NEW YORK — Yankees manager Aaron Boone is about to be thrown into the New York media fire. Or, rather, he threw himself into the fire with a series of managerial blunders in Game 3 of the ALDS on Monday night (GameTracker).
Yankees staff ace Luis Severino struggled right out of the gate — he tossed a scoreless first inning but allowed several hard-hit balls — yet remained in the game long enough to make a mess of things into the fourth inning. When it was all said and done, Severino was charged with six runs.
The disaster outing put the Yankees in a big early hole in Game 3. The good news? It’s not an elimination game. The series is tied 1-1. The bad news? Game 4 on Tuesday is looking like an elimination game for the Yankees.
As poorly as Severino (and the bullpen) pitched, the biggest goat in Game 3 is Boone, who made several obvious blunders en route to the Red Sox building what was then a 10-0 (!) lead in the fourth inning. These are not second guesses. These are first guesses that were obvious to anyone watching the game live. Three glaring mistakes stand out.
1. Severino’s leash was way too long
The first four balls in play Severino allowed in Game 3 registered at 104.0 mph, 79.4 mph, 100.2 mph, and 115.7 mph. Needless to say, the Red Sox were squaring him up well. They pushed across a run in the second inning when Christian Vazquez’s hard-hit single deflected off Severino’s glove and wound up in no man’s land on the field, scoring a runner from third.
The third inning is when things really started to go haywire:
The Martinez sacrifice fly pushed across another run and it wasn’t until the Bogaerts single that the Yankees made a mound visit and got the bullpen stirring. That is way, way too long a leash for the starting pitcher in a postseason. Up to that point, Severino had faced 13 batters and six reached base. Everyone was hitting the ball hard.
Keep in mind Boone had a quick hook with J.A. Happ in Game 1. Happ was out after two innings plus two batters. Severino was still in the game in the third inning after three of the first four batters reached base. He remained in after allowing another run on a fielder’s choice. There was no reason for Severino to still be in the game at that point. None. He should’ve been out after the Benintendi single, I thought. Severino was fooling no one.
2. Severino went back out for the fourth inning
Why? Beats me. Even after righty Lance Lynn and lefty Stephen Tarpley warmed up in the third inning, Boone sent Severino back out for the fourth inning with the Yankees down 3-0. A three-run deficit in Yankee Stadium is hardly insurmountable. Then two first pitch singles and a four-pitch walked loaded the bases with no outs. Only then did Boone remove Severino.
Clearly, Boone was trying to squeeze another inning out of Severino against the 7-8-9 hitters. In a regular season game, that would be understandable. In the postseason though? No. It looked to me that Boone was caught flat-footed. The two first-pitch singles caught him by surprise and the relievers weren’t ready. That is inexcusable.
Given the way he’d been throwing and the way the Red Sox had been squaring him, there’s no way Severino should’ve remained in the game after the leadoff single in the fourth. He should’ve been out sometime in the third inning, to be honest. But, once you send him out there for the fourth, the leash has to be short. One batter. It was longer than that.
3. Lynn was the first pitcher out of the bullpen.
On some level, this is even more confusing that Severino having such a long leash. The Yankees have a powerhouse bullpen with several high-strikeout relievers. So much so that they posted the highest single-season bullpen strikeout rate in baseball history during the regular season. Looking at this options and their strikeout rates:
Don’t want to use Chapman in the fourth inning? Cool, I get it. No manager uses his closer that early. But Betances entered the Wild Card Game in the fifth inning. Green entered ALDS Game 1 in the third. Robertson has been used in nearly every inning this season. Any of them would’ve been a good option after Severino exited the fourth inning.
Instead, Boone went to Lynn, a starter-turned-reliever who struck out 23.0 percent of batters faced this season, which is essentially league average. Lynn has pitched in relief before, so this wasn’t a new experience for him, but he is a fastball-heavy pitcher who doesn’t miss many bats. He’s someone the Red Sox could tee up and, well, they did. Betts drew a four-pitch walk, Benintendi doubled into the right field corner, and the rout was on.
To make matters worse, Green wound up pitching. In the same inning. Lynn came in, allowed the three inherited runners to score and then some, and only then the very good Green entered with the Yankees already down. That is completely backwards. In a postseason game, Green has to be the first guy out of the bullpen in that inning, not Lynn. Brutal.
Look, pitchers have bad days. Severino had a terrible game and it happens. When it happens, you live with it and do what you can to overcome it. The manager’s job is to put his team in the best possible position to success, however, and Boone didn’t do that in Game 4. Not at all. Severino was left in far too long and going to Lynn with the bases loaded was dubious at best and inexcusable at worst. The rookie manager’s inexperience was on full display Tuesday night.