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Joe Girardi takes the blame for missed ALDS challenge: “I screwed up”

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The Yankees dropped behind the Indians 2-0 in the American League Division Series last night, and the brunt of the 13-inning, 9-8 loss is falling on manager Joe Girardi’s shoulders — for good reason. Craig went over the incident and its aftermath in full detail earlier today, but here’s the short version: In the sixth inning, with the Yankees leading 8-3, runners at the corners and two outs, Chad Green grazed Lonnie Chisenhall‘s bat with a fastball. Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called it a hit by pitch, but both catcher Gary Sanchez and slow-motion footage revealed the ball hit the bat and was likely a foul tip strikeout.

Girardi chose not to challenge the initial call and left Green in to face Francisco Lindor, who promptly belted a grand slam and enabled the Indians to mount a stunning five-run rally to force extra innings and, eventually, clinch the game. He addressed the decision on Saturday during a lengthy press conference (the full transcript is here):

Now, knowing that I had two challenges, in hindsight, yeah, I wish I would have challenged it. But [Brett Weber] never — he never got that video clip that — he never got that angle. He never got that super slow-mo. And, yeah, I should have challenged it, now that I think about it.

His decision not to challenge the play was in part motivated by coach and replay coordinator Brett Weber, who didn’t see any evidence that the ball hadn’t struck Chisenhall’s hand. That, more than Sanchez’s input on the play, mattered to Girardi. “Any time a player tells me to check something, I don’t automatically check it,” the skipper said. He later added: “And that’s the one thing that you have to be careful about is players telling — if you just challenge as soon as a player tells you to challenge, you might be wrong.”

In this case, however, Sanchez was in the right. Even if he hadn’t been, the Yankees had two challenges remaining and a five-run lead to protect. But the real reason, one Girardi reiterated on Saturday, was that he didn’t want to throw Chad Green off.

If it isn’t overturned and we’re wrong and then Chad struggles after that, do you feel like I screwed him up? You know, those are the things that you have to go through.

When asked if mound visits were as disruptive as time spent reviewing a pivotal call (and one that, had it gone the Yankees’ way, would have ended the inning), Girardi argued that the nature of mound visits was to get his pitchers back in rhythm. Challenging the call didn’t cross his mind; neither did replacing Green, who served up an 0-1 slider to Lindor that landed over the right field fence in the next at-bat.

Despite expressing some remorse over Friday’s missed opportunity, Girardi didn’t let it get to him too much. “Let’s just see what happens tomorrow and as we move forward,” he told reporters. “That will probably determine the severity of [the missed challenge].” Had the call been overturned, the Yankees would be heading into Game 3 tied 1-1 in the series. Now, down 2-0 with three wins needed and Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco set for the series winner on Sunday, it may be too late.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: