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‘I’m just disappointed in myself’ – Boston Herald

CLEVELAND — After the collapse, in a clubhouse that was quiet, but felt like it was simmering under the surface with frustration, Isiah Kiner-Falefa sat at his locker with his head down and waiting. The Yankees starting shortstop sat there for 10 minutes waiting to relive what looked like the toughest game of his career to date.

“Frustration, anger. Shock. Me personally, I’m just disappointed in myself,” Kiner-Falefa said after making three bad plays in the Yankees’ shocking 6-5 loss to the Guardians. “Like I had opportunities to come up with some key plays and I’d help the team win. Wasn’t able to come up with them and feel like you know, those are big runs that cost us the game tonight.”

Sunday night, Kiner-Falefa was sitting on the dugout bench as the Yankees played Game 4 of the American League Division Series. Aaron Boone benched him after seeing him “press,” too much on Sunday night.

“I think he’s done such a good job all year, when he has made a mistake, he, bounces right back, but I feel like he’s been pressing out there, this whole series a little bit defensively and a little bit is out there to not make a mistake,” the Yankees manager said. “So, I talked to him. My message to him is: look, you’re gonna play a big role in this. Hopefully, we’re playing a couple more weeks here.”

Kiner-Falefa was just one of the pieces that failed the Yankees Saturday night. Mistakes on the field and in the dugout cost the Yankees their first ever playoff game when going into the ninth inning when leading by multiple runs. Their seemingly fragile bullpen blew a two-run lead in the critical Game 3 of the best-of-five game series and they went into Sunday night facing elimination.

“We’ve been through this all year. I think we’ve had a lot of comeback wins and we’ve just dealt with a lot of adversity,” Kiner-Falefa said. “So I think you know, the next couple of games we’re gonna be really put to the test. So just see what we’re really made of.”

There was plenty of blame to go around after dissecting Saturday night’s gut-wrenching loss.

Oswaldo Cabrera found his offense after starting the series 0-for-8 with a double and a two-run homer on Saturday night. Playing just his 10th big league game in left field, Yankees manager Aaron Boone stuck with him going into the critical ninth inning instead of the veteran outfielder, Aaron Hicks, and his inexperience showed when he overran Myles Straw’s bloop single.

“No, no. He’s shown us a lot. I think that’s just a no-man’s-land ball,” Boone said. “Credit to them, they put it in play in that inning, but just a lot of perfectly placed ones in there too. And then a great two-strike at-bat by Gonzalez to finish it off. But, no, I think that’s just one of those that falls in no-man’s land there. I loved what I’ve seen from Oswaldo out there.”

With Clay Holmes available “just in case of emergency” Saturday night, Luis Severino’s rough first two innings, which cost him 56 pitches, made bullpen management critical. Severino got them into the sixth, but Lou Trivino and Jonathan Loaisiga were used for just three outs combined and then Boone relied heavily on Wandy Peralta. When the lefty, who spent time on the injured list with a tight spine in the last few weeks of the regular season, started to falter with one out in the ninth, the manager was stuck. He chose to protect Holmes, who had missed time with a back issue and ended the season rehabbing a rotator cuff injury, and go to his rookie Clarke Schmidt.

Kiner-Falefa just made mistakes that the Yankees had seen throughout the season. The Yankees’ management made the decision to use Kiner-Falefa as a shortstop until one of their prospects — Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza — were ready. Peraza made his big league debut this season and was solid defensively. Still, the Yankees chose to go with Kiner-Falefa on the roster for the ALDS instead of Peraza.

Boone said Sunday he stands by the decision to go with Marwin Gonzalez over Peraza.

During Sunday’s pregame, however, Matt Carpenter was working at first base. If the Yankees are comfortable with him as a back-up there, then they could switch Peraza for Gonzalez if they advance to the next round.

Boone admitted that Kiner-Falefa struggled since he made an error on the first play of this series in Game 1. Saturday night, his mistakes were compounded by the situation.

He went after Josh Naylor’s grounder in the first awkwardly, diving to his left and trying to backhand it, letting it trickle into left field. That not only turned into a run-scoring single, but cost Severino an extra 15 pitches that inning on a play a veteran shortstop not only would have made, but probably would have gotten two outs on.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, he made a good play on Andres Gimenez’s grounder, but his throw to first was wide and the speedy Guardians second baseman was safe. That eventually ended up putting a Guardians run on the board when pinch hitter Will Brennan slapped a single.

In the ninth, after Cabrera came in too far on Myles Straw’s bloop to left, Kiner-Falefa recovered the ball, but then casually threw the ball to third, allowing Straw to take second. Straw went on to score there.

“I think he saw Straw halfway, and I was surprised too that Straw turned around, went to first. I think he saw there was no play at second, which there wasn’t had he ran initially,” Boone said. “Obviously, threw it into third and that’s when Straw actually went.”

While Boone insists that the Yankees’ internal metrics have Kiner-Falefa as a good defensive shortstop, he’s made some mistakes in really big spots this season. He’s made 15 errors and according to Baseball Savant, he is among the bottom 19th percentile in outs above average.


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