The New York Yankees pulled out a thrilling 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday to advance to the ALDS.
Things did not begin so well for the Yankees, as starting ace Luis Severino opened the game by giving up two home runs in the first four batters, putting the Yankees in a 3-0 hole immediately.
After just one out, Yankees manager Joe Girardi, sensing Severino was shaken, had seen enough and pulled his pitcher, sending in reliever Chad Green to take over.
The sight might have been somewhat familiar for Yankees fans. Girardi has at times come under criticism for pulling his starters too soon and turning to the Yankees bullpen. Often stocked with a strong bullpen, one of the best in baseball, Girardi has been criticized for having a quick trigger with his starters.
ESPN’s Wallace Matthews once compared Girardi’s desire to use his bullpen to Evel Knievel’s desire to use a new motorcycle.
ESPN’s Sam Miller called Girardi’s decision “one of the most drastic moves of his career” while praising the decision. Girardi’s quick trigger on Tuesday may have saved the Yankees’ season.
Pulling Severino, down 3-0, in the first inning of a must-win playoff game could have had a negative effect, but instead, Green struck out two in a row to end the inning and it changed the momentum. In the bottom of the first, shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a three-run home run that tied the game and electrified the crowd.
From there, the Yankees received historically good performances from their bullpen. Green threw two innings, striking out four while allowing one run. Then came David Robertson, who threw 3.1 innings, striking out five while not allowing any runs. Tommy Kahnle followed him with 2.1 innings and a strikeout, and Aroldis Chapman sealed the deal in the ninth inning.
Nearly all of the pitchers were stretched beyond what they normally pitch and most relievers like to have an idea how many innings or outs they’ll be tasked with giving the team. Prior to the game Girardi said he likes to keep big games as normal as possible to help players relax.
“There are some things you might do a little different once you get into it, but if you start doing crazy things – things guys aren’t used to – then I’m just not comfortable doing it,” Girardi said. “You want to keep it as normal as possible.”
The other benefit that came with pulling Severino so early is that he should be fresh for Games 1 or 2 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees can once again enter a series with the benefit of turning to their normal ace.
It should be noted that the Yankees offense also pulled through with them, but the Wild Card win over the Twins is being heralded as one of Girardi’s best moments as manager. With a fresh starter, a stacked bullpen, and an explosive offense, the Yankees could enter the series against the red-hot Indians with a little bit of confidence.