Yankees: We just don’t believe Aaron Boone’s explanation of Game 2 pitching plan

Adam Weinrib
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06: Luke Voit #59 of the New York Yankees fails to field a throwing error by J.A. Happ (not pictured) as Willy Adames #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays reaches first base safely during the third inning in Game Two of the American League Division Series at PETCO Park on October 06, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06: Luke Voit #59 of the New York Yankees fails to field a throwing error by J.A. Happ (not pictured) as Willy Adames #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays reaches first base safely during the third inning in Game Two of the American League Division Series at PETCO Park on October 06, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Yankees manager Aaron Boone swears the team didn’t intend to go to JA Happ after just one inning of Deivi Garcia.

The New York Yankees baffled the baseball literati on Tuesday night, seemingly attempting a desperation “surprise opener” up 1-0 in the ALDS, using Deivi Garcia for just a few batters before deploying JA Happ in the second inning.

It seemed as if Garcia was poised to become the youngest starter in Yankees playoff history, ready to go deep into a postseason game and pass the torch to Masahiro Tanaka in what we all hoped would be a closeout Game 3.

Instead, Garcia was just a trojan horse to get a more favorable lineup matchup for Happ, who the Yankees knew would have to get a start in this series, regardless. The team clearly thought this bait and switch was the most palatable option for deploying him — rendered moot when Tampa Bay’s lefties repeatedly owned Happ, and .147-hitting Mike Zunino took the crafty vet deep to left field in his very first inning of work.

After the contest, Aaron Boone knew he had some explaining to do, but the rationale still didn’t quite add up.

In the postgame scrum, Boone insisted that, while Happ was always intended to be Garcia’s “bulk guy,” the plan did not involve just one inning of Garcia, as formulated.

That’s all well and good, it didn’t take an eagle eye for viewers of last night’s game to notice that Happ was up in the ‘pen after one batter had been retired in the bottom of the first inning. All optics point to a general acknowledgment that Garcia’s outing wouldn’t last beyond a few batters.

If management (yes, we believe this decision came from above Boone’s pay grade) really wanted to give Garcia a fair shake based on how his stuff looked, then how did they deem him unfit after just four batters? One of them was Randy Arozarena, who went deep to right (what else is new?) after he should’ve struck out (thank you, CB Bucknor). One home run that should never have happened allowed to the hottest hitter in the game right now (non-Stanton division) prompted the Happ Siren? Sure, sure.

The bottom line is, whatever the truth may be, the Yankees do not have enough pitching to win this series comfortably, and needed Happ to deliver whenever he appeared. He didn’t, allowing lefties to go 5-for-8 against him.

The Yankees’ plan has not ended, and their intention was for Masahiro Tanaka to stabilize Game 3. But thus far, Game 2 read as a panic move from the team that was leading the series, right down to the swift deployment of Happ, no matter what the team insists they intended.

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