Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s must-win Game 4 in Cleveland, Aaron Boone’s use of his bullpen will be a significant focal point of the Yankees’ offseason and how their run in the postseason is viewed.
Boone’s decision not to go to Clay Holmes in the ninth with New York holding the lead shocked everyone, including those in the clubhouse. Luis Severino sounded perplexed when he was asked about it after the lead evaporated and the Yankees found themselves down 2-1 in the series instead of being ahead.
“He’s our closer, so of course I was surprised,” Severino said. “I don’t know if he was down. There shouldn’t be people down in the playoffs. That’s something you guys need to ask Boonie or (pitching coach Matt) Blake to see what was going on there.”
Part of it was the hand that Boone had been dealt thanks to the limited bullpen that the Yankees had going into the postseason. Injuries had taken their toll on the Bombers pitching staff and even Holmes and fellow reliever Wandy Peralta had missed time.
So the Yankees skipper seemed to be skittish about overusing Holmes for fear that his shoulder issue could resurface limiting New York even further. Boone said that Holmes would only come into the game in an emergency situation, but with the runs pouring in it was hard to think of a bigger emergency than that.
“I woke up today preparing to pitch, like every other day,” Holmes told Newsday as the Yankees tried to regroup from the loss. “So it’s one of those things where I was ready to do my job and sometimes those decisions aren’t mine. I felt like I was available to pitch and whenever my name is called, I’m ready to do out there and give everything I’ve got.”
Though there may be more to the story that went unsaid. Boone did tell several reporters in Cleveland that he felt that Holmes “was in jeopardy.” Read into that as you will.
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But the fact of the matter is the Yankees stand a game away from elimination in a year that saw them be one of the most dominant teams in baseball for a period of time. A big part of that was the fact that Holmes had been so dominant on the mound, especially in the first half of the year.
New York could have used that on Saturday. If the Yankees don’t find a way to get out of this situation in Game 4, Boone will really need to justify why he left one of his best bullpen weapons on the bench in crunch time.