The Yankees and Red Sox begin their season series Tuesday night in Boston. A battle of aces take the hill in a much anticipated opener of a three game set. Luis Severino looks to start the year 3-0 while Chris Sale is still looking for his first win. Both pitchers have looked impressive so far and this matchup should be an intense battle.
The Yankees have not yet been able to click on all cylinders as they continue to deal with multiple injuries. This series against their bitter rival should prove to be an early test for this young club and rookie manager. Aaron Boone has had a rough go of it so far, as witnessed in the latest series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Boone has had to deal with roster adversity and a struggling bullpen and has yet to press the right buttons in key situations. Gaining a feel for the bullpen, a strength of former manager Joe Girardi, has been a noticeable challenge. It's an early season concern for many following the Yankees.
An argument can be made that Boone has already cost the Yankees a few games. Is this an overreaction too early in the season? Is it unfair criticism on a manager who has dealt with multiple injuries, and the burden of a struggling bullpen? Possibly, but let's take a look at the controversial decisions he's made so far.
In Toronto, on Easter Sunday, the Yankees had a late 4-3 lead. In the eighth inning, with two outs and men on second and third, Aaron Boone ordered David Robertson to intentionally walk Josh Donaldson to face Justin Smoak. Smoak already homered in the game to make it 4-3, and Donaldson was noticeably not at 100% health. The decision cost the Yankees dearly as Smoak crushed the go ahead grand slam.
Hind-sight being 20-20, it's easy to make Boone the scape goat. Though, the fact that there were two outs and the Yankees didn't need a force play option makes the intentional walk of an unhealthy Donaldson more curious. Especially, when Boone states he's not a fan of intentional walks and it's not a trend we should expect to continue.
Then during the home opener win against the Rays, he made a questionable choice by bringing in Johnathon Holder up 4-1 in the 6th inning. The problem wasn't pulling a seemingly cruising Jordan Montgomery after five innings and low pitch count. It was bringing in Holder who immediately gave up four straight hits which tied the game. The Yankees had fresh arms in the pen following the postponement the previous day. Didi Gregorius bailed everyone out with an epic performance, and everything was soon forgotten.
On Sunday, the Yankees opened up a five run lead in the first inning against Baltimore. Jordan Montgomery struggled to hold the lead and was yanked with only one out in the fifth, surrendering four runs. The Yankees manager then summoned for newly called-up Domingo German. German got through the fifth and sixth innings giving up only one run. Boone then stuck with the young right hander for a batter too long as he gave up a go ahead homer in the seventh.
With Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman available, as all had the previous days rest, it was a perfect combination to finish off the game. German had a rising pitch count and should have had a quick hook in the seventh. The decision helped doom the Yankees as they lost the chance to salvage a tough divisional series split.
I understand a lot of this is nitpicking and partly unfair. Some of this has to be expected for a rookie manager. There is a learning curve to be expected and these decisions may not be indicative to the manager he will become. However, should there be concern? Will Boone feel the pressure during the Red Sox series, or will his cool and calm demeanor rub off on his team?
What better way to learn how the Yankees bounce back from a rough weekend than a three game series vs their rival from Boston. Will they catch a groove and make it easier on the manager by stringing together complete outings from their pitching staff? Will they battle and grind every pitch and every at bat? Will Boone pull the right strings and press the right buttons?
So before I scrutinize it any further, I will give Mr. Boone the benefit and respect he deserves. The players need to step up as well, as they are to be blamed just as much for the 5-5 start. A lot is expected of this team and a series win in Boston could go a long way in kick starting the season that is stalling thus far.