Francisco Lindor crushes grand slam after Yankees botch strike three challenge

To the surprise of basically every baseball fan, the Yankees hammered Indians ace Corey Kluber for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Game 2 of the ALDS on Friday. Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks both took Kluber deep.

The Yankees took an 8-3 lead into the sixth inning when all hell break loose. With ace reliever Chad Green laboring, pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall took a fastball to his hands to load the bases with two outs for the Indians. Or so it appeared.

Sanchez immediately pointed out the ball hit the knob of the bat. Chisenhall didn't react either. Usually a fastball to the hand equals pain, but Chisenhall expressed zero anguish.

Here's the pitch:

That should have been a foul tip strike three to end the inning, strand two runners, and preserve New York's 8-3 lead. The home plate umpire called it a hit-by-pitch and hey, I don't blame him. It's easy to think that was a pitch to the hand.

Hit-by-pitches are, of course, reviewable. Here's the rule:

Hit by pitch: Calls involving whether a pitched ball may have hit a player, a piece of his clothing or his bat. Whether the ball was in the strike zone when it touched the batter and whether the batter made any attempt to avoid being touched by the ball is not be reviewable.

The key phrase there is "or his bat." Had the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi asked for a review of the Chisenhall hit-by-pitch, it would've been overturned and called a foul tip strike three to end the inning. Instead, the Yankees never reviewed it, and you know what happened next:

The non-challenge on the would-be inning-ending strikeout extended the inning and allowed Francisco Lindor to hit the huge grand slam that turned an 8-3 game into an 8-7 game. In the eighth, Jay Bruce took David Robertson deep to tie the game 8-8. In 13th, Yan Gomes yanked a single down the line for a walk-off 9-8 win (box score):

Who knows, maybe if the Yankees challenge the would-be strikeout, they go on to blow the lead anyway. Baseball is weird like that. They didn't challenge though, and Lindor did hit the grand slam, and the Yankees did go on to lose the game. Here are some quick numbers on the turn of events:

  • Yankees win probability had strike three been called: 97.3 percent
  • Yankees win probability after the hit-by-pitch: 93.2 percent
  • Yankees win probability after the grand slam: 68.4 percent

Basically a 30 percentage point swing in win probability between the non-strike three challenge and grand slam, which is massive. Keep in mind teams have two challenges in the postseason, not one. And the Yankees still did not use one on what would've been an inning-ending strikeout.

Following the game, Girardi explained his decision not to challenge, and his reason was ... not good. Here's his answer:

"There was nothing that told us he was not hit on the pitch. By the time we got the super slo-mo, we were a minute -- probably beyond a minute -- and it was way too late. They tell us we have 30 seconds ... Being an (ex-catcher), my thought is I never want to break a pitcher's rhythm. That's how I think about it."

Yikes. That doesn't make sense! Sanchez was yelling for a replay, so that right there should've told Girardi something was up. Secondly, he didn't want to break up the pitcher's rhythm? That seems like the worst possible reason not to challenge. I get the feeling Green wouldn't been perfectly fine having his rhythm broken up by sitting in the dugout with a five-run lead after the call was overturned.

Simply put, this is Girardi's Buck Showalter/Zach Britton moment. That colossal and inexplicable decision -- or indecision, in this case -- that costs his team a postseason game. The Indians now lead the ALDS two games to none. They haven't lost three straight games since July.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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