In the aftermath of the most haunting of defeats, Joe Girardi said it was the old catcher in him that kept him from challenging a rather obvious missed call by the home plate umpire, not wanting to mess with Chad Green’s rhythm
Suffice to say Green would have been happy to wait all night rather than face Francisco Lindor with the bases loaded.
Yes, the manager would have been better off simply admitting he made a huge mistake that went a long way toward costing the Yankees a game that could wind up being the difference in this ALDS with the Indians.
Ultimately it was the ballyhooed bullpen blowing an 8-3 lead that led to the 9-8 defeat in 13 innings in this Game 2, but Girardi could have prevented such disaster by challenging a call his own catcher seemed sure was wrong.
For that matter, the whole world outside of the Yankee dugout could see, via TV replay, that Lonnie Chisenhall wasn’t hit by a pitch in the sixth inning, contrary to the original call, and should not have gone to first to load the bases, two pitches before Green served up a game-changing grand slam to Lindor.
Instead the ball tipped off the knob of Chisenhall’s bat, and into Gary Sanchez’s glove for what should have been a strikeout, and the last out of the sixth inning.
Sanchez looked toward the Yankee dugout, indicating he felt strongly about a challenge. After the game he said he heard something, and while he wasn’t sure that it hit the bat, he was indeed sure it didn’t hit Chisenhall.
Why didn’t Joe Girardi challenge a hit-by-pitch call that looked to be wrong on replay, and instead proved pivotal, loading the bases for Francisco Lindor’s grand slam in the sixth inning?
“He never reacted,’’ Sanchez said through an interpreter. “He didn’t move.”
In fact, everyone could see that Chisenhall didn’t react as if hit by the pitch, as any hitter would if hit on the hand by a 97-mph fastball, and didn’t make a move toward first base until home plate umpire Dan Iassogna instructed him to take his base.
So why didn’t Girardi challenge?
“There was nothing that told us that he was not hit by the pitch,’’ he said after the game. “By the time we got the super slow-mo, we are beyond a minute. It was way too late. They tell us we have the 30 seconds.”
Ok, first of all, why was Girardi so concerned about being over the 30-second time limit. As he said, he finally told the umpires he wasn’t challenging, and to go ahead and resume play.
How does he not stall for that slow-motion look and, at the very least, make the umpires tell him he’s out of time? It’s not as if there is any penalty involved for taking too much time.
If Joe Girardi had challenged that hit-batter in the sixth inning, the game probably would have ended differently.
(David Richard/USA Today Sports)
But more to the point, why not challenge even if you’re not sure, especially when Sanchez clearly thought he should?
“Being a catcher, my thought is I never want to break the pitcher’s rhythm,’’ Girardi said. “I never want to break the pitcher’s rhythm, and have the umpires stand over there for two minutes to tell me that (the batter) wasn’t hit.”
Sorry, but that’s just not good enough in this situation. If the Yankees had won the challenge, they go to the seventh inning with an 8-3 lead, with David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman needing to get nine outs between them.
They weren’t blowing a five-run lead at that point.
So Girardi has to wear this most difficult of losses, one that was especially painful because his team proved that Corey Kluber wasn’t unhittable after all, knocking him out of the game in the third inning thanks mostly to home runs by Sanchez and Aaron Hicks.
Yet for the same reason you can’t count the Yankees out, as they continue to show the same grit that was on display so often during the season.
Yankees vs. Indians 2017 American League Division Series
The 0-2 hole feels especially deep but at least the Yankees are going home, where they had the best record in the American League, and if they push this to a Game 5 they know now they can get to Kluber.
Still, it’s hard to imagine any of them slept well Friday night, especially Girardi.
The missed opportunity on the challenge wasn’t his only second-guessable decision. After a shaky start CC Sabathia was cruising along in the sixth inning, having retired 11 of 12 hitters when Girardi pulled him at 77 pitches with a runner on first and one out.
On that one I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, as Green has been practically untouchable for weeks now.
And while the challenge would have kept Green from having to face Lindor, he made a preventable mistake as well, getting beat for the grand slam on a 1-0 slider rather than his best pitch, his fastball.
Finally, Girardi pushed David Robertson too far. Coming off that career-high 52-pitch outing, Robertson got five outs in the sixth and seventh innings, and had to be on fumes at that point.
But Girardi didn’t want to go to Chapman for six outs, and didn’t trust Dellin Betances, so Robertson stayed in and promptly gave up the game-tying home run to Jay Bruce in the eighth.
Rough night for the manager, to be sure. How harshly it will be remembered depends on how many comebacks these Yankees have left in them.