How I Saw It – The Wild Card Game (Andy Singer)
Throughout the course of the Wild Card game between the Yankees and the Athletics, I evaluated the game with a critical eye. What follows are my thoughts on what I saw in stream-of-consciousness fashion, inning-by-inning. As a prequel, feel free to peruse my thoughts and predictions posted prior to the game. Without further ado, follow along with the Yankees’ 7-2 win through my eyes:
Top of the 1st Inning
Leading up to tonight’s game, I vacillated between Happ and Severino as the Wild Card starter, but Boone ultimately went the way I would have gone with the decision. Severino is sure making everyone feel better by coming out with 3 straight fastballs to strike out Martini to start the game. Andujar put my heart in my throat with that awkward throwing motion, but luckily it didn’t hurt Severino. I don’t think Sevy could have started any better – 9 pitches, 2 strikeouts, no runs, no hits, no walks. Severino proved my thoughts wrong – I really expected him to struggle in his first inning because he would be so amped up, much like last year’s Wild Card game versus the Twins. Severino showed his guts here. His fastball is riding, sitting at 97+ MPH, and he’s locating it at the corners. At this point, I feel like Boone should let him take the mound as long as he dominates. Severino looks confident and is attacking hitters – I love it.
Bottom of the 1st Inning
McCutchen is following my prescription – I said prior to the game that the top of the lineup needed to show some patience and make Hendriks work, and McCutchen draws a 5-pitch walk. Brilliant. I know that Judge has not hit the ball with much authority since coming back from the wrist fracture, but he makes sense in the 2-hole here – he’s patient, can get on-base, and I still think he’s one good swing away from – OH MY GOD!!!! A two-run homerun for Judge!!! I was resolute regarding where Judge needed to hit in the lineup, and boy is he making me (OK, and Boone) look great. Hendriks is already at 11 pitches, and the bullpen is up with no outs. Oh, and the broadcast just showed that the exit velocity on that homer was 116.1…so much for an exit velocity slump – it’s a whole new season.
Hicks, a near-superstar in his own right, is working a typically tough at-bat. 2-2 count, and Hicks refuses to swing at bad pitches, laying off a slider to push the count to full. He hit the ball on the screws right at the first baseman.
I love Stanton, but it kills me to see him pull his head out swinging out of his shoes on that hanging fastball from Hendriks – he’s strong enough to hit it out so long as he gets the barrel on the ball. Either way, good at-bat here – I love seeing Stanton make Hendriks work, even as he gets tied up on an inside fastball to strike out.
I know Voit has been crazy hot, but I do not like him hitting 5, and that was an awful at-bat. Hendriks was reeling up there, and Voit swings at the first pitch. Just miserable baseball there.
Top of the 2nd Inning
Why is Severino starting with slider here? He just overpowered the top of the lineup with nothing but his fastball, and he just threw three straight sliders to Davis…OK, at least he got ahead. Wow, great slider to K Davis – I guess he needed to throw a few sliders to find the feel. Sevy looks so good – I also love how fast he’s working. Severino is taking almost no time between pitches – catch the throw from Sanchez, and deal. That’s a sign of a guy who is totally dialed in.
Olson is making Sevy work a bit – no idea how Olson layed off of that 2-2 slider. It was absolutely filthy. He earned the walk he just got, bringing Piscotty to the plate. Piscotty is a tough out, but I’m hoping for the double-play. If Sevy is going to throw a change-up tonight, this at-bat would be a good spot. OK, not a double-play, but that was as filthy a backdoor slider as anyone could throw to get the strikeout.
OK, so I was one batter early – Sevy is really mixing pitches nicely, and I love that change-up to get the first strike. His second change-up was a strike too, even if the umpire won’t acknowledge it. 3-2 count again…I want to see Sevy throw another slider. A change-up! Good for Laureano fouling it off. Laureano had no chance on the next pitch, a beautiful slider. Sevy gets 3 strikeouts this inning. Again, if I’m Aaron Boone, there is no way Severino is coming out after 3 innings.
Bottom of the 2nd Inning
I love Didi – even when he’s wrong, he’s right. Didi always hustles, and a chopper + an infield shift = an infield single to lead-off the inning.
2-0 count for Andujar. I hope he’s got the “swing away” sign from the coaches – this as Trivino throws it way high and inside, 3-0. And Andujar draws a rare walk! Two runners on with no outs, and Sanchez coming to the plate.
I am a noted Sanchez advocate. He still has a ton of power, and is the best catcher on the current Yankee roster. This is a big spot, and I think that Sanchez will have the “swing away” sign, even if it gets to a 3-0 count. That won’t happen as the count moves to 1-1. Sanchez is showing patience, which is needed as the A’s continue to struggle on the mound. Perfect 1-1 cutter low and away by Trivino, and Sanchez has no chance swinging out of his shoes like that. Sanchez needs to settle down and swing for contact. No! A double-play ball right to the shortstop. I’m not thrilled with the way Sanchez ran to first base, but it could be a long game.
Torres looks way over-eager here, swinging at multiple pitches that were way out of the zone. He should call time and get his head on straight. He may have forced Trivino
Top of the 3rd Inning
I like the progression Sevy has used with regards to pitch selection. In the 1st inning, he worked almost entirely off of his fastball. In the 2nd inning, he threw mostly sliders and change-ups. And here in the 3rd, he’s throwing the kitchen sink at the A’s. He’s even flashing a brilliant pick-off move, nearly nabbing Semien at 1st following the hit-by-pitch. Sevy is right back on track now with a 3-pitch strikeout of Lucroy.
Off the bat, I thought Sevy was out of it quickly here as he forced a weak groundball to Voit, but Voit made an awful throw to 2nd base. Great play by Didi to keep the ball from sailing into Left Field and get one out. It may not be a double-play, but we can trust Severino to get one more out this inning.
The home plate umpire, Jim Wolf, is really squeezing Severino – that was a beautiful 2-1 change-up that was wrongly called a ball. Kudos to Wolf for giving one back to Severino on the 3-1 pitch – I didn’t think it was a strike, but Wolf did the right thing to give it back to Sevy. That pitch feels important, as Sevy is starting to lose the strike zone a bit – as Sevy gets Martini to line out to Judge to end the inning.
Sevy may have momentarily struggled with the strike zone, but he still looks good for 1-2 more innings to me. At the first sign of trouble mid-inning from here on out, I think that Boone should get Robertson loose.
Bottom of the 3rd Inning
I’m surprised to see Trivino for a second inning of work – I think he looks pretty hittable tonight. The top of the order should feast. Of course, as I say this, McCutchen grounded out weakly to Shortstop.
Trivino is attacking the Yankee hitters, as Judge strikes out on 3 pitches. I’d like to see some patience, but Trivino has been around the strike zone, so they have to swing now. Trivino looks like a different pitcher this inning. Hicks does a good job to work that at-bat, forcing Trivino to throw 5 pitches, but Trivino’s stuff is so good right now that Hicks couldn’t do anything. Trivino finishes the inning at 27 pitches. I’m not sure how stretched out Trivino is, but I would guess he’s good for 40-45 pitches tonight in a winner-take-all scenario. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but I think Trivino will run out to the mound for the bottom of the 3rd inning as well.
Top of the 4th Inning
OK, Sevy needed that – one pitch, one out. Severino could use an efficient inning, as he threw 55 pitches through 3 innings.
Am I the only one who gasped when Andujar got to Davis’s groundball to the hole? I prayed that Didi would get to it, and Andujar and Voit combined to allow Davis to reach by error. Andujar looks just awful throwing the baseball, and Voit really struggles defensively as well. The way these two are playing defensively tonight, I think that I would sub out both players late in this game if the Yanks have a solid lead late. Hechavarria and Walker are a significant upgrade at the corners defensively over Andujar and Voit.
Now that Olson has walked and two runners are on base with no outs, the Yanks need to get Robertson warm in the bullpen. Sevy won’t give up without a fight, but it would be a mistake to trust Severino without a backup plan. Speaking of fighting, Sevy is showing a ton of fight – great sequence to Piscotty, and now he gets ahead of Laureano with two straight disappearing sliders. Sevy throws a third slider in the dirt, and Sanchez did a beautiful job of blocking that ball with a runner in scoring position. Sevy throws two straight pitches just off the black of the plate to walk Laureano. Boone is putting a lot of trust in Severino right now – the bullpen doesn’t seem to be stirring, and it looks like Severino is going to get a chance to finish the 4th inning. If it were me, I would turn to the bullpen to face Semien. Now Betances is up in the bullpen. I do not agree with that choice – Betances looks like Severino from a stuff perspective – I would want Robertson here.
Severino gets ahead 0-2 to Semien. Another beautiful block by Sanchez here on an 0-2 slider here – he really looks great behind the plate and there’s no way that Romine should come in as a defensive replacement tonight. AND SEVY GETS THE STRIKEOUT ON A 100 MPH FASTBALL! It’s possible that my analytically minded thought to go to the bullpen in that situation may have achieved the same result, but my heart was ecstatic to see Severino finish his night (presumably) with an exclamation mark. He was phenomenal tonight, and he did everything the Yankees wanted the starter to in this game. Now, they should get Green loose and bring him out for the 5th inning.
Bottom of the 4th Inning
Trivino is throwing a buzz-saw towards the catcher – the Yankee lineup has no chance with Trivino chucking it like this. I expected Oakland to exploit a lefty-lefty matchup on Didi in his 2nd at-bat, but he stood no chance against Trivino. Give Trivino credit – he gave the Athletics 3 great innings to stabilize the game for them. The Yankee offense needs to get back to working counts and being patient.
Top of the 5th Inning
Wow, I’m shocked to see Severino out here to start the 5th inning. I think that Boone has made a crucial mistake here – Green should be in this game. Boone realizes this 2 batters too late, and Betances comes in with 2 runners on and no outs. I don’t mind the decision to go to Betances, but Boone’s decision to trot Severino out for two batters is absolutely inexcusable, and once even one batter reached base, the bullpen should have been called.
Betances is worrying me – he is all over the place with his breaking ball, but he does get 2 big outs. Khris Davis is at the plate now, and in a 1-0 count, it seems that Betances has found his good breaking ball, throwing an absolutely wicked breaking ball to get the first strike. He utilized it again to get strike two, and I hope he decides to throw it in a 2-2 count again…AND HE GETS THE K!!! I don’t know what the advanced statistics say from a leverage perspective, but I don’t think there will be a higher leverage situation for a Yankee pitcher in this game, and Betances passed with flying colors.
Aaron Boone got really lucky there. Rarely can a manager make a mistake like that more than once and live to tell the tale. Let’s hope that Boone has learned his lesson and uses a quicker hook moving forward.
Bottom of the 5th Inning
The Yankees aren’t hitting the ball hard, but they are showing a lot of hustle. Andujar did a really nice job to beat out an infield single, and even though Sanchez rapped another ball up the middle to the shortstop, Sanchez busted it down the first base line to beat the throw, leaving a duck on the pond for Torres. Even though nothing came of it, I thought both Torres and McCutchen put together good at-bats. The Yankees look like they are ready to break through again.
Top of the 6th Inning
I like Boone’s decision to bring Betances back out for the 6th inning – Betances got stronger as the 5th inning wore on, and he can be trusted to get the lower half of the A’s batting order. I also like that Robertson is getting loose in the bullpen – I remain adamant that he is best suited to enter in a tight spot mid-inning.
Betances is rewarding Boone’s decision here – his breaking ball is baffling the A’s hitters as he gets Olson to ground out easily and strikes out Piscotty and Laureano on some wicked looking breaking balls to retire the side in order.
Now that Robertson is loose, it may make sense to put him out there in the 7th inning, but I think the A’s are really struggling with the combination of hard 95+ MPH fastballs and good breaking balls. I will reiterate my oft-repeated opinion – I think Green should be the bridge to Britton and Chapman.
Bottom of the 6th Inning
Prior to the start of the inning, I wondered which Fernando Rodney was going to show up – and I don’t think he’s throwing badly. I think Judge and Hicks are just that good. I have no idea how Judge kept that ball fair down the right field line to keep the ball fair, and Hicks’s double was absolutely textbook – he smoked it and Judge would have made it home even if the ball hadn’t been bobbled in the outfield. A 3-0 lead should be enough cushion for the Yankee bullpen.
A’s manager Bob Melvin just gave Rodney the hook in favor of Blake Treinen after Rodney threw a ball wide of Lucroy allowing Hicks to move up to 3rd. Treinen has been the best reliever in baseball this year – even with a runner at third base, I’m not confident that the Yanks can get Hicks home through conventional means. I am not a fan of the sacrifice bunt, but in a game like this, where the lead is at 3 in the bottom of the 6th, I think that a sac bunt may make a lot of sense. Playing for one more run should be all the Yankee bullpen needs to secure a win.
Treinen looks really uncomfortable, and I wonder how much of it has to do with the fact that Lucroy keeps changing the signs. The A’s seem really worried about sign stealing, but I don’t think that it’s any secret that Treinen is going to throw a slider and a sinker. Either way, with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Voit is grinding out a great at-bat, forcing Treinen to throw a lot of pitches. This is exactly what the Yankees need to do. And Voit is rewarded for his mettle with a 2-run triple off of the top of the wall to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. Shame on me for considering a sacrifice bunt. With a sac fly by Didi Gregorius, it is now 6-0 in favor of the Yankees.
Now is not the time to over-think – allow the Yankee bullpen to take it home by giving the ball to your best remaining pitchers. As good as Jonathan Holder is, Aaron Boone should remain on course, and stick to a selection of Green, Robertson, Britton, and Chapman in any combination.
Top of the 7th Inning
Aaron Boone makes the decision to play defense, protect the lead, and he substitutes Hechavarria for Andujar. I agreed with the decision at the beginning of the inning, and I agree with it even more after the first batter of the inning lined the ball hard 9 feet into the air, and Hechavarria made an incredible play. Torreyes is a nice utility piece, but picking up Hechavarria was a great upgrade for the playoffs. Robertson pitches a clean inning. I think Britton makes sense next. The Athletics have seen a lot of hard fastball/slider pitchers thus far, and Britton throws a wrinkle with his hard sinker.
Bottom of the 7th Inning
Anything the offense does from here on out is gravy – they have done their job. Nothing happens besides a Judge walk, but I’m OK with it.
Top of the 8th Inning
Aaron Boone agrees with my opinion, and brings in Britton. I also like the move to sub out McCutchen in favor of Gardner. McCutchen is a below-average defensive outfielder by the metrics, and Gardner is superior defensively with extensive experience in Left Field. Overall, Britton is allowing a lot of contact, but I am surprised by the Davis homer – Britton almost never allows the ball to be hit in the air. He comes back to work around a 4-pitch walk to Piscotty to get out of the inning alive. Based on the activity taking place in the bullpen, it appears that Boone is going to hand the ball to Green in the top of the 9th inning to finish out the game for the Yankees.
Bottom of the 8th inning
Giancarlo Stanton put an exclamation mark on the Yankee lead by knocking out Blake Treinen with a long lead-off homerun to Left Field to put the Yanks ahead 7-2. I’m not even a little upset that this homerun means that the Yankee lead surpasses my earlier 6-2 prediction – I dig the long ball, and the added cushion.
Top of the 9th Inning
Aaron Boone got Chapman warm between innings, and Chapman is in to pitch the 9th inning. Again, I’m perfectly OK with this move – pitch your best pitchers no matter what in a game like this. I also like the decision to put Walker at first base in lieu of Luke Voit. At this point, the lead must be protected at all costs. Chapman pitched like we expect, eventually striking out 2, and got Matt Chapman to ground out to Walker at first base on a 100 MPH fastball to end the game. There was no stress here – the Yankees followed the right game plan throughout the game and never deviated. On the offensive side, my dual players of the game are Aaron Judge and Luke Voit. On the mound, game balls go to Luis Severino and Dellin Betances. I can’t wait to see the Yankees take on Boston in the Divisional Series.