Perhaps lost among the three or four questionable decisions by Joe Girardi in Friday’s 9-8, 13-inning loss to the Indians in Game 2 of the American League Division Series was the manager’s call to leave Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen and let David Robertson face Jay Bruce in the eighth inning with the Yankees holding a one-run lead. Bruce homered to tie the score at 8-8.
For a manager who had pushed his relievers so hard (and to such good effect) in the wild-card game, Girardi’s rationale for not bringing in his closer and staying with the possibly overworked Robertson was a little off.
“I had [Chapman] up to relieve Robbie if we needed him,” Girardi said. “The one thing I haven’t done a whole lot is throwing Chappy two innings. You’re never sure how that first inning . . . what if he throws 22, 23 pitches? “
Chapman, who did end up throwing a scoreless ninth and 10th, was warming in the bullpen when the eighth began. Robertson, who threw a career-high 3 1⁄3 innings on Tuesday, already had gotten four outs. But Girardi kept his lefthanded closer in the bullpen and let the righthanded Robertson face the lefthanded-hitting Bruce, who homered and drove in three runs in Cleveland’s 4-0 Game 1 victory.
Robertson threw four straight curveballs to Bruce and fell behind 3-and-1. He then threw a 92-mph fastball that Bruce smoked over the left-centerfield wall.
The Yankees, who led 8-3 after five innings, now face elimination in Sunday night’s Game 3.
“Fell behind in the count,” Robertson said. “I really tried to get him to swing at a curveball, really tried to keep everything down to him because he’s such a good hitter. Got to a 3-and-1 count and I had to throw a strike. Last thing I wanted to do was walk him. Wanted to make him hit the ball. I just didn’t expect him to hit an opposite-field home run right there.”
Robertson said he did not believe fatigue was a factor for him. “I felt great out there physically,” he said. “I’m not going to say that that’s like an issue for me. I just didn’t make the right pitch at the right time. If one of those curveballs is a strike, I get myself in a 2-2 count, I feel a little more confident. Three-one, you can’t let the winning run come to the plate right there in the eighth inning.”
Tommy Kahnle came in after the home run and kept the score tied.
Masahiro Tanaka will start Game 3 for the Yankees. After using Robertson, Chad Green, Kahnle, Chapman and losing pitcher Dellin Betances on Friday, Girardi said he expects to have everyone available except Betances.
Said Robertson: “It’s a tough loss, but we’re going back to Yankee Stadium. We’ve still got a chance. We’re not out of it yet. We’ve battled our butts off and can get right back in this series.”