Joe Girardi went for the strikeout.
The Red Sox answered with a grand slam.
And the Yankees' chance of winning vanished into the hot night.
Girardi's decision to intentionally walk David Ortiz to load the bases and face Mike Napoli with one out in the third inning backfired as Napoli blasted a grand slam in the Red Sox's 11-1 win on Saturday night. Napoli turned a 1-0 game into a 5-0 game with his home run off the struggling Phil Hughes.
Boston Red Sox
"To me, you're looking for a strikeout in that situation and Napoli struck out a lot more," Girardi said. "He wasn't able to strike him out."
Entering Saturday's game, Ortiz had struck out 16 times in 138 at-bats, while Napoli had fanned 78 times in 207 at-bats. Both hitters, however, had great career numbers against Hughes.
Ortiz entered the game with a career. 450 batting average against Hughes, while Napoli entered hitting a robust .429. Napoli also led Boston in RBIs, making him a dangerous at-bat, no matter his strikeout total.
The Yankees' downfall began as Boston opened the third with three straight hits to go up 1-0 before Hughes rebounded to strike out Dustin Pedroia. With first base open and Ortiz coming to the plate, Girardi made the call to walk the Yankee-killer and face Napoli. Ortiz struck out in his first at-bat, while Napoli had singled.
Hughes got ahead of Napoli 0-2 before the first baseman eventually evened the count at 2-2. In the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Hughes left a 94-mph heater over the middle of the plate and Napoli planted it beyond the right-center seats to give Boston a game-changing cushion.
"It was in a spot he could handle and he saw a lot of fastballs," Hughes said. "Just one of those things, it got a little bit more of the plate than I wanted."
Napoli is now 5-for-9 with two homers in his career against Hughes. The pitcher didn't have any problems with opting to face Napoli instead of Ortiz.
"He has a history of handling me pretty well and with the base empty, it's not really much to argue there," Hughes said.