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Aaron Boone makes some questionable decisions in fourth inning

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It’s only the fourth inning and a lot could still happen, but Game 3 of the ALDS looks like it belongs to the Red Sox. That’s thanks in part to some questionable decision-making by Yankees manager Aaron Boone in the top of the fourth inning.

Starter Luis Severino yielded a run in the second followed by two more in the third. The Red Sox were making consistent hard contact. According to Baseball Savant, seven of the 14 balls put in play against Severino had an exit velocity of 100 MPH or above. Having Severino start the fourth inning is no problem, but at least have some arms getting loose in the bullpen just in case.

Severino immediately got into trouble, giving up back-to-back singles to Brock Holt and Christian Vázquez. That would’ve been a great spot to bring in, let’s say, Chad Green. Boone stuck with Severino, who proceeded to walk Jackie Bradley, Jr. on four pitches to load the bases. That was the last straw, so Boone came out to the mound — surely to bring in a talented and experienced reliever, right? To the surprise of just about everyone, including potentially even himself, Lance Lynn jogged to the mound.

Lynn, you may recall, is a longtime starter. 190 of the 214 regular season games in which he’s appeared have been starts. And he hasn’t had a particularly good year, putting up a 5.10 ERA with the Twins and a 4.14 ERA with the Yankees. Lynn walked Mookie Betts on four pitches to force in a run, then served up a bases-clearing double to Andrew Benintendi, pushing the lead to 7-0. J.D. Martinez then grounded out, but Xander Bogaerts followed up with a single to put runners on the corners and keep the Red Sox rally alive.

With the game out of hand, Chad Green came in. Results notwithstanding, he should’ve come in earlier in the inning rather than Lynn. Still, Green proceeded to serve up a two-out RBI single to Steve Pearce and a two-run triple to Holt. At long last, Green got Vázquez to ground out to end the inning, finally putting the cap on a seven-run outburst that saw the score run up to 10-0.

The Yankees’ bullpen is one of the best in baseball. During the regular season, the Yankees’ aggregate 3.38 ERA from relievers was fourth-best in the league. While the ‘pen had to handle seven innings in Game 1, the only reliever who pitched in both Game 1 and Game 2 was Zach Britton, and there was an off-day on Sunday. Boone’s reluctance to call on an actual reliever shouldn’t have been based on preservation, especially in a pivotal playoff game. Three decisions — to not have the ‘pen moving to start the fourth, having too long a leash on Severino, and going with Lynn over an actual reliever — put the game practically out of reach for the Yankees.

Kershaw-Sale anything but a pitcher’s duel

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World Series Game 1 was billed as a battle of aces, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against Chris Sale of the Red Sox. Between them, they have 14 All-Star Game nominations. Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards. Sale could his first Cy Young Award this year. Among his 10 seasons with at least 110 innings pitched, Kershaw has never posted a sub-2.92 ERA. Sale has been at 2.90 or below in each of the last two seasons. The two have combined for over 4,000 career strikeouts and both have averaged better than a strikeout per inning over their careers.

And yet Tuesday’s Game 1 was anything but a pitcher’s duel between Kershaw and Sale. Though a couple of fielding mistakes weren’t of any help to Kershaw in the first inning, Red Sox batters were squaring him up good. Of the five balls put in play in the first inning, three had exit velocities of 100 MPH or higher. Of the 12 total balls put in play against him overall, five reached triple digits in exit velo.

Kershaw gave up a pair of runs in the first, another run in the third on a J.D. Martinez double to straightaway center field, and another two in the fifth. Kershaw led off the fifth by walking Mookie Betts, then giving up a single to Andrew Benintendi, ending his night. Ryan Madson relieved Kershaw and proceeded to allow both inherited runners to score. All told, Kershaw yielded five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts on 79 pitches in four-plus innings.

Sale, meanwhile, was on the hook for individual runs in the second, third, and fifth. Dodger hitters weren’t squaring him up quite as well as the Red Sox batters squared up Kershaw, but Sale was still more hittable than usual. Of the eight balls put in play against him, four were at least 90 MPH in exit velo. One of the runs was a no-doubt solo home run to Matt Kemp in the second. The Dodgers chased Sale in the fifth when he issued a leadoff walk to Brian Dozier. Matt Barnes relieved him allowed the inherited runner to score. Overall, Sale threw 91 pitches in four-plus innings, serving up three runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

The game is now, as has been generally the case throughout this postseason, a battle of the bullpens.