Should the Yankees have turned to their closer while down by a run in the ninth inning on Friday night?
Manager Aaron Boone left Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen and went with Domingo German for a second inning in his first appearance in two months. He then decided to relieve for him with Albert Abreu with two runners on base with one out in the ninth. Both runners ended up scoring in an eventual 4-3 loss to the Rays at the Stadium.
Chapman had thrown 22 pitches in the ninth inning Thursday night in Toronto, but the seven-time All-Star warmed up Friday while the Yankees were batting in the eighth.
YES analyst John Flaherty, on the postgame show, was critical of Boone’s decision to not use Chapman in the ninth.
German hadn’t pitched since July 31 due to a shoulder injury, despite being activated from the injured list nine days ago. He recorded three strikeouts bridging the final two frames before walking two in the ninth. Both runners scored with Abreu pitching to extend Tampa Bay’s 2-1 lead to 4-1.
“Like I’ve been saying every day when asked about him, he’s going to be in some difficult situations. We have to lean on everyone down there,” Boone said of German after the game. “I thought he came in and threw the ball well.
“Obviously, the [walks] there hurt him to knock him out of the game. But I thought overall he threw the ball pretty well.”
The Yankees’ bullpen has received multiple boosts over the past two weeks. Luis Severino returned last month from 2020 Tommy John surgery, and the two-time All-Star has tossed six scoreless innings over four relief appearances since Sept. 21.
Jonathan Loaisiga also was activated from the injured list this week and threw a scoreless inning Wednesday in Toronto before recording a strikeout of the Rays’ Wander Franco with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning Friday.
German hadn’t pitched since he was activated from the IL on Sept. 22, but Boone stressed before the game that “at some point, he is going to find himself in there.”
“I’d love to get him in there in a lower-medium leverage situation where he can pitch a couple innings and get his feet wet,” Boone said. “But he might find himself in there in a humongous spot, as well. I do feel like he’s ready for that.”
That spot arrived Friday for the 29-year-old German, who replaced Loaisiga with the Yankees trailing 2-1 to open the eighth. Following a one-out single by Yandy Diaz, German struck out Ji-Man Choi and Manuel Margot to end the inning. He also struck out Joey Wendle to open the ninth before walking Francisco Mejia and Kevin Kiermaier.
Boone then replaced German, who was at 32 pitches, with Abreu. He recorded one out before surrendering a two-run single by Franco that made the score 4-1. The Yankees rallied for two runs in the ninth, but Gary Sanchez and Rougned Odor struck out with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
“Just felt like matchup-wise it was good, and I thought Albert did a good job also of getting [Randy] Arozarena out. He puts Franco on the ground, and he just found a hole with it,” Boone said of the decision to use Abreu to follow German. “But I thought he came in and threw the ball well.”