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Alex Rodriguez blasts Brian Cashman for Yankees' opener strategy that backfired

In this June 23, 2017 file photo, Alex

In this June 23, 2017 file photo, Alex Rodriguez sits in the stands before the start of a baseball game in Miami. Credit: AP/Wilfredo Lee

The hits keep coming at the Yankees for their unsuccessful strategy of using an opener in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Rays.

Former Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez ripped the Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman — not manager Aaron Boone — for using 21-year-old rookie Deivi Garcia as an opener in Tuesday’s game and then bringing in veteran lefty J.A. Happ to start the second inning.

The move backfired when Happ allowed a pair of two-run homers in a game the Yankees eventually lost, 7-5.

The Yankees faced elimination on Thursday after Masahiro Tanaka — who most observers figured would be the Yankees’ Game 2 starter in a traditional setup — was strafed for five runs in four-plus innings in Wednesday’s 8-4 Tampa Bay win in Game 3.

"I’m still scratching my head," Rodriguez said Wednesday night on the Fox postgame show. "You’re the New York Yankees. You’re the biggest, most successful franchise maybe in sports. You’re number one in payroll with $240 million. You have to play your game. You’ve done it for over 120 years. You have 27 championships. You’ve done it as an alpha. You’ve done it the old-fashioned way.

"You get to Game 1, you do it the old-fashioned way. Great starting pitching and you get nine outs from the bullpen. And then to Game 2, the front office wants to get involved and then you start getting gimmicky. To me, the Yankee roster has to bail out Brian Cashman and the front office. And they’ve done some wonderful things. Game 2 was a mistake, and it was a mistake for about 20 different reasons.

"The players start saying, ‘What are we doing?’ You start spending so much time trying to figure out how to outsmart the Ivy Leaguers over there. That’s not your game. Don’t play ‘Jeopardy!,’ play baseball. Players win championships."

The "Ivy League" comment was a reference to the Rays’ brainy front office, who for years has had to use analytics to compete with the big-money Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East.

Boone said it’s possible Garcia could be used in relief in Game 4. If not, and if the Yankees lose, then their young phenom, whom everyone on the Yankees has said has special abilities on and off the mound, will have thrown exactly one inning in the series with the Yankees desperate for someone to step up other than Game 1 starter and winner Gerrit Cole.

Going into Game 4, Yankees pitchers other than Cole had a 7.26 ERA in the best-of-five series. Garcia had thrown one inning. Luis Cessa, Nick Nelson and Michael King had each thrown two innings. Closer Aroldis Chapman hadn’t pitched at all.

Rodriguez, continuing his criticism, absolved Boone of being the sole decision-maker when it came to the Garcia/Happ gambit. Cashman told the New York Post on Wednesday that Boone made the "ultimate decision" on the strategy, but added: "I was 100 percent on board with the call we made. I am not distancing myself from that in any shape or form."

Rodriguez, who after he retired as a player in 2016 was a special assistant to Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner for two years, wasn’t buying it.

"I’m sorry for ranting here, but we used to say, ‘If a manager can stay out of the game, that’ll be great,’ " he said. "Now we have to say, ‘Front offices have to stay out of the game.’ Frustrating. That last thing I’ll say is it’s unfortunate that Aaron Boone has to sit there and explain to the media what he’s doing. I would love the smart Ivy Leaguers to come down — the front office — and explain to us why that was a smart move for the New York Yankees and that fan base."

Boone said after Wednesday's defeat that he had no regrets over the Game 2 strategy and also the decision to hold Tanaka back for Game 3.

Yankees pitching staff in postseason:

Gerrit Cole Everyone else

ERA 3.46 7.26

IP 13 31

BAA .235 .264

SLG .451 .504

BB/K 2/21 17/29

New York Sports