The 55th installment of Jake Schoeneberger’s opinions on the Yankees
After winning the AL East and clinching the 2nd AL seed in the playoffs, the Yanks set themselves up for a first-round bye and headed straight to the AL Division Series. They awaited the winner of the Rays-Guardians series, and the Guardians took the first 2 games of that series at home, setting themselves up for a trip to the Bronx to open the ALDS. The Guardians won the clinching game on a walk-off homer in the 15th inning, so they’ll be riding a high into this series. The Astros will welcome the Mariners in the other AL series as the M’s staged a dramatic comeback to win their series over the Jays.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts in random order on the ALDS from Jacob Schoeneberger:
Rotation and Roster
Before the series even began, some big news came about the rotation and roster, and those left off. The first major news to drop was Aroldis Chapman being left off the roster because he skipped a mandatory workout. Say whaaaaaaaat? What’s with this guy? It’s been pretty apparent for a while that he hasn’t been happy with his role on the team. We all get it. He took an injury, became ineffective, and lost his closer role to Holmes. That’s baseball and that’s life. Keep in mind Holmes was an All-Star and was basically unhittable the 1st half of the season. He earned that closer role.
When Chappy returned, he wavered between being really good and being really unable to find the strike zone. It was hard to know what to expect when he took the mound. But he had a role, and he definitely could have helped the team succeed in the playoffs, with his experience and the ability to be lights-out when he’s on. Now that’s out the window, at least for this series. It’s doubtful he’ll pitch again for the Yanks, and I want to be very clear about this: Jake Schoeneberger feels the team is weaker because of this. Yes, obviously the team’s hands are tied, and he had to be left off the roster because he skipped the workout. But this hurts the team. And fair or not, Yankee fans may remember Chappy more for the way he’s now ditched the team with the playoffs looming, and the look on his face as he surrendered those season-ending homers in the playoffs, rather than all the good times he’s provided.
Boone announced that Cole will be the Game 1 starter, followed by Nestor for Game 2 and Sevy for Game 3. This is understandable. If he’d given Nestor the ball in Game 1, it would be hard to argue that decision. Nestor has been the team’s ace all year. But he’s going with the experience of Cole and I’m on board with that call. No need to make Nestor’s first playoff experience having to start Game 1. Plus, Cole has said how hungry he is to prove himself so hopefully he’ll reward this decision with a solid outing.
Going with Sevy in Game 3 over Taillon is another understandable call. Sevy has playoff experience, and he was looking pretty sharp at the end of the season. Taillon deserves to see the ball in his hands though so hopefully he and German will get some bullpen action in this series.
When the roster was announced, the only real surprises were that Carpenter made the list, and DJ and Effross are off. Carpenter being there is a huge win. Having his experienced left-handed bat will really help. Losing DJ and Effross to their respective injuries is tough. DJ swings a clutch bat and doesn’t feel the weight of the pressure. Effross would be huge to have, especially now that Chappy isn’t on the roster. But it was unfortunately also announced that Effross will need season-ending Tommy John surgery. Huge bummer there.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: The playoffs are a different animal. The at-bats are tougher, the pitchers are locked in on every pitch, the pressure is high. This Yankees team has more playoff experience than Cleveland, but experience doesn’t win games. They’ll have to earn it.
Game 1 – Cole Delivers
Cole followed through on his promise and provided a gem in the 1st game of the series, leading the team to a 4-1 victory. He turned in 6.1 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits and striking out 8. The 1 run he surrendered was a 1-out homer to Kwan in the 3rd inning that put the Guardians ahead.
That lead was short-lived, however, when Bader hit a solo shot in the bottom of the 3rd to tie the game 1-1. Bader became the first Yankee ever to hit his first homer for the team in a postseason game. Quite a special moment for him!
Donaldson made a huge mistake in the 5th inning when he thought a ball he hit was a homer and started trotting the bases. But the ball wasn’t out, and he got thrown out trying to get back to 1st. The bad news is obviously you can’t make this mistake in a playoff game (or any game for that matter). But the good news is his teammates picked him up and the team didn’t suffer for this. I’m sure Boone will tell him not to make that mistake again, especially in the postseason. Run hard until you see the ump circling his fingers then go into your trot. But no need to make a huge deal out of this.
Trevino knocked a run in later in the 5th (could have been a bigger inning if Donaldson had hustled), then Rizzo delivered the big knock that sealed it with a 2-run homer in the 6th. Loaisiga got the last 2 outs in the 7th after Cole departed, Peralta pitched the 8th and got the first out of the 9th, the Holmes came in and finished off the final 2 batters for the big win.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: Focus is everything in the playoffs. The team was locked in for this game, despite the one mental blunder. If they can continue this, they can keep getting tough wins. Nestor is next, hopefully he can continue with his magical season.
Game 2 – Guards Bounce Back
The Guardians earned a hard-fought extra innings win in Game 2. Nestor started for the Yanks and gave the team 5 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits. Not a bad outing as he kept the team in it.
The lineup was held in check by the Cleveland pitchers though. After Stanton hit a 2-run shot off Bieber in the 1st inning, the Yankee hitters went to sleep and were held scoreless the next 9 innings. That’s not gonna cut it.
One thing Jacob Schoeneberger has to take exception to was the fact that Yankee fans were heard booing Judge as he turned in an 0-5 day with 4 strikeouts. Look, I get it. He’s had a few rough playoff outings in a row here. He had 3 strikeouts in the game 1 win, and now these 4 K’s look kinda bad. But let’s be very clear here. This Yankee team isn’t even in the playoffs if he doesn’t lead the league in homers and RBIs all year, and come up just a few percentage points short of the Triple Crown.
If Aaron Judge had had even an average year, the Yankees aren’t playing playoff baseball. If he had 30 homers and about 100 RBIs, hit around .260 or so, the Yankees are golfing right now. Please, give me a break people. I realize these fans were the minority but that’s the kind of ridiculous garbage that makes all Yankee fans look bad. It’s obvious he’s pressing too hard here, it doesn’t take a genius to see that. But show the Big Man the respect he’s earned. I don’t care if he goes completely hitless in this series. He carried the team to this point.
Taillon gave up 2 runs in the 10th to take the loss. It was the 1st time he’d ever pitched out of the bullpen, and he gave up the 2 runs on 3 hits and didn’t record an out. Schmidt then came in after him to get the inning, but it begs the question: Why not give the ball to Schmidt to start the 10th? Shouldn’t Taillon have been used only if it had gone into later innings? He has no bullpen experience. Schmidt didn’t pitch in Game 1 so he was rested and available. Interesting decision from Boone and it cost them.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: No one ever said the playoffs would be easy. The pressure is on, and teams have earned their places here. Anyone who thought this Guardians team would just roll over for the “mighty” Yankees was fooling themselves. This Guardians team is young, plays with energy, and is brimming with confidence. Now they head to Cleveland with a chance to end this series there.
Game 3 – Guardians Rally to Walk it Off
The 3rd game was a thriller, but a tough one to swallow for Yankee fans. Sevy got the start and was solid. He turned in 5.2 innings, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and striking out 6. A very representative effort and he left with the team holding the lead. Couldn’t really ask for more from the guy.
Judge (who was booed in the Bronx) cranked a 2-run jack in the 3rd inning that tied the game. Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that he hit his record-tying and record-breaking home runs in away stadiums, after not being able to hit them at home? And now he hits another big playoff homer in Cleveland after struggling at home. It’s almost as if the fans in New York actually hurt the performances of their players by being so hard on them. Or maybe it’s just a big coincidence. Maybe he really does want to sign a long-term deal to play for fans who boo him when he struggles for a couple games. Here’s to hoping. Eyeroll.
Cabrera hit a big 2-run homer in the 5th to put the Yanks on top, then Bader hit his 2nd homer of the series to make the score 5-3 in the 7th. Then things came apart for the Yanks in the 9th. Schmidt had the ball because Boone didn’t want to use Holmes in 3 straight games. Hmmm, ok I get that the guy came off the IL to start the playoffs. I get that he’s still getting stronger. But this is the playoffs. I won’t knock the decision too much because Schmidt has been solid, but this just wasn’t his night.
The Guardians peppered him with hits in the 9th, and with 2 outs and the bases loaded Gonzalez singled in the tying and winning runs to clinch a thriller for Cleveland. It hurts as a Yankee fan, but you have to tip your cap to the Guardians. This team plays hard all the way through, and they’ve set themselves up with a home game to try to advance to the ALCS. All credit in the world goes to those guys.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over (especially in the playoffs). I can’t take credit for that nugget of wisdom, but it certainly holds true on a game like this. But the series isn’t over for the Guardians either, even after this dramatic win. Cole gets the ball in Game 4, and he won’t let this season end without a fight.
Game 4 – Cole Saves the Season
Cole has lived up to what he promised. He told the fans that he was hungry for redemption after some lackluster playoff performances the past couple years and he has delivered in this ALDS. He won Game 1 and now he’s carried the team in Game 4 as well. He turned in a masterful performance, going 7 innings and allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits while striking out 8. This is an instant classic performance with the season on the line, and I for one have to show him some huge respect. I’ve criticized him in the past, but he really stepped up and delivered in this series.
Bader cranked his 3rd homer of the series, a 2-run shot in the 2nd inning that put the team up 3-1. I definitely criticized the trade to get him, because it cost the team a starting pitcher that I feel still has great potential, but I have to tip my cap to the way he’s playing right now. He’s not feeling any pressure wearing the pinstripes. He’s come to play hard and give the team everything he has. Huge props to Harrison Bader.
Holmes pitched a scoreless 8th and Peralta threw a scoreless 9th for the save as the team grabbed a 4-2 win to keep the season alive. That’s exactly how you would have scripted that game so now it’s back to New York for a winner-take-all Game 5.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: Deciding games are decided by standout performances. The Yankees will give the ball to Taillon for the start and I’m glad he’ll get his chance to redeem himself. He’ll be more comfortable starting the game and I hope he can deliver in a big way. But this lineup needs to find itself. Someone needs to seize the moment and carry the team to the next round. Whose bat will step up when the team needs it most?
Game 5 – Yanks Take It
After Game 5 was rained out on Monday, MLB enjoyed a historical first on Tuesday when the Yanks and Guardians played the final game of the ALDS while the Phils and Padres started the NLCS on the same day. That’s never happened before, pretty cool.
The Yanks wasted no time jumping on the Guardians. Stanton cranked a 3-run jack in the 1st inning, Judge smacked a solo shot in the 2nd, and the Yanks never looked back. (The Judge home run marked the 4th time he’s homered in a deciding postseason game and is a new record. That’s pretty amazing, congrats to the Big Guy!)
With the rainout, Boone elected to go with Cortes on short rest instead of Taillon and the decision worked out in a big way. Nestor cruised through 5 innings, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits. Loaisiga came in for 2 scoreless innings, Holmes threw a scoreless 8th, then Peralta slammed the door with a scoreless 9th to seal a 5-1 victory for the Yanks.
Unfortunately, the win came with a price. Cabrera and Hicks collided in the 3rd inning as they both chased a foul pop-up in left field. Hicks took a season-ending knee injury in the collision so that’s the last we’ll see of him in these playoffs. That’s a real shame because while he’s struggled pretty badly this season, he still plays solid defense and can string together good at-bats when the pressure is on. Now that’s lost.
And the celebration had to be pretty short, as the Yanks boarded a flight almost immediately after the game down to Houston, where the Astros await them. Houston dispatched the M’s, sweeping their series and winning the deciding game 1-0 in 18 innings. They are well-rested and ready to go on their home field.
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: Celebrate, but keep it in check. The Yankees definitely deserved to crack some champagne after this series. The Guardians played good baseball and came very close to taking this series. The Yanks stayed tough and flexed their muscles to claim the series, but having to play Game 1 the day after a deciding Game 5 is hard. Gotta keep the celebrating to a minimum on this one.
The Jake Schoeneberger Random Yankees Thought of the Day
If there’s a single Jacob Schoeneberger Baseball Nugget of Wisdom it’s this: To be the best, you have to beat the best. Houston had the best record in the AL and seemed destined for the ALCS all season. Now here we go again. The Yanks have to find a way to beat a team that has had their number for a while now.