NEW YORK — After a crushing loss, Yankees manager Joe Girardi spent the night pondering his decision not to challenge a critical hit-by-pitch call during a game-changing sixth inning.
"I screwed up."
Girardi took the blame Saturday after his call not to challenge possibly shifted the complexion of New York’s 9-8, 13-inning defeat in Game 2 of an AL Division Series against Cleveland.
"I take responsibility for everything," Girardi said during a day off. "And I feel horrible about it."
New York trails 2-0 in the best-of-five series. Game 3 is Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.
With New York ahead 8-3 Friday, Cleveland’s Lonnie Chisenhall was awarded first by plate umpire Dan Iassogna on an inside pitch by reliever Chad Green.
Catcher Gary Sanchez immediately asked Girardi to challenge, and slow-motion replays showed that the ball hit the knob of Chisenhall’s bat. The question was whether it first grazed Chisenhall’s hand.
Plate umpires often rely on sound more than sight on such plays, making calls based on what they hear — as in, did a pitch nick the body, the bat or both? To get the ruling reversed, an umpire in the replay room would’ve needed definitive proof the ball completely missed Chisenhall’s hand.
Sanchez caught the 0-2 pitch, which would have been an inning-ending third strike if ruled a foul tip.
Girardi relies on coaching assistant Brett Weber to scour replays before challenging. Weber didn’t see anything conclusive in the 30-second window allotted by Major League Baseball to request a review, and so Girardi disregarded Sanchez’s plea and didn’t challenge.
Weber and the Yankees didn’t get the slo-mo replay until Francisco Lindor was already at-bat. Lindor hit a grand slam off Green to make it 8-7, sparking a dramatic comeback by Cleveland.
New York led the major leagues by winning 72 per cent of their challenges in the regular season. Girardi said Friday night that he didn’t want to waste one of his two challenges and that he didn’t want to disrupt Green’s rhythm. The Yankees had already won one earlier in the game.
But if he could do it over?
"Yeah, I wish I would have challenged it," he said.
"Very seldom have I ever wasted a challenge when it wasn’t conclusive," he added. "That’s just what I’ve done, you know. Maybe that’s the wrong way."
Girardi defended his call to disregard Sanchez, saying he doesn’t rely on players to determine what should be reviewed.
"It has nothing to do with me trusting a player," Girardi said. "It’s having video evidence to make sure the call will be overturned before you use it."
The 10th-year Yankees manager also stood by his bullpen management. Girardi pulled starter CC Sabathia after just 77 pitches to get to Green in the sixth inning, and Green gave up Lindor’s slam.
Girardi said he’s relied on the same "formula" for his relievers through the last few months, including regularly using Green in the fifth or sixth innings. Green got two crucial strikeouts in the first inning of the Yankees’ AL wild-card win over Minnesota after replacing starter Luis Severino with just one out, and he had a 1.83 ERA during the regular season.
"I used the formula the other day. It worked," Girardi said. "I used it yesterday, it didn’t work. That’s part of my job, right?"
Yankees fans are criticizing Girardi all the same, and it may not be just them. Late Friday, the Instagram account belonging to closer Aroldis Chapman "liked" a fan’s comment calling the manager an "imbecile."
Girardi isn’t concerned about losing the clubhouse ahead of Game 3.
"We’ve had our backs, each other’s backs all year long," he said. "We’ll continue to have it."
NOT DONE YET
Indians slugger Edwin Encarnacion is hoping to play again this post-season after spraining his right ankle during a frightening moment in Game 2.
Manager Terry Francona said Encarnacion probably won’t start Game 3, but the designated hitter hasn’t been ruled out despite using crutches and wearing a boot Saturday.
The Indians had feared a worse diagnosis.
"I don’t know if remarkably better is a good word, but pretty close," Francona said Saturday. "He’s doing much better today."
Michael Brantley is expected to be the designated hitter in Encarnacion’s place Sunday. Brantley missed Cleveland’s run into the World Series in 2016 and sat out 50 games after Aug. 8 this year with an ankle ligament injury. He was possibly going to play left field in Game 3 before Encarnacion’s injury.
"For him to get an opportunity to be part of what we’re doing is extra meaningful to him," Francona said.
Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco will make his post-season debut for Cleveland in Game 3. He missed last year’s playoffs after breaking a finger on a comebacker in September.
Carrasco set career highs with 32 starts, 200 innings and 18 wins this season. He was especially dominant on the road, going 11-2 with a 2.65 ERA.
Masahiro Tanaka makes his second post-season start for New York — he lost a 3-0 AL wild-card game to Houston in 2015. Tanaka most recently struck out 15 over seven scoreless innings against Toronto, ending an up-and-down regular season.
"His last start was up," Francona said. "Very up."
Girardi was unsure Saturday which relievers would be available for Game 3, but did say that Dellin Betances would likely sit after throwing 35 pitches over two innings Friday. … Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius each hit critical homers in New York’s wild-card win over Minnesota, but the group is a combined 2 for 24 with nine strikeouts in the ALDS. … Cleveland has won six straight ALDS games, one shy of the 2009-11 Yankees for the best such streak ever.