I think we can all agree the 2014 Yankees like to do things the hard way, yes? They beat the Indians by the score of 10-6 in Friday night’s series opener, but they really had to work for it, especially in the later innings. Whatever. At 61-54, the Yankees are seven games over .500 for the first time all season. Let’s recap:
- Five-Run First: The Yankees scored five runs and sent ten men to the plate in the first inning, and exactly three of them hit the ball out of the infield. Some sloppy infield defense and three Trevor Bauer walks fueled the rally, which included run-scoring singles by Carlos Beltran, Stephen Drew, and Martin Prado. Chase Headley drew a bases loaded walk. Carlos Santana flat out muffed a catch on a throw from shortstop at first base, and Jason Kipnis threw away a ball when he flipped it to second trying to turn a double play. Brett Gardner, the team’s best player, made the first and last out of the inning. Go figure. I missed innings like that so much. Everything went right.
- Can’t Spell Esmil Without Smile: One run in five innings from spot starter Esmil Rogers? I’m pretty sure we all would have signed up for that heading into the game. I know I would have. The right-hander used fastballs and sliders to hold the Tribe to four hits and a walk in those five innings, and at one point he retired ten of 12 batters. Rogers struck out three and got seven of his other 12 outs in the air, which is fine given the team’s outfield defense. At this point, I think the Yankees could pull anyone out of the stands, slap pinstripes on him, and get a winnable start. What a job the staff has done of late.
- Blown Open: Five runs in the first, five runs in the sixth. The Indians intentionally walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases for Beltran for whatever reason, and he unloaded on a John Axford hanging curveball for a grand slam. Ichiro Suzuki and Gardner drew walks earlier in the inning. The Yankees plated another run on another error later in the inning. They scored ten total runs thanks to a pair of five-run innings, and in those innings they hit a total of five balls out of the infield. Crazy.
- No Easy Wins: It’s amazing how this team is allergic to easy wins. The five-run sixth gave them a nice and comfy 10-2 lead, right? Bring in Bryan Mitchell and let him bring it home, right? Nope. Shawn Kelley started the seventh, faced four batters, retired none, and left the bases loaded for Adam Warren. He served up a two-run double and a sac fly. The Indians answered the Yankees’ five-run sixth with a four-run seventh to make it 10-6. Sigh. Thankfully Warren, Rich Hill, and Dellin Betances navigated the eighth and ninth without much of a problem. Still sucks they even had to get into a game like this.
- Leftovers: Derek Jeter’s first inning infield single was the 3,430th hit of his career, tying him for Honus Wagner for sixth place on the all-time list. He won’t catch Tris Speaker (3,514) for fifth place, so he’ll eventually retire in sole possession of sixth place on the all-time hit list. Not bat at all … Brian McCann left the game with a mild concussion, and Frankie Cervelli joined Beltran as the only players with two hits. Gardner (double, walk), McCann (single, walk), Ellsbury (three walks), and Ichiro (single, walk) all reached base multiple times. Headley and Ellsbury were the only players without hits … the lineup had more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five) for the AL-leading 13th time this year.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles won and the Blue Jays lost, so the Yankees moved into second place in the AL East and are still five back of Baltimore. They are a half-game back of the Royals for the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 24.6%. The Yankees and Indians will play the second game of this series on Saturday afternoon (Brandon McCarthy vs. Corey Kluber), but first the team will unveil Paul O’Neill’s plaque in Monument Park. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch the ceremony and the game live.