The big story of the night was Joe Girardi not challenging what was ruled a hit-by-pitch that could have been an inning-ending strikeout. Instead, the pitch thrown by Chad Green loaded the bases, and then Fransisco Lindor blasted a grand slam off of the right field foul pole.
Girardi hasn’t gotten a solid share of criticism by just about everyone for not throwing the red flag – metaphorically speaking – but there were lots of other things that went wrong, both on Girardi’s shoulders and not, that the Yankees and their fans should be a lot more upset about in Friday night’s debacle.
The Yankees got to Corey Kluber, who will win the American League Cy Young. Gary Sanchez’s two-run home run in the first inning set the tone for a 38-pitch first inning and a 2.2-inning appearance. The Yankees held an 8-3 lead entering the sixth inning, which is where Girard’s first, and most important, mistake came.
CC Sabathia struggled early on, but he found his groove and managed to retire 11 Cleveland Indians in a row. He walked Carlos Santana on four pitches, but got Jay Bruce to line out the shortstop on a ball that traveled just 71.4 miles-per-hour. He was yanked after 5.1 innings and 77 pitches.
One should not complain too much about Green coming into the game; he was stellar in the Wild Card game as well as the regular season – he had a 1.83 ERA in 69 IP, while recording 13.4 K/9 and a 0.739 WHIP.
However, Sabathia clearly had not been phased, allowing just one baserunner in his last 13 batters faced.
This conversation might not be as hot of a topic it is had the Yankees not blown it, but that’s baseball, Suzyn.
One could make the argument that Green should have been taken out before facing Lindor – righty-lefty, “hit batsman,” 21 pitches by the time Lindor stepped in the box when he there 41 pitches in the biggest game of his life.
By the way, Green let up the grand slam. Girardi did not. He’s not a fortune teller, either, no matter how badly you might want him to be, or think he is.
The same goes for David Robertson in the eighth before letting up a leadoff home run to Jay Bruce. No Dellin Betances in the eighth? More on him in a moment.
But something else that was mind-boggling was pinch-running for Todd Frazier – and no, it has nothing to do with Ronald Torreyes being embarrassingly thrown out when he had one job – don’t.
A pinch-runner cannot be used when you are bunting him over to third base. That is a waste of a player in Frazier, who was 3-for-5 and reached on an error. Is that a player you want out of the lineup, just so you can bunt a guy over to third? Had Frazier stayed at first, it’s more understandable, but there was no reason to shrink the bench there.
With the game tied 8-8 for practically five innings, it seemed like the Yankees were down three touchdowns heading into the two-minute warning, and the killer was about to come. It did.
Dellin Betances cannot hold a baserunner on. Everyone on earth knows if you get on base, especially Austin Jackson, with him on the mound, you are stealing.
Betances entered the 13th inning with 20 pitches, all of them quality. He retired the first six Indians he faced, nine if you include Game 1. But Sanchez had no chance to throw Jackson out. Of course, a taxing 10-pitch at bat did not help Betances who was throwing in back-to-back games shortly after having to win his manager’s confidence back.
The act of not challenging that call mattered. It did seem like conclusive evidence that it would have been strike three. But a manager should not be blamed for not getting the okay from his replay coordinator, who has tons of slow-motion, high-definition instant replays in front of him. All Girardi has is his naked eye and the word of the catcher – it seemingly turned out to be right, but Girardi does not know that – how is he supposed to?
Does Girardi have the ultimate decision? In hindsight, yes. And his excuse was kind of lame. But he’s not going to rip his crew apart for not telling him to challenge quick enough.
Just remember, Yankee fans, it is easy to make decisions from the couch when you have replays at your fingertips and no pressure on your shoulders. No more reacting, well, reactively. There are too many armchair-managers watching the game. Anyone can look like a genius after results do not go in their favor.
When was the last time you gave the manager credit for challenging a call and having it overturned? I’ll wait…
Girardi used every pitcher from Tuesday’s Wild Card Game, a game in which it seemed like he finally won over every single Yankee fan. Despite an unnecessary quick hook of Sabathia, he used his best relievers in the game. If you tell me that Kluber would only last 2.2 innings, the Yankees would score eight runs, and they would use their five best relievers on the team, I am putting a W on the left side in permanent marker 10 times out of 10.
You are mad at the results, not Joe Girardi, the seven-time (and soon to be eight) top-five Manager of the Year candidate in Major League Baseball.