Yankees-Red Sox ALDS Game 3: Embarrassment

Aaron Boone's bullpen decisions, or lack thereof, let Game 3 get out of hand

Luis Severino and Aaron Boone

Embarrassment. That’s all there really is to say about this game. Every aspect of the Yankees from the starting pitching to the bullpen to the offense to the defense to the manager was an embarrassment, and now as a result, the Yankees are facing elimination.

Not even a week ago, I gave Aaron Boone a clean slate for the previous six-plus months after his team reached the real playoffs: the ALDS. But that clean slate didn’t last long.

Luis Severino didn’t have it on Monday night and it was obvious from the first pitch of the game. Mookie Betts jumped on a first-pitch fastball and sent it to the warning track in center field, and off the bat, I thought it was gone. Severino was able to pitch around a two-out walk in the inning, but two of three outs ended up on the warning track.

In the second inning, Severino lost a seven-pitch battle to Rafael Devers that resulted in a line drive to right field, which somehow wasn’t a double, for the third hard-hit ball put in play out of the four batters who put the ball in play. After a steal, a groundout and a defensive miscue by Severino, the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead.

A 1-0 lead in Yankee Stadium against Nathan Eovaldi and the Red Sox bullpen with eight at-bats left isn’t a big deal, and when Giancarlo Stanton led off the bottom of the second with a single, I thought they might get the run right back. But Didi Gregorius decided to bunt for a hit rather than try to hit the ball in the gap or over the wall, and he was thrown out. The inning would end with nothing.

Severino had thrown 44 pitches in the first two innings, and Boone was going back to him in the third inning with the top of the order due up. At the time, it wasn’t necessarily the wrong move, but given how hard Severino had been hit in the first two, there was certainly reason to think it was time to go to the bullpen.

Betts and Andrew Benintendi led off the third with back-to-back line-drive singles and J.D. Martinez hit another ball to wall in left-center that looked like it had a chance. If you didn’t think Severino should be out of the game to start the inning, he should have certainly been relieved now with the Yankees down 2-0. Xander Bogaerts singled and a Devers groundout made it 3-0 before Steve Pearce hit a deep fly ball to center field for the third out of the inning.

The one-run deficit had turned to three and it was obvious Severino had nothing. Nearly every out had been a line drive right at a fielder and the fact the score was only 3-0 and not worse was a miracle. There was no way he could go back in the game for the fourth. Except the Yankees manager is Aaron Boone.

Boone sent Severino back out for the fourth, trailing 3-0, and No. 7 hitter Brock Holt and No. 8 Christian Vazquez hit back-to-back singles on the first two pitches of the inning, and no one was warming up in the Yankees bullpen. Then No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. walked. Bases loaded and no one out. Boone’s decision had put the game from within reach to possibly getting out of hand in the fourth inning. Why did he bring Severino back out for the fourth?

“Just hoping he could get something started to get through the bottom of the lineup there, and then we were going to have Lynn ready for Betts no matter what. And then once the first two guys got on there, thinking Bradley’s in a bunting situation, so we’re going to take an out and then go to the pen there. But it just snowballed on him, and then Lance had a little bit of trouble obviously coming in there. So it just turned into a really bad inning for us.”

So Boone thought Severino would magically find his game in the fourth inning after struggling through the first three and being fortunate to have many of his line drives hit at fielders. Then he had already determined he wanted the last pitcher on the postseason roster to face the AL MVP. Then he assumed Bradley was going to bunt, despite not having sacrifice bunted since the 2015 season. And finally, he thought Lynn “had a little bit of trouble”. To me, walking in a run on the first batter you face and then allowing a bases-clearing double on the second batter you face is more than “a little bit of trouble”.

But even after Boone let Severino load the bases, the game still could have been saved with a couple of big strikeouts by either Dellin Betances, David Robertson or Chad Green. Instead, Boone went to the last pitcher on the postseason roster. Why didn’t he go to one of his elite relievers with the game on the line?

“Well, because with Dellin we only had for an inning we figured tonight. In hindsight, we certainly could have started the fourth inning with Robbie or something, but we really felt like Sevy could at least get us a couple outs in that fourth inning before turning it over to Lynn and then we could roll out our guys. But we just couldn’t stop the bleeding at all. That was the thinking behind it.”

Apparently, the Yankees determined before a postseason game that their best pitcher would only be available for one inning. If that’s not nonsensical enough, the Yankees had an off day the day before, and on top of that, Betances had pitched twice in the last nine days, throwing 53 pitches. But he was going to be limited to one inning in Game 3 of the ALDS? And how about Boone using “in hindsight” there as if these moves are only now being second-guessed and as if not everyone in the world thought they were awful decisions at the time. Boone would go on to use “in hindsight” again in his postgame press conference. But nothing might be worse than the idea that he was going to try to steal a few more outs with a laboring Severino and only start to “roll out” the elite relievers after Lynn pitched. Good thing Betances and Robertson are rested now with the Yankees facing elimination.

Lynn walked in a run and then allowed a bases-clearing double, and the game was over. Now trailing 7-0, Lynn would end up recording one out before Boone decided to go to Green, the same way he had decided to go with Jonathan Holder over Green in the first game between these two teams in August that led to the division race unraveling. By the end of the inning, the Red Sox led 10-0, and not even Eovaldi and the Red Sox bullpen would blow the game.

The Yankees would go on to lose 16-1 and pitch Austin Romine in the ninth inning because the first eight innings hadn’t been embarrassing enough. Severino didn’t show up, Boone continued to prove he has no business being a major league manager, Lynn turned back into the Lynn that was available at the trade deadline, Green couldn’t stop the bleeding and the offense didn’t show up before the game got out of hand.

The Yankees now have to win Game 4, and the only way I can see them doing that is to score enough runs that Boone’s decision-making won’t impact the game. Put the game out of reach and don’t allow him to potentially make costly pitching decisions.

After winning a game in Boston and returning home with Severino against Eovaldi, the Red Sox feeling the pressure and the Stadium crowd behind them, I said it would be a disaster if the Yankees now blew this series. And if they lose one more game, it will be a disaster.


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