Aaron Boone, who was suspended for Sunday’s Yankees-Tigers game, isn’t the highest-paid manager in baseball. But some curious decisions by fill-in manager Josh Bard – usually the Yankees' bench coach – in the team's 11-7 loss to Detroit might prompt Boone to ask for a raise.
Bard didn’t use resting slugger Giancarlo Stanton as a pinch hitter when he would have represented either the tying or go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Stanton has 33 home runs this season and 300 in his career.
After the Yankees moved within three runs with a two-run eighth inning, Bard also chose to use lefthander Stephen Tarpley in the ninth for his big-league debut even though he had eight other relievers available – including Chad Green, who had warmed up in the eighth when the Yankees rallied without Stanton getting off the bench.
Tarpley was left in for the entire ninth – no other pitcher warmed up – and gave up three runs, three hits and two walks.
Still, even with a six-run deficit entering the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees scored twice to pull within 11-7. The tying run was on deck when Luke Voit, who had homered earlier, took a called third strike to end it.
Lance Lynn (8-10, 1-2 as a Yankee) allowed six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings as the Yankees split the four-game series with the lowly Tigers. Boone served a one-game suspension for making contact with umpire Nic Lentz during an argument on Friday night. The suspension was announced before the game, but the Yankees knew about it on Saturday, giving Bard ample time to prepare for his big-league managing debut.
Bard had his moment to make a big decision with the Yankees trailing 8-4 in the eighth, the bases loaded and two outs. He called on Neil Walker to pinch hit for Austin Romine against righthander Victor Alcantara. Stanton never stirred.
Walker reached on an infield single to make it 8-5. Another pinch hitter was called for, but again, it wasn’t Stanton who hit for Adeiny Hechavarria. It was slumping Greg Bird, who sent a screaming line drive to the rightfield wall for the third out. Another few feet and it would have been a go-ahead grand slam.
“Came up a little short,” Bird said. “What are you going to do?”
About not using Stanton, Bard said: “He was available. But we were going to make sure that it was to either win the game or . . . and we thought the matchup was good for Birdie right there.”
Bird was the potential go-ahead run, so the first part of Bard’s answer was curious.
“If we had had a matchup we really, really liked for [Stanton], he’d probably hit there,” Bard said. “But we liked the matchup there and Birdie hit the ball hard.”
Still, the Yankees trailed by only three runs as the game went to the ninth. Bard brought in Tarpley, who was called up from Triple-A on Friday, and left him in to absorb a three-run inning. The Tigers went up by six on a two-out, two-run single by Ronny Rodriguez and a run-scoring single by Dawel Lugo.
“If we would have gotten to within two, we were talking about going with Greenie,” Bard said. “We wanted [Tarpley] to get his feet wet and get out there and, to be honest with you, I think he gave up four ground balls and a line drive. At the end of the day, we were trying to reset our bullpen a little bit because we’ve been riding those guys pretty hard, partly because we’ve been winning a lot of games.”
The Yankees made it 11-7 in the bottom of the ninth on Gleyber Torres’ two-out, two-run single off Shane Greene, but the former Yankee struck out Voit to end it. Walker was on deck as the potential tying run. Bard said he would have used Stanton to hit for the next scheduled batter, backup catcher Kyle Higashioka, if it had gotten that far.
That left the Yankees with a 3-4 record on the homestand against the White Sox and Tigers, both of whom currently are 55-82.
So Stanton got his first full game day off since May 28 and the Yankees headed to Oakland to play a holiday afternoon game on Monday against the A’s, the team they would host in the wild-card game if the season ended today.
And Boone, who was permitted to speak to the media before but not after the game, will be back at the helm.
The Yankees are 4 1/2 games ahead of Oakland for the first wild card and 10 games ahead of Seattle for the second wild card.
“Obviously, a team that’s playing really well, been one of the best teams in baseball over the last couple of months, especially,” Boone said of the A’s. “They’ve really bolstered their bullpen. It’s a pen that can shorten games. They’ve had some young players kind of take that next step into stardom. We know we’ve got our hands full. Really looking forward to it, getting out on the West Coast and being challenged. Our expectation is to go out there and play well, and if we play well, the results will take care of themselves.”