Lots of tonight’s game made the “experts” and fans alike scratch their heads and ask, “why?”. But the end result is hard to argue, even if it wasn’t the neatest, most obvious path to get there.
Tonight, the Yankees began their extended 4-game weekend series in Oakland, sending Ivan Nova to the mound. And I have to say, it was rather nice to see Nova be a bit of SuperNova once again. He threw a rather efficient 62 pitches in 6 innings, giving up just 4 hits, no walks, and 1 run, striking out 3. The lone run he (and the Yankees) allowed was a 1-out solo home run in the 4th inning.
The decision to pull Nova after 6 innings for the Warriors Three (and I still prefer my own designation to them over all other currently used monikers) was one that led many to question Girardi following the game, despite its success. His logic was fairly simple — the game was too close, and he wanted a sure thing. Had the Yankees amped up the offense earlier in the game, perhaps Nova would have gone another couple innings. But when you have the Warriors Three ready to go, I can understand the temptation to give them the nod to set up the win and save. Collectively, Betances-Miller-Chapman breezed through the final 3 innings in 42 pitches, 2 allowed hits and 5 strikeouts.
On the offensive side, the Yankees collected runs every third of the game. In the 3rd inning, with 2 outs, Gardner walked and then scored on Carlos Beltran’s double, though Beltran got stuck at 3rd on a questionable base running and fielding error a bit later (more in a moment). In the 5th, with 1 out, Ackley singled, moved to 3rd on Didi’s single (and out, again more in a moment), and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ double to give the Yankees the lead again. And then in the 9th, with 2 outs and Gardner on base with a walk (again), Beltran hit a solid 2-run home run to give the Yankees a rather nice cushion to go on to win the game.
Final score: 4-1 Yankees
Okay, so let’s a have a small conversation about base running. Like, at this level, players should pretty much be on instinct as to when they should run or not. Like in the 3rd, why didn’t Beltran make a run for home on the error that allowed McCann to reach 1st? It’s 2 outs, so you run on contact regardless. And in the 6th, after Headley got caught wandering too far off 1st base, what was Gregorius thinking as he got tagged out going to 2nd? I mean, the ball was only at 3rd and it’s faster than you in that 90 foot distance.
And it’s not like the Athletics were all that clean on their end of the base running, including one of their star players fracturing his hand after jamming his thumb sliding into to stealing 2nd base on what was a very messy slide. (Sorry about that!)
However, to make up for this, the Yankees defense certainly came through — 2 rather great double plays and what are essentially text book plays for players like Gardner.