If I knew the AL Wild-Card Game was going to be that easy to win, I could have saved a lot of time and energy over the last six-plus months complaining about the Aaron Boone Yankees.
The 7-2 wild-card win over the A’s was about as smooth of an elimination playoff game as you could ask for. And I did ask for it a few days ago when I said it would be nice if the Yankees could put up a crooked number in the first inning and then coast from there, and that’s essentially what they did. I didn’t think it would ever happen, but it was a stress-free night for me in the right-field bleachers.
OK, maybe it wasn’t completely stress-free. I was nervous for the top of the first inning to see how Luis Severino would respond to his overthrowing in last year’s wild-card first inning, and I was nervous when the A’s loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning against Severino. But that’s it. Those were the only two moments in the game when I was worried that it might be the last game the 2018 Yankees played.
I have Aaron Judge to thank for both the coast to a win and for me smelling like a combination of Coors Light, Bud Light, Yuengling, Goose Island and Stella for eight-plus innings. It was his two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning that gave the Yankees an early lead and gave me the type of beer shower I received in the bottom of the first inning in last year’s wild-card game when Didi Gregorius saved the season.
Judge’s home run set the tone and from the moment it cleared the left-center wall, I knew the Yankees were going to win. I was confident entering the game and for weeks had been planning to be in Boston for Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS, but Judge’s home run turned that confidence into a sure-thing. The Yankees weren’t going to lose.
Even though the Yankees weren’t able to tack on to the Judge home run until the bottom of the sixth, it never felt like the A’s were in the game. Despite Severino’s four walks and the bases-loaded jam in the fourth and the two-on, no-out jam in the fifth, I was never worried, which is rare for me. What else was rare for the game was Boone having a near flawless night of managing.
Every move Boone made worked out even if they weren’t necessarily the right moves. I didn’t agree with him bringing Severino back out for the fifth after he had thrown so many high-stress pitches to get through the fourth. and I certainly didn’t agree with him letting Severino put two on in the fifth and then turning to Dellin Betances. It was the right move to go to Betances in that spot because he’s the team best reliever, but it was the wrong move to ever let that spot exist in the first place. Betances should have started the inning fresh, a situation he is much more comfortable and successful in. But when the dealer shows a 7 and Boone has a 16, he likes to stay. Sometimes the dealer will flop over another 7 and then pull a 10 to bust and Boone wins, but the result doesn’t make the decision right. Boone was fortunate the move didn’t backfire and is fortunate that today the Yankees are still alive.
To me, Boone is off the hook for everything that has happened to this point. In Major League Baseball, all you can ask for is to reach the playoffs, meaning the ALDS, and then hope the crapshoot that is the ALDS, ALCS and World Series goes your way. By the Yankees reaching the ALDS, the season was a success. Had they lost the wild-card game, it would have been a complete failure. One game shouldn’t have that much impact on the way a season is viewed or remembered, but when you have division-winning expectations and you don’t do everything possible to meet those expectations, then losing the wild-card game is unacceptable. Thankfully, the Yankees won the wild-card game.
Now begins the biggest postseason series since the 2009 World Series. After living in Boston for college during the 2004 ALCS, I prayed the two teams would never again meet in the postseason. A long 14 years later, they are meeting again, this time for only a five-game series, which just feels wrong.
There will be plenty of time to worry about my emotions and my health starting at 7:32 p.m. on Friday night and lasting for three to five games, but for now, I’m going to keep watching Judge’s first-inning home run.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!
The book details my life as a Yankees fan, growing up watching Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams through my childhood and early adulthood and the shift to now watching Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and others become the latest generation of Yankees baseball. It’s a journey through the 2017 postseason with flashbacks to games and moments from the Brian Cashman era.
Click here to purchase the book through Amazon as an ebook. You can read it on any Apple device by downloading the free Kindle app.