Yankees-Guardians: Aaron Boone tells Clay Holmes why was only available for ’emergency’ in Game 3

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The New York Yankees are one loss away from coming home for the offseason. On Saturday night, the Yankees dropped a heartbreak to the Cleveland Guardians, blowing a 5-3 ninth-inning lead in an eventual 6-5 loss in Game 3 of the ALDS. Wild Card hero Oscar Gonzalez had the two-run single. Cleveland leads the best-of-five series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday night.

Rookie right-hander Clarke Schmidt allowed the hit after setup men Lou Trivino, Jonathan Loáisiga and Wandy Peralta threw earlier in the game. Closer Clay Holmes did not pitch in Game 3 after pitching in Game 1 on Tuesday and Game 2 on Friday. Holmes missed the end of the regular season with a shoulder problem, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone said they didn’t want to use him on back-to-back days so soon after the injury.

“I mean, part of the thing with him being available for this series wasn’t really in a back-to-back situation yet. He just hadn’t pitched a live or anything. So even if he was pretty good today and I expect him to be available tomorrow, it felt like we had to stay there,” Boone said after Game 3. “…It was really the emergency [only for Holmes to be available].”

Boone told SNY that, for him, an emergency meant extra innings and every other pitcher had been used. It’s questionable logic – trying to close out a post-season game with the tying and winning runs on base seems like an emergency to me – although the bigger problem is that Holmes said he was available to pitch game 3, and was surprised not to hear his name called. He was not told that the Yankees were trying to stay away from him.

“I prepared today to do my job. Sometimes those decisions aren’t mine. I feel like I’m available to pitch. Whenever my name is called, I’m ready to go. and to give all I have, ” Holmes told MLB.com after Game 3. “They asked and I said I was ready to go if needed.”

On the one hand, every player is going to say they’re playoff available, and it’s up to the manager and the coaches to protect the player from themselves. On the other hand, Boone admitted that Holmes was available, but only an emergency, and apparently the ninth inning of Game 3 was not an emergency. Other clubhouse players were surprised that Holmes was not used as well.

“He’s our closest. So of course I was surprised,” Game 3 starter Luis Severino told MLB.com. “I don’t know if he was down. There shouldn’t be people in the playoffs. That’s something you have to ask Boone or [pitching coach Matt] Blake to see what was going on there.”

It takes a lot – A LOT – for players to publicly question decisions made by the manager and coaching staff, so Holmes and Severino spoke out after Game 3. Losing a game because a reliever gets tagged is one thing. Losing a game and then the players saying they didn’t know why the manager made the decisions he made is another. It’s bad, bad look for Boone.

The Yankees will hand the ball to Gerrit Cole with their season on the line in Game 4 and Boone said Holmes will be available. It’s important not only because it’s a win-or-go-home situation, but also because others like Loáisiga and Peralta may not be available after working long outings the past two days. And, if they are available, will they be compromised? The New York bullpen is in bad shape.

Beyond Game 4 (and the rest of the playoffs if the Yankees stay alive), there are questions to be answered about the state of the clubhouse and the players’ faith in Boone. Players openly questioning the manager should set off alarm bells for the front office. For players to be pushed to this point, there has to be more behind the scenes. The Game 3 loss was bad, although what happened next could be worse for the Yankees in the grand scheme of things.

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