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.