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How I Saw It – The Wild Card Game (Paul Semendinger)

What follows is my re-cap of the Wild Card game, but rather than sharing what happened, after it happened, as is the purpose of a typical game summary, I am going to share how I viewed the game at all the critical points. I’ll share where I agreed with Aaron Boone and where I disagreed.

So, let’s get to it…

In a previous article, I already shared the players I would have placed in the starting line-up. My starting nine, and the starting nine chosen by Aaron Boone matched up almost exactly with one notable difference – I would have started Austin Romine as the catcher. I understand the reason for starting Gary Sanchez – he is the once and future star. Still, the prospect of a passed ball or wild pitch at a critical moment scared me enough that I would have gone with the better receiver at blocking pitches. (This has been discussed at length previously.)

In regard to the batting order, I usually defer to the manager. I think Boone’s line-up made sense.

I also felt that Luis Severino was the right call to start the game and that he would have a solid outing. Aaron Boone and I were on the same page there and then Luis Severino sailed through the top of the first making Aaron Boone (and me) seem brilliant for giving him the ball.

In the bottom of the first, Andrew McCutchen led off with a walk. That brought up Aaron Judge and Aaron Boone’s first big mistake. In that situation, Judge has to be bunting. Why Judge didn’t bunt is beyond me. That’s just plain bad managing. In that situation, you have to give up the out to get the runner to second base. Move the runner over. Stay out of the double play. This is basic baseball folks!

Ok, I am joking. 99% of the time, I abhor the bunt. I just wanted to get a rise out of some of the readers out there. In reality, Aaron Judge then did exactly what he was supposed to do as he launched a big homer that, for me at least, brought the sense that this would be a good night for the Yankees. This was great to see. It’s great to see Aaron Judge being Aaron Judge.

Luis Severino then sailed through the second inning as well. It was apparent, also, that Gary Sanchez was catching a good game. Before the game, there was a shot on the TV of Sanchez practicing blocking balls in the dirt. I was glad to see that. It was also great to see him on the same page, throughout the game, with all the pitchers. At bat, in the bottom of the second, Sanchez grounded into a double play. As he lumbered down the first base line, he made me think that I was possibly correct in asking for Romine to start. I’ll cut to the chase here… while Sanchez went 0-for-3, his defense was superb. He was in total control all night. Aaron Boone was right to start him. Gary Sanchez didn’t hit, but he stepped up big in other ways. He was a rock behind the plate. He communicated well with his pitchers. He rose to the occasion. This was a good call by the manager, not me.

Moving forward, the next big moment was the top of the fourth. Luis Severino got in a jam (without allowing a hit). With two on and two out, he threw what, to me at least, looked like a called strike three, but it was called a ball to Ramon Laureano who then walked on the next pitch (also somewhat close). This brought some tension – bases loaded, two outs, and the pitcher in his first real jam. It didn’t seem that Aaron Boone got the bullpen up quick enough here, but that’s nit-picking. Also, when he did, he got Dellin Betances up. That was a great call, but if it had been me, I might have started in that situation with Chad Green. Again, this is nit-picking. In that spot, the team has to go with the best pitcher and Betances would have been a great call. It mattered little. Severino struck out the next batter to end the inning. He was fired-up. Yankee Stadium was fired up. It was great to see this energy.

I again agreed with Aaron Boone as, in the top of the fifth, immediately after Luis Severino gave up his first two hits, he was lifted for Betances. This was 100% the right call. Betances had been up, it was time to get him in the game. He also pitched extremely well.

I was also happy to see Gary Sanchez hustling out a would-be double play ground ball in the bottom of the fifth. The energy on this team was great to see. The Yankees came out determined to win. When teams play with energy and passion it is fun to watch. Last night’s game was great!

I was then surprised top see Betances pitching to start the sixth inning. He has not always been great in his second inning of work. Again, in that spot, I would have gone to Chad Green. Also of note, Miguel Andujar was taken out of the game so Adeiny Hechavarria, the superior defensive player, could play third base. That was a gutsy move in a 2-0 game, but it was a great call by Boone. I have to be honest, I wouldn’t have made that change that quickly, but I liked seeing this aggressive approach from the manager.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Yankees broke the game open. The bats came alive with doubles from Judge and Hicks and a big triple from Luke Voit. Voit just might be this year’s Todd Frazier – the player that brings unstoppable enthusiasm and fire to the game. That’s needed. He was pumped up -and, like Severino, he seemed to energize his teammates. This was great to see.

David Robertson pitched the seventh inning. In that frame, Hechavarria made a fantastic defensive play making Aaron Boone look brilliant for putting him in the game. I would have also used D-Rob in that spot.

Zach Britton was used for the 8th. I also agreed with this. Boone stayed with Britton even after he allowed a two-run homer to Khris Davis that cut the lead to 6-2. I would have stayed with Britton as well. Chad Green did get up in the bullpen. That’s just what I would have done. (How about that, Aaron Boone and me, totally on the same page. Well, I’m glad he finally started to read this blog.)

Of note, I liked seeing Brett Gardner (8th) and Neil Walker (9th) brought into the game as defensive replacements.

It was great to see Giancarlo Stanton’s towering bomb in the bottom of the eighth. (Why wasn’t he bunting for a base hit?) When was the last time Stanton and Judge both homered in the same game? I hope we see a lot more of this over the next few weeks. I think we will!

Finally, going to Aroldis Chapman with a five run lead in the ninth was absolutely the right call. Chappy was excellent and the Yankees won the big game.

Now, after a long season, they are where they need to be. They are in the ALDS. They got there. They did it.

I feel great about their chances against the Red Sox.

Let’s Go Yankees!

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