The Fighting Spirit has arrived in 2019. The gritty gutty Yankees erased a five-run deficit Wednesday night to earn their sixth straight win, and their eighth win in the last nine games. The final score was 6-5. Do we love this team yet? I can’t wait for Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and everyone else to come back and ruin it. (Kidding!)
History will have to wait until Arizona next week. CC Sabathia not only failed to strike out the six batters needed to join the 3,000-hit club Wednesday, he got hit around for the first time this year. One unearned run in his first two starts and ten innings, then five runs (four earned) in five innings Wednesday night, including his first, second, and third home runs allowed. Andrelton Simmons got him twice and Kole Calhoun got him once.
The two Simmons home runs were on mistake pitches right out over the plate. Nothing really to analyze there. Bad pitches that got hit out. It happens. The three-run rally following the Simmons homer in the fourth inning featured some classic 2019 Yankees dumb though. Albert Pujols dunked a single to left, then Brian Goodwin dropped down a bunt right in front of the plate, and Gary Sanchez bobbled it. He had Pujols at second easily and it looked to me Sanchez rushed it to try to get the double play. Instead, no outs.
With runners at first and second with no outs, Jonathan Lucroy hit a hard chopper to second base that DJ LeMahieu couldn’t handle. It was a double play ball, but the ball got away from LeMahieu, and the Yankees were only able to get the force out at second base. The Yankees gave the Angels two free outs and two free baserunners in the inning and Calhoun made ’em pay with his three-run homer. Sabathia’s pitch locations:
Sabathia was over the plate way too much with his slider and he seemed to have trouble locating his cutter in on righties. It was either too far in for an easy take or not in enough and over the plate. He couldn’t find the sweet spot on the corner. Sabathia’s final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3 HR on 86 pitches. Three strikeouts next time out gets him into the 3,000-strikeout club. Shake it off, big man. See you in five days.
The Comeback Rally
For five innings this looked like one of those routine “the starter didn’t have it and the offense couldn’t get going” losses. The kinda loss that happens what, 40-something times a year? At least. Then the Yankees went and erased a five-run deficit. Tyler Wade beat out an infield single to start the sixth, then LeMahieu brought him home with a double to left. LeMahieu later scored on a passed ball to get the Yankees to within 5-2.
Angels reliever Luis Garcia helped the Yankees get back into the game in the seventh. Garcia was brought in to face the 6-7-8-9 hitters and he let all four reach base with only one ball being put in play. Let’s annotate the play-by-play:
(1) We’re still in the process of learning whether Mike Ford is #ActuallyGood, but this much is clear one week into his big league career: He is hella disciplined at the plate. That was the book on him in the minors and we’ve seen it these last few days. Ford doesn’t expand the zone and he’s not at all afraid to hit behind in the count. Garcia got ahead in the count 1-2 on Ford. Four pitches later, it was ball four, take your base. There’s the rally starter. Six walks in 26 big league plate appearances for Ford (23.1%).
(2) I Can’t Believe He’s Been This Good Gio Urshela poked a little two-strike single to center field, then Mighty Mike Tauchman followed Ford’s lead with a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. He got ahead in the count 3-0, took the 3-0 auto-strike, fouled away two well-placed down-and-away heaters, then spit on the first breaking ball of the at-bat for the walk. Tauchman quietly has eight walks in 53 plate appearances (15.1%). He has a history of double-digit walk rates in the minors and I feel like I should’ve known that. He’s a grinder in that batter’s box.
(3) I like Tyler Wade. I do. Probably too much. I really wish he’d hit though. Even a little bit. This was my message in the group chat with my buddies:
Fortunately, Luis Garcia really stinks (or at least he did on this night), and he walked Wade on four pitches to force in a run. That is unforgivable. Throwing strikes it hard, that’s something that isn’t said enough, but man, walking the career .169/.234/.240 (27 wRC+) hitter with the bases loaded on four pitches is brutal. Wade took the free pass and the Yankees cut the deficit to 5-3.
(4) LeMahieu is coming out of his funk. He went into this game in a 3-for-37 (.081) skid, but he ripped a hard-hit double (101.9 mph exit velocity) to left field in the sixth inning, then clobbered a sac fly to left field in the seventh inning (98.8 mph exit velocity) to get the Yankees to within 5-4. Solid contact, swung at the right pitches, etc. etc. Ken Singleton always says to watch the type of outs a hitter makes when he’s slumping. The hard-hit outs will tell you when he’s starting to come out of it. LeMahieu ripped some liners into gloves the last few days. Now they’re finding grass or going from productive outs.
(5) The contact play … worked? The contact play worked! That’s for all you folks who say the contact play never works. Luke Voit hit a little chopper to Simmons at shortstop, the throw short-hopped in front of the plate, and the speedy Tauchman was able to slide in behind the tag to tie the game 5-5. The Angels were very willing to let the Yankees back into the game that inning. Garcia walked the Nos. 6, 7, and 9 hitters and Simmons couldn’t make a good throw to the plate to get Tauchman.
(6) Stupid sexy Mike Trout. He reached out to make a marvelous running catch at full speed in center field to rob Brett Gardner of extra bases …
… and start what turned out to be an inning-ending double play. Simmons put a tag on Wade at second base, he took his foot off the bag for an instant, and that’s an out. The obligatory screen grab:
I hate those ticky tack replays so much. The Yankees do it all the time and benefit from those replays as much as any team — this is my go-to example for the sheer ridiculousness of these plays — but I still hate it. That ain’t the spirit of instant replay. I also don’t have a good solution, and the rule is the rule right now, so it is what it is. Wade was off the base for an instant, Simmons had the tag applied for that instant, so inning over. I’m not sure I would call that the hidden ball trick, but close enough. Why Wade was at second base rather than tagging up and advancing to third on that play, I’ll never know. Game tied, rally over.
To Wade’s credit, he atoned for his seventh inning baserunning blunder in the ninth inning. He pulled a two-out ground ball single through the right side and immediately stole second base. Jonathan Lucroy bobbled the ball a bit and didn’t even make the throw, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Wade had that bag stolen. With two outs and two strikes, the no-longer-slumping LeMahieu inside-outed a single to right field to drive in Wade and give the Yankees a 6-5 lead. Two hits, a walks, and stolen base … and one bad mistake on the bases. It evens out.
Shoutout to Jonathan Loaisiga. He replaced Sabathia and tossed three scoreless innings, giving the offense a chance to get back in the game. Huge. With Chad Green in Scranton for the time being, I am very interested in seeing Loaisiga in a multi-inning relief role. He could really come in handy in that role, just like he did in this game. Aroldis Chapman pitched around a one-out walk in the ninth. The game ended with Trout on deck for the second straight night.
Rough return for Sanchez. Four at-bats, four strikeouts (on 14 pitches), plus an error. Ouch. Two hits for Wade, two hits for LeMahieu, and one hit apiece for Voit, Torres, and Urshela. Voit, Ford, Tauchman, and Wade drew walks. Not a ton of baserunners, but the Yankees really clustered them together. At one spanning the sixth and seventh innings, seven of ten Yankees to bat reached base.
And finally, Voit’s on-base streak is up to 35 games. Longest by a Yankee since Derek Jeter had a 36-gamer spanning 2012-13. Voit’s sitting on a .236/.358/.494 (128 wRC+) batting line at the moment. He’s been hitting well for two weeks now and I feel like his batting line hasn’t budged. Hmmm.
The Yankees and Angels wrap up this four-game series Thursday night. That’s a 9:07pm ET start (?) on the getaway day. Masahiro Tanaka and noted pinch-hitter Trevor Cahill are the scheduled starters.