runner on first base. The Yankees bullpen is quiet.
The next batter, Eddie Rosario, singles up the middle moving Polanco to third. Chapman has yet to break a sweat.
The next batter for the Twins is Nelson Cruz. In pre-game meetings, Boone and the Yankees have decided this is the one guy they will not let beat them. So, they pitch around Cruz before walking him to load the bases.
The Twins batter is the much-traveled utility player, Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez works the count to one and one and then lashes a four-seam fastball to right field for a base hit. Two runs will score tying the game, but…
As Aaron Judge is charging the ball with an eye toward throwing the runner out at third, the ball squishes off to his right, getting by him, allowing Cruz to score the go-ahead run. Judge is charged with an error by an official scorer who had his eyes closed – no outfielder misses a ball by that much (see image) – but no matter.
The Yankees then proceed to go down without a ripple in the top of the ninth, losing the game by a score of 4-3.
Sound Familiar? – It should
With names changed to protect the guilty, the scenario above is precisely what happened in the NL Wild Card shootout Monday night.
One pitch and one unpredictable ground ball to the outfield – and the Brewers go home with nothing to show for a season in which they won 89 games as the hottest team in baseball throughout September.
It is what it is and that’s baseball. But it just goes to show how treacherous these games are for the Yankees, in spite of all they accomplished during the regular season.
The Yankees, With Eyes Open, Enter The Crapshoot
While Monday’s game proved to be spectacular television and a thrill ride for fans of baseball, it’s quite different for the players. The draining emotions were visible as TBS’s cameras panned down the stunned Brewers dugout with the celebration on the field ringing in their ear.
If the game had ended the way it stood at 3-1 with the Brewers beating the Nationals, the stories that are written and told about the game would say it was a well-pitched contest on both sides. The Nationals got beat by a hot team with the benefit of a shut-down reliever in Josh Hader.
What Pressure – Who, Me?
The ALDS is the Yankees to lose. They are expected to win, and the Twins are having their fun trying to cajole and distract the Yankees from the job that lies ahead.
Last year, the Red Sox put a better team on the field than the Yankees. The romp by the Red Sox hurt, but in the end, all the Yankees could do was tip their caps to their rivals.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s the Yankees who are expected to bomb the Twins into oblivion. That is a minefield scenario.
But the team with the players who can stay and play within themselves usually wins.
Except, of course, when a ball hit to the outfield has a mind of its own…
As I said in the beginning, we just shouldn’t put our money where our mouth and our heart is…