Viewpoint Clown show pushes the Yankees to the brink
NEW YORK — Aaron Boone was watching the same game as Angel Hernandez.
That’s the only conceivable explanation.
Some sports arguments and are never meant to be conclusively answered. The latest entry: Who had the worst performance on Oct. 8, 2018 in the Bronx?
Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino? His manager? Or the first base umpire for Game 3 of the American League Division Series?
On a Monday night that devolved into the Yankees worst postseason loss ever — and they’ve been in 54 postseasons — I got Boone. Let’s just agree that all three were horrible.
In what had to be one of the most bizarre moments in Yankees’ history, the 8,000 of the 49,657 fans who remained to the end, chanted, “Austin Ro-mine!” The backup catcher was brought in to pitch the ninth inning of this 16-1 rout. The chanting stopped abruptly when Brock Holt completed the first cycle in major league postseason history, launching a two-run homer inside the right-field foul pole.
Yes, that’s how out of hand this one got.
Throughout the day the angst had belonged to Red Sox fans. David Price had been awful in the Game 2 loss at Fenway Park. If the Sox fell Monday night, would manager Alex Cora dare use Chris Sale instead of Rick Porcello to save the season in Game 4? “No, no, no,” Cora had said a few hours earlier, wanting to save Sale’s healing left shoulder from damage.
And then it all happened in a New York minute.
At 7:32 p.m., analyst Ron Darling of TBS reported that Severino began warming up for the most important game of the Yankees’ season and one of the most important games of his career. Wait a second. With his first pitch thrown at 7:40 p.m., that left Severino with a bullpen warmup session of eight minutes.
Can that be true?
“He got his normal pitches, routine, faced his couple hitters down there,” Boone said. “No issue with that.”
Because such a big deal was made of it on the national telecast, Boone was asked to clarify if TBS was wrong?
“I’m not saying … I’m saying he had plenty of warmup. He had what he intended to go down there and get done. (Pitching coach Larry Rothschild) said he was able to get through his normal routine. It wasn’t an issue.”
Mookie Betts smoked Severino’s first-pitch fastball 405 feet. Fortunately for Severino, Yankee Stadium is built 408 to straightaway center field and Brett Gardner caught the ball on the warning track. Three batters later, Xander Bogaerts smoked a Severino slider 380 feet to left center that Gardner raced over to make a nice stab and end the inning.
Severino allowed a run in the second and two more in third. When he is right, the 24-year-old Dominican has electric stuff. He wasn’t blowing anyone away on this night. He struck out only two of the 18 hitters he faced. The Red Sox were all over him and this would turn into another postseason disaster for Severino.
There was no reason to bring him out for the fourth inning. Anyone, save Boone and Hernandez could see that much. A handful of his Hernandez’ calls were challenged at first base through four innings and a humiliating three were overturned.
Forget Aaron Judge blaring “New York, New York” on his boombox as he walked past the Red Sox clubhouse Saturday night. We needed a heavy-metal version of “Three Blind Mice” on the Yankee Stadium sound system to wake him up. The Cuban-born Hernandez sued Major League Baseball last year, citing racial discrimination as a reason he had been passed over for advancement.
The truth is he’s one of worst umpires in MLB. And you know what?
Hernandez might have been 20-20 vision compared to Boone.
Boone won 100 games in his first year and still had a legion of detractors. He had a good wild card game against Oakland and two good games in Boston and — boom — this night happened.
Forget treating it like it was a regular season game in August. Boone treated it like it was a Grapefruit League game in March. Hey, Luis get your 70 pitches in, get your work done, and have a nice dinner over in Clearwater Beach.
Holt singled to center to lead off the fourth. Aaron? Christian Vazquez singled. Aaron? Are you awake? The Yankees are carrying three lefties in the bullpen. Stephen Tarpley would have seemed like a good guy to go to after No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley. No, Boone kept Severino in the game.
He walked JBJ on four pitches. Bases loaded, nobody out. Now, Boone pulled Severino.
Did he go to Chad Green, Dellin Betances or one of his power arms in this high-leverage situation? Nope, he went to Lance Lynn. He walked Betts on four pitches to push in another run. In case, you had any doubts that the Yankees wouldn’t be pushed to the brink of elimination, Andrew Benintendi took care of that with a three-run double to make it 7-0.
“We were going to have Lynn ready for Betts no matter what,” Boone said. “Once the first two guys got on, thinking Bradley is in a bunting situation, we’d then go to the pen (after that). It just snowballed. Lance had a bit little trouble coming in there. It just turned into a really bad inning four us.
“With Dellin we figured we’d only had for an inning tonight. Certainly in hindsight, we could have started the fourth inning with (David Robertson) or something. But we felt Sevy could at least get a couple outs. We just couldn’t stop the bleeding.”
With Severino obviously getting hit so hard, shouldn’t that have mitigated against that plan of using him against the 7-8-9 hitters.
“In hindsight, because he didn’t get an out, sure,” said Boone before repeating his thinking.
It turned into a clown show. One that didn’t end until Romine became the second position player in MLB history to pitch in the postseason. Word has it that Hernandez identified him as Mariano Rivera. Kidding. I think.
Cora had given the ball to Nathan Eovaldi instead of Rick Porcello for Game 3. Allowing only five hits and one run over seven, hitting 100 mph, Eovaldi overmatched his former Yankee teammates. Cora made a number of position changes, too, and Holt responded historically. Cora looks like a genius today. Boone looks horrible.
And now here was Holt, who overcame concussions and vertigo that threatened to end his career, coming to the plate in the ninth.
“I saw Romine on the mound,” Holt said. “I told everyone, ‘Get me up! I need a home run for a cycle.’ I was trying to hit a home run, probably the first time I ever tried to do that.
“This is one I’ll remember for a long time.”
So will Luis Severino. So will Aaron Boone.
At least Hernandez didn’t call Holt out at first.