MLB

Yankees: It’s time to stop punting series finales

The Yankees often seem satisfied not putting their best foot forward with a chance to sweep a series. 

The New York Yankees had a chance to do something they haven’t done since 2015 Thursday: sweep the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Instead, the team fell short, dropping Thursday’s series finale 9-1.

In what may have been the key contributing factor to Thursday’s loss was the starting lineup Aaron Boone and company rolled out. 

In Boone’s defense, the Yankees are short manned. Gleyber Torres is out with COVID-19, Aaron Hicks is dealing with more injury problems and Luke Voit is just returning from a partially torn meniscus; however, with a chance to finally get the monkey off their backs that is the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees decided to seemingly punt.

Boone opted to give Voit a day off despite heading to face a weak Baltimore Friday and perhaps saving his day off for then. Instead, left-handed Mike Ford, who is batting  .095 on the season, drew the start at first base against Tampa’s veteran southpaw Rich Hill who dominates same-side hitters. Not only did the Yankees start Ford, but he also batted sixth.

Below Ford, Boone’s lineup featured Clint Frazier and his .141 batting average Miguel Andujar, who just rejoined the team to replace Torres and the left-handed Brett Gardner batting just .182 on the year.

Now, maybe Boone gets a free pass with the COVID issues Thursday, but looking back at chances to sweep the Astros on May 6 and Indians on April 25, there are no excuses.

With the Yankee Stadium crowd wild behind them, the Bombers took the first two games of their three-game set with the Astros last week in Houston’s first trip to the Bronx since the story of their 2017 sign-stealing scandal broke. However, in Thursday’s series finale, the Yankees seemingly made decisions that allowed Houston to leave the Bronx with a win.

In that game, Boone replaced Frazier, who had homered earlier in the game with Gardner before the top of the seventh inning for “defensive reasons.” Entering the inning, the Yankees’ lead was just 3-1.

 The move would come back to bite as the Astros rallied for six runs in the final three innings while Gardner could not help the team produce a run at the plate, meaning the Yankees were without a bat that had helped put the team in position to win. 

In that same game with a one-run lead, the Yankees opted to pull ace Gerrit Cole after seven innings that saw him throw just 97 pitches. With the Yankees’ great bullpen, many defended the move, but it’s hard to pull Cole with a lead and the potential to simply hand the game over to a dominant Aroldis Chapman in the ninth making that move questionable at best.

Going back to April 25, the Yankees had a chance to sweep a four-game set from the Cleveland Indians on the road to improve their record from 6-11 to 10-11 in one series. 

Instead, the team opted to pitch their mop-up role guy, Nick Nelson, down just one in the bottom of the fifth. Unsprinsgly, Nelson allowed three runs on four hits which put the game out of reach for a Yankees lineup that had Brett Gardner and his then .194 average leading off and Rougned Odor and his then .175 average batting cleanup.

 It’s time to treat the final game of the series with a chance to sweep as they did with the Detroit Tigers: aggressive. Finish off the sweeps, build momentum and carry on. 

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