As the Yankees and Rays prepare to play Game 4 of the ALDS best-of-5 series, it is safe to say that the Rays are firmly in the driver’s seat here. Since game 2, the Rays have looked more disciplined, more confident at the plate and have continued to display why their staff was tied for 1st in the MLB [with the Dodgers] with a total of 3.6 WAR compiled over the shortened season.
For some Yankee fans, there may be elements of déjà vu in regards to the ALCS series last season against the Astros, during which, the Yankees were unable to get their batters rolling, especially in key situations. Ultimately, it was the Astros that came through in their clutch situations, and the final one of those was a walk-off in game 7 to send them to the World Series.
Let’s be clear, it’s not like the Yankees are getting shut out in these games, they are scoring runs, but there are key players that need to pick up their game with the pivotal roles that they play in the lineup. Aaron Judge has been the 2nd player in the batting order for 26 of the 28 games he has played this season, but the results that he has been producing in the postseason have severely slowed the production of the rest of the top of the lineup. In the 10 games that he has played in since the beginning of September, he has an OBP of .326, an OPS of .548 and a WRC+ of 65 (Fangraphs). NOTE: I AM AWARE IT IS A SMALL SAMPLE SIZE AND I AM NOT BLAMING ALL OF THE YANKEE STRUGGLES ON AARON JUDGE. I am simply saying that he needs to begin playing like the player we know he can be and has been before. Judge is a proven player, but he looks as if he has ZERO confidence when he steps up to the plate, whether it be an issue with dissecting the pitch or his consistent rib injuries this season, we are now at the edge of a cliff, and at it is a long fall out of the postseason if we don’t win the next two games. It’s time to step up.
Now, pitching-wise, I think it is fair to say that Aaron Boone has mishandled the rotation in this series. That being said, the pitching staff is incredibly depleted, and to expect the personnel we have to exceed their average play, especially with some of them making their playoff debuts (Deivi Garcia, Michael King) should not have been the mindset coming into this series. We have known that the Rays currently have better pitching, especially without James Paxton, Luis Severino and Tommy Kahnle, so did anyone really think that J.A Happ would be able to carry the bulk of half of a game on his shoulders? Honest question.
The Yankees should have gone all in on game 2 to get a 2-0 series lead. Now, this is just an opinion, but I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest that, even with his proven postseason pedigree, Masahiro Tanaka most likely would have been more comfortable/confident pitching in a game, during which his team is leading the series. Instead, we put him in a situation where, if he lost, we would be faced with a game 4 where we didn’t have a planned starter. If Tanaka was to have pitched game 2 [and obviously, this is still a hypothetical at the most] and was able to get through even 5 innings, I do wonder whether there would still have been 5 runs given up by the 5th innings in both of these games. I think Tanaka is definitely more confident in a game 2 situation with a series lead rather than facing an unsure starter in game 4 on the brink of elimination if he fails. Game 3 would have then been a bullpen game, I would presume using either Deivi Garcia or (preferably) Chad Green as the opener, and then the other would go a few innings after, leading into the rest of the bullpen, hopefully going all in for a sweep.
Of course, the hypotheticals posed are just that; None of that matters because I am not the manager for the New York Yankees. BUT if the Yankees lose this series, Aaron Boone will face a lot of questions from the (known) ruthless New York media about his choices in regards to the starting rotation. Michael Kay already had his say about it on YES network after the game and made it clear that, if the next game was lost, it would make the pitching situation in game 4 a mess, and here we are today, biting our fingernails.
Look, at the end of the day, these are just my thoughts on why the Yankees are not performing in this series. The truth is that the Rays are a very strong team to beat, and the only way to do it is to jump their pitching early and protect the lead thereafter. We did it in game 1 against their ace, Blake Snell. We did it against the future 2020 AL Cy Young award winner Shane Beiber, and I see no reason why we cannot do it in these last two games, but if the bats don’t wake up and start taking advantage of the key situations we have on base (which, against the Rays can be rare) then it may be time to prepare for the worst, but until the final out is made I refuse to accept defeat. It’s time to roll up the sleeves and exemplify the name that is “The Bronx Bombers.”
That’s all I got for today, I’m going to spend the next 7 hours going through every possible scenario and discussing it with anyone who wants to talk sports on twitter @sourcepodcast11. God bless, Go Yanks #PinstripePride