Yankees bench Isiah Kiner-Falefa for Game 4 to send a strong message

Isiah Kiner-Falefa
NJ.com
Inna Zeyger
Monday October 17, 2022

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CLEVELAND — Aaron Boone did not like what he saw from Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the beginning of the Yankees’ Division Series, and it wasn’t just the fielding mistake he committed in Game 2 at Yankee Stadium.

Boone thought that Isiah Kiner-Falefa was an asset a few times in the first three games, especially Saturday night when the Yankees lost 6-5 to the Cleveland Guardians and the player didn’t make three plays he usually does. This put the Yankees on the verge of elimination going into Game 4 on Sunday night.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa wasn’t in the lineup because Boone put Oswaldo Cabrera at shortstop and send Aaron Hicks to man the left in his first ALDS game.

Boone said,

“I just feel like he’s pushing out there. I think he’s done a great job all year of learning from his mistakes and not making them again. I would just say that Kiner-Falefa has been a guy who plays to avoid making a mistake instead of just going out there and playing. His skill at sports is what makes him stand out. Go play without worrying.”

Kiner-Falefa has been called into Boone’s office to be told that he was going to be put on the bench. His manager then had a talk with him.

By taking Isiah Kiner-Falefa out of the lineup, the Yankees were without one of their best batters in the ALDS. Up until Saturday, IKF and Harrison Bader were tied for the team lead with a batting average of .273. But after seeing Kiner-Falefa in Game 3, Boone felt he had to make a change.

In the first inning, Isiah Kiner-Falefa missed the catch that could have oust Josh Naylor. That brought in the first run for the Guardians.

Andrew Gimenez hit a grounder with two outs and no one on in the sixth inning. Isiah Kiner-Falefa caught it with his backhand, but his up-the-line throw made Rizzo change his stretch, which led to an infield single. When the Guardians scored after getting two more hits, the Yankees’ lead was cut to 4-2.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa made a mistake in the ninth inning when Cleveland scored three runs to win with a walk-off. He threw to third base instead of the second when Miles Straw hit a leadoff blooper to left field, and Straw ended up on second base.

In the ninth inning, left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera made a mistake when he tried to dive for a bloop hit by Myles Straw. He missed the ball, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa caught it as Straw was coming around first base. Kiner-Falefa didn’t even bother to look at second base. Instead, he threw the ball to Josh Donaldson at third base. So, Straw could run to second base.

“I’m just sad,” Kiner-Falefa said after losing on Saturday. “I had many chances to help the team, but I wasn’t able to do so.”

And now he’s been replaced by Cabrera, who had started 19 games at shortstop this season, 16 in the minors and three after being called up to the majors for the first time in August.

There has been clamoring to bench Isiah Kiner-Falefa for some time. The Yankees came around to the idea of believing it only in the 166th game.

Their shortstop had trouble with both his hands and his throws when things got tough, especially in the second half of the season. This seemed like a bad match for a team that wanted to play pressure games at the end. Still, the Yankees never made it right.

They have now admitted that Isiah Kiner-Falefa is going to be a defensive liability for Sunday night’s Game 4 game. Which was several months too late, and definitely one day too late.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa still played short in Game 3 because of this. On Saturday night, his inability to turn a couple of ground balls into outs led to runs and built up Luis Severino‘s pitch count. This started a relief wheel that ended in a loss on the field and controversy off of it, with Aaron Boone and Clay Holmes arguing about why the closer never came in.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the same kind of offensive player for the Yankees as he was for Texas. He had a lot of contact and was fast. He had a good batting average though he was not an admirable hitter. He wasn’t very good at getting on base and didn’t have much power. He had an OPS-plus of 85 for Texas last year and 84 for the Yankees this year.

But in New York, Isiah Kiner-Falefa was a Joey Gallo on defense. In Texas, where games don’t matter, Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base in 2020 and did well enough at shortstop in 2021 to show the Yankees that he could handle this. Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s defensive stats were all over the place this year, as he played as a negative defender for the team.

Were the Yankees right to bench Isiah Kiner-Falefa? What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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