For the first time in baseball history, a 100-win team competed in the Wild Card game. In fact the American League Wild Card Game featured two of the top four records in baseball. The New York Yankees (100-62) and Oakland Athletics (97-65) squared off in the Bronx Wednesday night October 3rd, 2018.
Manager Aaron Boone gave the nod to Luis Severino to start the Wild Card game for the Yankees, while A’s manager, Bob Melvin opted to go with a bullpen game instead of an established starter.
It’s amazing how much difference a year can make, last season Severino started the Wild Card games for the Yankees against the Twins, and couldn’t get out of the first inning. However, this season, a different Severino occupied the mound in Yankee stadium.
Severino opened the game blazing, striking out the leadoff batter, left fielder Nick Martini with three pitches. He then got third baseman Matt Chapman to ground out, and proceeded to strikeout second baseman Jed Lowrie on five pitches. The A’s looked completely lost against Severino.
A bullpen game for the A’s, reliever Liam Hendriks was the first arm to start the game for the A’s. Though, Hendricks, having started 8 games in the month of September preparing the team for a potential bullpen game in the playoffs, got off to a rough start.
After walking left fielder Andrew McCutchen, Yankees All-Star right fielder, Aaron Judge made sure to take full advantage. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Judge crushed a 96 mph fastball deep into leftfield, measuring a distance of 427 feet. The Bronx Bombers had struck first.
Hendricks seemed to calm himself after retiring the next three batters to end the inning, limiting the damage to just those two runs, keeping his team in the game.
Going into the second inning, Severino found himself in a hiccup. After quickly retiring the first batter, Severino walked first baseman Matt Olsen, now having to face the hot feel good story Stephen Piscotty with a runner on first, trouble could be expected. Instead, Severino worked around the one out walk retiring Piscotty, and striking out center fielder Ramon Laureano.
Keeping true to his word, Melvin, turned to reliever Lou Trivino to start the bottom of the second, and the move kept the A’s in the game. After giving up a leadoff infield single to shortstop Didi Gregorius, and a walk to third baseman Miguel Andujar. Trivino calmed himself by getting catcher Gary Sanchez to ground into a double play, and then struck out rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres.
In the top of the third, the A’s tried to cause trouble for Severino. Shortstop Marcus Semien started off the inning with a walk, but Severino quickly struck out the next batter catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and had hoped to get out of the inning Martini hit a ground ball to first base that should’ve been a double play but first baseman Luke Voit bad throw to second forced Gregorius to dive for the ball. The A’s were hoping to capitalize from a mistake with Chapman up, however, Severino got the third baseman to lineout.
Trivino, came back out for the bottom of the third. Trivino pitched a second straight scoreless inning, retiring the three batters he faced, including striking out Judge.
The top of the fourth inning got interesting for Severino, especially for Boone. Oakland, once again had started to threaten, after quickly retiring the first batter, Severino got A’s star Khris Davis to hit a sharp ground ball to third base. Andujar scooped up the ball, but not known for his defense, Andujar delivered a short throw to first that Voit couldn’t scoop out allowing Davis to reach base safely. Severino, then walked Olsen, to put two on with one out. After getting the second out, Severino gave Yankee fans anxiety after walking Laureano, loading up the bases. But staying true and poised, looking like a totally different pitcher compared to last season, Severino followed up by striking out Semien to end the inning without allowing a run.
The rookie Trivino, having pitched two scoreless innings came back out for the bottom of the fourth, and looked as dominant as ever. Trivino retired the three batters he faced (Stanton, Voit, Gregorius) all in order, which included two strikeouts, keeping his team in the game.
Going into the top of the fifth inning, once again Severino got himself into trouble. After not allowing a hit through the first four innings, Lucroy hit a single to left field, and Martini followed suit by singling to right. Boone, now having seen enough turned to his bullpen. Reliever Dellin Betances, was called upon to work to get his ball club out of the inning unscathed. Betances, got the first two batters he faced to fly out, and now having to face Davis, the A’s most powerful hitter, Betances won the power duel by striking out the man who 48 home runs during the season.
Former Yankee, Shawn Kelley, came out to pitch the bottom of the fifth for the A’s. After an infield hit by Andujar to leadoff the inning. Kelley proceeded to retire the next three batters he faced (Sanchez, Torres, and McCutchen). Through five innings still a 2-0 ball game.
Boone kept his star reliever in the game, and to say that was the right move would be an understatement. After working out of a fifth inning jam he inherited, Betances looked more dominant in the sixth. Betances retired all three batters he faced, striking out the last two.
Holding on to just a 2-0 lead, the Yankees knew they needed to add on to ice the game. Melvin, turned to reliever Fernando Rodney, to pitch the sixth. Rodney, unforutaly, couldn’t seem to locate his pitches. Judge opened the inning by getting jammed on a fastball, but luckily grounding the ball down to first that stayed fair, making its way through the infield allowing Judge to reach second. Center fielder Aaron Hicks, followed up by lining a double into right center scoring Judge, giving the team a 3-0 lead. After throwing a wild pitch to Giancarlo Stanton, Melvin, came out, removing Rodney, calling upon All-Star reliever Blake Treinen. It only got worse for the A’s, Treinen ended up walking Stanton, and gave up a two run triple off the right field wall to Voit. Gregorius followed by hitting a sacrifice fly to left, allowing Voit to tag up and score. Treinen retired the next batter to get out of the inning.
Yankees now up 6-0.
The seventh inning began with a bang, David Robertson came in relief for the Yankees. Semien smacked a line drive that appeared to look that it had a hit written all over it, but third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria leaped and made the amazing catch. Robertson proceeded to to retire the next two batters with ease.
Back out for the bottom of the seventh, Treinen, seemed to calm himself. After getting two quick outs, Treinen walked Judge, but retired Hicks to get out of the inning.
Boone called left handed reliever, Zach Britton, to pitch the eighth. After giving up a single to begin the eighth, Britton induced a force out, leaving a runner at first with one out. Davis, now coming up, this time took advantage of his moment crushing a two run homerun to right field. Britton got out of the inning after, without any further damage.
Yankees now up 6-2.
After the lead was cut to 6-2, Stanton took advantage of a tired Treinen who was back out there for the eighth. Stanton crushed a solo monstrous homerun over the left field foul pole. Melvin, having seen enough called upon Jeurys Familia to record the last two outs.
Yankees now up 7-2.
Going into the ninth, Boone was taking no chances. Riding his bullpen, the manager turned to his closer Aroldis Chapman. After giving up a single to Semien to leadoff the inning, Chapman followed up by striking out the next two batters, and getting Chapman to ground out for the final out.
The Yankees, will now be headed to Boston to face division rivals the Boston Red Sox in the American League Divisional Round (ALDS). First game is Friday, October 5th 7:32pm.