Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Aaron Boone and pitching coach Larry Rothschild spent the past several days communicating to their relievers how they would be deployed, and that planning was evident in the explanations for moves that at first seemed surprising.
"He told me exactly how I was going to be used," Zack Britton said of his manager.
It seemed on the surface that Boone had a quick hook on Chad Green, who lasted just ⅔ of an inning. But he later explained that he preferred to stretch out Britton on this night and save Green for later.
"[We] kind of wanted Greeny's potential length for tomorrow, as well," said Boone. "So, yeah, a couple factors leaking into that."
What Boone didn't mention was that Green might also be needed to open Game 4.
After Britton pitched a scoreless seventh, J.A. Happ handled the eighth. Boone explained that if the game had remained close, he would have kept Britton in the game. Because the Yankees scored three in the seventh, Boone went with Happ in that spot.
Aaron Judge is an excellent defender, and he showed it in a key spot in the seventh inning. With two outs and a runner on first, Eddie Rosario hooked a ball to right field. Had it dropped, the Twins would have brought the tying run to the plate.
Judge ran, dove, and caught the ball, ending the inning and depriving the Twins of a needed burst of momentum.
"He's so good out there,' Boone said. "Obviously, two great plays where he lays out for balls. You see the other things he does so well just fundamentally sound, just getting behind balls to get himself into position to make throws.
Twins reliever Tyler Duffey has one of the best breaking balls in the game. In fact, former Yankee and Twin Phil Hughes tweeted during the fifth inning "Duffey might have the best curveball in baseball. No joke."
Credit Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres, then, with laying off two breaking balls apiece in high-pressure spots. Stanton drew a walk, and Torres drove in two runs with a 3-2 double, giving the Yanks a 5-3 lead.
They would later tack on, but this was when they took control of the game.
"That's controlling the strike zone, and that's, I think, what allowed us to win the game tonight," Boone said. "We won a lot of 3-2 counts tonight. I thought the guys by and large, up and down the lineup, really made it tough on their pitchers because they stayed in the strike zone."
Gutsy Paxton call backfires on Boone
Boone had Adam Ottavino ready in the fifth inning, with two outs and Luis Arraez on second, but he decided to give James Paxton a chance to face Jorge Polanco.
This was gutsy for a few reasons: Polanco had homered off him in the first inning. And more significantly, Boone famously left a pair of starting pitchers in games for too long in last year's division series, costing him dearly against Boston.
In this case, he decided to let his starter try to finish the inning -- and like last year, the non-move worked against him. Paxton and Polanco engaged in an extended, nine-pitch faceoff. Paxton used every pitch he had, and couldn't put Polanco away.
Finally, Polanco hit a 3-2 curveball to left, tying the game. That came five pitches after he barely got away with a fastball down the middle, which Polanco fouled off.
One note in Paxton's defense: Stanton took a terrible route to Arraez's double to left, which got the pitcher into trouble in the first place.
And a note in Boone's defense: The switch-hitting Polanco hits righties better than lefties. Although hardly any righty is as filthy as Ottavino.
Still, the risk didn't work and Ottavino entered. He walked a batter and departed for Tommy Kahnle -- another pitching weapon that misfired.
Here was Boone's explanation:
"I felt good about him going through Polanco, and Polanco had a great night, but we'll keep him on that side preferably. He had a great night and a great at-bat against him, but I felt like Pax was pretty strong to that point."
Boone added that he never intended to use Ottavino against Polanco -- he was warming for Nelson Cruz the entire time.
Arraez ankle impacts scoring play?
Twins second baseman Luis Arraez was in the lineup despite suffering a sprained ankle in the final week of the season. The Twins could have opted to start Jonathan Schoop, but went with Arraez.
With the bases loaded and one out in the third, Torres hit a potential double play ball to third. Arraez fielded the throw from third baseman Miguel Sano, then appeared in a hurry to get out of Stanton's way.
First baseman C.J. Cron dropped the throw and took the error, but the throw was not great. The Yankees scored two runs to take a 3-2 lead.
"If he had a regular week of work, would he be making a better throw on the double play?" said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. "Who knows. There's really no way to know that."
Trouble with the fastball
All of the damage in the first three innings against Paxton -- a Polanco home run, a Marwin Gonzalez double and a Cruz home run -- came off of fastballs.
The pitch selection was defensible, especially on the homers, because Polanco and Cruz also hit offspeed pitches well. Paxton simply left these particular fastballs over the plate.
In the fifth, Arraez doubled on a fastball, before Polanco finally broke the streak and singled on a curve.
Stanton bails out Berrios
Batting with two on and two out in the first, Stanton swung at a 3-0 sinker in in his hands. He hit a short nubber toward third, and Sano made an excellent play to throw him out.
Twins starter Jose Berrios was struggling with his command that inning, and his pitch count was on the rise. He surely appreciated that Stanton's aggressive approach bailed him out.
Perfect pitching to Sano
Miguel Sano is the Twins' most extreme fastball hitter -- he hit .285 on fastballs this year, and under .200 on breaking and offspeed pitches. Trailing 1-0 in the first with a runner on first base and two outs, Paxton pitched Sano beautifully.
He started with two curveballs, then snuck in a 1-1 fastball that Sano swung at and missed. Having changed speeds on Sano between low 80s and high 90s, Paxton split the difference with an 88 mph slider/cutter. Sano swung and missed, and the inning ended.