MLB Playoffs: Yankees win an opener and shut case

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 03: Luke Voit #45 of the New York Yankees celebrates after hitting two RBI triple against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on October 03, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 03: Luke Voit #45 of the New York Yankees celebrates after hitting two RBI triple against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on October 03, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Aaron Judge, New York Yankees foil Oakland’s pitching strategy in a decisive 7-2 MLB playoffs Wild Card win

There is an element of Russian roulette inherent to the “opener” strategy. Facing the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game, Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin six times pulled the trigger on that strategy, and his A’s took three bullets as a result. The combination of those blows proved fatal to the team’s MLB playoffs hopes.

The 7-2 final score sends the Yankees into Friday’s opener of the best-of-five American League Division Series against their long-time rivals, the AL East champion Boston Red Sox.

It didn’t take long for the New York Yankees to undermine the “opener” strategy. Facing Liam Hendriks – a reliever who started nine games during the regular season – Yanks leadoff hitter Andrew McCutchen walked on five pitches and came home when Aaron Judge blasted a 2-1 fastball deep into the left field bleachers for a 435-foot home run.

Yankees starter Luis Severino worked that margin through the duration of his four-plus innings of work, allowing his first two hits to the last two batters he faced, Jonathan Lucroy and Nick Martini leading off the fifth. His only flaw was an occasional control lapse; he walked four batters. After Severino allowed those first two hits – to Jonathan Lucroy and Nick Martini — Dellin Betances set down the side without incident.

Severino’s control lapses merely gave the A’s an opportunity to prove that on this night their offensive strategy was no more effective than their pitching strategy. Through the first seven innings, Oakland players took 11 official at bats with a runner on base and collected one base hit.

Hendriks, who left after that one fated inning, was succeeded on the mound by Alex Trivino and Shawn Kelley, who held New York in check through the fifth. But when Fernando Rodney replaced Kelley to open the Yankee sixth, Judge greeted him with a double down the line and Hicks drove Judge home with a gap double to right-center. A wild pitch that molved Hicks to third ended Rodney’s brief night.

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Melvin replaced Rodney with his closer,

Blake Treinen

, who boasts a 0.78 ERA.  On this night, though, Treinen, too, was ineffective.

Giancarlo Stanton

walked and stole second. Then

Luke Voit

drove them both home with a triple.

Didi Gregorius

made it 6-0 with a fly ball to left that sent Voit across the plate. Oakland challenged the “safe” call, but it was upheld. Leading off the 8th, Stanton homered off Treinen for New York’s seventh run.

A’s fans really had only one opportunity to cheer Wednesday, that coming in the top of the 8th inning when they were already down by 6. Matt Chapman singled against Zach Britton, and following a fielder’s choice force out Kris Davis homered to produce Oakland’s only two runs. It was only the A’s’ fourth hit of the night.

Aroldis Chapman took over for Britton to open the 9th, surrendered a leadoff hit to Marcus Semien, then put the A’s out of their misery with whiffs of Lucroy and Mark Canha followed by Chapman’s groundout to first.

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The loss marked Oakland’s fourth consecutive first-round MLB playoffs exit — a stretch extending back to 2012 – and their 10th in the A’s’ last 11 post-season opportunities since 1992.

New York was 9-10 against the Red Sox in 2018.