From now on, when Terry Francona decides to do something, everyone should just go along with it. If he wants to start noted drone enthusiast Trevor Bauer in Game 1 of the ALDS instead of previous Cy Young winner and current Cy Young frontrunner Corey Kluber, just nod and say, “yes.”
If he wants All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis starting in center, you let Jason Kipnis start in center. If he wants All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis to come out of the bullpen, don’t even give it a second thought. If he says sewer rat tastes like pumpkin pie, pile it on your plate and get some whipped cream.
I’m not going to say Francona is perfect and never wrong, but I’m not going to say he’s not.
Case in point: Game 1 of the ALDS. He surprised everyone by announcing that Bauer would get the start instead of Kluber. Seemed a little risky. Who would start their number three starter instead of their ace in Game 1 of a 5-game series where it’s important to jump out to a lead? Terry Francona and nobody else. And he was right. Because Bauer was absolutely masterful. Completely dominant, absolutely freezing guys with his curve. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and left after 6 2/3 of shutout ball.
And if you thought that was a huge roll of the dice by Francona, that’s fine. Just know that he didn’t see it that way: “I kind of live by you do what you think is right, and you answer the questions, and then in the morning I don’t run to see how I’m being perceived. You have to have the confidence of what you’re doing. And it’s not always going to work. We can’t win every game. But I was completely comfortable with our decision to do what we did for a number of reasons. Now, it’s awful nice when Trevor goes out and pitches like he does, but I wouldn’t have felt any different if they would have beat him.”
New York came into last night with a ton of momentum after their beatdown of Minnesota in the wild card and they ran into a buzzsaw. Brett Gardner: 0 for 3. Aaron Judge: 0 for 4, 4 Ks. Gary Sanchez: 0 for 4. Didi Gregorius: 0 for 4.
The top of the order that was so dominant in the wild card game was a combined 0 for 15 with seven strikeouts. Bauer struck out Judge three times alone, making the likely Rookie of the Year just look like a rookie.
And the one time that the Yankees looked like they might get something started in the top of the third, Chase Headley sliced a ball to left-center and guess who was there? Jason Kipnis.
Because Terry Francona knows what the hell he’s doing. The cliché is that he’s playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers, but that doesn’t even do him justice. Jay Bruce said, “There is a method to his madness.”
And part of that madness was Bruce doubling in the second and coming around to score to make it 1-0. Then coming up with one man on in the fourth.
I’m not going to give all the credit to Francona for that homer, but he did have something to do with it. “Well, I mean, I was blowing on it, so probably got some help. Yeah, I think so.”
Home run to Bruce, assist to Francona. Because that’s how Terry rolls. As reliever Cody Allen said, Francona is “four steps ahead” of everyone. And now Cleveland’s one game ahead of New York and the Yankees are in trouble. All that mojo from Tuesday is gone. Their bats went silent. And as Cleveland’s twitter account announced: We’re up 1-0. And … It’s Kluber Day.