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.
The Yankees had 22 outs at home this season, tied with the Kansas City Royals for most in MLB.— Lindsey Adler (@lindseyadler) October 6, 2021
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.
- 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.