The New York Yankees allowed an 8-3 lead — and likely the series — slip away Friday night as the Cleveland Indians mounted a comeback for the ages. It shouldn’t have happened, and wouldn’t have happened if Joe Girardi has displayed the core competency required from a Major League manager.
With two on and two out in the sixth inning, Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was awarded first base after an 0-2 pitch from Chad Green came up and in. Home plate umpire Dan Iassonga ruled that the fastball had hit Chisenhall’s hand before landing in catcher Gary Sanchez’s glove.
Sanchez, who had a great view of the contact, immediately signaled to Girardi and the Yankees dugout that this was an improper call. Replays confirmed the ball had nicked the bat and should have been called a foul-tip strike three.
Another important clue — independent of Sanchez’s assertion — for Girardi to pick up on was that Chisenhall showed no reaction to allegedly taking a 95 mph fastball to his clasped hand.
The obvious challenge never came. The next batter, Francisco Lindor, launched a game-changing grand slam off the right-field foul pole, setting the stage for Jan Gomes’ 13-inning heroics.
“There was nothing that told us that he was not hit on the pitch,” Girardi said after the game. “By the time we got the super slow-mo, we are beyond a minute. They tell us we have the 30 seconds. They will take longer in replay. And probably being a catcher, my thought is that I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm. That’s how I think about it.”
This explanation doesn’t wash. First of all, the risk-reward of challenging the call was plainly obvious in real time. The two outcomes were either the end of the inning or losing a challenge and being in the same bases-loaded situation. Holding onto a challenge was not of paramount importance because of the five-run lead and the fact close plays would have be automatically initiated after the seventh inning.
Secondly, Girardi’s pitcher wasn’t in any kind of rhythm to begin with. Green had faced two hitters and retired one. He was not in a groove. He was struggling to survive. Additionally, this “groove” notion must be a new belief as anyone familiar with the Yankees knows Sanchez takes as many mid-inning trips to the mound as any catcher in the league.
Girardi really screwed up. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Aroldis Chapman, who took his frustrations out postgame by liking this meme, according to Sports Illustrated.
Down 2-0 in the series, the Yankees must adopt an us-against-the-world mentality. Judging by Chapman’s social media activity, there may also be some us-against-us going on as well.