Joe Girardi absolutely deserves the blame for the New York Yankees loss in game two of the ALDS.
What a difference a couple of days make for the New York Yankees.
On Tuesday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi could do nothing wrong, expertly navigating his bullpen through more than eight innings of relief pitching. A few days later, the skipper could do nothing right, likely costing his team a shot at the ALCS with some questionable decisions.
For about five innings Friday night, it looked as if the Yankees would be heading back to the Bronx with the ALDS tied, 1-1, against the heavily favored Cleveland Indians.
The Yankees had Cleveland on the ropes after knocking out Corey Kluber, the inevitable A.L. Cy Young, with six runs on seven hits in less than three innings.
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The energy at Progressive Field slow dwindled with Greg Bird’s two-run home run off of Mike Clevinger to make it a 8-3 game in the fifth inning, but that all would change thanks to costly mistakes from Joe Girardi.
His move to take C.C. Sabathia, who was cruising through the middle innings and had retired 12 of his last 13 batters, out of the game was puzzling. After all, the veteran was under 80 pitches and, despite walking Carlos Santana in his first at-bat to start the sixth, showed no signs of wavering.
Regardless, Girardi went to Chad Green following a fly out from Jay Bruce, it was a move that would go on to define the rest of the game and now potentially the series.
With two runners on base, Chad Green appeared to plunk Cleveland’s Lonnie Chisenhall on the hand. Gary Sanchez immediately motioned to the dugout, calling for a replay that would show the ball hitting the knob of Chisenhall’s bat before landing in Sanchez’s for strike three and the end of the inning.
Girardi ended up not asking for a review of the call on replay, even though his team wouldn’t have been penalized by doing so, and Indians shortstop Fransisco Lindor made him pay, smacking a grand slam off of the foul pole in left to bring the Yankee lead down to one run.
The Indians would go on to win the game in 13 innings, putting the Yankees in an almost insurmountable position heading back home for Game 3. As expected, Girardi was at the forefront of numerous questions in his post game press conference about his decisions.
Instead of taking blame for the loss, Girardi told reporters that, as a catcher himself, he didn’t want to ruin Chad Green’s rhythm by having him wait around while the league was reviewing the play.
Wouldn’t his rhythm have been ruined in the 30 second break he had where the Yankees were reviewing the play? Isn’t it fair to say that Green was never in any rhythm to begin with because the Indians were right on top of his usually un-hittable fastball? Why was Sabathia taken out so early after settling in a dominating the Indians lineup?
These are questions that need to be considered here. If Girardi challenges the call on the field and Chisenhall is called out, then the grand slam never happens and the Yankees probably win.
If Sabathia stays in the game, maybe he gets a double play ball the next at-bat. Even if he gave up a two-run home run after retiring Bruce, the Yankees would still have had a three-run lead for Green to try and preserve.
Yankees fans woke up after the game and wanted answers. They’re rightfully angry at Girardi for blowing such a pivotal game and for putting his team in a precarious 2-0 hole against an Indians team that hasn’t dropped three consecutive games since mid-July.
The Cleveland fans came alive after Lindor’s grand slam, and it almost felt like Cleveland had won the game outright then, even though the Yankees still had a one-run lead.
Would the Bronx Bombers have maintained their 8-3 lead for the final three innings had Girardi either kept Sabathia in the game or challenged the Chisenhall hit-by-pitch?
It’s possible, and that unknown is driving fans crazy right about now.