October 10, 2020 | 6:43am
In the top of the eighth inning, with the Yankees desperate for a run to keep their season going, Aaron Boone went to Mike Ford, who hadn’t gotten a hit since August.
With the score tied in Game 5 of the ALDS, which the Yankees went on to lose, 2-1, to the Rays, Boone went to the lefty-swinging Ford to pinch-hit for Kyle Higashioka — which also meant the Yankees would be without Higashioka behind the plate.
Ford whiffed when he looked at a close pitch after working a full count. The Yankees failed to score and then Aroldis Chapman, who struck out the only batter he faced while pitching to Higashioka — Brandon Lowe — allowed a go-ahead homer to Mike Brosseau with the forgotten man, Gary Sanchez, catching.
“It was definitely a tough decision,’’ Boone said of hitting Ford for Higashioka. “But in that spot, leading off the eighth inning, [Tampa Bay right-hander Diego] Castillo is tough on everyone, obviously, but as tough as he is on righties, I felt like we needed on-base presence there.”
Ford took strike three, although he thought it was low.
“I thought he worked a great at-bat,’’ Boone said of Ford, whose last hit came on Aug. 31 before he went 0-for-19 with three walks to finish the regular season.
“He almost got us rolling there,’’ Boone said. “It was definitely a tough call, but I think one I had to make.”
Though Sanchez has had his difficulties behind the plate, Chapman has typically thrown well to Sanchez and that was especially true this season. In Chapman’s brief regular season, he faced 20 batters with Sanchez behind the plate and only one got a hit — while 13 struck out.
The battery was not as successful on Friday and it resulted in another devastating finish for Chapman and the Yankees — and the end of a lost season for Sanchez, as he started just two playoff games and went 1-for-8 with four strikeouts and found his starting job very much in doubt.