The heavy rain held off long enough to play a full nine innings Friday night and the Yankees picked up with a 6-2 win over the Royals. Why can’t they all be like this? The Yankees are, once again, back to within a game of .500 at 9-10.
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning (more on that in a bit) and it didn’t take the Yankees long to answer. In the bottom of the third No. 9 hitter Tyler Wade found a hole with a one-out ground ball, setting No. 1 hitter Brett Gardner up for a two-run home run. Jake Junis gave him a 90 mph fastball over the plate in a 2-0 count, and not even late-career Gardner’s going to miss that. The ball sailed into the home bullpen for a 2-1 lead.
Two innings later Mike Tauchman hit his second home run in four days, this one a solo homer out to right field. Tauchman does enough to remain interesting, and with Greg Bird sidelined and Giancarlo Stanton probably still a week away (at least), there will be some at-bats available for the foreseeable future. Tauchman’s received a bunch of them this week and he’s taking advantage. His second homer of the season (and career) gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
One Bad Inning
The second start of CC Sabathia’s final season did not go as well as the first, though, to be fair, it’s hard to be better than one baserunner in five scoreless innings while being held to a strict pitch count. Sabathia inched closer to 250 career wins (now 247) and 3,000 career strikeouts (now 2,994) with five workmanlike innings Friday night. He had a real chance at six scoreless innings if not for some (wait for it) defensive blunders.
While the third inning could’ve been better, it also could’ve been much worse. Two walks, two errors, and a runner thrown out at the plate. All in one inning. The Royals only scored one run in that inning, but so much happened that I’m inclined the annotate the play-by-play anyway. Let’s get to it.
(1) It was obvious the light-hitting Terrance Gore — this dude is a career .239/.333/.273 (78 wRC+) hitter in over 2,200 minor league plate appearances — would bunt as soon as Sabathia walked Martin Maldonado on five pitches to begin the inning. Gore got the bunt down along the first base line and it was a beauty. No one was getting Gore. Sabathia beat Luke Voit to the ball, and his throw to first base was both late and wide. The ball went into foul territory and the runners moved up. Rather than runners on first and second with no outs, the unforced error gave the Royals runners on second and third with no outs. Sabathia should’ve held on to the ball. Alas.
(2) My thought process on Whit Merrifield’s routine fly ball to right field: “Phew, Aaron Judge will hold Maldonado at third with this arm.” “Wait, Clint Frazier’s in right tonight, oh no!” “Holy cow look at that throw, yes!” A strong throw by Frazier and an unbelievable tag by Kyle Higashioka cut Maldonado down at the plate. Here’s the video:
(3) This was the end of the inning right here. Billy Hamilton hit a little ground ball to first base and Voit flubbed it. Looked like he rushed the play because Hamilton’s so fast. Instead of picking up the ball and stepping on first base to end the inning, Voit let the ball go in and out of his glove, and Hamilton was safe. That was the third out. Even with Hamilton’s speed, it was a fairly routine play. Because Gore did not advance to third on Merrifield’s fly ball, he was unable to score on the Voit error. The Yankees caught a break …
(4) … and then Adalberto Mondesi poked a single to right field to score Gore anyway. The Voit error extended the inning and the Royals took advantage. Seems like the Yankees have paid for every single mistake this season. Can’t get away with anything. Sabathia eventually got Alex Gordon to hit a little tapper back in front of the plate to end the inning and leave the bases loaded. Without the play at the plate and the left-on-left matchup with Gordon, that inning could’ve been so much worse. The Voit error kept the inning alive for Kansas City, led to run, and forced Sabathia to throw eleven more pitches than necessary.
The final line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K on 86 pitches, which Aaron Boone said was Sabathia’s limit before the game. He got away with walks to Gore and Hamilton in the fifth inning — Gore walk, Merrifield double play, Hamilton walk is quite the sequence — and was generally sharp aside from that messy third inning. Ten innings and no earned runs through two starts. I am ready for Sabathia’s 2008 Mike Mussina farewell season.
Because Sabathia had to throw those extra pitches in the third inning, and because Jonathan Holder and Chad Green are struggling (and both pitched last night), the Yankees were short on options for the sixth inning. Boone went to Luis Cessa and, back-to-back doubles later, the 3-1 lead became a 3-2 lead. Cessa was able to strand the tying run at third with one out, so that’s good, but clearly insurance runs were necessary.
The insurance runs came right away. A Judge double, a Voit walk, and a Gleyber Torres infield single loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth. Gore hit the right field wall very hard on Judge’s double, and Gleyber’s single was a grounder into no man’s land in front of second base. He beat the first baseman and pitcher to the bag. DJ LeMahieu got a run home with what will go into the history books as a sac fly. In reality, it was a hard hit liner Hamilton caught on the dive:
After a few weeks of finding grass with every little looper and getting every ground ball through the hole, LeMahieu is stuck in BABIP regression hell right now. He hit a rocket at the first baseman Thursday night and had that potential hit taken away by Hamilton on Friday night. With a lesser center fielder, that’s a bases-clearing gap shot. Instead, LeMahieu went 0-for-3 in the game and is now 2-for-23 (.087) in his last six games. So it goes.
LeMahieu brought a run in with the sac fly, then Junis brought another run in with a wild pitch. Spiked something in the dirt and Voit was able to scamper home for a 5-2 lead. A double by Higashioka and a bunt by Wade added another run in the seventh inning. Wade got the bunt down and beat it out for a single, but Hunter Dozier’s throw sailed into foul territory, allowing Higashioka to score. (Wade was thrown out at second).
The Yankees used home runs to take the lead early and some small ball to add to their lead late. They scored their final three runs on a great catch sacrifice fly, a wild pitch, and a throwing error by the third baseman. This one had a little something for everyone, offensively. Nice to see the other team screw things up once in a while. (The Yankees had three errors on the night, but I digress.)
Once Cessa got the Yankees through the sixth, Boone went to Adam Ottavino against the top of the lineup in the seventh, and Zack Britton was lined up for the eighth before the Yankees added another run. Tommy Kahnle instead got the eighth and Britton the ninth. One run and six strikeouts in four innings for the bullpen. That was exactly what the Yankees needed on this particular night.
Homer and a walk for Gardner, double and a walk for Judge, single and two walks for Voit. His MLB leading on-base streak is up to 30 games. Wade had two hits as the ninth place hitter. Everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except LeMahieu, who at least had a productive out with a sacrifice fly. Six hits, five walks, and only three strikeouts for the Yankees.
And finally, history was made in this game. Ottavino vs. Gore in the seventh inning gave us the first No. 0 vs. No. 0 matchup in baseball history. “I really don’t know what to say about it, honestly. Two guys with a stupid number,” Ottavino told Coley Harvey after the game. Yup.
The Yankees and Royals are halfway through this four-game series. Masahiro Tanaka and (checks notes) Heath Fillmyer are the scheduled starters for Saturday’s game. That is a 1:05pm ET start. The rain is supposed to clear out by then.