Game Three of the ALDS was one of the Yankees’ ugliest losses in recent memory. Having secured a split in Boston, the Yankees had every chance to put their rivals on the ropes, with their ace Luis Severino on the mound, squaring off with Nathan Eovaldi. What unfolded was a disaster, with the Yankees failing on every level.
The Yankees played terribly, and the Red Sox played tremendously. What will get the most attention, however, is the series of managerial blunders Aaron Boone made when the chips were on the table. All season, Boone showed the occasional tendency to leave pitchers in too long and to incorrectly deploy his vaunted bullpen, but his failure to adjust those tendencies when it mattered most was debilitating.
Boone blundered at multiple key junctures. Let’s dive deep on them, and rank them from most to least defensible:
3. Letting Severino work through the third inning
This, to me, was Boone’s most defensible call. Severino looked shaky but not horrible over the first two innings, allowing a few hard-hit balls and yielding a lone run. Boone surely should have been alert to the fact that Severino’s command didn’t appear sharp, but being ready to pull Severino at the first sign of trouble in the third inning was probably a bridge too far.
Severino is the Yankees’ ace, and the first two innings shouldn’t be enough to change that. More importantly, being ready to pull Severino after one baserunner in the third would’ve been a logistical problem. What if Boone got one of his top relievers up in the third, only for Severino to settle in? What if he had multiple arms warmed in the bullpen while Severino got into a groove in the middle innings?
It’s easy to look back in retrospect and say that Boone should have been ready at the drop of a hat to yank Severino, but in the moment, it’s much more difficult to anticipate a pitcher’s struggles and have a reliever ready for the exact moment that the starter is done. Letting Severino navigate the third looks bad now, but at the time, it’s hard to expect Boone to have his bullpen warmed and ready to relieve his ace so early.
2. Letting Severino start the fourth inning
Of course, Severino got knocked around in the third inning, and had already racked up a healthy pitch count full of high-stress pitches. After three unimpressive innings, a 3-0 deficit, and with a rested an incredible bullpen at his disposal, it should have been easy for Boone to think proactively and get an elite reliever into the game with the Yankees still alive.
Instead, Severino started the fourth, and immediately loaded the bases with no outs. This was a bit of a worst-case scenario, but one that was easy to predict. The Red Sox shelled Severino in the third, and Boone then had ample time to get his reliever of choice ready to start the fourth. Which leads us to perhaps his most inexplicable decision...
1. Using Lance Lynn instead of Chad Green (or virtually anyone else)
In my book, this is where Boone jumped the shark. To this point, the Yankees were still very much alive, albeit in a tight spot. They were only down three, and with the Boston bullpen looking mighty shaky, even a four or five-run deficit would have left the Yankees with a chance to win. What Boone did here quickly put the Yankees in a position to lose.
After Severino loaded the bases, Boone used converted starter Lance Lynn, not strikeout-artist Chad Green. This is indefensible. Lynn has started in the vast majority of his career appearances, and is used to starting clean innings. He is not used to entering mid-inning, with the bases loaded, facing the mighty Red Sox lineup.
What does Green have? Experience entering mid-game, mid-inning in relief! Not only that, the Yankees’ best shot at minimizing the damage involved generating strikeouts in that bases-loaded situation. Going with Lynn over Green did not maximize that possibility. Lynn has struck out 22% of batters in his career, while Green, with his devastating, high-spin fastball has fanned nearly one-third of the batters he’s ever faced. Green was the clear, painfully obvious choice to try to get the Yankees out of the jam.
What makes this even more mind-boggling is that Boone let Severino enter the fourth knowing his leash was short, and still had Lynn as his first option. Boone was aware of Severino’s struggles, knew that he might need someone to come in mid-inning, and still went with the guy who up until the past several days was a starting pitcher with next to no experience in this kind of scenario.
We’ll surely be discussing this game for weeks to come. What do you think? What was Boone’s worst decision in your opinion? Let us know in the comments.