Wild Card Game: It’s all over

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The Yankees’ season is over. Boston topped the Yankees 6-1 in the Wild Card Game at Fenway Park, postponing the Bombers’ World Series hopes to 2022. It wasn’t much of a contest tonight, either. The Red Sox jumped Gerrit Cole early and the Yankees’ offense had no answers. Boston will now head to Tampa to play the Rays in the ALDS.

There’s plenty of blame to spread on 2021 Yankees, but tonight’s loss epitomized so much of what went wrong for this year’s club. The offense sputtered. The manager made questionable decisions. Fundamentals were lacking. So it goes.

We’re going to transition to our offseason coverage in the coming weeks, but there’s still some time to reflect upon the 2021 club. The playoffs have just begun, so the front office won’t be making roster moves anytime soon. With that, let’s get to the takeaways from tonight’s game:

Gerrit Cole was terrible. There’s really no other way to put it. Cole gave up two massive homers (Xander Bogaerts and Kyle Schwarber) and needed Clay Holmes to bail him out of the third inning mess he created. It seemed like he completely lost his command midway through the Rafael Devers at-bat in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Devers drew a walk and Bogaerts followed with a blast to dead center to put Boston up 2-0. Here’s Cole’s pitch chart.

Yeah, that’s all over the place. And see that green dot in the middle? That’s the flat changeup that Bogaerts launched. Just an awful, awful pitch.

To make matters worse, Boone pushed Cole into the third inning in spite of it being painfully obvious that his starter had little to give. And naturally, Schwarber led off the frame with a long ball to make it 3-0. Somehow, Boone let him stick around for two more hitters, who both reached, before calling on Clay Holmes. Great job by Holmes by the way, who stranded both runners.

This is about as disappointing as it gets from Cole. He’s the guy the Yankees had their eyes on for some time. To see him come up short in a win-or-go-home scenario is incredibly frustrating. Granted, it’s quite possible that Cole’s delivery is compromised by the hamstring injury he’s pitched through since early September. There’s no easy way for us to tell from the naked eye, but it’s also hard to fathom how Cole could be so wild if healthy.

On Phil Nevin’s send in the sixth inning. For a brief moment, things looked to turn in the Yankees’ favor in the top of the sixth. The offense finally broke through against Nathan Eovaldi when Anthony Rizzo stroked a one out solo homer to cut the deficit to 3-1. Aaron Judge followed with a soft single, and surprisingly, Boston manager Alex Cora decided to lift Eovaldi with just 71 pitches. His club’s bullpen has been bad, and the decision felt like a gift to the Yankees. Especially once Giancarlo Stanton greeted incoming reliever Ryan Brasier with a laser off the green monster.

Instead of being excited about the idea of a comeback led by Stanton at Fenway like last time in Boston, disaster struck. Judge tried to go first to home, but was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the frame. Third base coach Phil Nevin waved him around on the play, and considering that Judge was out by a mile, it looked like an awful send at first glance.

Generously, that was an aggressive send. Now, it’s true that it also took an incredible play by Xander Bogaerts to convert the relay home. And not only did he make a nice pick on a low throw in shallow center, but he also delivered the ball on a dime to the catcher. Give some credit to Bogaerts for a great play defensively. That said, this freeze frame make this look really, really bad for Nevin.

Yiiikes. Plawecki had the ball waiting for Judge. Not even close.

Approach vs. Eovaldi. The Yankees had a lot of success against Nathan Eovaldi over a week ago thanks to an aggressive approach. The righty throws a lot of strikes (55 percent zone rate, 2nd-highest in MLB), so this plan of attack makes sense. At least, until it doesn’t. Eovaldi’s command of his arsenal was very good tonight. Just look at where he placed his four-seamer:

That’s simply great execution. You’re not going to do much against a high-90s fastball in those spots. The Yankees probably should have been a bit more patient, but at the same time, Eovaldi was also at the top of his game. I’ve already touched on his command, but it’s also worth pointing out that his velocity was way up (98.0 MPH average vs. 96.8 on the season) while his breaking balls were pretty nasty. The offense whiffed five times on thirteen swings against his curveball and slider.

I know the Yankees’ offense has disappointed all year long, but I’m not sure Eovaldi was beatable tonight. Cora pulling him was such a gift, but unfortunately, it was for naught.

Leftovers

  • Up until Chad Green gave up a couple of runs, the Yankees’ bullpen did a pretty good job. I already mentioned Holmes, but Luis Severino did a brilliant job before (gasp) Boone left him in too long. Jonathan Loáisiga didn’t have great control (three walks), and perhaps Boone didn’t move quick enough on him too, but the runs charged to him were inherited by Green.
  • I have no idea why Gary Sánchez didn’t pinch hit for Kyle Higashioka in the fifth inning. Higgy went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and should have been pinch hit for as soon as Cole’s night was over, especially with three catchers on the roster.
  • Giancarlo Stanton came to play. He might have had three home runs, rather than one, if this game was in a different ballpark. He went 3-for-4 with a bunch of rockets all over the field.
  • Rough game for Joey Gallo, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He did fly out to the warning track, but I thought his first inning at-bat against Eovaldi was particularly rough. He fouled off a good pitch to hit and also took a fastball down the pipe.
  • The offense didn’t draw a single walk, which I guess isn’t a shock given the strategy against Eovaldi. Really, Stanton and Rizzo were the only ones to contribute. The only other hits not by them were infield singles (Judge and Gio Urshela).

Well, that’s that. The game was about as fun as the 2021 season. I’m sad that the Yankees season is over, but I won’t miss this version of the club. It was a letdown.

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35 Comments

  1. Frankie Ho-Tep

    Good riddance. I will not miss the 2021 Yankees one iota. Kind of a weird statement and I understand if it’s unpopular. We had a no-hitter (!!!), a trio of triple-plays, a big-time winning streak, and plenty of walk-off wins. It was just tough to fully get behind this team and believe they could win anything. I didn’t think they could. And they didn’t.

  2. chip56

    There will be a lot of focus on the minutia of this game, but the big picture should not be ignored. In building this team, and assembling the coaching staff, the organization put zero emphasis on defense, fundamentals, or situational hitting. Deficiencies in all three areas bit the Yankees in the butt time after time throughout the year. Had the Yankees won a few of the games that they lost because of inept defense or boneheaded baserunning, they’re not even playing in that game.

    When you rely solely on your ability to hit home runs, you shouldn’t be surprised when your offense is inconsistent.

    • Anthony Rizzeddardo

      The club was at its best when it was playing small ball, stealing bases, going 1st to 3rd and playing great defense. That was during the 13 game win streak with Greg Allen and Andrew Velazquez and Higgy behind the plate. As soon as the big bats came in they reverted back to station to station, trying to hit the 6 run home run and sloppy defense. We need more Greg Allens and less Joey Gallos.

      The starting pitching is also an issue. Gerrit Cole is not an ace in the mold of a Max Scherzer. You saw Max last night not have his best stuff but he gritted and gutted into the 5th inning allowing only one run. Adam Wainwright did the same for the Cards. Those are aces. Gerrit Cole is not an ace. We either need to go out an get a top flight ace pitcher or see if Sevy can regain that form. I woulda started Kluber or went with a bullpen game in the WC because Cole clearly wasn’t up to the task. We also need a manager that will make that tough call and isn’t afraid to go against his “ace” and rather go with the best option at the time. A 6 ERA is not who you want starting a one game playoff.

  3. Wire Fan

    I think the one positive this year was the pitching. Sure Cole struggled down the stretch but I have to think he was slightly injured or not over the hamstring issue. I think Blake along with some shifts in the organizational philosophy on pitching was (and is) a plus. The Yankees now just need to stop running to the pen in the 5th or 6th inning in the reg season and maybe the bullpen won’t be gassed in Sept and Oct.

    Not sure what the Yankees do on the position player side.
    – SS is a need. Do they go big on a FA?
    – I wonder if the Yankees move on from Voit as he is now in the injury prone category.
    – Do they change things up at the catcher position?
    – How do they sort out Gio, DJL and Gleyber at 2nd and 3rd (maybe a 5 man rotation between the 4 IF positions? DJL isn’t hitting enough to be an everyday 1B).
    – They need a legit 4th OF as it is just a question of when Hicks gets hurt next year.
    – I believe both Frazier and Andujar are out of options, are they dealt in minor trades?

    And who on the coaching side is retained on a team that was clearly fundamentally unsound. It wasn’t just a Boone issue.

    • Wire, I agree with everything you wrote. I have the exact same concerns and no idea what the Yankees will do next.

    • dasit

      if you told me that judge and stanton would combine for more than 1,200 plate appearances and that cole, montgomery, kluber and taillon would combine for 105 starts i would have guessed 98 wins and a deep post-season run

  4. # 2

    bad bad bad

  5. glory days

    I’m done – Cashman is horrible – no more tickets for my family – bye

  6. dasit

    that game was somehow stressful and boring at the same time

  7. Dirk Diggler

    Time to fire Cashman. This team is his monstrosity. The decade long search for an Ace showed how silly that has been. One pitcher doesn’t make a team. Too many scrap heap pickups and too few prospects developed, wasted money all around. This team and the manager are all at the feet of Cashman, a guy who has had 23 seasons to build upon the 1998 team he inherited. 2009 was the exception, not the rule.

    • Dirk Diggler

      And I get the fact that the former owner’s kids would rather line their pockets than see the team win. But Cashman consistent wastes the resources he’s given. Did you know they are still paying Ellsbury lol? That’s was an idiotic signing when it was made because they didn’t believe in what they had with Gardner. Been a decade of that nonsense. Meanwhile the dumpster diving…

    • D J

      Indeed, and 2009 was after they went crazy in FA and signed three guys, and added them to an already solid team.

      After that they’ve never made it to another WS.

  8. MikeD

    Sadly, part one of my two part prediction came true. The Yankees would lose to the Red Sox last night. I never predict against the Yankees, even in very tough games, but Cole’s command has been off since the hamstring injury. He pitched as poorly as he has in years since returning (rapidly) from the hamstring injury. Poor command and not finishing his pitches point to an injury, one we know existed, but one we suspect wasn’t given a proper time to heal. We also know that Eovaldi pitches exceptionally well against the Yankees. Those two points, coupled with the game being in Fenway, pretty much said the betting line favoring the Yankees was wrong.

    The second prediction was Boone was managing his last game for the Yankees last night. I never root for a Yankee manager to be booted, but I’ll be quite disappointed if Boone is back. Why? We know Boone’s issues. We see them. That means the Yankees see them. If they don’t boot him that means they’re happy with him, or at least they’re not blaming him. It would confirm that he really is a puppet and is making almost no decisions on his own. If that’s the case, they’re not going to blame him because that means they’d have to admit their strategy is wrong.

  9. I’ve been a Yankees fan since the mid-50s and it’s the 1st time in my life I got no joy from watching their games.

    They won 92 games in spite of themselves and until they change the focus of the organization from one dimensional power hitters to a more balanced team that can actually make contact when it counts they are highly unlikely to ever win another championship.

    I turned the game off after Schwarber’s HR last night, noticed Rizzo had hit one out and Judge was on 1st so flipped back to it in time to see Stanton’s shot off the wall and Nevin’s incredibly bad send (Judge has just reaching 3rd when Bogaerts had the ball in his glove) and knew the game was over as soon as Gallo made the final out.

    The chance of Boone coming back next year (his contract is up) is near zero but it doesn’t matter if they hire another neophyte, they first need a bunch of new players (they don’t have to be superstars, just look at the Giants roster and their record), and a new approach to playing a game that essentially hasn’t changed much in 100 years.

    I know it won’t happen but hiring a guy like Buck Showalter is likely the exact thing this team needs. And someone needs to show the players just how much hitting the other way through the shift can help an offense.

    And, as for starting pitching, put some guys in the rotation who are actually capable of eventually going 7 strong on a regular basis-they might take their lumps for awhile and some might get hurt but it’s the only way to win it all long term.

  10. daryl bennett

    People that should go, but probably won’t.
    Gallo, Cashman, oppenheimer, green, hicks

    People that will go
    Frazier, voit, chapman, sanchez

    I don’t want torres to be sent away. My preference is seager, with torres at 2b,dj at 1b, and peraza challenging for a job. I’ve been saying for over a year, the ss’s in the minors should be tested at 3b,2b, and CF. I don’t know the alignment if torres sucks and peraza is ready, that’s why the GM makes millions a year.

    Florial would have out hit Gallo. No doubt. I hope florial is here, no nonsense, not passed up for a 38 year old or hicks. 9 slots, we need to start infusing young blood and ditching the older ones, so we don’t need this type of “mega overhaul” like now. Growing pains, sure. Would we have been in a worse position? I mean, would you have cared if we missed *whatever*that game was?

  11. A fitting end to a brutal season. If you told me in April that Judge and Stanton would both stay healthy ad in the lineup for the majority of the season and that Cole would (likely) finish second in the Cy Young race I would’ve thought this team would make it all the way. I have a lot to say about the offseason moves and the future of this team that should be saved for future posts where they’ll be more relevant but for now I will say that the Yankees have earned zero faith and trust from their fanbase that will make the moves necessary to fill the gaps in this roster. But hey, at least “wE mAdE iT tO tHe PoStSeAsOn!!!”

  12. H. Avis

    It is abundantly clear that the entire Yankees organization needs radical changes. How about selling the team to someone who is serious about winning. Not holding my breath on that.

    As far as last night goes, I believe that over the last several weeks Cole has been bothered by a strained hamstring and should not have started. However, the rest of the team (and manager) simply has no excuses. A horrid performance. Mediocrity reigns in the Bronx …

  13. Brent Lawson

    Well said Derek. One thing I learned this year is you and the other folks at 314 are super.

    As for the Yankees, my hope is that Cashman, Fishman and Boone are let go, but that would require Steinbrenner to act like a real owner. Credit here to a great article by Mike Lupica a couple of weeks ago.

    I am afraid this is the version of the Yankeesweare stuck with. Oh to be wrong.

  14. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    I thought it was the worst loss of the season, Derek. It was so bad I fell asleep in the 7th inning. I’ve been saying all year that Boone’s gotta go. He’s not a postseason manager in the mold of a Joe Torre. Firing Girardi and hiring Boone set the club back years. Girardi had them on the precipice of a ring and Boone has done nothing but go backwards since 2017. And with Boone I’d get rid of the entire coaching staff except Matt Blake. That Nevin send of Judge was the worst I ever saw in 50 years. Thames did nothing to make any hitter better. The club is sloppy, lazy and needs discipline. They need Billy screaming in their faces, they need Torre’s firm but steady hand, they need Giradi’s ability to get the best out of his players.

    I love to say I told you so and yesterday I predicted the Yankees would lose 7-2 and they lost 6-2. It was just so predictable that 6 ERA Cole shouldn’t have started. I said go with Kluber or a bullpen game. Gerrit Cole is not an ace in the mold of a Max Scherzer. Watch what Max does tonight. Hint, he won’t get pulled in the 3rd inning. Eovaldi is more ace like and Cash let him go to the rival Sox. Unless Severino can become that ace starter again it’ll be a long time before the Yankees have an ace they can rely on in the postseason.

    They completely wasted a season in which Judge and Stanton were healthy and productive. Unless those two hit nobody hit. Rizzo was a good pickup and should be re-signed and trade Voit. They need a hitting coach that puts contact first and get hitters that can hit for average. Trade Joey Gallo who is good for nothing but Italian memes. Trade Gary Sanchez for a better defensive catcher and one that can hit for average. Too many .200 hitters that hit an occasional homerun. That’s been their strategy for years and it doesn’t work. Gleyber is clearly a better defender and hitter at 2B. They need different types of hitters to go with Judge and Stanton.

    Ultimately this season was a colossal failure for your Yankee ballclub. Wholesale changes need to be made starting with Boone’s firing today. Then and only then can you guys start picking up the pieces. Jays are only going to get better. Rays have a superior organization from top to bottom. The Sox are a better ballclub right now. Dark days lie ahead and I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better to just go thr Orioles route and blow the while thing to smithereens. Either way I know it’ll be a pleasure to watch it burn.

    • sevrox

      ‘…it’ll be a pleasure to watch it burn’? And you consider yourself a Yankee fan?

      • It’s Mike Axisa, the RAB owner, trolling fans the same way he’s been doing it for years.

        I have no clue how he thinks it’s funny but it’s about the same level as his CBS writing-AWFUL

        • Rich K

          I think you’re mistaken. “Anthony Rizzedardo” says that the Nevin send of Judge was the worst he’s seen in 50 years. I don’t think Mike Axisa is 50 years old. I was a big reader of River Ave. Blues when it was operational and am a Patreon for his RAB. In one of his last posts he mentioned this site which is what sent me here. While I like all of the writers here as there’s not a bad one in the bunch, my favorite is Bobby, largely because his style of writing is very similar to Mike’s. Also, they often have similar takes on things. I don’t always agree with Mike (i.e., Sanchez), but I think he’s an excellent writer.

          • It is Axisa-he effed up at least once on RAB and forgot to change his screen name when posting, lots of people saw it.

            So he makes fun of the contingent of fans who change their minds every day about the team and pisses off the real fan who understands baseball and has a memory, just stupid.

        • MikeD

          Zero chance it’s Axisa.

          • That’s great proof you provide-if it isn’t Axisa, why haven’t the owners of the site emailed me to knock it off (I’ve mentioned it numerous times) or commented with a denial? It isn’t like they don’t know who it is.

  15. Alex

    Aside from the obvious changes that must get made (firing Boone and Cashman), it is abundantly clear that Joey Gallo should not be on this roster next season.

    The team needs to get rid of him anyway they can in the offseason. Awful player and terrible acquisition. Maybe he can cut it on a small market team with no expectations like Texas that wins 50 games but certainly not here.

  16. Dani

    Tbh I’m glad it’s over. Perfect ending too. It’s a team that just can’t hit aside of Judge and Stanton.

    Boone needs to go. Gallo needs to be traded. They need another realiable starter. And most importantly: they need guys that hit for avg and don’t strike out a bazillion times. Running out 3+ guys day in day out that hit below .200 is just mind boggling. Then they tried to fix that by trading for Gallo. Wow.

    Won’t even talk about the Heaney trade, you knew that was bad when the Angels celebrated that they actually got something in return.

    Offseason should be fun, I expect the Yanks to do lots of things. Hopefully those won’t be quite as stupid as most of the things that happened during the past 12 months.

    • Heaney stunk for the Yankees but I’ll bet you can’t name the two minor leaguers sent to the Angels for him and doubt either one will ever pitch in the bigs.

      They completely whiffed on Heaney but hit golf on the Clay Holmes trade, that’s the way things go with deadline acquisitions. Holmes is under control for 3 more years and is earning near the minimum, he’s a tremendous bargain for the bullpen.

  17. Steve

    “Worst loss of the season, Bobby”

  18. Rich K

    Sad and mind boggling that a team the 2nd highest payroll at over 200 Million performs like this. Especially when they’re consistently getting owned by a Tampa team that checks in at 26th with a 70 Million payroll. To not compete and beat them indicates big problems internally. At bare minimum Boone needs to go. So does Sanchez. I understand that some feel he’s hard to replace. He is so lousy at catcher that he will have a hard time securing a starting job in MLB after his control expires next season. He’s not good enough to catch and doesn’t hit well enough to be a DH. Also, if you’re going to embrace more of a contact philosophy, catcher is maybe the easiest spot to do it at without dismantling your major offensive pieces. Would love to resign Rizzo, but am concerned about another possible Teixeira scenario, so they might be best served to let him walk and regard DJ as your 1st baseman going forward. Especially as Gleybar has moved to 2B.

  19. Waiting patiently for Eddard to contribute his brilliant analysis.

  20. Bart

    Nice screen cap of the play at home. Only someone like Sanchez could screw that tag up.

    • Joel

      Can’t remember the last time I thought this about a Yankee manager, but Boone has to go. He didn’t necessarily lose tonight’s game, but he is a liability. He deserves vote of no confidence.

      • MikeD

        It’s truly hard to gauge how many wins a good manager adds, and how many a bad manager takes. Let’s be conservative and say a bad manager costs a good team 3 wins over 162 games, and let’s say a good manager adds 3 wins. That’s a six win swing. A HUGE number. Boone is a liability. Go find a good manager. Problem is I’m not convinced Cashman can accept a strong manager. He will be predisposed to hiring another Boone type, and we’ve seen that does cost wins.

  21. David Pieragostini

    Regarding the play at home. Surprised that Nevin would be aggressive since finally offense and chance to have 3rd and 2nd/1st with one out. If worried about Gallo batting next , the real problem with lineup construction and Gallo in general.

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