Adam Ottavino makes Brian Cashman look like a genius in Red Sox loss to Yankees

BOSTON, MA - JULY 22: Pitcher Adam Ottavino #0 of the Boston Red Sox heads to the dugout after giving up two runs to the New York Yankees in the eighth inning at Fenway Park on July 22, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 22: Pitcher Adam Ottavino #0 of the Boston Red Sox heads to the dugout after giving up two runs to the New York Yankees in the eighth inning at Fenway Park on July 22, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /

Adam Ottavino imploded against the Yankees, making GM Brian Cashman look like a genius for trading him to the Red Sox

With the Adam Ottavino trade, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was playing chess while Red Sox president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom was playing checkers.

All these months later, the first trade since 2014 between the biggest rivalry in baseball paid off for the Yankees, as Adam Ottavino imploded against his former team once again. Was this the plan all along?

Coming into Sunday’s game, Ottavino had a 3.77 ERA over 65 appearances, with 68 strikeouts over 59 2/3 innings. Until September 4, he had not allowed a home run all season. But through his first nine appearances of the month, he had a 5.87 ERA over 7 2/3 innings, with five earned runs on six hits, three walks, a hit batsman, and three home runs. And, he had a 6.75 ERA over seven appearances against the Yankees, with five earned runs allowed over 6 2/3 innings prior to this series.

Adam Ottavino and Joe West cost the Red Sox a crucial game

Coming in to take over for Garrett Richards in the eighth inning on Sunday night, Ottavino immediately allowed a go-ahead two-run double to Aaron Judge, scoring Dj LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo, who had been put on base by Richards.

Except Judge had actually struck out. Home plate umpire Joe West, notorious for his terrible calls, ruled the foul-tip third strike a foul ball because catcher Christian Vazquez dropped it on the transfer. Judge got a free pass to keep swinging, and suddenly the Yankees were ahead 4-3, giving Ottavino his second blown save of the month, and his sixth on the season.

Then, for the third night in a row, Giancarlo Stanton hit a mammoth home run that essentially decided the game. 8-3 New York.

Due to the three-batter minimum rule, it was only after Ottavino hit Joey Gallo with a pitch that Alex Cora was finally able to pull the hapless reliever from the game. The lifeless Red Sox offense, which went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men on base, essentially waved the white flag after that. The Yankees swept the Red Sox at Fenway in front of a crowd of over 36,000.

Adam Ottavino is not having the bounce-back season the Red Sox hoped for when they acquired him from the Yankees

Ottavino signed a three-year deal with the Yankees ahead of the 2019 season and was absolutely dominant in his first year, with a 1.90 ERA over 73 games. Like many players, he struggled in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with a 5.89 ERA over 24 appearances. It made sense that Cashman would try to unload him on any unsuspecting team ahead of the righty’s age-35 season; whether his numbers were better or not, every athlete has an expiration date.

But maybe, Cashman’s plan was more devious than just unloading an aging reliever. Maybe he was one of the few who did not underestimate the 2021 Red Sox and foresaw crucial late-season games and a Wild Card race in their future. After all, Ottavino had a 1.26 career ERA against the Red Sox, but a 5.59 ERA against the Yankees. Could Cashman really have sacrificed the immediate success of having an excellent setup man for the delayed gratification of planting him behind enemy lines? After all, the Yankees have some of the biggest power bats in the game; who needs good pitching when you can out-slug everyone, including a pitcher you know to be ineffective against them?

Ottavino’s struggles also call into question Bloom’s decision to make the trade. Did Bloom think so little of the 2021 roster he was constructing that he saw Ottavino’s numbers against the Yankees and thought it wouldn’t matter because the Sox would be irrelevant by September? Josh Taylor and Garrett Whitlock are both injured, which limited Cora’s options, but in the AL East, being able to pitch to the Yankees is pretty much a requirement, which makes you wonder why Ottavino was ever brought here in the first place.

Of course, West deserves an important portion of the blame; his missed call turned the tides for New York and pretty much destroyed any momentum the Red Sox had gained the previous inning. Bobby Dalbec’s fear of catching pop fouls near the dugout is also an issue that needs to be addressed, one of several unacceptable habits by the Sox this season.

But at the end of the day, Ottavino was on the mound, and his job was to pitch around the Yankees. Instead, he pitched for them.

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