Yankees able to bail out the bullpen — this time: Sherman
Game 2 started in September and ended in October. It had a rain delay both without and with actual rain. It was filled with walks and runs, yet basically crawled for more than four hours.
The Yankees only won this game and clinched this series against the Indians because the length, discipline and power of their offense overcame the shoddy work of their bullpen.
The final was 10-9, the Yankees scoring two in the ninth on ninth-place hitter Gary Sanchez’s sacrifice fly and leadoff man DJ LeMahieu’s two-out, two-strike RBI single. The Yankees scored 22 runs in two games against the team that led the AL in ERA to eliminate the Indians.
Now, they move on to face the Rays, whose pitching is more formidable because there is so much of it. Tampa Bay, for example, had 12 relievers earn a save during the regular season and then Peter Fairbanks recorded one in Game 1 of the wild-card series against Toronto. Yep, he was the 13th Ray this year to do that.
What the Yanks would have done for a Fairbanks on Wednesday? Their three main relievers — Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman — all stumbled and Aaron Boone ignored Adam Ottavino at a key moment because the Yankee manager lost faith in the righty last postseason and has not regained it yet for this one.
And, remember, the best-of-five Division Series begins Monday in San Diego and there are no off-days in the neutral site. So having faith in a lot of relievers is going to be vital. And after a season of going through a lot of Jonathan Holders and Nick Nelsons and Brooks Kriskes, Boone never really found a guy to replace Ottavino or Tommy Kahnle, who was lost when he needed Tommy John surgery.
A key sequence of Wednesday night’s Game 2 came down to Boone summoning a righty reliever to face a righty hitter who really struggles against righty pitching. When the Yankees signed Ottavino for three years at $27 million after the 2018 season that pretty much was his calling card; that he could use his slider to obliterate righties.
Except at this vital moment, Boone picked the inexperienced Jonathan Loaisiga to try to retire Jordan Luplow with a two-run lead and two outs in the seventh inning.
The Yankees needed to go to their bullpen early because Masahiro Tanaka had his shortest outing in nine postseason starts. He failed to retire a batter in the fifth. Perhaps two rain delays totaling an hour, 27 minutes impacted the righty. The first one came before the first pitch when there was no rain, then the game began and it almost immediately poured, forcing Tanaka to start and stop.
His early departure initiated a failed chain of relief that would cost the Yankees. Green inherited two Tanaka runners in the fifth and allowed a two-run Jose Ramirez double that tied the score. Protecting an 8-6 lead in the seventh, Britton got two outs before walking Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes consecutively.
Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. called on Luplow to hit for the lefty Josh Naylor. Luplow hit .128 vs. righties this year and .194 for his career. But Boone never even warmed Ottavino, who pitched so poorly against the Twins and Astros in last year’s playoffs and was hardly overpowering during this abbreviated season.
Instead, Loaisiga entered and gave up a tying two-run double to the wall in center. He made bad worse in the eighth when he walked the first two men he faced. Boone turned to Chapman to try to strike his way out of this problem. But Cesar Hernandez parachuted a single to left that brought in the go-ahead run.
But Gio Urshela, who had a grand slam earlier, made a brilliant play to initiate a double play that helped get Chapman out of further trouble. He also had a two-strike single in the Yankee ninth and this attack, which beat up the AL’s best starter in Shane Bieber in Game 1 and perhaps the best reliever James Karinchak in Game 2, then inflicted the first blown save this season on Brad Hand in the ninth.
The offense was overwhelming, enough to help protect a short bullpen in this series. The Yanks will need more and better relief moving forward.
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