October 8, 2020

Schadenfreude 275 (A Continuing Series)

George A. King III, Post:
A Yankees postseason that started so well could be nine innings from an offseason of regret and hell.

[In the last two games] the Yankees have morphed into goo.

After losing the second game to turn the best-of-five affair into a best-of-three deal, the Yankees were no match for the Rays at the plate or on the mound Wednesday night and were tagged with a deflating 8-4 loss in Game 3 at San Diego's Petco Park.

Since the beginning of both spring trainings, throughout the 60-game regular season and during the postseason, the Yankees never stopped talking about having the talent and mindset to navigate the many COVID-19 hurdles to win a World Series for the first time since 2009.

Now, they enter Game 4 on Thursday night nine innings away from being eliminated by their AL East rivals . . .

Tanaka gave up a leadoff single to Wendle and walked Adames on a close 3-2 pitch to open the top of the fourth. One pitch later the Rays had a 4-1 lead courtesy of Kiermaier hitting a hanging slider over the right-field wall. It was Kiermaier's third career homer off Tanaka in 41 at-bats counting the postseason.

Arozarena ended Tanaka's night with a first-pitch home run to left starting the top of the fifth inning. . . .

Charlie Morton hadn't pitched since Sept. 25 but the 36-year-old had enough to limit the Yankees to two runs in five innings.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News (11:10 PM ET):

So, the Yankees' season now comes down to Jordan Montgomery.

Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees' usually reliable playoff pitcher, got shelled Wednesday night as the Rays took Game 3 of the American League Division Series, 8-4, at Petco Park.

The Yankees face elimination Thursday night . . . They will send the left-hander Montgomery, who has never pitched in the playoffs and has been inconsistent [this season] . . . [It will be his first start since September 24] . . .

Tanaka was unexpectedly ineffective. He allowed five earned runs on eight hits, including two home runs. Aaron Judge and Luke Voit have seemingly disappeared from the Yankees lineup. Gary Sanchez was benched after striking out on Tuesday night and Gleyber Torres is suddenly a singles hitter.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the Yankees finding themselves on the brink of elimination.

Their decision to try to outsmart the Rays on Tuesday night exposed their lack of pitching depth and left them with limited options for this critical Game 4.

They have Montgomery, who could not get out of the first inning against these Rays last month . . .

Wednesday night, the Rays chased [Tanaka] after four innings, Kevin Kiermaier, who has been a thorn in Tanaka's side for years, hit a three-run homer off him in the fourth. Randy Arozarena hit a solo shot off him in the top of the fifth to end his night.

In his last two playoff appearances, Tanaka has allowed 11 earned runs over eight innings. He's allowed four home runs in that span.

Mike Vaccaro, Post:

The Yankees are nine innings away from winter. They lost Wednesday night, 8-4, so they sit on the precipice of the baseball abyss, pushed there by their nemesis, the Tampa Bay Rays, nudged there by their own squandered opportunities (and, sure, prodded there a touch by a couple of umpires calls that could have gone the other way and didn't). . . . 

For a second straight outing Masahiro Tanaka wasn't the equal of his postseason reputation, battered by the bottom of the Tampa lineup. . . .

But the Yankees squandered a chance to beat up on a vulnerable and suddenly wild Charlie Morton in the bottom of the third inning, stranding the bases loaded after they'd squared the game at 1-1.

Part of that, you may already know, was helped along by two borderline pitches to Luke Voit that home plate umpire Mark Carlson called strikes when going the other way would've forced in the go-ahead run. Instead Voit grounded out, the entire Rays dugout exhaled, and you could sense something might have been allowed to get away in that moment.

Not long after, Carlson called ball four instead of strike three on another borderline pitch, this one a Tanaka splitter to Tampa shortstop Willy Adames with Joey Wendle running on the pitch. A different call, that's a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out. This call allowed Kevin Keirmaier to come up with two on, none out, allowed him to drive both men in when he crushed a spinning Tanaka slider.

When that ball disappeared over the right-field fence, it seemed to take what remained of the Yankees' spirit with it. They have fewer than 24 hours to find it again, get it back, and figure a way to do what they've been relentlessly unable to do for most of these past 2 ½ months: beat the Rays.

The Rays . . . were 40-20 for the season, which translates to 108-54 across the full 162. The Yankees spent much of the summer hurt? The Rays have a pitching chart that reads like a triage unit. And were without the services for the first part of the season of Randy Arozarena, who was down with COVID-19 for the better part of a month.

He's better now, you may have noticed. . . .

Nine innings or bust, nine innings or retreat to what may well be the longest, coldest baseball winter we've known in a long, long time.

Dan Martin, Post:

[T]he Yankees had plenty of chances in Wednesday's 8-4 loss in Game 3 of the ALDS.

But with some poor clutch hitting — and another shaky performance from a home plate umpire — the Yankees failed to knock out the Rays when they had the chance and now they head into Thursday's Game 4 facing elimination.

They loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third — the Yankees were the home team Wednesday and will be again Thursday — but scored just once.

Aaron Judge could muster just a sacrifice fly to right to score Brett Gardner to tie the game at 1-1. After Aaron Hicks walked to load the bases again, the Yankees caught at least one tough break, as a night after home plate umpire CB Bucknor butchered the strike zone, Mark Carlson made his own unenviable impact behind the plate in Game 3.

After Rays starter Charlie Morton loaded the bases — with the help of a pair of walks — the right-hander fell behind Luke Voit 3-0 following a visit from Tampa Bay pitching coach Kyle Snyder.

Morton then threw a ball that appeared to be low that should have been ball four and a run-scoring walk to give the Yankees a lead, but Carlson, the crew chief, called it a strike. Morton's next pitch looked outside, but Carlson gave him the call again to make it a full count.

Voit then grounded to short to end the threat with the game still tied. . . .

The Yankees also caught a tough break an inning later.

In the top of the fourth, with Willy Adames at the plate and Joey Wendle on the run from first on a 3-2 pitch, Masahiro Tanaka threw one near the bottom of the strike zone. Kyle Higashioka's throw to second was in time to get Wendle, but Carlson called the pitch a ball, so Adames walked. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a go-ahead three-run homer.

Kristie Ackert, Daily News:

The fallout was immediate and it could be season-defining.

The Yankees' pitching plan blew up in their faces Tuesday night. Using two of their better starters — Deivi Garcia as an "opener" and J.A. Happ as their "bulk" guy — opened the door to the Rays . . . That forced the Yankees to have to go into Thursday's game facing elimination . . . with their least consistent starter on the mound.

Instead of having the rookie sensation Garcia or veteran Happ to start a Game 4 — both of who the Yankees burned with their plan to piggyback them on Tuesday — they will start Jordan Montgomery, who has never pitched in the playoffs. . . .

If the Yankees have to go to a Game 5, they would be likely asking Gerrit Cole to do something he has never done before in his career: pitch on short rest. . . .

While Cole said on Sunday he believed he could do it, it would again be asking pitchers, who have prepared to do one thing all season, to break their routine. That's kind of how the Yankees got into this mess in the first place.

Greg Joyce, Post:

The Yankees have a new playoff tormentor on their hands — though to be fair, Randy Arozarena has destroyed everything in sight lately, pinstriped or not.

The Rays outfielder continued his torrid ALDS on Wednesday night, racking up three more hits and homering for a third straight game . . .

Arozarena is now an absurd 12-for-20 (.600) for the postseason, with eight of those hits coming against the Yankees. He singled in his first two at-bats Wednesday before knocking Masahiro Tanaka out of the game by crushing a leadoff home run in the fifth inning to make it a 5-1 lead.

"Arozarena has to be the best baseball player on earth right now," Tyler Glasnow, the Rays’ Game 2 starter, said . . .

He clocked a home run off Gerrit Cole in Game 1 and added two more singles against the Yankees ace, then drilled a home run off opener Deivi Garcia in Game 2.

Rays manager Kevin Cash went as far as calling Arozarena the "Cuban Mookie Betts," according to the TBS broadcast.

Ken Davidoff, Post:

Masahiro Tanaka couldn't change the subject with his trademark October magic Wednesday night at Petco Park . . . [and so] the end of the Yankees' season . . . might very well be Thursday.

What a fiasco here. What a sad way this would be for a great Yankees career to end. . . .

[H]is second straight lousy outing in this postseason — this time without the excuse of insane weather — stains a previous staple of his brand as he approaches free agency. . . .

Right now, with the Yankees facing a 2-1 deficit in this best-of-five set and leaning on shaky lefty Jordan Montgomery to bail them out . . . you're still raging about the Yankees' Game 2 gambit . . . that backfired spectacularly. You should be. . . . [If this season ends with] a downfall to their bitter, low-payroll rivals from Tampa Bay, that failed strategy will go down as an all-time blunder in baseball history.

Throw in some poor bullpen work and insufficient offense Wednesday, and enough blame exists to go every which way. And yes, the home plate umpiring by crew chief Mark Carlson left something to be desired, particularly on pair of borderline third-inning strikes to Luke Voit (he wound up grounding out to strand three teammates) and a fourth-inning ball four to Willy Adames (Tanaka said he thought it was a strike, and Kevin Kiermaier blasted the very next pitch for a tiebreaking, three-run homer). Really don't want to hear it. Until robot umps take over (that can't come soon enough), that comes with the job.

Last Sunday, before the ALDS began, Judge spoke about being tortured by the Yankees' past failures, including losing last year's ALCS:

I think about it every day, to be honest. It's something I don't think I'll ever let go until we have a chance to win a championship. That fuels me. I hate losing. Any time I think about past years, getting kicked out of the playoffs, the next one stings as much as the one before. That's what motivates me. . . . The real season is the playoffs. That's when the real team shows up.

His manager said:

There's just a presence he has and an edge he plays the game with . . . but there's a palpable feeling amongst our club when he's in the dugout. There's no doubt in my mind he likes playing when there's more on the line and the bigger these games are.

Let's see how Mr. Edgy Palpable Dugout Presence is doing in these big, real-season games.


Dan Martin, Post:

Aaron Judge picked a bad time to stop hitting.

The right fielder has just three hits in the postseason after Wednesday's 8-4 loss to the Rays in Game 3 of the ALDS, with the Yankees now on the brink of elimination.

For the second straight night, Judge made the final out of the game . . .

He had a chance to give the Yankees the lead in the bottom of the third in Game 3, when he came up with the bases loaded and one out against Charlie Morton.

Judge managed to deliver a sacrifice fly to right field, but the Yankees didn't score again that inning and fell behind for good in the fourth.

He also grounded out and struck out against Morton before a two-out single in the eighth. . . .

It's been a mostly disappointing season for Judge, who missed a chunk of the abbreviated regular season with a strained calf that sidelined him for two weeks before he returned too soon and aggravated the injury, which cost him two more weeks. . . .

Judge will head into Thursday's potentially season-ending game 3-for-23 with nine strikeouts in the postseason. He was also just 6-for-25 against the Astros last year in the ALCS.

After that series, Judge stood in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park in Houston and called the Yankees' season "a failure."

They're just one loss away from a similar outcome — one round earlier.

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