The Yankees/Twins game Monday night displayed all of the elements of a typical playoff contest. One team wins while the other can only wonder why…
The Yankees/Twins game on Monday night was an entertaining contest between two power-laden offenses posed against two shaky starting pitchers. The game reminded how and why the regular season is tossed out as meaningless once the postseason begins. Both teams deserved to win. Both sides deserved to lose. Only one team emerged with the victory.
The thinking persists that in the playoffs good pitching will always beat good hitting. The game revealed why both the Yankees and Twins are anxious to acquire starting pitching before the July 31 trade deadline. Characteristic of the 2019 baseball season, the Yankees/Twins combined for an astounding eight home runs last night.
As this one did, playoff games can turn on a dime. One team is on the cusp of establishing momentum by seizing an early lead, only to be crushed into the sandstone on a play you will see only once in 325 chances on a baseball field.
Top of the first, the Yankees are at-bat. They’ve loaded the bases. Twins starter Martin Perez looks lost, and the Yankees look ready to pounce. Edwin Encarnacion has given Perez the full treatment – the Yankees Way – controlling the strike zone by fouling off pitch after pitch. And then, this…
Whump! The inning is over. The Yankees come away with nothing, and now it’s CC Sabathia‘s job to get the shocked and distracted Bombers off the third rail and back in the dugout unscathed, ASAP.
Cooperstown bound, Sabathia is not new to these situations. But 250+ wins and 3000+ strikeouts mean nothing as Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz connect for solo home runs. In the YES TV booth, David Cone quickly notes how the Twins are “anticipating” Sabathia’s in but off the plate pitches, adding that CC will need to make some rapid adjustments.
Sabathia, the tested veteran with a full repertoire of pitches, makes that adjustment. By the fourth inning, everything is back to normal. The Yankees have knotted the game at two apiece on a Gio Urshela home run and a single by Encarnacion, scoring Mike Tauchman. The momentum has shifted again.
Trust Your Gut, Your Head, The Analytics??
In playoff games, managers tend to go with the guys who got the team there. They also, and for good reasons, like the players who have playoff experience. Sabathia surely has that.
Thus, few are surprised when Aaron Boone, even with his fully-rested A-Team in the bullpen, opts to leave Sabathia in the game.
How could he have known the Twins would make their adjustments, looking for Sabathia’s signature slider just off the plate, coming back to tag Sabathia with two more home runs, this time by Max Kepler and Mitch Garver.
How could Boone have known? In CC’s two previous outings, he had tossed six and seven innings of three-run ball. This, however, is what can happen in a playoff game. Six runs by the Yankees should mean a win. It was not the Yankees night. S___t happens.
The Postseason Is A Crapshoot
The Yankees/Twins contest last night could have gone either way. As a regular-season matchup, the Yankees loss, coupled with the Tampa Bay Rays losing to the Red Sox didn’t dent the standings. Ditto for the Twins, who maintained their lead over the surging Cleveland Indians.
Things get magnified in the playoffs though. Remarkably, the Kings of the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are still looking for their first World Series Title since 1988. Six consecutive Division titles since 2013 and two World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018 have gone for naught.
Which is also why the prevailing thinking continues to be – look for that one guy or maybe two – who can bring you over the top. Which is why the Yankees, Dodgers, Braves, and Twins are all riding in the same canoe, paddling upstream in their search for starting pitching or bullpen help.
Still, Madison Bumgarner, the current king of the postseason, has an 8-3, not an 11-0 record in the playoffs.
Questions Lead To More Questions
I wrote a few days ago about the Yankees option to stand pat if a starter isn’t added before the deadline without selling the farm. I’m still leaning that way.
It will always boil down to this question. Who would you rather have in the seventh game of the 2019 ALCS or World Series pitching for the Yankees? Mike Minor, Marcus Stroman, Matthew Boyd – or CC Sabathia?
Was the Yankees/Twins game last night an anomaly or a signal of what lies ahead? I’m banking on the former, and I believe Aaron Boone feels the same…