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Game 4 Perspectives

by Paul Semendinger, October 9, 2020

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Holy Cow! They did it. Boy did they do it. How they did it, I don’t know, but, they did it.

The Yankees came off the mat to force a fifth, and final game, of the ALDS.

I had very little faith, and even less hope, that the Yankees could do it. But, they did. It was impressive. Now they must keep on keeping on and win tonight to close out the series.

Here are my perspectives:

Jordan Montgomery was amazing. He was fantastic. He pitched extremely well in what had to be the biggest game of his life. You cannot take too much from one performance, but Monty showed poise, guts, and determination. He showed that he can be a big game pitcher – because he was. He didn’t get rattled. He pitched ahead in the counts. He had the Rays off balance. He was terrific.

Andy Singer deserves a great deal of credit for pointing out that Jordan Montgomery was a better pitcher than his statistics and previous poor outing against the Rays indicated.

It seemed apparent that Montgomery brought his “A” game when he retired the Rays in the first inning on only eight pitches and then needed only twelve pitches to get through the second.

As I stated earlier today, I think the turning point came in the top of the third inning. The Yankees had taken a 2-0 lead, but it felt like it should have been more. The Rays came right back with their own big inning threat. They had the bases loaded and only one out and then scored their first run to make it 2-1. Randy Arozarena, who has killed the Yankees all series, came up. A big hit there, I believe, would have sunk the Yankees. Jordan Montgomery though won the battle getting Arozarena to ground out to end the inning and keep the Yankees’ slim lead.

Jordan Montgomery lasted only four innings, but they were huge four innings. I agreed with Aaron Boone to pull him aftre the fourth and not allow him a third trip through the Rays’ lineup.

Sometimes managers make the wrong decision and things work out. Kevin Cash of the Rays did a terrible job in the bottom of the second when the Yankees scored their first two runs. It should have been more. A lot more. Cash left a struggling and completely wild Ryan Thompson in the game to face the big Yankees hitters. Thompson couldn’t find the strike zone. His wildness was amazing. After Luke Voit’s homer, he walked three batters in a row. The fact that the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on this with more than one more run would have been the turning point of the game if they had lost.

To make matters even worse, and more confusing, Kevin Cash lifted Thompson after he retired two batters (a Kyle Higashioka strike out and a D.J. LeMahieu sacrifice fly) and brought in a left-handed pitcher (Ryan Yarbrough) to face Aaron Judge. Judge then grounded out on a 2-0 pitch. Bringing in Yarbrough there looked to be the wrong move. Thompson had been wild, but he had just found a way to get two outs. His wildness, in addition, was on pitches going away from right-handed batters, the exact type of pitcher that gives Aaron Judge fits as he chases balls going away, away, and away. Sometimes the wrong moves work out.

Aaron Boone managed the Yankees’ bullpen brilliantly the whole game, but I also believe he made the wrong move when he removed Zack Britton who had easily retired five consecutive batters to allow Aroldis Chapman to get the final out of the 8th inning. I would have let Britton finish the frame and had Chapman go just the one inning rather than having him come in, get an out, and then have to sit on the bench, before having to throw the ninth.

Gleyber Torres’ GIGANTIC moon shot home run was a highlight. Wow! He crushed that ball. That blast gave the Yankees some necessary breathing room.

Kyle Higashioka played an amazing game behind the plate. He blocked a ton of balls in the dirt with runners on second and third (and no outs) in what turned out to the the critical top of the third inning. He also framed a few borderline strikes. I think, for the playoffs, we have seen a changing of the guard behind the plate. Higashioka is now the starting catcher. Seeing how this plays out with the Yankees for next year will be very interesting. Sometimes reserve players come up big in the post season, but I’m not ready to anoint Higgy as the starting catcher going into 2021.

It was great to see Brett Gardner have a huge game. His long at-bats early helped the Yankees. His bat, while no longer lethal, plays an important role in the Yankees’ lineup. I want to see Clint Frazier play, but, I think Gardy’s approach, which is different from most other Yankees’ batters, adds something necessary to the Yankees’ lineup. That being said, I’d be very surprised to see him starting tonight against the lefty Blake Snell.

Tonight is the exact reason why the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole. The signed him to win the big games to begin and end playoff series. This is the money game. It should be very exciting to watch.

Let’s Go Yankees!!!

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