Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
A quick glance at the stats tells you all you need to know about the vaunted Yankee offense in the AL Championship Series, particularly when you scroll down to the names Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
The young stars -- perhaps the biggest two reasons why the Yanks were second in the majors in runs this season -- have been brutal so far in the playoffs, except for a moment or two. Of course, those moments have faded, just like the good feelings from the Yanks' stirring revival in the previous playoff round against the Indians. That's how badly the duo is struggling against Houston now.
But with today's Hot Take Universe offering all kinds of solutions (we'll have one for the Yankee offense in a moment, too, bear with us) Joe Girardi must resist any urge to take Judge out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup, and should not consider using Sanchez as the designated hitter and replacing him behind the plate with Austin Romine.
Here's why: Those are panic moves.
Why should the Yankees panic when they've played two taut games like this? It's not like they are being completely outclassed. Both games were 2-1 losses with their biggest offensive threats, Judge and Sanchez, putting up numbers like this: 0-for-8 combined with four strikeouts in Game 2 and are 1-for-14 with 8 Ks in the ALCS overall.
So don't give the pair reason to mope. Or let them think they're being punished for failure to perform in this October cauldron, especially when these latest struggles have come against Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, the twin Houston aces who were both marvelous in their starts. Playing with the lineup feels like unnecessary fiddling with the assets that delivered the Yankees to the playoffs a year or so early. It would make Girardi seem desperate.
For now, Girardi seems to be set on the status quo, which is the right move. There's a workout day Sunday, though, and the issue clearly will be discussed among Yankee decision-makers.
"I'm going to stick with the same lineup because things can turn really quickly," Girardi said in his post-Game 2 press conference in an immediate vote of confidence for the duo.
"There's a lot of guys that struggle in the postseason. That's just what it is. If you just start moving people around trying to play a hot hand, it doesn't necessarily work. They will have a day off (Sunday) and they will get back on track."
They need to, particularly because now the Yankees must win four out of five against Houston to advance, and Keuchel and Verlander will start once more apiece in the series. Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, only three of 28 teams that fell behind, 2-0, have won the series. That's just 10.7 percent.
Judge is 4-for-31 (.129) with 19 strikeouts and only one home run this October; Sanchez is 6-for-34 (.177) with 15 whiffs and two homers. When pitchers have made mistakes against them, Judge and Sanchez haven't done enough to make them pay.
"I think they're seeing a lot of good pitching," Girardi opined. "They're making pitches on these kids. And maybe are they trying a little bit too hard? Yeah, of course. But I think everyone out there's probably trying a little bit too hard."
And Sanchez didn't corral a ball he thought he should've in the ninth inning Saturday on the play where the Astros scored the winning run, so there's a lot swirling around the young catcher.
It all adds up to a potentially-combustible mix of frustration and pressure. No need to give Judge and Sanchez anything more to chew on by changing their role or shifting the lineup.
Especially since it won't be Keuchel or Verlander starting the first two games in the Bronx. Charlie Morton and Brad Peacock are not the same ace-level, so why not give Judge and Sanchez a fuss-less chance to redeem themselves?
If Girardi must tinker, here's a suggestion: Use Jacoby Ellsbury as the designated hitter Monday against the righty Morton. The DH spot has been nothing but outs all postseason - Yankee designated hitters are 0-for-27 after Chase Headley was 0-for-3 Saturday, though Josh Reddick took a hit away from him with a sterling play.
Ellsbury's part of that, since he's 0-for-9. But maybe Ellsbury can get on and swipe a bag - the Astros only threw out 12.1% of basestealers this season. At some point, the Yankees are going to challenge the Astros, and Houston is not going to be able to make a perfect play, like the club has twice in the series, throwing out Greg Bird at the plate in Game 1 and Brett Gardner at third in Game 2.
The speed game - the Yanks were tops in steal percentage this year, 80.4% -- could come in handy if Morton pitches well Monday. He threw four shutout innings against the Yankees in May before they got to him and he ended up allowing four runs in 5.2 innings with 10 strikeouts.
Something's got to give with both offenses, especially considering they combined for 1,754 runs this year.
With series standing at 2-0 Astros, the Yankees better hope their offense explodes first. Judge and Sanchez could go a long way toward making that happen if they start making contact.