For the second straight year, the Yankees' season is on the brink after their manager failed to make the correct decision. First it was Joe Girardi, then it was Aaron Boone. Can this year's club turn the page as quickly and forcefully as last year's?
In Game 3 of the ALDS Monday night, Boone not only allowed Luis Severino to pitch the remainder of the third inning, he inexplicably pushed his starter out there for the fourth inning. Seven runs later, the rout and ultimate embarrassment was on.
Severino's first pitch of the game was launched 400-plus feet and it didn't get any better from there. His inability to command his fastball led to diminished effectiveness of his slider, allowing the Red Sox to sit dead red. And as a consequence, Boston was incredibly successful when he actually got one over the plate.
The Yankees seemed to ignore the command issues and the hard contact until it was entirely too late. Boone had his first shot to make a change in the third inning when Severino was feeling heat for the second-straight inning. But the manager decided to stick with Severino to get through the messes of the second and third inning, which took 49 total pitches to navigate. That alone should have been a clear indication that the right-hander was not going to find the missing link during the outing.
Instead, Boone stuck with an incomprehensible philosophy that did him in at various points during the regular season -- trying to steal outs from a visibly washed pitcher, with the intention of bringing in a fresh arm the next inning. At odds with this line of thinking is that the Yankees might have been better off treating Game 3 as they did Game 1, when J.A. Happ was getting beat badly, by shifting to the bullpen early.
With a deficit growing in the third inning, Boone should have been willing to go to one of his premier relief arms to put out the fire or minimally to start the fourth inning with a clean slate. More confusing was Boone's admission that they were going to utilize Lance Lynn as the first line of defense either way when nothing about his repertoire speaks to shutting down potent offenses like Boston's.
In the end, Boone's maneuvers were misaligned in both philosophy and action and they have put the Yankees in a hole.
Should you believe in "deja vu all over again" like Yogi Berra, you know what has to happen next. The Yankees have to bail out their manager in order to stave off elimination and send the series back on the road.
In last season's ALDS against the Indians, Girardi, a renowned tactician, made the one of the worst non-calls of his managerial career when he failed to challenge a called hit-by-pitch of Lonnie Chisenhall that was actually a tipped strike three for what would have been the third out of the sixth inning. Francisco Lindor came up with the bases loaded and blasted a grand slam and the Indians went on to win.
Those Yankees had their manager's back, as they played out of their minds through the rest of that 2017 ALDS and picked up Girardi on the way to play the Astros in the ALCS. In order for a rematch with the defending world champions, Boone will need his players to pick him up and more than Girardi needed, and carry him to the next series.
Girardi's indiscretion was different from Boone's as the former manager had already shown a willingness to leave nothing to chance with handling the bullpen in the postseason when he hooked Severino after a poor first inning in last season's Wild Card Game. Boone worrying about how Game 4 was going to fall out from a reliever standpoint should have been his furthest worry when the game in front of him could have been kept at a three-run deficit.
This was not some random game in July where the bullpen had been overworked with no off-days in sight. The bullpen has been lightly used to this point and the built in days off allows relievers time to regenerate from extended use. One could argue that keeping the elite relievers in game action would benefit their effectiveness. Boone shifting to the bullpen would have signaled to the Red Sox -- and more importantly his own club -- that they were not going to let this game get away without a fight. Lynn in a bases-loaded, no one out situation, only signaled a white flag.
Admittedly, the Yankees didn't do much to help Boone in Game 3, collecting just five hits and one run against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi, but the entirety of Game 4 and Game 5 (if lucky enough to force it) rests firmly on the performance of the players. The Yankees are in a situation where they cannot rely on their manager to make the right moves more often than not.
From Game 4 starter CC Sabathia, to the "super bullpen" to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the offense, the Yankees have to take control because their manager has had a difficult time doing so all season. And it potentially derailed their playoff run Monday night.