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Game 2 ALDS Perspectives

Frustrating. That’s the word for it.

Frustrating.

The Yankees had a golden chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best of three series, but their manager got in the way. From the start, the Game 2 starter should have been either Masahiro Tanaka or J.A. Happ. A team should always go with its best pitchers in a short series.

Aaron Boone instead decided to play games. He overmanaged, he tried to out-think his opponent, and the Yankees lost. The series changed last night. As I stated in the “Wednesday Discussion” earlier today, taking Deivi Garcia out of the game might not have just been the turning point of last night’s game, it might have been the turning point of the series.

If the Yankees lose the series, this will mark the third consecutive postseason that Aaron Boone’s managerial decisions – specifically as they relate to his pitching staff decisions got in the way of the Yankees’ success.

I understand the line of thinking (showcased in our “Tweet of the Day”) that the pitching decision last night was an organizational decision. If so it was a failure on multiple fronts.

Once I learned that Deivi Garcia was named the Game Two starter, rather than Masahiro Tanaka or J.A. Happ, I bought into the logic. Either Garcia or Jordan Montgomery would have had to start a potential Game 4. Of the two, Garcia is the pitcher with the better stuff. After a win in Game 1, the second game would be the least stressful for the young pitcher. In addition, Masahiro Tanaka pitches better with an extra day of rest… All of that made sense. Starting Deivi Garcia for Game 2 was a logical move. (Again, there is also the logic to just use your best pitchers to try to get the series over quicker. That’s the better decision always. Go with your best. Period.)

Taking Deivi Garcia out after just one inning of work was a terrible move. It was the classic case of a manager trying to out-think his opponent. The Yankees were in the driver’s seat, they didn’t need to get “cute.” They just needed to win. Instead, Aaron Boone got cute – and the Yankees didn’t win.

Since becoming a Yankee in 2018, J.A. Happ has pitched out of the bullpen exactly one time. Happ’s one relief appearance came at the tail end of the 2019 season (September 25, 2019). Happ came out of the bullpen in relief of Jonathan Loaisiga in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees lost that game – primarily because Loaisiga gave up four first inning runs, but that’s not even the point. Managers need to put their players in situations where they are most likely to find success. This is especially true in the postseason. This is especially true in a short playoff series. This is especially true for pitchers like J.A. Happ who work best in a routine. J.A. Happ was put in an unfamiliar position last night and that decision cost the Yankees the game. J.A. Happ is not a relief pitcher.

In 2020, J.A. Happ pitched zero games out of the bullpen.

In 2019, J.A. Happ pitched in one game out of the bullpen (documented above). It was a late-season game. It was not the norm.

In 2018, J.A. Happ pitched zero games out of the bullpen.

In 2017, J.A. Happ pitched zero games out of the bullpen.

In 2016, J.A. Happ pitched in zero games out of the bullpen. (Notice a trend? Since 2016, J.A. Happ came out of the bullpen exactly one time in a regular season game.)

Aaron Boone managed last night’s game like the manager of a team that is desperate. Heading into last night’s game, the Yankees were the team winning the series. Now, if Masahiro Tanaka does not have a good game, the Yankees will be desperate. Boone took a Yankees’ strength and made it a weakness.

One of the Yankees’ biggest weaknesses all season has been the bullpen. Aaron Boone turned Game 2 into a bullpen game by putting a starting pitcher into a role he is unfamilar with and where he did not perform well. Aaron Boone gambled that a starting pitcher, a guy who has pitched out of the bullpen in a regular season once since 2016 would be able to do something he was unaccustomed to. J.A. Happ didn’t make the transition well. The Yankees lost. They had to use six pitchers in all. This mess was created, all created, by the manager over-thinking.

Managers who have confidence in their players don’t overmanage or over-think. They just let their teams play their game. Aaron Boone showed no confidence in his team. He over-managed. His team lost.

Because two starters were used in one game, one who only got an inning of work (not something to do with a weaker pitching staff), the Yankees will have no choice but to start Jordan Montgomery in Game 4. Last night’s move then hurts the Yankees in another game as well. Garcia would have been the better choice for Game 4.

Aaron Boone may have managed the Yankees out of this series.

A few other quick thoughts…

Giancarlo Stanton is ON FIRE. This is the player Yankees fans have been waiting to see. It’s great fun watching a great player playing greatly. The Yankees need him to continue.

Luke Voit looks less and less comfortable at the plate.

Gary Sanchez struck out in three of his four at bats. Kyle Higashioka is the better defensive catcher who, right now, seems the better bet to even get a hit or have a good at bat. Higashioka would be my catcher going forward. It’s been a lost year for Gary Sanchez.

It was glad that Aaron Boone started Clint Frazier in left field. He struck out three times in four at bats, and almost made a huge error in left field. This move didn’t work out. It made sense to go with the young kid who had homered the previous day. I get it. I agreed with it. Going forward, Brett Gardner should start against right-handed pitchers.

Luke Voit made an amazing defensive play catching a poor throw from Gio Urshela and somehow keeping his foot on the bag. That play was a lost highlight from last night’s game.

The Yankees need Masahiro Tanaka to be the great playoff pitcher he can be tonight. The Yankees need a win tonight. Big time.

Let’s Go Yankees!

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