ALDS Game 2: So you centered a gameplan around JA Happ

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There’s a lot to complain about in this one, folks. The Yankees fell 7-5 in spite of Giancarlo Stanton’s heroics. The decision to use Deivi García as an opener for JA Happ backfired, CB Bucknor had himself a night, and the Yankees offense just fell short against Tampa Bay’s bullpen. This best-of-five series is now level at one a piece. Let’s get to the takeaways.

If I were the Yankees, I’d simply would have waited as long as possible to use JA Happ in this series. I know, I know. Happ had a resurgence during the regular season. But there’s no way I want to see him get the ball before Masahiro Tanaka in a playoff series with both guys fully rested. It’s overthinking things. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and all, but give me Tanaka over Happ as the bulk guy every time.

Same Masa, same. (Hat tip to @ktmob_ on Twitter for the screengrab)

I’ll try to reason with the Yankees here. I suppose the organization (we can’t totally blame Aaron Boone, though he does have to answer for it) thought going to Happ in relief would expose Tampa Bay’s five lefties in the starting lineup. Surely, Kevin Cash would have stacked righties against Happ in a traditional start. But uh, what if Game 4 never comes around? Then you don’t even have to use Happ. They shoehorned Happ into this series.

Using Happ this way was supposed to allow the Yankees to take advantage of his left-on-left matchup split of .204/.250/.327. The problem? Happ allowed five of ten lefties he faced to reach base, on top of the two two-run shots he gave up to Mike Zunino (65 wRC+ in regular season) and Manuel Margot (92 wRC+). Just a dreadful performance.

It also looks like the Yankees used Deivi García as a decoy to bait Cash into using a bunch of lefties. It also allows Deivi to start Game 4, if needed. That does make some sense as opening with someone like Jonathan Loasiga might have tipped the team’s hand.

CB Bucknor left his imprint on this one. There’s no doubt that the Rays capitalized on a very wide strike zone from home plate umpire CB Bucknor in this one. Obviously those aren’t strikes, but credit to the Rays for exploiting that.

The Yankees got a few of those calls too, but they did not go to the well like the Rays did.

Can’t deny that this was frustrating as hell to watch. The Yankees were clearly exasperated, particularly in that ninth inning where they nearly staged a comeback against Peter Fairbanks. Bummer.

I guess Adam Ottavino and Jonathan Loaisiga aren’t going to step up in the bullpen. At least, not yet. Aaron Boone summoned Ottavino to face Manuel Margot with two on and two out in the fourth in a one run game. Otto got the job done by inducing a flyout. Unfortunately, any goodwill from that escape was erased in the fifth thanks to a leadoff walk in the fifth against Joey Wendle. Especially after he was ahead in the count 0-2. As everyone does against Ottavino, Wendle stole second with ease. An out later and Boone moved on to Jonathan Loaisiga.

Loaisiga has excellent raw stuff but just can’t seem to put it all together. He’s very young so there’s plenty of time in his career, but the problem is that the Yankees needed him to take a step forward now. Loaisiga wound up surrendering an RBI single to Kevin Kiermaier to make it 6-4, and in the next frame, a solo shot to Austin Meadows to make it 7-4.

On the bright side, Jonathan Holder and Nick Nelson pitched perfect seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Maybe Boone gives them a shot in higher leverage tomorrow, though I’d much prefer Masahirot Tanaka to Chad Green to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman, of course.

Giancarlo Stanton tried his best to erase the questionable pitching decisions. The haters sure are quiet right now, are they not? Fun fact: entering tonight, Stanton had a .923 OPS and 5 postseason homers in 55 plate appearances. He tallied two more dingers tonight.

After the Rays took an early lead against García in the first, Stanton promptly nodded this one up at 1.

Later, as it seemed like things were unraveling, Stanton made his presence felt again. The Yankees were down 5-1 when he did this:

That ball apparently landed 458 feet away. I don’t buy it, but whatever. He is absolutely locked in and you love to see it. Stanton even scorched a 110 MPH lineout to left against Nick Anderson, who absolutely shut down the rest of the Yankees’ lineup.

Leftovers
  • At least the Rays’ bullpen had to work hard for this one. Diego Castillo, Nick Anderson, and Peter Fairbanks all threw 22 pitches or more tonight.
  • The offense struck out 18 times tonight. Gross. Rough games for Aaron Judge and Gary Sánchez in particular who combined to go 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. Both came up empty in that ninth inning rally against Fairbanks. Gary was the tying run and got blown away on strikes. Judge was the go ahead run after LeMahieu’s RBI single to make it 7-5, but grounded out to end the game.
  • The Yankees have to stop throwing Randy Arozarena fastballs. Yesterday, Arozarena hit four balls with an exit velocity of 100 MPH or greater and went 3-for-4. All but one of those were against fastballs, including the homer against Gerrit Cole. The non-fastball hit was on a hanging slider which any major leaguer can handle. Tonight, Deivi was ready to avoid the heater at all costs against Arozarena. Until the count got to 3-2, I guess. After not throwing one fastball the entire at-bat, he gave in and Arozarena made him pay with a solo shot. With two out and no one on, why challenge there? This homer wasn’t the difference maker by any stretch, but it was just not a good pitch call. Instead, he should have tried a secondary pitch to put him away. If not, I’d have taken my chances against Ji-Man Choi on deck.

Game 3 is tomorrow. It’s a best-of-three series now. Masahiro Tanaka will pitch this time, at least. He’ll face Charlie Morton. Hope for better tomorrow folks. Have a good night.

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8 Comments

  1. NYYROC

    Your headline says it all!

  2. CentralScrutinizer

    Agree with your recap all the way. Boone’s too-clever-by-half strategy was dumb to begin with. Happ probably should have never come out for the third inning but that would have meant burning two guys who could provide length after two innings. Boone had painted himself into a corner and had to stick with him. Unfortunately both Ottavino and Lasagna crapped the bed erasing Stanton’s one-man effort to keep the Yankees in the game.

    Other observations: Aaron Judge is not locked in the way Stanton is. In fact outside of the 2 dingers he hasn’t done Jack Squat. Flip them in the order? CB Bucknor was an embarrassment to MLB. Aren’t the umpires supposed to be selected on merit? If last night’s performance was representative of that strategy then it was the best argument I’ve seen so far for an automated ball/strike system.

  3. I dislike the ‘opener’ concept in general and last night’s decision not only didn’t work it made little to no sense because of the way it screws up the rotation. Montgomery will need to come up big in game 4 regardless of what happens tonight because game 5 is either Cole on short rest or Garcia/Happ(who was awful last night) again.

    I was really hoping Gardner would hit for Sanchez in the 9th because of Fairbank’s wildness; at the very least Gardner gives you a quality AB and possibly gets on base.

    The home plate umpiring was about the worst I’ve ever seen (and I’m not a complainer about that)-the 3-1 pitch to Torres was probably 6″ outside and high as well.

    Oh well, it’s best 2 out of 3 and Tanaka has thrown some gems against the Rays-they are a dead red hitting team and, if he is on, is the Yankees ideal choice for this game (although if he pitched game 2 they are likely up 2-0). Morton isn’t the same pitcher he was a couple of years ago (and doesn’t go more than 5+ innings) so maybe the Yankees put some runs on the board early.

  4. James Dools

    I thought the ‘cute’ move to Happ was a bad decision – too clever for its own good. Deivi might have settled in and given them a decent game, whereas Happ is always prone to this sort of stinker. Sad to waste the effort from Stanton, he looked like a beast. At least it is now a best of three with the Yankees as the home team (yes, that is sarcasm). Let’s hope that Big Game Masa shows up and the offense continues to click.

  5. dasit

    god help me i wanted higashioka to pinch-hit for sanchez in the 9th

  6. nickatnite

    Still no coming to grips with Sanchez providing zero value on the field huh?

  7. David

    Game 2 has so completely screwed up the pitching rotation that it’ll either cost the Yankees this series or put them completely behind the 8 ball against a fully rested Astros in the ALCS. How can Deivi start Game 4? You’re going to ask the kid to start on *one* day’s rest and give you multiple innings after throwing nearly 30 pitches tonight?

    • Dave

      Higgy needs to start over Gary. And in the off season the yanks need to consider moving on.

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