The New York Yankees failed to overcome the Cleveland Guardians in Game 3 of the ALDS on Saturday night, but there were a few variables that led to their demise. Aside from a tumultuous Luis Severino start that ended up being a bit resilient in the end, they didn’t get the necessary defense from their infield to get the job done.
Notably, shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa has been bad to start the postseason as a defensive player, failing to get on base in the team’s 6–5 loss as well. In the first inning, IKF allowed a ball to go right underneath him, diving over it when he should’ve put his body in front. This has been a regular occurrence for IKF, even during the regular season when he gave up 15 total errors, but that didn’t account for all the balls that first baseman Anthony Rizzo scooped out of the dirt.
Kiner-Falefa has gone through serious criticism this year, which some of it is justified, but Yankee fans can take things over the top at times. However, his defense has remained a question, despite the team standing behind him and reinforcing their confidence in the 27-year-old.
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However, with the Yankees needing to get out of the sixth inning unscathed, helping Severino finish his outing, IKF failed to get the job done. Cleveland second baseman Andres Gimenez hit a ground ball to shortstop with two outs on the board. IKF gathered the ball, double-clutched, and tossed it far to the left of Rizzo, who had to stretch and scoop it out of the dirt, allowing the runner to reach safely. Immediately after, Cleveland batted around the bases and drove in a run to cut the Yankees’ lead to 4–3.
If you erase the bad plays by IKF from Saturday’s game, the Yankees end up winning 5–4, so this loss can be directly attributed to his poor defense. While the players and coaches will take responsibility for their part, World Series-caliber teams don’t make mistakes on routine plays, which is something that Kiner-Falefa has done routinely throughout the 2022 season.
“I had multiple opportunities to help the team tonight and I wasn’t able to come through,” IKF said after the game.
While many players in the past have said it’s difficult to play for the Yankees, especially in the Bronx, that is only because of their struggles and inconsistencies that draw criticism. There is a red line that many fans cross, edging into the hostility threshold, but there is justification for fair criticism, especially after making multiple mistakes in a singular game during the postseason.
With that being said, there is a strong argument that the Yankees should utilize anybody but IKF in Game 4, given his stellar defensive capabilities and slugging qualities. While IKF has three hits over 11 at-bats, they can’t count on him to produce a home run in a big moment, and his defensive metrics have disappointed.
Even Marwin Gonzalez may offer more defensively than IKF at short, let alone Gleyber Torres who was permanently moved. The fact the Yankees didn’t include Oswald Peraza on the playoff roster is now becoming a glaring issue. Maybe the Yankees should move Oswaldo Cabrera to short in the meantime and kick Aaron Hicks out into left field.