Following their worst loss of the season, the New York Yankees figured out a new way to be the center of attention thanks to more of their own ineptitude. What was it this time? Again, take your pick. On a night where Luis Severino finally gave them a chance to win, a laundry list of others fumbled the bag over and over again in the team's 4-3 loss in extras to the LA Angels.
Oswald Peraza got picked off in the first inning. Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. Anthony Rizzo went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. Harrison Bader is either injured, or he decided to saunter to first base on a ground ball. Anthony Volpe struck out four times, including the Yankees' final out of the game in extras when he swung out of his shoes on a ball way outside the zone with a runner on third. The team once again couldn't cash in whatsoever, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They didn't score with the ghost runner on second base (again). They Griffin Canning record a career-high 12 strikeouts.
And then, of course, there's Aaron Boone and Michael King, both of whom are at fault for this one. Boone went to King in the top of the seventh, likely for a multi-inning outing, with the Yankees up 3-1.
The right-hander was set to face the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters before the top of the order came around. He struck out the first batter, walked the No. 9 hitter (why?), and then struck out the leadoff hitter. Walking Eduardo Escobar brought Shohei Ohtani to the plate.
The strategy? Pitch to the best hitter in baseball as he represented the tying run at the plate, after already walking him earlier in the game. The result? After getting ahead 1-2 in the count, King grooved a 97 MPH fastball at the belt and Ohtani took him deep.
Aaron Boone never considered not pitching to Shohei Ohtani with the Yankees leading
King, the Yankees' supposed "best" reliever, as so many fans love to label him, shouldn't be walking the No. 9 hitter and then bailing out Ohtani with a perfect strike when he was ahead in the count. On the other hand, his manager shouldn't be letting him pitch to someone on pace to tie the AL home run record when it was likely the last time he'd be stepping into the batter's box that evening.
"Maybe if [the runner] had gotten to second base or if [King] had fallen behind in the count, but not there," Boone responded when asked if he considered intentionally walking Ohtani.
Let's go over the potential dangers here if you walk Ohtani. Yes, the game-winning run comes to the plate in Mickey Moniak, who is hitting .324 with a .981 OPS. But the man has 107 MLB games under his belt, and this is by far the best he's ever performed in a sample size larger than 37 games. That's the batter you're more afraid to face? Even if you put a run in scoring position by walking Ohtani, you're still up by two runs! Moniak would've had to either go yard or put the ball perfectly in the gap to give Ohtani enough time to score from first. And that only would've tied the game.
But, judging by the way the Yankees have been going, yes, he would've homered.
Ohtani blasting a 400-foot homer off any pitcher is more likely than any other outcome with any other batter at the plate. Walking him late in a tight game is the easiest decision any manager can make.
Instead, King, who has been as unreliable as can possibly be when the Yankees have needed him to slam the door shut, finished with 34 pitches (14 strikes!!!) in just 0.2 innings of work. He allowed two earned runs on one hit, three walks and a hit batter -- legitimately peeing down his leg after the Ohtani home run.
Then you have Boone once again defending an indefensible decision after watching his bullpen the day prior blow two separate two-run leads against the worst team in the NL. But don't worry, he was confident enough his team could get out of a perilious situation with the best hitter on the planet at the plate.