Anyone expecting a mea culpa from Aaron Boone before Tuesday’s Game 4 turned out to be as misguided as the manager’s curious bullpen management in the previous night’s 16-1 waxing by the Red Sox. Boone stood firm, saying that the logic was sound in his decision to use Lance Lynn -- and not a top-tier reliever -- despite the move blowing up in his face.
That’s fine. Boone is probably the only one in the Tri-State Area who feels that way, but a public confession, on the October stage, is never easy. What Boone could use, however, is some redemption, and his Yankees were the ones that had to supply it Tuesday with their backs against the wall (down 2-1) in this Division Series.
“When you lose, it’s a gut punch, it hurts, it’s frustrating,” Boone said. “But the storyline changes the next day. It was a (lousy) drive home. But you also understand that’s part of it and you have to get up and today’s too damn important to dwell on it.”
That won’t stop the rest of us from remembering Boone’s bizarre moves from the Game 3 debacle, however, and getting to the ALCS, for a rematch with the Astros, is the only way out. Last year, it briefly worked for Joe Girardi, as the Yankees bailed him out from his own Game 2 brain-cramp to rally from an 0-2 ALDS deficit and topple the Indians.
In our judgement, Girardi’s gaffe was worse, because the Yankees were ahead, 8-3, with two outs in the sixth inning. It also shouldn’t have required much thought. Chad Green appeared to strike out Lonnie Chisenhall when the pitch glanced off the knob of the bat and into Gary Sanchez’s glove for strike three.
But plate umpire Dan Iassogna saw things differently, ruling that the fastball nicked Chisenhall on the hand, which loaded the bases for the Indians. Despite Sanchez yelling, “foul, foul,” he wasn’t able to convince Girardi, who passed on a replay challenge as Chisenhall trotted to first base. Two pitches later, Francisco Lindor drilled a grand slam, and the Indians rallied for a 9-8 victory in 13 innings.
It was about as bad a loss for the Yankees as you could imagine -- times 10, based on the fact that Girardi likely could have prevented it. Immediately following the game, Girardi refused to take responsibility for the blunder, citing the complications with getting a clear replay in time and not wanting to take Green “out of rhythm” by having to wait for a few minutes for the verdict.
What Girardi believed were explanations actually came across as flimsy alibis, and the manager eventually came to that realization himself once he had roughly 16 hours to think about it, between the flight home to New York and a restless night’s sleep.
His conclusion? “I screwed up,” Girardi said at the time.
Those words helped, as much as they could. Girardi, in the final days of his expiring Yankees’ contract, knew his only chance at salvation was winning three straight over the Indians. Then history could be the judge.
“That will probably determine the severity of it,” Girardi said.
Boone was in a similar place before Game 4. The Yankees rinsed that stain from Girardi’s resume by reaching Game 7 of the ALCS, but they couldn’t save him, as Brian Cashman chose not to bring him back anyway. We’re assuming that Boone’s job isn’t in jeopardy, but that Game 3 blunder is going to stick for a lot longer if the Yankees don’t rally for him as the ’17 group did for Girardi.
Both were unable to provide anything close to rational explanations. Why Boone picked Game 3 to buck every one of the Yankees’ successful pitching trends is something that will continue to haunt him into the offseason. Despite the manager’s “aggressive” bullpen stance, Boone doomed the Yankees by first letting an ineffective Luis Severino dig a deeper hole in the fourth inning, then shockingly called on Lynn -- with the bases loaded and none out -- to rescue them from the most critical spot to date.
Lynn threw five consecutive balls -- falling off the mound at one point -- to force in the first run, then gave up a bases-clearing double to Andrew Benintendi. Chad Green, the reliever who should have pitched in Lynn’s place, surrendered three runs as Boone’s botched relief plan turned a 3-0 deficit into a 10-0 exclamation point.
“You have to live with that,” Boone said.
As Girardi was fond of saying, it’s not what you want.