Yankees: Are Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Boone to blame for early playoff exit?
The Yankees season officially ended Tuesday night in heartbreaking fashion. The Yanks fought until the very end but fell one run short in a 4-3 loss to the rival Red Sox in Game 4 of the ALDS.
Now that the season is over there’s a lot to dissect about what went wrong for the Yankees during this division series. Much of the blame will be placed on skipper Aaron Boone and star slugger Giancarlo Stanton. It was more than just Boone’s poor decision making and Stanton’s lack of production in the clutch that caused the Yankees early playoff exit, but it’d be hard to argue that anyone else had a worse series than them.
This season marked the first taste of postseason baseball for Boone as a rookie manager and for Stanton who never played in October during his first eight years with the Marlins. Things started off great for both after Boone pushed all the right buttons in the Wild Card win over the A’s last week in a game that included Stanton’s first career postseason home run.
But here we are a week later and the Yankees are heading home in large part because of Boone’s mishandling of the bullpen and Stanton’s inability to get the big hits.
First, let’s start with Boone
In Game 3 with the series tied 1-1 staff ace Luis Severino took the mound looking to give the Yanks a commanding series lead. Unfortunately, from the start, it was evident that Sevy simply didn’t have it as he put the team in a 3-0 hole entering the top of the fourth inning.
With his pitch count high and his control all over the place everyone in the stadium and watching at home knew it was time to make a move and take Sevy out. The Red Sox offense was all over him and yet Boone sent him back out there to start the fourth. At the time I figured the next batter Sevy allowed to reach would mark the end of his night but it wasn’t until he loaded the bases before Boone finally decided to pull the plug and go to his pen.
However, instead of going to one of his high leverage guys with strikeout stuff Boone opted to insert fifth starter Lance Lynn into the game to face the likely AL MVP winner Mookie Betts. Lynn proceeded to walk Betts on four pitches and allow a bases-clearing double to Andrew Benintendi to open up the floodgates for Boston. By the time Lynn exited after a 1/3 of an inning, the Red Sox added another run to make it 8-0 before Boone went to Chad Green to clean up Lynn’s mess. Green than allowed a two-run triple to Brock Holt and the game was pretty much over from there as the Red Sox went on to embarrass the Yanks in front of a sold-out Stadium crowd and win 16-1.
Boone’s lack of urgency cost the Yankee big time as he managed the inning as if it was a regular season game in June against the Blue Jays. It was his worst inning of the season as he single-handedly let the game get out of hand which erased any chance of a potential Yankee comeback against Boston starter and now Yankee killer Nathan Eovaldi.
Somehow in Game 4 with the season on the line, Boone still didn’t learn his lesson when again he kept his starter in the game far too long. This time it was with CC Sabathia on the mound. Like Sevy the previous night the veteran lefty was laboring against the Red Sox lineup and was hit hard despite the score being tied at 0 entering the third. After he hit Benintendi to lead off the third Boone left CC in to face five consecutive righties because he wanted him to pitch to the lefty Jackie Bradley who was SIX batters way.
CC went on to give up three runs and finished the inning getting Bradley to ground out but not before he gave up back to back two-out RBI hits to Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez. The fact that he even faced Kinsler was shocking enough but for him to face Nunez as well with the lead already at 2-0 was as inexcusable as it gets.
The last six innings Boone wisely used all his top relievers to hold Boston to just one run but had he gone to Robertson or Britton to face Kinsler or Nunez with two outs in the third the deficit could’ve been at 1-0.
Stanton struggles in the clutch
Even after Boone’s unforgivable blunders with the Yankees season on the line the offense still managed to make it a game in the ninth against Boston closer Craig Kimbrel. Down 4-1 they brought up Stanton as the tying run with no outs. Kimbrel was all over the place and clearly reeling but overpowered Stanton on four pitches to strike him out in his final at-bat of the season. Stanton once again went down flailing at breaking balls in the dirt that he wasn’t even close to hitting.
He finished the series 4-18 with 0 extra-base hits and 0 RBI leaving 15 RUNNERS ON BASE. Sure he sprinkled in a couple of hard-hit singles over the course of the four games but every time he came up with a chance to either tie or give the Yankees a lead he came up short. Stanton’s first season in pinstripes finished a lot like it started in early April with 50,000 fans booing him after one of his 218 strikeouts on the year.
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Outside of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez (who came within feet of hitting a walk-off grand slam vs. Kimbrel) nobody in the Yankees lineup really produced all series, but Stanton will receive the majority of the criticism and rightfully so. He’s the one getting paid over $200 million over the next nine seasons and he’s the guy in the lineup who had more opportunities than anyone to change the outcome of a game with one swing.
For both Boone and Stanton, their first postseason will serve as a learning experience, but you hope this isn’t a sign of what’s to come in future Octobers. All season long we saw Boone make questionable decisions leaving both starters and relievers in too long. So if he didn’t learn his lesson in the playoffs, where every pitch matters, who’s to say he won’t make the same mistakes again next season?
And for Stanton who really struggled in the clutch all season long, will he ever step up to be one of the postseason heroes the Yankees brought him here to be? Too many times he came up in a huge spot and failed to make a productive out or even put the bat on the ball.
Stanton and Boone both did a solid job helping the Yankees to a 100 win regular season, but that doesn’t mean anything to ownership and the fanbase if you can’t help them win in October. This franchise expects greatness and if you can’t deliver just that the Steinbrenner family will find somebody else who can.