After months of concern about what would happen if the Yankees lost the Wild Card Game after a 100-win season, the Yankees came out and did what they do best in a 7-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. They dominated on the mound and on offense, and put the A’s in a hole early before pulling away late.
Luis Severino, tabbed for the start Tuesday afternoon, was firing on all cylinders right away. He struck out the first batter of the game on three fastballs, and ended the first inning with just 10 total pitches, notching two strikeouts. Getting off to a strong start felt crucial for Severino, erasing the memories of his disaster in last year’s Wild Card Game.
The Athletics countered with an opener, Liam Hendriks, who ran into immediate trouble. He walked Andrew McCutchen on just five pitches, which set the stage for Aaron Judge. Again, Hendriks fell behind in the count, and Judge made him pay. Hendriks grooved a fastball middle-in, and Judge capitalized, pulverizing the ball into the left field seats for a 2-0 lead. After the stress of the 2015 and 2017 Wild Card Games, the early lead was a breath of fresh air for Yankee fans.
Severino kept the train rolling in the second, working around a walk to strike out three more A’s. Lou Trivino relieved Hendriks of his duties in the bottom half and put two men on with no outs, but a Gary Sanchez double play and a Gleyber Torres strikeout later allowed Trivino to escape.
Severino and Trivino each put up zeroes in the third, but Severino had to grind a bit in the fourth. After an E-5 by Miguel Andujar and a walk to Matt Olson, the A’s had two runners on with one out. Severino got Piscotty to fly out, but Ramon Laureano battled and drew a hard-fought walk, loading the bases for Marcus Semien. Severino bore down, whiffing Semien on a 100-mph heater. Some in the Yankees fan base thought that Severino wasn’t clutch enough to start the Wild Card Game, but he held up his end of the bargain, firing four-plus innings of scoreless, seven-strikeout baseball.
Yet Severino did leave quite a mess for Dellin Betances to inherit in the fifth, as Aaron Boone removed his ace with two runners on and none out. Betances was up to the task, generating two strikeouts and a groundout to escape the jam. The Yankees’ bats had gone quiet in the middle innings, and Betances bailed them out in a big way.
After Trivino pitched three effective innings, ex-Yankee Shawn Kelley came in and continued to hold the Yankees down. After the thrilling first inning, the Yankees’ only other hit through five innings was a Didi Gregorius infield single. The Yankees’ pitching was stellar, but the offense needed to get things going again.
Luckily, A’s manager Bob Melvin thought it was prudent to bring in Fernando Rodney to face the heart of the Yankees’ order in the sixth inning. Judge and Hicks smacked consecutive doubles, and Rodney departed having given up another run without recording an out. Bullpen games work best when a team has a multitude of truly elite options. Rodney represented a downgrade from Hendriks and Trivino, and the Yankees took advantage.
After Rodney exited, Melvin did what he probably should have done 10 minutes earlier and brought in Treinen as a last-ditch resort, but Treinen, coming off an outstanding regular season, wasn’t much better. He walked Stanton, and then Luke Voit came through with the hit that put the game out of reach. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Voit ripped a 3-2 slider off of the wall for a two-run triple, making it a 5-0 ballgame. Gregorius followed suit with a sac fly, scoring Voit, crushing any hopes that the A’s had of coming back.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless seventh (thanks in part to a terrific leaping play by Adeiny Hechavarria, who replaced Andujar at third base), but Zach Britton gave up a two-run home run in the eighth to Khris Davis to at least make it a ballgame. However, Giancarlo Stanton put the cherry on top with a long home run to lead off the bottom of the eighth, all but ending any chance of an A’s comeback. Aroldis Chapman closed things out in the ninth, sending the Yankees to the ALDS and sending the A’s home packing.
The Yankees will take a well-deserved rest tomorrow before opening up the ALDS on Friday night at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. Chris Sale will be on the mound for Boston, while New York will likely counter with J.A. Happ or Masahiro Tanaka. The Yankees haven’t faced the Red Sox in the playoffs since 2004, and 14 years later, the game’s hottest rivalry will be renewed once again. The road to a championship will have to go through Boston, which presents the stiffest test yet for the 2018 Yankees. One win down, eleven more to go.