Deivi Garcia wasn’t even through one inning of work when the TBS broadcast flipped to a bullpen camera showing J.A. Happ warming up. If you paid attention to Aaron Boone’s comments on Monday, it was suggested that Happ may come in after Garcia opens the game – a move that could throw off the game-planning for the Tampa Bay Rays a bit.
Well, the trickery turned into utter disaster. And not just for the Yankees in their Game 2 loss, but potentially moving forward in the series as well.
The thinking behind it was this, as SNY’s Andy Martino broke down: Boone would bring in Happ after Garcia started the game in hopes that the Rays set up a lefty-heavy lineup. Austin Meadows led off in the DH role instead of Yandy Diaz in this one, but that’s the only change Kevin Cash made to his lineup. Everyone else was status quo compared to Game 1.
Garcia, then, allowed a first-inning homer to the red-hot Randy Arozarena and Happ immediately came in the second inning. The veteran lefty said after the game that the plan was to have him come in to face a specific batter – Joey Wendle in the six hole would make sense given he’s a lefty. But lefties, overall, went 5-for-8 on the night.
After the game, Happ even said he would've rather started the game outright, and the plan was one the Yankees knew he wasn't a fan of.
"They know how I felt about it, but ultimately when I pitch, you got me," Happ said, making sure to point out he gives his all every time he gets the ball. "There's no hesitation, no dwelling on what was going on."
So it completely backfired and now the Yankees are faced with an even bigger question: What happens now for Game 4?
Garcia could’ve easily gone into this game with the plan to throw a few innings. Boone and the Yankees had raved about his confidence on the mound and how he doesn’t let anything deter his mindset. Yes, Garcia was struggling with fastball command and he let up the homer, but who knows if he just needed to get through that first inning, settle down, and come back out firing for a few more innings before turning it over to the bullpen.
Now what the Yankees have is Garcia’s confidence likely shot after getting pulled, and Happ can’t be used traditionally in Game 4. Does that mean the Yankees are going to trust Jordan Montgomery, who had a 5.11 ERA this season, in a Game 4 that may be an elimination game? It doesn’t make sense, but their options are very slim.
A potential bullpen game could be the plan, which would likely still involve Montgomery, but what if this goes to Game 5? Gerrit Cole gets the ball, however, it’s on short rest. He may endure fatigue earlier than normal and the bullpen would need to relieve him earlier. What would be the options, though, after the bullpen just went through a Game 4?
It could’ve all worked out for the Yankees if they would’ve just won on Tuesday night. Like one major league coach told Martino, though, “You don’t have to get cute. You’re the Yankees.”
Deadlocked at one game apiece now, let’s just say the Yankees are lucky a seasoned-postseason starter, Masahiro Tanaka, is pitching in Game 3 on Wednesday night. He gives them a good chance to eradicate this move, pick up a crucial win, and make Game 4 one that wouldn’t involve elimination.
Of course, it's not a given that Tanaka pitches well and the Yankees walk away winners. If the Rays get back-to-back wins, Game 4 will be extremely interesting to watch, as the Yankees will have to cross their fingers and trust Montgomery and the bullpen to pull out a win.
If it becomes reality, they can blame their poor decision in Game 2 for that.