Yankees manager Joe Girardi benched $153-million man Jacoby Ellsbury in favor of Chris Young and Brett Gardner against Houston lefthander Dallas Keuchel for Tuesday night's wild-card playoff game at Yankee Stadium.
It couldn't have worked out worse.
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Gardner and Young combined to go 0-for-6 with four strikeouts and Ellsbury contributed a pop-up to short as a pinch (non)-hitter in the Yankees' season-ending 3-0 loss to the Astros.
"In the end, I'm the one who has to live with [the decision]," Girardi said before the game.
After it, he said: "Does Jake hit three home runs and it's 3-3? I don't know. But we didn't solve Keuchel the whole year."
Keuchel threw 22 scoreless innings against the Yankees in three starts.
Gardner did not reward Girardi's faith. Batting in Ellsbury's leadoff spot, he looked overmatched in striking out three times against the 20-game winner.
Gardner also grounded out in the eighth and was booed heavily by the sellout crowd of 50,113.
"I don't know if they were booing me or booing the team or whatever," Gardner said. "They have the right to cheer or boo or do whatever they want. I know that they're disappointed and frustrated and nobody's more disappointed and nobody's more frustrated about the way I played than myself."
Young, batting second in the order, was 0-for-2 with a walk. Ellsbury hit for Young in the eighth against righthander Will Harris. He popped out to short.
Ellsbury, a career .301 hitter in the postseason with two World Series rings while with the Red Sox, struggled in his second year in pinstripes. He finished with a .257 average, his lowest in a full season.
Girardi said he chose to sit Ellsbury "because we felt we had to get Chris Young's bat in there against the lefthander."
Also, Girardi said, "I think what it came down to it in the end, it was Gardy's numbers against lefthanders this year compared to Jacoby's."
Ellsbury hit .253 with a .652 OPS against lefthanders this season. Young, who started in left, hit .327 with a .972 OPS versus lefthanders. Gardner hit .276 with a .761 OPS.
"I obviously told him I want to be out there," Ellsbury said after batting practice. "But I'm willing to do whatever's best for the team . . . I told him I want to play."
General manager Brian Cashman said he believes Ellsbury can still be a dynamic player. Ellsbury, 32, has five years left on his contract.
"I believe so, yeah," Cashman said. "He's physically healthy. He's a young player. He might be our best athlete on the team and bad seasons can happen . . . You have guys step up and provide more than you expect and you have guys that struggle moreso than they're maybe accustomed to and then you get into work mode again for the winter and try to dissect why and what happened . . . As long as they're healthy and young and athletic, they will return to what you normally expect."