Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
They might as well have promoted Game 3 as "Pinstripe Redemption Night" with the way so many much-maligned Yankees, including the manager, thrived Sunday night against Cleveland.
Now the Yankees need another bit of refurbishment in Monday night's Game 4: A Luis Severino reputation makeover. Severino was the Yankees' best pitcher all season, but he was awful in his humiliating start against the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game, lasting only one-third of an inning.
Severino sagged in his big moment, but the Yanks rallied to advance to meet the Indians in this Division Series. Cleveland leads the best-of-five series, two games to one, after the Yankees won Game 3 Sunday night, 1-0, at Yankee Stadium. But the Yanks at least hold a shred of momentum, thanks to big performances by the likes of Masahiro Tanaka, Greg Bird and Aroldis Chapman.
And, wait for it….Joe Girardi, too. The manager, booed lustily by Yankee fans during pre-game introductions as punishment for bungling Game 2, was back at his binder best in Game 3, even as the outside world debates whether he should be back as Yankee manager with a new contract next year.
He started Tanaka over Severino and it worked. He left the left-handed hitting Bird in to face the most hellacious reliever on the planet - lefty Andrew Miller - in the seventh inning. Bird homered for the game's lone run, a nifty moment for a guy who's spent much of the year injured.
Girardi asked Chapman, the man who briefly lost the closer's job this year, for a five-out save and got it. The manager even stuck with Gary Sanchez behind the plate, though some wanted Austin Romine paired with Tanaka. Sanchez blocked several key balls in the third inning when the Indians had a runner on third base.
Hey, if you're going to crush Girardi for failing to challenge the Lonnie Chisenhall hit by pitch, for making multiple wrong pitching calls on top of that in Game 2, you should dole out kudos when he gets it right. He did in Game 3.
Of course, Tanaka's performance went a long way toward bailing out his manager from more Game 2 fallout. Tanaka, after a frustrating season of inconsistency, pitched so brilliantly he may have resurrected the question of whether he'll use the opt-out clause in his contract.
Tanaka threw seven scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium, something both he and his manager sorely needed. Aaron Judge helped, too, proving he can contribute even when he's not hitting by taking a home run away from Francisco Lindor at the right-field wall.
"It's a player going out and doing what he's capable of doing," Girardi said of Tanaka in his post-game press conference. "If we lose, 3-1, I'm going to be questioned, even if he pitches a really good game.
"So the success is what he did, not what I did."
Now the Yankees need more success from a starter, and Severino has plenty to overcome to deliver it. He's tremendously talented, but it's clear his poor start against Minnesota damaged his standing with the Yanks.
He threw so few pitches in the game - 29 - he probably could've started any of the division series games and certainly any one after Game 1. But the Yanks scheduled him for Game 4. Had the Yankees lost Sunday, they would have been eliminated without their best starter ever touching a live ball in the series.
Severino, at least, is talking like he's figured out a few things from the Wild Card mess, especially about the emotions of playoff pitching.
"I learned that it doesn't help, you know, a lot of adrenaline, trying to do too much," Severino said in a press conference after Sunday's game. "So (Monday) just try to calm myself down and try to breathe and think before every pitch."
He'll have to prove it all on the mound before anyone will believe it, of course. But at least the Yankees are in a position for Severino to have that chance.
Redemption played well as a Yankee theme Sunday night. If it does again Monday, who knows what remarkable things might happen in what is suddenly a bona fide series.