Tuesday was a good day for the Yankees, with the possible exception of pitcher Luis Severino, who spent barely more time on the field at Yankee Stadium than the grounds crew on their fifth-inning infield cleanup.
Severino threw 29 pitches to six batters, two of which were hit for homers, one for a double, one for a single, and four to Jorge Polanco missed the plate, which probably beat the alternative. Severino got one out and was gone, and the Yankees’ 8-4 win might have been a precursor of a lot of postseason games to come: it was reduced to home runs and bullpens.
On that count, the Yankees will beat the Twins. By any count, the Yankees will beat the Twins in the postseason — they’ve played five series since 2003 and the Yankees have won them all, and of those 15 postseason games, the Yankees have won 13, including the last seven.
For a game constructed on drama, this one lacked any once Didi Gegrorius tied it in the bottom of the first.
Fox analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz said in a radio interview before the game Tuesday that he’s “not a fan of the wild-card game. I don’t think it belongs in our sport. … I just don’t think it should be one game,” and endorsed a two-of-three wild-card round.
Oy. The last thing MLB needs is four more hours of the Yankees beating the Twins. The problem with Tuesday’s game wasn’t that the wild-card game doesn’t belong in MLB, but that the Twins didn’t belong in the wild-card game.
That’s not the Twins’ fault. They had a good season compared to last year and improved by 26 games, but their participation had the feel of a high school tourney where every team in the district is allowed in. Five teams in the American League had winning records, and the Twins were the fifth. They were it.
(I don’t think Smoltz’s rant against the wild-card games has anything to do with his network not carrying them. I wish they did. Or local TV, even if it meant Michael Kay yelling “see ya” again and again. I made it five outs on ESPN before turning the volume down, or barely longer than Severino).
Beating the Twins was the good news Yankees fans expected. Indians manager Terry Francona opting for Trevor Bauer over Corey Kluber in Game 1 Thursday was the good news they didn’t expect.
There are reasons for Francona’s decision — the divisional series has two off days, so Kluber can still start Game 5; he wants Bauer at home where he has a 3.93 ERA compared to 4.54 on the road — but it’s still curious.
In a best-of-five series, it seems best to keep it simple. Start your ace and pitch him as often and whenever you need him.
Francona: “The growth (Bauer’s) made, not just being a teammate but as a pitcher, he’s come a long way and we’re proud of him. And he’s continuing to work and he takes feedback, he asks for feedback. Trevor’s done a heck of a job. I mean, for him to get the ball in Game 1 speaks volumes. Trevor will never back down from a challenge and we love that about him.”
Francona has won two World Series, three pennants and almost 1,500 games, so he knows what of he speaks. But his infatuation with Bauer is bizzare; he used Bauer out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the World Series last year ahead of Dan Otero, a reliever with an OPS almost 200 points lower than Bauer’s. I’ll guess the Yankees love that Francona loves that about Bauer, too.
And anything Francona said about Bauer is probably more true of Kluber. Francona shouldn’t be worried about Bauer backing down from the Yankees’ challenge, but meeting it.
By starting Bauer in Game 1 instead of Kluber, the latter is no longer available to start Game 4, except on two days rest. That won’t be a small point if the Indians trail 2-1 and Francona’s options at Yankee Stadium are Bauer and Josh Tomlin.
And if Bauer loses Game 1, it won’t be only Indians fans old enough who will make comparisons to 1954, when their team won 111 games in the regular season and were swept in the World Series.
If you’re only assured of three more games, why delay using your best pitcher? Francona’s decision has the feel of someone very smart overthinking something very simple. Normally, that works out about as well as Luis Severino’s start Tuesday.
Correction: An earlier version said Francona has managed two pennant winners. He’s managed three — two with the Red Sox and one with the Indians.