The decisions that have backfired on the Yankees in the ALCS

NEW YORK — For all the hours spent preparing game plans and plotting out pitching for every postseason game, the postseason has a cruel way of ripping those strategies to shreds.

The New York Yankees, known as one of the most analytical teams in the sport, have seen quite a few decisions backfire in falling behind, 3-1, to the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.

Coming on the heels of last year’s ALDS defeat that featured some questionable decisions, the Yankees have not had much go their way while being outclassed by Houston.

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“We didn’t play well tonight and it’s frustrating,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said after Thursday’s 8-3 setback. “In the playoffs, you need to get past it. You need to flush what’s already happened in a hurry because tomorrow’s too important.”

Here’s a look at some of the decisions that have backfired on the Yankees.

Aroldis Chapman hasn't been a major factor for the Yankees in the ALCS. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Aroldis Chapman hasn't been a major factor for the Yankees in the ALCS. (Elsa/Getty Images)

One and done with Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman has only pitched one inning in this series.

And that decision has influenced why the Yankees are not even in this series.

In their 3-2 loss in 11 innings in Game 2, the Yankees turned to Chapman in the ninth inning with the teams tied.

Chapman threw a scoreless inning spanning 25 pitches, and the Yankees then opted to start fresh in the 10th. The Yankees used three relievers to survive that inning, but J.A. Happ served up a walk-off homer on the first pitch of the 11th.

Considering the importance of that game and how little Chapman pitched in September to be fresh for the postseason, that would have been a great time to try to get two innings out of your closer and extend the game. The teams also had a day off the next day, and there was no guarantee the Yankees would need Chapman in Game 3.

It’s possible the Yankees didn’t want Chapman going over 30 pitches because he peaked at 29 during the regular season, but he proved during his time with the Chicago Cubs that he can provide multiple innings in the postseason.

An opportunity to go up 2-0 should have been worth pushing Chapman an extra inning or at least for another out or two, and perhaps the Yankees would have managed to break through against Houston’s bullpen.

Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) walks to the dugout after being relieved during the eighth inning Thursday night. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
Yankees pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) walks to the dugout after being relieved during the eighth inning Thursday night. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)

Trusting Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino produced a stunning 1.90 ERA in the regular season. His postseason has been a different story.

Ottavino owns a 27.00 ERA this ALCS, and the Yankees continue to be burned by their loyalty to the righty.

Nursing a 2-1 lead in Game 2, the Yankees turned to Ottavino with one out in the bottom of the fifth instead of continuing to lean on Chad Green, who had thrown two scoreless innings spanning 26 pitches.

Ottavino had been shaky in his previous postseason outings against the Minnesota Twins despite not allowing a run, but the Yankees liked the matchup with righty Georgie Springer at the plate. Springer homered to tie the game, a series-changing hit.

Two days later in Game 3, Boone again went to Ottavino in a key moment, this time with the Yankees trailing 2-0 in the seventh. When Ottavino departed after failing to record an out, the Yankees trailed 4-0.

Boone again tried Ottavino on Thursday night with the Yankees in a 6-3 hole, and Ottavino allowed a run while not recording an out, all but ending the Yankees’ chances. While a 6-3 hole is not a high-leverage spot, the Yankees were still within striking distance.

“He’s been hurt in difference cases,” Boone said after Thursday’s game. “Today ... just makes a two-strike mistake, a slider that looked like it caught too much of the plate. ... Obviously frustrating for him right now, but it’s about execution.”

The Yankees have hurt their chances by placing Gleyber Torres in the five-hole. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
The Yankees have hurt their chances by placing Gleyber Torres in the five-hole. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Questionable lineup decisions

The raucous crowd at Yankee Stadium roared Tuesday afternoon in the first inning after the Yankees put the first two men on against Astros co-ace Gerrit Cole. They had their chance to strike.

But their hottest hitter, Gleyber Torres, was still three batters away.

Brett Gardner, not a typical three-hole hitter, then hit a shallow fly out to center. Slumping designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion followed with a pop-out. Cole then pitched around Torres to retire Didi Gregorious and end the threat.

In placing Torres in the five-hole, the Yankees hurt their chances in that fateful first inning, and it loomed large when Gardner and Encarnacion combined to go 1-for-8 in the 4-1 ALCS Game 3 loss. Torres homered and walked twice.

“That was just we had a few more lefties, so spacing our lefties out,” Boone said of his lineup that day. “Lineup-wise, we switch a lot based on who we have in there.”

The Yankees tried to rectify their error in Game 4 by moving Torres into the four-hole, in front of Encarnacion and Gardner, but that did not work either. Torres went 0-for-5 and failed in two critical situations, including when he struck out in a bases-loaded, one-out spot in the fifth inning with the Yankees trailing, 3-1. The Yankees ultimately failed to score that inning.

Former Yankee Alex Rodriguez said Torres’ off day may have been caused by the changing lineups.

“If you’re Torres, you’re 22 years old. It is so difficult to play in the postseason. You have the best game of your career in Game 1. In Game 2, you’re in a different order, in Game 3 you’re in a different order,” Rodriguez said on the Fox postgame show. “It’s so confusing. I know if I was 22 and I came and see the lineup and every day it’s a different lineup, I would be discouraged and crushed and disappointed before the game. He looked lost today and that’s too bad.”

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