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ALDS Game 3 Recap & Perspectives

The Yankees lost. They were never really in it. They have now backed themselves up against the wall. They now play two must-win games consecutively.

In order to advance in the playoffs, the Yankees have to hope that their 27-year-old pitcher, Jordan Montgomery, who has pitched in all of 18 games since 2017 with an overall record in that time of 4-3, 4.66 including a WHIP of 1.341, can hold off the surging, and clearly better Tampa Bay squad.

This year, Jordan Montgomery was 2-3, 5.11.

Jordan Montgomery is not the pitcher a team wants to have to turn to in a must-win game. But this is where the Yankees find themselves because the team (was it Aaron Boone, or the “front office,” or both?) totally wrecked the rotation and bullpen by devising an ill-conceived plan for Game 2 that put the Yankees into this desperate situation.

If Montgomery wins, the Yankees will need their ace to once again out-pitch the Tampa ace in a Game 5. It’s a tall task. Right now it seems like an impossible task.

The Yankees are on the brink of elimination – of extinction. It didn’t have to be this way.

Looking back at last night’s game, a game the Yankees lost 8-4, but it wasn’t that close, and never felt that close, a few points must be recounted and noted:

Last night, the announcers stated that the winner of Game 3 in a five-game series goes on to win the series 73% of the time. That winning team, now in the driver’s seat once occupied by the Yankees, just 27 hours ago (at the time this post was written), is now occupied by the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees gave away their advantage in the series. It is plain and simple and obvious. When they could have decided to go for the jugular, they went for a clown show instead.

The first big play of the game came in the top of the first when Ji-Man Choi (who has been killing the Yankees) hit a blast to right that Aaron Judge made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch on to quell a possible rally and prevent the Rays from scoring their first run. That solid swing and hit gave the first indication that Masahiro Tanaka, even with two strikeouts that inning, did not have his best stuff last night. Because of Judge’s great catch, that lack of quality stuff didn’t cost the Yankees in the first inning.

The Yankees bats went down quietly in the first.

In the top of the second, Masahiro Tanaka allowed one run off three singles to put the Yankees behind 1-0.

After the Yankees bats again went quiet in the second, Tanaka battled through the third.

The first turning point of the game (see our 11:00 a.m. post today) came in the bottom of the third inning. This was the Yankees big chance and they did not capitalize. In that inning, Brett Gardner singled with one out. Kyle Higashioka then also singled (ruled an E-6, but it sure looked like a clean hit) . D.J. LeMahieu followed with a walk to load the bases bringing up Aaron Judge. On the first pitch, Aaron Judge hit a fly to shallow-ish right center to score Gardner to tie the game. After seeing Rays pitcher Charlie Morton completely struggle to throw strikes to D.J. LeMahieu, I would have liked to see Aaron Judge show a little more patience in that spot. The first pitch sacrifice fly got the job done, but the opportunity for more was there. Aaron Hicks then walked (Morton was all over the place) bringing up Luke Voit with the bases again loaded and two outs. Luke Voit worked the count to 3-0. The next few pitches were the turning points of the game:

The 3-0 pitch was a borderline pitch at best. It was called strike one.

The 3-1 pitch was a borderline pitch at best. It was called strike two.

Luke Voit then grounded out killing the rally.

In the immediate next inning, the next part of the same basic turning point occurred. Joey Wendle singled. Then Willie Adames came up and

On a 3-2 pitch, with the runner going, Adames took a borderline pitch. Wendle was thrown out stealing and the Yankees looked to have two outs, but the borderline pitch this time was called a ball. Wendle wasn’t out. It wasn’t a strikeout and throw out situation, it was ball four. Two runners were on and there were no outs.

Kevin Kiermaier then launched a three-run homer to give the Rays a 4-1 lead. They never looked back.

In the top of the fifth, Randy Arozarena homered to give the Rays a 5-1 lead. That home run ended Masahiro Tanaka’s night. He lasted four innings. The Yankees had to turn to their bullpen, innings too soon, the same bullpen that had to cover the previous night because the manager decided to get overly creative. As I said at the time, and after the game, when he lost Game 2, Aaron Boone also put the Yankees in the prime situation to also lose Game 3 (and Game 4). You don’t go to a bullpen game when the bullpen is one of your team’s biggest weaknesses. But that’s what the Yankees did. It was ill-conceived from the start.

Chad Green came in. He went an inning. Two more critical runs scored.

Luis Cessa went an inning. He gave up a run.

The Yankees were buried. It was over.

Giancarlo Stanton’s homer for the fifth consecutive postseason game was the lone remaining highlight. That homer made an 8-2 game into a 8-4 game. It was never really that close.

A few other observations/perspectives…

The Yankees know that outside of their two biggest bullpen arms (Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman) that their bullpen is suspect. The Yankees know that outside of Gerrit Cole, the starting rotation is suspect. They have known this all year. And yet, the Yankees did not address either area at the trade deadline. This has been a recurring theme for years now. The Yankees have weaknesses that they know will impact their ability to win in the post season, but they fail to acquire the pieces to help them at the trade deadline. It seems that as other teams make all sorts of deals, the Yankees tell their fans that the asking prices were just far too much. The Yankees, we are told, wished to make a deal, but they just couldn’t.

The Yankees also know that they need some quality left-handed bats. They can’t seem to find a way to get those either. The result of that left them having to pinch hit Mike Ford (who hit .135 this year) in the ninth inning against Rays closer Diego Castillo. Ford pinch-hit for Clint Frazier, who at least had a chance to do something there. Ford, who hadn’t had an at bat since September 13, popped out to the catcher. Seemingly, the Yankees just can’t find a way to acquire the needed lefty bat. The asking prices are always too much.

Masahiro Tanaka’s 2020 post season, two poor outings, put into doubt his return for 2021 and beyond. A free agent, a huge part of Tanaka’s value is as a big game pitcher. He has been anything but that in his 2020 post season. This is too bad. Masahiro Tanaka has been a great Yankee.

Year-after-year, we are seeing questionable post season decision costing the Yankees. We keep hearing that these don’t come from the manager but are from the organization. Those decision makers should own those decisions. They aren’t working. They haven’t worked.

Do the Yankees even have a scouting report on Randy Arozarena?

The 2020 season is now in the hands of Jordan Montgomery and Aaron Boone. I’m not confident in either right now.

Let’s Go Yankees. (Prove me wrong. Get the Game 5 win and go from there.)

UPDATE – Today is the anniversary of Don Larsen’s perfect game, thrown on October 8, 1956. Maybe there is some Yankees magic in the air…


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