For the second year in a row, the New York Yankees are winners of the AL Wild Card Game. They took care of business in Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, beating the 97-win Oakland Athletics, 7-2. It wasn't as easy as that score might look. The Yankees were only up 2-0 entering the sixth inning, but a four-run sixth gave them some breathing room which was enough to hold off a late Khris Davis two-run homer in the eighth.
Here is everything you need to know.
The Judge and jury
The Yankees got a quick lead in the first inning when Aaron Judge did his thing:
Think his wrist is OK?
That 2-0 score would hold through five innings. In the sixth, Judge led off with a double and then scored on Aaron Hicks' double. To the point of having a 3-0 lead in the sixth, it was all about Aaron Judge when it came to the Yankees offense.
That is, until ...
Voit's cult hero status continues to swell
The Yankees got Luke Voit on July 29 from the Cardinals for relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. All Voit did the rest of the regular season was hit .333/.405/.689 with 14 homers and 33 RBI in 39 games (148 plate appearances). He's become a bit of an instant legend in Yankees fan circles.
His full count, two-RBI triple in the sixth inning against the best reliever in the American League is only continuing to raise his stock:
That inning pretty much ended it. A six-run deficit with just three innings to go against the Yankees bullpen is too tall a hill to climb, even for a team as powerful as the A's.
Severino came out dominant, but needed Betances in the fifth
Yankees starter Luis Severino had a, we'll say, less-than-balanced season. As such, it was impossible to know what to expect. As my colleague Mike Axisa pointed out in the live chat, absolutely nothing on the board would have been surprising. Shutout? Yeah, I could see that. Chased in the first inning? We've already seen that (Wild Card Game last year).
This time around, he came out firing bullets, striking out two in a perfect first inning. He struck out the side around one walk in the second. An error and two walks had him in trouble in the fourth, but he got Marcus Semien swinging on a 100-mile-per-hour heater to end the threat.
It wasn't surprising Severino was getting guys on his fastball. After all ...
Most Ks on pitches 98+ mph this year:— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) October 4, 2018
54 -- Luis Severino
43 -- Gerrit Cole
37 -- Aroldis Chapman
Severino gets two Ks in the 1st inning tonight, both at 98.7 mph.
What was surprising was that Severino got really heavy into his off-speed stuff, particularly the changeup, and it started to cause him to lose command. He ended up walking four in four innings of work.
Still, Severino struck out seven. He got to the fifth inning without having allowed a hit. Because of baseball being baseball, he promptly gave up two singles and the Yankees needed to summon Dellin Betances. It was a tough spot, because the A's 2-3-4 hitters (Matt Chapman, Jed Lowrie and Khris Davis) were coming up.
The big righty would get the job done, getting two flyouts and striking out Davis to end the big threat.
'Opener' dinged early
This was a bullpen game for the A's, whose options in the relief corps are much more talented than those in the rotation, but the concept of an "opener" has become pretty polarizing, so there was bound to be a high level of scrutiny on the A's pitchers. Again, I have "opener" in quotes because this was a bullpen game, not a situation when a reliever goes one inning before a starting pitcher then goes as far as he can, but people were still calling Liam Hendriks an "opener."
It didn't take long for old-school pitchers Ron Darling and Dennis Eckersley to get some material on the matter, either. Andrew McCutchen drew a walk to start the game and then Judge dropped the hammer on Hendriks.
Hendriks would get the next three batters out, but the early damage was done.
Trivino, Kelley were strong, though
Next up in the bullpen game was rookie Lou Trivino. After an infield single and walk, you could start to hear the old school crowd start to crow, but then Trivino dialed up a double play and would go on to retire eight straight, four on strikeouts.
Shawn Kelley got the fifth inning and he pitched around a hit for another scoreless inning.
Basically, getting to the sixth and having allowed only two runs while your best relievers were still available means that you can't call this strategy a failure.
Melvin's decisions in sixth seem questionable; Treinen struggles
A's manager Bob Melvin went to Fernando Rodney to start the sixth inning with the heart of the Yankees order due up. After he allowed doubles to both Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, Melvin summoned his ace reliever: Blake Treinen.
Treinen had a stupid-good regular season, pitching to a 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 100 strikeouts against 18 unintentional walks in 80 1/3 innings. He's gone multiple innings many times and even went three innings once.
I know the two doubles are what made him more aggressive, but if Melvin was willing to use Treinen with no outs in the sixth inning, why didn't he just start the inning with him and see how long he could make it? Jeurys Familia and Rodney still would have been available if Treinen ran out of gas in the eighth.
As things turned out, Treinen would walk a guy before giving up the death knell in the form of Voit's two-RBI triple. Voit would score on a Didi Gregorius sac fly and it was 6-0 just like that. We have no way of knowing how things would have unfolded had Treinen just gotten the ball for a clean inning, but my hunch is he would've fared better.
Treinen later coughed up this moonshot to Giancarlo Stanton:
Treinen ends up with three earned runs charged to him in this game. He allowed just two earned runs in the entire second half (32 1/3 innings).
Overall, I loved the idea of the reliever game and how Melvin executed it for the most part, but this inning left me a bit surprised.
Boone was aggressive
It's a do-or-die game and managers shouldn't be waiting around for things to fix themselves. First-year Yankees manager Aaron Boone was hands-on in this one. He took Severino out in the fifth inning even though he hadn't yet allowed a run. Then he went more quickly than usual to defense-first. Miguel Andujar -- who had already made two bad throws, including an error -- was pulled for a defensive replacement (Adeiny Hechavarria) for the start of the sixth inning. Think about that one. It was a 2-0 game and Boone yanked one of his best bats to protect the lead for four innings in the field.
Hechavarria made an unbelievably leaping catch in the top of the seventh, too.
The A's keep losing the biggest postseason games
For whatever reason, the A's under Billy Beane just haven't been able to make deep postseason runs.
- From 2000-03, the A's lost in the ALDS in Game 5, all four years.
- In 2006, they advanced to the ALCS after sweeping the Twins, but then got swept by the Tigers.
- In 2012-13, they lost in -- brace yourself -- Game 5 of the ALDS both times.
- In 2014, they lost the Wild Card Game in extra innings despite having a 7-3 lead heading to the eighth.
Tossing out the sweep at the hands of the Tigers, with everything else listed above along with the 2018 wild card loss, the A's have lost eight consecutive winner-takes-all games. That is the longest such streak in MLB history, per stat guru Katie Sharp.
I don't think we can point to much more than coincidence here, so my main takeaway is to feel for A's fans.
Fun fact 1
The Wild Card Game has only been around for the past seven seasons. Andrew McCutchen has played in it four times.
Fun fact 2
Gleyber Torres (21 years, 294 days) is youngest Yankee to start a postseason game since 20-year-old Mickey Mantle in 1952 World Series.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 4, 2018
Next up: Yankees-Red Sox
The Red Sox went 108-54 this season. Can you imagine how it would feel to have that season and then see the 100-win Yankees come into the ALDS as the Wild Card Game winner and knock them off? On the flip-side, New England-area fans are probably licking their chops at the chance to vanquish the Yankees -- who got a lot more attention this past offseason.
It all starts Friday in Fenway Park. You can stream every game on fuboTV (Try for free). Giddyup!
Yankees vs. A's: Relive Wild Card Game commentary
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