Yankees manager Aaron Boone thought hard before choosing a rookie to start Game 2. It took Boone only fifteen minutes to screw up the whole game, though.
The Yankees were out of sorts in every way in last night’s well-deserved loss to the Tampa Bay Rays that evened the ALDS to a game apiece.
To begin with, the game belonged to Masahiro Tanaka, who has followed Gerrit Cole in the Yankees rotation all season. Surprised, but always the consummate pro, Tanaka said he was ready to pitch in any situation Boone gave him the ball.
Instead of Tanaka, Boone made the call to give 21-year old Deivi Garcia the start. Eyebrows were reportedly raised in the clubhouse, but what the hell, the Yankees were up 1-0 in the series, and their power bats would cover Garcia if he needed help.
Happ vs. Yankees A Season-Long Affair
In the background, however, J.A. Happ was more than perplexed – he was downright pissed. Asked by reporters, Happ toned it down though, tersely saying: “All things equal? Yes.” when asked if he would have felt more comfortable starting Tuesday night.
This was not the first time Happ has expressed his discontent with Yankees’ brass this year. Earlier, he received a public dressing down from Yankees GM Brian Cashman after questioning how he was being used – or more accurately – not being used.
At issue was the $17 million option the Yankees have to pick Happ up for another season. Or, Happ himself could trigger another year if he met an innings-pitched requirement.
Even with the reduction in required innings due to the shortened season, and whether by Yankees design or not, Happ could never pitch enough innings, leaving his future solely with the Yankees.
Yankees Aaron Boone Lights A Dud
Told by Cashman (paraphrasing), the Yankees’ pitching decisions are based on performance, and nothing else, J. A. Happ decided to show the Yankees a thing or two.
Arguably the Yankees best and most reliable starting pitcher down the stretch, Happ made five starts in September that lowered his ERA for the season to 3.47.
Happ was told before last night’s game that both he and Jordan Montgomery was on-tap as long relievers if Garcia faltered.
All well and good, except that Boone (apparently) had decided to use Garcia only as a ruse to surprise the Rays by bringing in Happ and removing Garcia after only one inning and five Rays hitters.
Even Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay’s manager, said afterward, “I was surprised, personally, that they went [to Happ] that early.”
Pitching with nine days rest and making only his 26th relief appearance against nearly 300 starts over fourteen seasons in the big leagues, Aaron Boone violated a cardinal managing rule to use your players only in situations where they can succeed.
Looking out of sorts, Happ didn’t disappoint, predictably managing to throw first-pitch strikes to only nine of the seventeen batters he faced over 2.2 innings.
Issuing three walks, Happ surrendered four runs on five hits, while striking out two. He also made a costly throwing error.
It’ll hurt Happ even more perhaps when it dawns on him that each of the sixty-nine pitches he made last night might be worth $25,000 apiece if the Yankees do not pick up the $17 million option for his services in 2021.
Afterward, Boone lamented:
Boone’s Baffling Bungling Doesn’t Stop There.
The Yankees had no answer for Tyler Glasnow. In all two-thirds of the Yankees outs, last night were recorded by strikeout (18). Glasnow picked up ten in five innings of work.
Following his steadfast insistence to play Gary Sanchez over Kyle Higashioka, no matter what, Sanchez had his typical game going 0-4 with three strikeouts, a passed ball, and twice leaving men on base who were in scoring position.
Reneging his logic from the previous night, Boone did not go to Brett Gardner to face right-handed Glasnow. Clint Frazier, Boone’s choice, did not have a bad game – it’s just that the veteran Gardner shines in these moments – and he should have started in the Yankees lineup.
The Yankees valiantly tried to make a game of it, and the Rays happily allowed the Yankees to come within two runs.
But you knew it was over before it was over, even when Aaron Judge came up as the winning run in the ninth inning. Alas, Mighty Casey did strikeout.
Yankees: A Chance To Rebound After A Missed Opportunity
If the Yankees have been anything this year, it’s resilient. Ten games over .500 early in the season became a team that descended to .500, losing fifteen of twenty games at one point before a ten-game win streak semi-corrected things.
Up and down, all over the place except for a brief reign of invincibility against the Indians last week, Tanaka does get the ball tonight.
San Diego weather is promising, and although Tanaka refuses to say it, his start in Cleveland was hampered by two rain delays that included a 33-minute wait between innings.
The Yankees need their offense to show up, though. Leaving men on base in scoring position six out of eight chances is another recipe for disaster as it was last night.
Above all else, the Yankees must put their bats on the ball.
As a “swing game,” Game 3 is like Game 1. A win tonight puts the other team facing elimination in either of the next two games.
Given the Yankees inconsistency as a team, having to win two in a row with a loss tonight – well – let’s not even think about it.