Game 160: Boone’s bullpen woes delay playoff celebration

With a wild card berth in sight, Aaron Boone and the Yankees’ offense once again made it hard on themselves by managing their way into a 4-3 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays. A ninth inning rally fell short, and their magic number remains at two with two games remaining. To the takeaways:

Offense shut down. Through the first eight innings, there was really nothing to note regarding the Yankees’ offense.  Two hits in the first inning (a leadoff double by Gleyber Torres and a two-out single by Giancarlo Stanton) plated the first run of the game, but the Yankees did not get a runner past first base for the next seven innings.  

A cadre of four Rays pitchers completely shut the hitting game down, something that has happened to the 2021 team with alarming frequency.  The Yankees have had 66 games this year where they have scored 3 or fewer runs, and their record in those games is merely 20-46.  If the team is going to make a run, they need to hit consistently, and limit these games where the bats disappear.

Boone’s bungled bullpen. Nestor Cortes started this game and went 4.2 relatively strong innings, giving up two runs (on a first inning home run to Nelson Cruz and a two-out bloop single to Kevin Kiermaier in the second) on five hits, striking out five.  He was pulled in the fifth inning after a two-out Kiermaier triple, and was replaced by Clay Holmes, who struck out Randy Arozarena to end the threat. Holmes pitched to two more batters in the sixth, retiring both, before being relieved by Wandy Peralta.

While pulling Cortes with two out in the fifth after 67 pitches was not in and of itself a bad decision, and Holmes and Peralta have established themselves as go-to mid-inning guys in the Yankees’ bullpen, Boone’s decision-making towards the end of the game was downright bizarre.  Peralta started the 7th with two easy strikeouts, but surrendered a single to Francisco Mejia and hit Kiermaier with a pitch; Jonathan Loaisiga then came on and issued a walk before striking out Wander Franco after an 8-pitch at bat on a 100 mph outside sinker.

Loaisiga, recently returned from the IL, looked like his stuff was really electric tonight, and if the Yankees are to make a deep postseason run he needs to be fully ready for one-to-two inning appearances. Boone pulled him after just one third of an inning, however, and turned to Domingo German, pitching for the first time since July 31.  German got through the 8th inning with minimal trouble, surrendering a single and a stolen base but striking out two.

With the Yankees down one run going into the 9th inning, Boone tried to stretch German for a second inning, where he struck out Joey Wendle but issued walks to Mejia and Kiermaier.  In this crucial game, down by one run, with Chad Green, Luis Severino, Lucas Luetge, and Michael King theoretically available, Boone called on Albert Abreu, for most of the season the last man out of the bullpen.  After getting Arozarena to ground out, Wander Franco slapped a two-run single to center field, giving the Rays a 4-1 lead going into the bottom of the 9th.

Rally falls short. In true 2021 Yankees fashion, the offense decided to wake up with one out in the 9th inning and staged a rally that was almost enough.  Stanton laced a line-drive double to left, and took third on defensive indifference as the Rays had the “Gallo shift” on with third base open and four men in the outfield.  Joey Gallo responded by laying down a beautiful bunt down the third base line, scoring Stanton to make it 4-2. Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner came through with back-to-back singles to bring the Yankees within one before Andrew Kittredge settled down to strike out Gary Sanchez and Rougned Odor to end the game.

Obviously, the fallacy of the predetermined outcome would tell us that we couldn’t count on the Yankees staging this rally if the bullpen had done its job in the top of the inning. But that one hurt.

Never get beat with your last man.  This game really exemplified the issues that Aaron Boone has had with bullpen management all season – he manages as though the Yankees are coasting into the postseason, despite the fact that they have never been in a comfortable playoff spot throughout the 160 games they’ve played.  Characteristically, he managed tonight as though he was doing load management for his players, for future games he knows he’ll need them for, instead of recognizing the reality that his team is still very much fighting for the chance to play past Sunday.  

Of course, I don’t know that Severino, Green, or Luetge wouldn’t have given up the same hit that Abreu did, and Abreu has certainly had his moments of promise this season, but if you’re fighting for tomorrow you have to run the risk of getting beat with your best talent rather than waving the white flag in a winnable game.  I don’t know what the future holds for Boone as the Yankees’ manager in the remainder of 2021 and beyond, but the lack of urgency with which he appears to manage hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fan base. 

Leftovers

  • Brett Gardner picked up two hits today. He came into the game OPSing .822 in 50 games since the beginning of August.
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19 Comments

  1. Steve

    Yankees gonna get swept by TB, back into the playoffs, and get swept by TB again.

    I feared they’d fall apart again after their 7 or 8 game win streak stopped.

  2. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    This is the worst team in baseball. No sense of urgency at all. Just allow Monty to give up 6 runs, ho hum. We will not be making the postseason. Good riddance.

    • Bartholomew Meshir

      12-2 Boone can now do what he loves to do. Manage for tomorrow again.

  3. Who’s going to be the manager next season?

  4. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    Andrew Velazquez is back just in time to lead us to the post season! I’d like to see Tampa try 4 outfielders on him.

  5. H. Avis

    If management’s philosophy does not change dramatically the Yankees won’t win another WS. A badly constructed team with a terrible manager.

  6. TCF16

    “We play today, we (sort of try and) win today (if the analytics tell us what to do and by doing so we stumble into a win accidentally), das it.”

  7. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    I thought it was the worst loss of the season, Bobby. I’ve been saying this for years about Boone. He’s a laid back surfer dude from California with no sense of urgency. Sox win, Ms lose, Jays win so win today and we’re in but that’s a big if. The Rays are just a better ballclub from top to bottom. You saw it with their 4 outfielder shift daring us to change strategy which they know we won’t. It’s always stupid to say well they want Gallo to hit an opposite field single. No they don’t. They want him to hit it right where they’re standing. That’s why they’re standing there! And why can’t we ever do smart innovative things like that? We’ll probably just steal the 4 outfielders next year, always behind the ball.

  8. Ksnsas

    Valasquez probably catches the bloop over shortstop. Giving Boone more relievers to chose from is a bad idea. Sanchez and Odor at the plate to win the game is a joke…..bur it’s not funny.

    • Frances Vetrano

      Agree. NOT team players – 2 hottest hitters waiting to come up All we need is a single – instead BOTH trying to be heroes & hit HRs. WHERE THE **** are the manager & coaches? And GERMAIN for 2 innings? Analytics – try COMMON SENSE. TERRIBLE TERRIBLE. Yankees just not feared – nor should they be. Life long Yankee fan – this is WORSE than Stump years. We need a common sense manager – not a yes man to analytics who only says “good at bats” but those do NOT translate into wins.

  9. Steve

    Once again, and far too often in recent history, the Yankees punt a winnable game in order to better position themselves for a win tomorrow. They might be in first if they had a “win today” philosophy.

  10. Terry from LA

    The only good thing is that Boone probably signed his death warrant tonight. Who the hell brings in the 10th man in the bullpen with the game and/or season on the line. He has killed them all year.

  11. I rarely get angry watching a baseball game but WTF was Boone thinking in the 9th inning tonight when he put Abreu, the weakest link in the bullpen, into a possible season ruining situation?

    Just absurd, period, a gerbil could have made a better decision.

  12. Cuso

    Boone’s “feel” for the game leaves a lot to be desired.

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