That’s the explanation acting manager Josh Bard gave for keeping Giancarlo Stanton on the bench in the bottom of the eighth inning with the bases loaded, two out and the Yankees going to a pinch hitter while down three runs to the Tigers.
In other words, in a position to give his team the lead with one swing of the bat.
Stanton, dealing with a tight hamstring for weeks, had started 85 consecutive games since May 29. It is understandable the Yankees, scheduled to fly cross-country following Sunday’s homestand finale in advance of Monday’s 1 p.m. PDT game in Oakland against the A’s, would have wanted to get Stanton a day off.
But Bard, the bench coach who was making the calls from the dugout while Aaron Boone served a one-game suspension he had received for making inadvertent cap-to-cap contact with home-plate umpire Nic Lentz after his fifth-inning ejection on Friday, said Stanton was available.
“He was available but we wanted to make sure it was either to win the game …” Bard said, failing to complete the thought before pivoting to cite “the matchup” in explaining why he instead called on Greg Bird to hit for Adeiny Hechavarria in that spot against Victor Alcantara.
Um, but that was a situation in which Stanton could have won the game.
Bird, trapped in another one of his ginormous slumps that have marked this miserable (.197/.284/.386) season, did drive Alcantara’s 0-1 sinker to the right-field wall. But it was neither high enough nor far enough to be gone, instead settling into the glove of Victor Reyes for the final out of what was then an 8-5 game that would end 11-7, Detroit.
Now, it is true. Bird, 3-for-his-last-40, had the lefty/righty thing going against Alcantara. But he never before had faced the relief pitcher. The righty-swinging Stanton had gone 1-for-2 lifetime against Alcantara (and in this series) with a ground double through the shortstop hole on Thursday preceding a caught-looking on Saturday.
Again. If the plan had been set in stone to give Stanton the day off, then fine. There’d be no issue. The Yankees have three significant games with the A’s followed by three in Seattle and three in Minnesota. They need Stanton, who has a .910 OPS with 22 homers and 56 RBIs over his 85-game run, in prime form for the trip.
But to suggest Bird was the better choice in that spot because of matchup data, well, that is pure balderdash. It does not make it any better that Bard also suggested that he might have turned to Stanton in the ninth inning if needed.
It just does not add up.
This does not represent a screed against Bard. It is impossible to believe that he reached this decision independently. Even when Boone is in the dugout, most of the Yankee managing is done pregame.
“Our process stays the same,” said Bard, who can be held more to account for his clumsy explanation of the decision rather than for the call itself.
Start to finish, this was a clumsy end to a clumsy homestand in which the Yankees went 3-4 against the lousy White Sox and Tigers. The pitching was substandard nearly all week. Indeed, Chicago and Detroit, who have scored the fourth- and second-fewest runs in the AL, respectively, scored a sum of 39 runs in The Bronx. Fact is, the Yankees surrendered six or more runs four times and four or more in six of the seven games.
Lance Lynn staggered for the fourth straight start, tagged with six runs on nine hits in 3 ²/₃ innings. Acquired from the Twins on July 30, the right-hander seemed an antidote to Sonny Gray, whom he replaced in the rotation, in allowing one run on seven hits over 12 ¹/₃ innings in his first two starts in pinstripes.
The last four, however, have been a different story, Lynn allowing 19 runs on 31 hits in 18²/₃ innings (9.16 ERA). After the game, the pitcher defended himself and his recent record, seeming to blame the vagaries of baseball for his troubles. In fact, he appeared to suggest that his stuff was just fine against the Tigers despite allowing 10 of the 20 batters he faced to reach base. That was his story and he was sticking to it.
The way keeping Stanton on the bench because of matchups was the story, too.
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