NEW YORK — Following a and the in Game 3, the New York Yankees are facing elimination in ALDS Game 4 on Tuesday night. They need to beat Rick Porcello and the Boston Red Sox to force a decisive Game 5 at Fenway Park on Thursday.
The Yankees have already won one elimination game this postseason — they beat the Athletics in the AL Wild Card Game last week — and, dating back to last postseason, they are 4-0 in their last four elimination games at home. They’ve outscored their opponents 23-9 in those four games. It didn’t show in Game 3 on Monday, .
“We’ve done it all year (have a short memory),” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone on Tuesday. “It’s one thing, I think, this group does a really good job of. Even times during the year when I’m a little frustrated at how we’re playing, I feel like they’re really, really good at letting yesterday roll off them and coming out performing. I’m confident they’ll do that today.”
As is the case in any win or go home postseason game, the Yankees will need some things to break their way in ALDS Game 4 to stay alive. Some of it they can control. Some of it is out of their hands. Here are four things the Yankees must do to stay alive and force a Game 5.
1. Get some left-handed production
Three games into the ALDS, New York’s left-handed hitters are 1 for 17 (.059) with three walks (.200 on-base percentage). Those numbers are all tied up in Brett Gardner (0 for 7 with three walks) and Didi Gregorius (1 for 10). The team’s only other regular left-handed hitter is switch-hitter Aaron Hicks, who only batted right-handed before getting hurt in Game 1.
Porcello has a relatively small platoon split, with lefties (.241/.299/.428) showing a little more power against him than righties (.240/.300/.372) this season. Boone has two lefties and two switch-hitters in his Game 4 lineup:
- SHB Aaron Hicks, CF
- RHB Aaron Judge, RF
- LHB Didi Gregorius, SS
- RHB Giancarlo Stanton, DH
- RHB Luke Voit, 1B
- SHB Neil Walker, 3B
- RHB Gary Sanchez, C
- RHB Gleyber Torres, 2B
- LHB Brett Gardner, LF
With Hicks returning from his minor hamstring injury, Boone is going with Gardner over Andrew McCutchen in left field. McCutchen, a right-handed hitter, is 2 for 14 in the series and has had significantly weaker at-bats than Gardner. Walker replaces the righty hitting Miguel Andujar (1 for 9), which is as much about defense as offense. Andujar is a poor defender and CC Sabathia generates a lot of ground balls to third base.
“Just wanted to get more lefty balance in the lineup tonight against Porcello,” Boone said when asked about his Game 4 lineup. “Feel like it makes sense to have that. Walk’s played a number of games over at third, with CC on the mound too. Just feel like it gives us a little more balance in a matchup that makes some sense.”
Point is, the Yankees have received little production from their left-handed hitters so far this series, and with the right-handed Porcello on the mound in Yankee Stadium in Game 4, they need their lefty bats to take aim at the short right field porch. The righties like Judge and Voit can’t do it all offensively.
2. Keep Sabathia on a short leash
The weird thing about Boone’s inexplicably short leash with Luis Severino in Game 3 is that he showed a quick hook in Games 1 and 2. J.A. Happ struggled and was out after two runners reached base in the third inning in Game 1. Masahiro Tanaka pitched quite well in Game 2 but was removed after five innings anyway because he was about to go through the lineup a third time.
Sabathia, like Tanaka, has a fairly significant third time through the order split this season. Here are Sabathia’s numbers:
- First Time: .248/.314/.340 (89 OPS+)
- Second Time: .208/.294/.376 (84 OPS+)
- Third Time: .328/.376/.547 (135 OPS+)
Beyond the third time through the order numbers, Boone has to show more urgency and do a better job reading the situation than he did in Game 3. Severino was getting hit very hard in Game 3 — he allowed 14 balls in play and seven were clocked with an exit velocity north of 100 mph — yet Boone stuck with him. If the Red Sox are similarly on everything Sabathia throws, Boone has to get him out of there quickly, before it snowballs into a mess.
“We just want (Sabathia) to be as effective for as long as he can be,” Boone said. “He could pitch well for a couple — two or three innings — and because of the way we’re lined up and rested in our bullpen, especially with our high-leverage guys, we feel like we have a lot of length out of them tonight, as much as we would almost ever have. But if he’s rolling along, we’ve got a lead, all those things factor into it. I’m not going to put a limit or even an expectation on it. I want him to go out and pitch his game, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
3. Go to the Plan A relievers no matter what
Boone’s biggest mistake in Game 3 was not necessarily leaving Severino in too long, though that was bad. The larger problem was going to starter-turned-reliever Lance Lynn with the bases loaded and no outs rather than one of his top relievers. Dellin Betances, David Robertson, and Chad Green are all far better bets to get strikeouts to help limit the damage. Instead, Lynn let the Red Sox pull away.
In Game 4 on Tuesday, Boone has to go to his top end-game relievers right away regardless of situation. Even if the Yankees are winning a blowout! Get your top guys in there and nail the game down. And, if it’s scoreless or the Yankees are trailing, the usual end-game arms like Betances, Robertson, Green, and Zach Britton are the best bet to hold the Red Sox down. Regardless of inning, those relievers have to be the first line of attack. Lynn and lefty specialist Stephen Tarpley should be emergency only options.
4. Get a little lucky
A little outside help would go a long way. A borderline 3-2 pitch going the Yankees’ way, a well-located bloop, a Red Sox error, something like that. Beating the Red Sox talent vs. talent is tough enough as it is. Any little break that goes New York’s way increases their chances of playing Game 5 on Thursday. Is it better to be lucky or good? The Yankees will have to be both Game 4.