Joe Girardi escaped the executioner, and the Indians are awful in elimination games.
Well, not many people saw that one coming. Although maybe people should have seeing as the Indians are abysmal at getting the job done in elimination games (more on that later).
The Yankees came back from two games down to win three straight, including a final face off on Cleveland’s turf, to punch their ticket for a series against the Houston Astros.
New York might not have had as stellar a regular season as the Indians did, but they have young players who are interesting to root for and they just proved they have the wherewithal to handle seemingly dominant teams even when it looks like their chances are slim to none.
Here, three things we learned from that unexpected ALDS.
Joe Girardi just saved his job
While it wasn’t a certainty that he would have been shown the door if the Yankees lost this series, he’d been on the job for a decade, and the arguments on sending him up the river to live a nice long life in a TV studio or as an advisor to some other team’s owner were easy enough for management to find at this point.
What sealed his potential axing was Game 2’s botched decision making on what should have been an easy challenge, which ultimately cost the Yankees the game and almost the series.
If he hadn’t messed that up so thoroughly but still lost the series, there’s a slim chance that he could have stayed in his position, but that’s not likely.
Based on his comments after the game and his reaction to winning, he knows it too.
A relieved Girardi on Yankees rebounding from a horrible Game 2 loss: “For me, what these guys did for me, I’ll never forget it.”
— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) October 12, 2017
Joe Girardi’s reaction to making the ALCS https://t.co/rEXiYa9pQa
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 12, 2017
That challenge play laid out all of his issues — or perceived issues — plain as day. Questionable decision making, not trusting his own players (as he ignored Gary Sanchez’s assertions that he should challenge), and not immediately owning up to his apparent mistake.
What do you get for a team that just saved your ass with an improbable win? Is a gift basket enough? Jeter probably has a dedicated guy for that, Girardi can just call in a favor with him.
Cleveland is still astonishingly bad at closing out elimination games
Oh my dear lord above, how is it that they are SO BAD AT THIS. How? How does this keep happening?
I mean, just luck wise they should be winning more elimination games than they are. By the pure randomness of the universe they should be better in the playoffs. If you made all things equal and threw a random sprinkling of luck across the playing field, the Indians would have to have won more important postseason games than this.
With three chances to close things out this year, they lost all three games. They’ve now lost six clinching opportunities in a row when you go back to last year’s tragic mess.
If you go all the way back to their heartbreak in 1997, they’ve now lost eight straight elimination games. In order: Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, Game 6 of the 1998 ALCS, Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS, Game 5 of the 2001 ALDS, Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS, the 2013 AL Wild Card game, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, and Thursday night.
Their batting average in those games? .217.
Their runs per game? 3.38.
Their combined team ERA? 5.65.
Holy collapses, Batman, that’s not at all the way to win a baseball game.
The good news is that this can’t keep happening forever. At some point, they’re going to win another elimination game. They have to. Right? They have to?
Oh let’s face it, it’s the Indians they don’t have to do anything. This could keep going for another 20 years.
Never meet your heroes…in the postseason
This is more of an “all the time in the playoffs” learning lesson, but it was put nicely on display by this series.
“Trevor Bauer or Corey Kluber?” was the original big decision that Cleveland manager Terry Francona had to make entering Game 1.
It worked out for him like gangbusters, with Bauer going 6 2⁄3 innings, allowing two hits and no runs in the 4-0 Cleveland win, and walking just one batter but striking out eight. After that it should have been home free with his rotation after that — but then his ace Corey Kluber fell apart in Game 2. And Game 5. Not ideal. He got run in 2 2⁄3 innings in the former and 3 2⁄3 innings in the latter.
Jose Ramirez was also a non-factor for the Indians, disappearing just as the Yankees hoped he would. He went 2-for-20 in the series, striking out seven times, and didn’t help plate a run. Francisco Lindor too, had a dismal series line of 2-for-18 with six strikeouts at the plate. He, at least, got a shining moment in Game 2 when he capitalized on Girardi’s challenge flub and hit a grand slam to get the Indians within one run, putting them in position to eventually win.
The Yankees already got a taste of this lovely feeling with Luis Severino’s quick exit, but they got it doubly so with Aaron Judge being a complete nonentity in this ALDS. He set a postseason record for strikeouts in a series with 12 because postseason pitching is real bitch sometimes, and went a painful 1-for-20 at the plate. That one hit was a double that drove two runs in, so he at least contributed one way offensively.
But his Sahara-level dry spell in the ALDS made his post-All-Star Break drought look like a brief water shortage in a suburban neighborhood where everybody complains about not being able to water their lawns for a few days.
Gary Sanchez went 4-for-22 in the series, and thankfully for New York they had people like Didi Gregorius, Brett Gardner, and Todd Frazier to compensate at various important junctures. Those absences didn’t hurt them as much as you’d expect, or as much as Kluber and Ramirez and Lindor’s absence hurt Cleveland.
Taken collectively though, it’s a gentle reminder that you shouldn’t rely on the usual suspects once the regular season is complete. The postseason is a hot mess for some stars, and an all out catastrophe for others.