The Yankees trailed the Tigers 1-0 in the bottom of the 8th inning Thursday afternoon. Runners were on second and third with two outs, left-handed pitcher Lucas Luetge was on the mound with right-handed hitter Miguel Cabrera coming to the plate with first base open. He was one hit away from 3,000 for his career and was 0-3 on the afternoon. Left-handed hitting Austin Meadows was on deck.
Baseball logic says you walk Cabrera to load the bases, get the force at any base, and get the lefty-lefty matchup. At the time, it was 100% the correct decision by manager Aaron Boone. Of course, Meadows hit a bloop single to left that scored two runs to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. The Yankees would have lost even if the score was 1-0 going into the 9th, they can’t score.
Tigers fans and people who claim they hate the Yankees went crazy. Those people, however, don’t understand baseball strategy. Coming into the game, Meadows was hitting lefties well this season. In his career against left-handed pitching though, he is just a .240 hitter and has struck out 132 times in 446 at-bats. That means he’s striking out 30% of the time against lefties.
With the Yankees struggling to hit the ball like they have, every single run counts. Being down 3-0 is like being down 10-0 with this team. So they needed to be just one run down in case someone ran into one and tied the game. Plus, they play in the toughest division in baseball in the American League East. Every game counts.
Strategy should not change just to “give” a player a chance at his 3,000th hit. He had three chances already in that game and had three terrible at bats. It’s not the Yankees’ problem that he didn’t get a hit earlier in the game. Plus, he has 500+ more AB’s this season.
The reply of “what if he gets hurt and his career ends tomorrow?” Guess what? That is not the Yankees’ problem. You play to win the game, not to cater to individual accomplishments. Cabrera said it himself.
I’ve been critical of Aaron Boone in the past, but this time I am 100% sticking with him. The people that say the Yankees are classless or say that Yankee fans should be embarrassed with their team need to wake up.
PHOTO: USA TODAY