Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Yankees' comeback fell short as they lost to the Red Sox, 5-4, in Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night in Boston...
The game turned on what seemed like a questionable decision
This Red Sox took their lead in the first inning, when the Yankees appeared to decide they would rather have J.A. Happ pitch to J.D. Martinez than Steve Pearce.
The logic was understandable. Pearce absolutely destroys Happ, with 11 hits and six home runs in 36 career at-bats. Martinez was 4-for- 20 against Happ, with no extra base hits. So Happ handled Pearce's at-bat in the first inning with extreme care, and ultimately walked him.
Martinez followed by crushing a 2-0 pitch for a three-run homer. Despite Pearce's history against Happ, it seemed reasonable to ask if it was really wise to pitch around him in order to face on of the best pure hitters in baseball, coming off a 43 home run season.
Happ added a twist after the game, saying that he was not in fact being careful with Pearce.
"No," Happ said. "The third hitter of the game, definitely not. My execution wasn't as sharp as it had been."
Gleyber Torres had two unfortunate moments, one of which was pivotal
With one out in the third inning and Torres on first, Andrew McCutchen hit a fly ball that hooked toward the wall in right center. Mookie Betts made an extraordinary running catch, then somehow fired a strike to first base. Torres had wandered way too far off the bag, and was nearly doubled off.
In the sixth, the Yankees were poised to re-assert themselves in the game, with the bases loaded, two runs in, and the Boston bullpen struggling as expected. A Torres hit would have changed everything, but he struck out to end the inning.
Cashman says the team will continue aggressive, wild-card style bullpen management
Before the game, I asked Brian Cashman if the Yankees would continue to game-plan their bullpen usage in a an aggressive way, like they did by asking Luis Severino for just four innings in the wild card game. "Yes," he said, without pause.
Obviously, starting pitchers are always given less time to struggle during the postseason, but the game has shifted even further this year. The Yankees know that their path to a championship is through their stellar bullpen, and they are not going to underuse it.
True to Cashman's word, Aaron Boone hooked Happ with no outs in the third inning.
Chris Sale could have sunk the Red Sox, and now he looms as a Game 5 threat
It might not be an overstatement to call Sale the most important player in this series (and Boston's hope to close a 108-win season with a championship). Sale missed most of the second half with shoulder inflammation, and saw his average fastball velocity dip to about 90 mph in his final start before the playoffs.
An ineffective Sale could easily have meant a quick series. But after insisting he would be fine, Sale backed that by beginning the game with fastballs, 96 and 94 mph. He struck out leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen, and while he didn't hit the high '90s velocities that he does when at his best, he didn't look broken, either.
The only major flaw in Sale's performance was its length. Sale only lasted 5.1 innings, leaving the shaky Boston bullpen way too much time to mess up the game. Ryan Brasier immediately set to work doing just that, allowed both of Sale's runners to score.
Still, Sale could come back for a potential Game 5 having proved that he is able to pitch effectively, despite the shoulder issues.
Aaron Hicks would be a big loss
Hicks is perhaps the Yankees' most unheralded player, but few center fielders in baseball offer his combination of athleticism in the field and power at the plate. Hicks left the game with what the Yankees announced as right hamstring tightness; if the injury is significant, his loss would be a major one for the Yanks.
Stanton with the big K
Giancarlo Stanton's first year as a Yankee will be judged by his postseason performance, and this game was not a good sign. Stanton had already struck out twice when he came to bat in the seventh, with the bases loaded, nobody out, and the Yankees trailing 5-2.
Stanton struck out, failing his first big-time test to be the final piece on a championship-caliber team. He would go on to whiff a fourth time in the game.
Afterward, Stanton was politely -- but firmly -- uninterested in dissecting his at-bats. "I just didn't get the job done," was all he would offer.
The Sox pen could still ruin this for them
After Sale left, a succession of Boston relievers enabled the Yankees to climb back into the game. It was a victory for them when Matt Barnes struck out Stanton, of course, but the Red Sox flaw that everyone saw during the season could still undermine them in this series. The comparison to the Yanks' dominant bullpen is striking, and gives New York the edge in any close game.
In this, a two-run game, Alex Cora had to use his Game 3 starter, Rick Porcello, as an eighth-inning setup man. If Boston is going to win, they'll need to continue to utilize starters in relief.