Did the Yankees enter the ALDS against the Cleveland Guardians with a distinct lack of bullpen options? Absolutely. It led to the same names trotting through the ‘pen door over and over and over again through Games 1 through 3, a task made all the more difficult by the removal of a mid-series off day.
Did Aaron Boone have better options than Clarke Schmidt with runners on the corners and one out in the ninth inning with a hard-fought 5-3 lead, following a bloop “double” and a great piece of hitting by Steve Kwan? It certainly seems so, in both hindsight and in the moment.
Boone rolled the dice, hoping to stay away from Clay Holmes on back-to-back days and tried to work Wandy Peralta through outs five through seven of his potential 2.1-inning outing. He began the inning with a pop fly to Aaron Judge, then induced two more pieces of soft contact that did not find gloves.
At that moment, Boone was caught between a rock and his remarkably consistent ability to mismanage a bullpen.
He went with Schmidt, who was socked into left field by Amed Rosario almost immediately. José Ramírez stunningly did not homer, but in fact looped a ball to where the shortstop should’ve been, but wasn’t.
At that point, Schmidt — not a reliever by trade — fell in love with his breaking ball. He struck out a hobbled Josh Naylor on three of them. Oscar González, with two outs, barely missed two over the plate before receiving an additional gift of … another breaker.
He slammed the final missive into center field and knocked both the tying and winning runs home, putting the nail in Boone’s managerial coffin one out after Naylor missed his chance.
Yankees “closer” Clarke Schmidt doesn’t work vs Guardians, season on the brink
Just kidding. Any other franchise would dismiss Boone. Any other franchise would do some soul-searching. The Yankees will blame injuries — namely, to Scott Effross, Ron Marinaccio, and Michael King — and run things back for another year.
To think that, of the two Aarons — Boone and Judge — the manager who presses the wrong button every time the pressure’s on is the only one guaranteed to return.
Schmidt was the result of a short-handed bullpen, but using him in this circumstance was still remarkably confident, and though he got awfully close, he was burned before recording the final out. That’s the out you really need to get, after all.
Heading into Gerrit Cole’s battle with the midges in Game 4, this series feels all but over. That’s the one you need to have.
Oh, and the rally starter? Myles Straw. What a nightmare.