I was still stunned when I woke up this morning. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that last night was the most exciting and intense night of regular season baseball I’ve ever seen, and I can’t imagine forgetting something like that so soon. Joe will hate me for using this word, but it was epic.
One of the many things I’ve seen thrown around this morning is that the Yankees “tanked” that series to keep Boston out of the postseason. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that for a second. “Tanking” implies that they intentionally lost, and that certainly didn’t happen. The regular lineup played in all four games for the most part (save one or two bodies a night), and the bullpen management with a one-run lead on Tuesday was exactly what we’d seen all season. I was actually surprised that the regulars played as much as they did in Tampa.
Now, did the Yankees and Joe Girardi place a great deal of importance on winning these games? Obviously not. That’s why David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were nowhere near the mound last night. That’s why Robinson Cano was lifted for pinch-hitter Jorge Posada in extra innings. Did the Yankees play this way for the sake of losing? No, they played this way for the sake of rest and preparing for the ALDS. By clinching a playoff spot and homefield advantage so early, the Yankees earned the right to do whatever they wanted down the stretch. They took care of what they had to do, and they didn’t owe the Red Sox or the Rays anything.
Essentially, what the Yankees decided to do was not overwork their bullpen or play their regular position players in extra innings twice in the final four games of the season. They had the Triple-A lineup in when they lost to the Sox on Sunday night, and they had them in again last night. Boston and Tampa each had their shot at the Yankees D-team, and both took advantage. There’s nothing crazy about wanting to give your top three relievers (including a 42-year-old closer, remember) two full days off before the ALDS. At some point, the Red Sox have to look at themselves in the mirror. They didn’t blow their nine-game lead because Scott Proctor threw 56 pitches last night, they were a lost cause long before that. Girardi’s responsibility is to his team and no one else.
I can understand how it appeared as though the Yankees were losing on purpose (Proctor sends off that kind of vibe), but I’m sure the Yankees would have absolutely loved to see Cory Wade nail down that save last night so they could get back to New York as soon as possible. They didn’t “tank” so much as they took advantage of the situation they put themselves in. The Rays benefited, sure, but give them some credit for taking advantage. The Red Sox certainly didn’t.