Yankees Thoughts: Aaron Boone Pushes Every Wrong Button

The Yankees lost to the Orioles 7-6 in 10 innings in a game they had many opportunities to win.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Aaron Boone has managed 946 regular-season games for Yankees and Wednesday night against the Orioles was the worst of them all. (Emphasis on regular season since no regular-season game can top Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS or Game 4 of the 2018 ALDS or Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS or Game 2 of the 2020 ALDS or Game 1 of the 2022 ALCS.)

Every single decision Boone made on Wednesday was the wrong one. Every time a new player or pitcher was inserted into the game it put the team in a worse position to win the game, which is odd, considering Boone’s sole purpose as manager is to put his players in the best possible position to succeed.

2. Boone’s egregious decision making on Wednesday began before the game even started. It began when he held Aaron Judge out of the lineup. It was reported Judge wanted to play in the game, and he was still held out. Judge doesn’t have a broken hand. He doesn’t have ligament or muscle damage. If he did, he would be on the injured list. (Then again, it was said Anthony Rizzo would be out four to six weeks and then he was placed on the 60-day IL.) Judge was held out because the Yankees wanted to be “cautious.” Cautious of what? It’s not as if Judge’s hand is on the brink of breaking and playing baseball on Wednesday would have pushed his hand over the edge to breaking. His hand hurts. It’s going to hurt for some time. If he can play with it hurting (which he apparently can since he wanted to play) then he should be playing. He didn’t. (I’m sure he will be playing on Thursday afternoon with his hand magically healed 17 hours after Wednesday’s loss ended.)

3. Gerrit Cole made his season debut. In his last rehab start he threw 70 pitches, so going off of standard pitch count build-up history, he would be in line to throw about 85 pitches on Wednesday. Boone wanted to pull Cole after four innings and 61 pitches despite that being less pitches than he had thrown in his last start, and despite the Orioles’ 7-8-9 hitters due up, but YES showed Cole tell Boone in the dugout he wanted “one more.”

He got one more batter. Cole allowed a first-pitch single to start the fifth and Boone pulled him. Cole had only thrown 62 pitches or eight fewer than his most recent start. I don’t know how that’s building up his pitch count.

“We weren’t going to go over 65 tonight with the jump up,” Boone said.

The “jump up” from 70 to 65? Umm, 65 is less than 70.

“I thought he got a little tired there in the fourth,” Boone said of Cole.

Cole had a 1-2-3 fourth and struck out the last two batters of that inning. He had struck out five of the last seven batters he faced through the fourth. He wasn’t tired.

“I thought I held up well, Cole said. “I felt I could definitely keep making pitches.”

If Cole can’t be trusted to pitch to Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo after 62 pitches then what was he doing starting a game of this magnitude? The Orioles are the Yankees’ only competition for the division. Each of their 13 head-to-head games is immensely important and Boone managed it as if it was a throwaway game in the final week of September with the division clinched.

4. If the plan was for Cole to get through four or five innings and then piece together the final 12 to 15 outs with the best relievers on the team, that would have been one thing. But when Boone took the ball from Cole with the game tied at 1 in the fifth, the first reliever he went to was Ron Marinaccio, the same reliever who wasn’t good enough to be on the team over Dennis Santana this season, and wasn’t on the team until the Yankees finally gave up on Santana and his 6.26 ERA. Because of the three-batter rule, unless everything went right and Marinaccio got a double play in the inning, he was going to have to face Gunnar Henderson. Boone was willing to let a reliever the organization liked less than Santana all season face the Henderson. Everything didn’t go right. Marinaccio needed 27 pitches to get the three outs in the fifth, allowed his inherited runner to score and gave up two runs of his own on a home run, double, single and walk.

5. In the sixth, the Yankees trailed 4-1. With two outs and no one on, the Orioles went to the bullpen for lefty Cionel Perez. DJ LeMahieu singled, Ben Rice and Jose Trevino walked and the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and Trent Grisham up. Grisham hits lefties better than righties. He’s not exactly Aaron Judge against lefties, but there’s great disparity in his numbers between the two. He’s a reverse-splits guy. We know this because Boone cited Grisham’s reverse splits as a reason for allowing Grisham to hit (and fail) against a lefty reliever earlier in the season. Apparently, the splits were no longer good enough for Boone to use in his decision making, like a Blackjack player hitting on 12 with the dealer showing a 6 sometimes, but not all the time. Boone called Grisham back and went with Jahmai Jones.

Tuesday will be the halfway point of the season. Jones entered Wednesday (Game 76 of the season) with 16 plate appearances. Sixteen times he has faced live, in-game pitching in nearly three months. Why wouldn’t he be the guy you would want up with the bases loaded and two outs in a crucial game? After Perez walked the previous two batters and had yet to record an out, showing little command of any pitch, Jones chose to swing at the first pitch he saw and flew out to end the inning.

Tommy Kahnle came in in the seventh and gave the Orioles their fifth run since giving up runs is what Kahnle does best now. In his last five appearances, he has only recorded eight outs, allowed eight baserunners, three earned runs and all three of his inherited runners to score.

The Yankees trailed 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh, before rallying to pull within one after a three-run home run from Giancarlo Stanton.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees still trailed 5-4. Rice led off with a single. Trevino was due up against the righty Bryan Baker. The spot called for Austin Wells, but Boone let Trevino hit for himself. Trevino hit the first pitch he saw into a double play. Pinch-hitter extraordinaire Jones ended the inning with a ground out to the catcher.

6. Down 5-4 headed to the ninth with shaky Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel looming and the top of the Yankees’ order due up, the Yankees had a real chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the ninth if they could hold the deficit at one. Boone decided the best choice to hold that deficit would be recently called-up Anthony Misiewicz, the 29-year-old with a career 4.71 ERA in 114 2/3 innings. Misiewicz is so low on the organization relief depth chart that Jonathan Loaisiga had to go down for the year, Santana had to get released, Marinaccio called up and Nick Burdi and Ian Hamilton go on the IL for him to be given a chance. Misiewicz would be facing the 9-hitter and then the top of the Orioles lineup. Boone wasn’t just playing with fire, he was dousing himself in gasoline and holding lighter fluid-soaked rags while playing with it by going to Misiewicz.

Misiewicz loaded the bases, because of course he did. He miraculously got out of the inning unscathed when Alex Verdugo made a spectacular running catch on a ball Anthony Santander hit 395 feet with a 106.1 mph exit velocity. In using Misiewicz to hold the deficit and having him succeed, Boone had done the equivalent of drinking 17 beers and then driving home, but because he made it safely, he thinks he made the right choice.

7. In the bottom of the ninth, The Yankees came back to tie the game against Kimbrel, because as mentioned, Kimbrel sucks. Anthony Volpe led off the ninth with a double and Stanton singled him home. With Stanton on first, Boone replaced him with Wells as the pinch runner. So Wells could be used as a pinch runner, just not as a pinch hitter for Trevino in the eighth with the leadoff man on and a righty on the mound? Managerial masterclass.

8. In the 10th, Boone went to Clay Holmes with the automatic runner on second. Holmes has been very bad since May 20 (21 baserunners in 11 innings and only seven strikeouts), but Boone went to his closer with the score tied in extras at home. It’s now 23 baserunners in 12 innings with only seven strikeouts as Holmes allowed a single, a double and a pair of runs to score with some help from his awesome catcher Trevino. After the Red Sox stole nine bases off him on Sunday, the Orioles stole three bases off him in the first nine innings on Wednesday, and on their fourth attempt in the 10th, Trevino threw the ball into left field to allow a run to score.

Unless something gets dramatically fixed instantly, Trevino can’t catch another game. The Red Sox let the entire league see what the worst-ranked catching arm in the sport is incapable of when they went 9-for-10 in steals on Sunday and the Orioles followed that up by going 4-for-4 on Wednesday. It’s embarrassing, pathetic and not fitting of a major-league catcher. And it’s not going to end.

9. With the Yankees now down two runs in the bottom of the 10th, LeMahieu led off with a single to move automatic runner Gleyber Torres over to third. Runners on the corners with no outs. Rice hit a ball that needed a Santander diving catch to prevent from falling in, but Torres scored on the sacrifice fly to make it 7-6. The tying run was still on base in the form of Oswaldo Cabrera (who pinch ran for LeMahieu), but at the plate would be Trevino followed by Jones.

With Trevino at the plate, Boone chose to send Cabrera and his 13 career steals in three years. Cabrera was easily gunned down as the ball was waiting for him at second.

Trevino ended up walking, bringing up Jones as the game-winning run. Facing Dillon Tate, who only averages 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, Tate had yet to strike out a batter in the inning and Jones would at least be able to put the ball in play against the righty. Or not. Jones struck out on three pitches. Game over.

“We could have grabbed that game,” Boone said.

Yeah, you could have if anyone else had been managing.

10. With the loss, the Yankees are now 1-5 in extra-inning games this season, the worst mark in the league. And with the loss, their division lead is back to just a 1 1/2 games as they are once again tied with the Orioles in the loss column.

Wednesday was a winnable game the Yankees lost thanks to their manager. There have been too many of those since the start of his tenure, but none in the regular season worse than this one.