LADY AT THE BAT: Yankees Stand-Out Bullpen Falters at Wrong Time

Monday, September 15, 2014

Yankees Stand-Out Bullpen Falters at Wrong Time

The only successful thing the New York Yankees did this weekend was prevent themselves from watching the Baltimore Orioles celebrate clinching the A.L. East.

The Yankees lost 3 out of 4 games and, unlike the story for most of the season, 2 of the losses were a direct result of the bullpen being unable to hold the paltry leads the offense was able to scratch out for them.

The Yankees entered Baltimore with momentum on their side and battled the Orioles admirably in the first game of Friday night’s doubleheader. When Chris Young connected on a HR in extra innings it seemed the momentum would continue.

Then Adam Warren, not David Robertson or even Dellin Betances, trotted in from the bullpen. It was the best choice of the remaining options, as Joe Girardi had spent his usual 8th and 9th inning options in their usual place making them unavailable by the 11th inning.

Girardi faced some criticism from the media in the Yankees final series against the Tigers for not bringing in his closer in a tie game on the road. In that series Robertson was sitting in the bullpen watching as the Yankees lost that game and the series. It’s common protocol and most managers do it but, in a season when the common approach didn’t seem to work for the struggling Yankees, the media questioned the strategy.

On Friday afternoon’s game, it seemed that Girardi decided to try it their way. Whether just to show he was willing to adapt or just to shut them up, Girardi pitched Betances and Robertson while the game was tied then called in Warren to close out the 11th inning.

Warren should have been able to do it. He has had a decent season for the Yankees, proving himself a more than capable bridging option in the pen. So he should have been able to do it. Only he couldn’t. He eventually walked the bases loaded and gave up a game-winning double.

Let this be a lesson to those who wonder why managers employ the “save your closer” strategy. Those last three outs are different. It’s difficult to explain. There are three outs in an inning whether it’s the 7th or the 9th but those last three are different. They just are.

Couple that with David Robertson’s inability to lock down a save after a momentum shifting HR by Brian McCann, who has somewhat frustratingly turned his game on about a month too late to really help the team, and it was a bad weekend for the team's only strong point.

Robertson was pitching for his third day in a row so it is difficult to blame him too much. You’d like to think that, when the games matter more, the great athletes turn their game up and rise to the occasion, but is Robertson has not been a three game in a row type of pitcher and he showed it on Sunday night.

For the past few weeks, John Sterling has said on the WFAN broadcasts that, for the Yankees to have any chance of going to the playoffs, they would have to win 90 games.

Well, the Yankees are fourteen games away from 90 wins and, wouldn’t you know it, they have fourteen games left in their season. Personally, I’m holding out hope. In this two Wild Card era, anything can happen. But, with their dismal showing over the weekend, they made the task that much more unlikely.

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