When nearly 50,000 people utter a collective groan with your every move — or non-move, for that matter — how was it possible Monday night that Aaron Boone was the only person inside Yankee Stadium who didn’t realize his mistakes before it was too late?
Boone stuck too long with a woefully subpar Luis Severino, then compounded that error by going to Lance Lynn rather than a legit, A-list reliever with a prayer of limiting a bases-loaded, none-out jam in a disastrous fourth inning that made this 16-1 dumpster fire of a Yankees loss possible by night’s end in ALDS Game 3.
Everybody at the Stadium knew Severino had nothing. Zip. Nada. His opening pitch to Mookie Betts was hit 400 feet to dead center, a loud flyout, and the Red Sox just kept making solid contact, over and over. At the end of three innings, it was a miracle the Yankees trailed only 3-0, with the runs scoring on a comebacker off Severino’s glove, a sacrifice fly and a forceout.
As the Red Sox hacked away at Severino, the crowd grew increasingly restless, except for Boone, who was intent on staying the course.
The Yankees’ bullpen remained quiet until five batters into the third, when Xander Bogaerts’ single put Sox at the corners and finally prompted Boone to get Lynn throwing. Moments later, Rafael Devers’ forceout made it 3-0, and Steve Pearce put another scare into Severino by launching a flyout to the centerfield warning track.
That easily could have been it for Severino. We’ve heard Boone repeatedly talk about his “aggressive” bullpen strategy for these playoffs, and the Yankees made it a mantra in their first three games, with only Masahiro Tanaka lasting as long as five innings. When you have a bullpen stocked with shutdown relievers, it makes sense to use them liberally, especially with days off sprinkled in for rest.
On Monday night, however, Boone chose to exercise patience and deploy his relievers in curious fashion. We get sending Severino out for the fourth, but it still was an uncharacteristic dice roll by Boone, even with the bottom of the order coming up. The manager said he wanted to save Lynn for the top, as if that would be a smart strategy versus Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez.
“We feel like Lance, in a lot of ways, against righties gives us our best chance,” Boone said.
Seriously? In our mind, he’s not even in the Yankees’ top three righty relievers.
Boone ran out of excuses in the fourth when Severino melted down faster than a popsicle in a microwave. Single by Brock Holt. Nothing. Single by Christian Vazquez. Still no Boone, though some angry noises were bubbling up from the crowd. No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. then walked to load the bases.
Only then did Boone climb the dugout steps to a fusillade of boos. Why wait? Severino should have been pulled after that Holt single, tops. But to let the Red Sox load the bases before making a move was akin to baseball suicide.
“In hindsight, because he didn’t get an out, sure,” Boone said.
Afterward, Boone explained that he didn’t use Dellin Betances in that spot because he had him for only one inning Monday and didn’t want to burn it then. Also, by the time Severino got to Bradley, it would be a bunting situation anyway, and JBJ ended up drawing the walk.
The bigger question: Why Lynn before Chad Green, accustomed to putting out fires, or David Robertson or Jonathan Holder? “We could have started the fourth inning with Robbie or something,’’ Boone said, “but we really felt like Sevy could at least get us a couple outs before turning it over to Lynn, and then we could roll out our guys.”
The Lynn gambit went sideways in a hurry. His first five pitches were balls. Betts walked to force in a run and Benintendi followed with a three-run double that put the Sox up 7-0. Bogaerts’ single ended Lynn’s awful cameo, and that’s when Boone called on Green, who allowed an RBI single by Pearce and a two-run triple by Holt.
Just like that, Boone turned a 3-0 game into a 10-0 catastrophe, the humiliation so complete that Austin Romine wound up pitching the ninth.
Might Boone have engineered a different outcome? Possibly. One thing we all know for certain: He couldn’t have done any worse.