For the first time this season, the Yankees are five games over .500. Friday night’s blowout 14-4 win over the Orioles moved the Yankees to 66-61 on the season. They’ve won three straight and ten of their last 15 games. The Yankees sold at the trade deadline and are still playing meaningful baseball heading into September. Imagine being a fan of any other franchise.
Six in the Second
The Orioles and Yankees traded homers in the first inning. Manny Machado whacked a line drive solo home run into Monument Park in the top of the first, then Mark Teixeira responded with a two-run shot into the right field bleachers in the bottom half. I thought it was a jam shot off the handle. He barrelled that ball up way better than I realized. Teixeira gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead five outs into the game.
The bottom of the second was the story of the night. The Yankees rallied for six runs, and one point nine straight batters reached base. Every starter in the lineup had reached base at least once before the end of the second inning. It was that kind of night. Let’s recap the six-run second with an annotated play-by-play, because that’s what we do with big innings.
(1) The first out of the inning was a pretty good indication of what was about to happen. Starlin Castro squared up Yovani Gallardo’s mistake slider and drove it to the warning track in left-center field. Comfortable swing, loud contact, and Gallardo not fooling the hitter. Story of the second inning right there.
(2) When you’re hot, you’re hot. Ronald Torreyes dunked a bloop into shallow center and replacement center field Nolan Reimold (more on that in a bit) failed to make the catch. It clanked right off his glove. He was there and got leather on it, but just failed to complete the catch. That really opened the door for the Yankees. Instead of having two outs and runners on first and second, the bases were loaded with one out. That non-catch was a huge swing in the game situation.
(3) Gallardo threw a first pitch strike to only two of the first nine batters he faced, but Brett Gardner went up to the plate in ambush mode following the Reimold error, and he was rewarded with a two-run single to left. It was hit just slow enough to allow big Aaron Judge to chug all the way around from second base. He runs well for a guy his size and was able to slide in just under the tag. I imagine that, as a catcher, it would have been terrifying to see Judge rounding third before the new home plate collision rules were put in place. The single gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
(4) Man, Gary Sanchez is so good. So, so good. The dingers are awesome. We all love ’em. But that second inning double is what separates him from the typical meathead slugger. Sanchez laid off two close pitches to work the 2-0 count, then fouled of a hittable 2-0 fastball (blah) before taking another close pitch to get ahead in the count 3-1. Gallardo threw Sanchez a really good 3-1 slider and got him to swing way out in front. That was just great execution on the pitcher’s part. Gallardo went back to that slider in the 3-2 count and Sanchez was ready for it. He reached out …
… and poked it to the opposite field for a two-run double and a 7-1 lead. That pitch isn’t even a strike, but after flailing at the 3-1 slider, Sanchez made the adjustment and did damage. What an insanely impressive at-bat, especially for a kid this young and this new to the big leagues. This is not Shelley Duncan and Kevin Maas running into fastballs. Sanchez can flat out hit.
(5) The Yankees had two at-bats with the bases loaded in that second inning, and both times the hitter swung at the first pitch. Ask players and they’ll tell you the first pitch is often the best one to hit with the bases loaded. The pitcher doesn’t want to fall behind in the count, so chances are he will throw a fastball over the plate. Gardner swung at the first pitch and was rewarded with a two-run single. Chase Headley swung at the first pitch and popped it up in foul territory. Blah. The Yankees were up 8-1 at the time and the last nine guys had reached base. That felt like a letdown, though not a big one because the inning was going so well. Still would have been nice to get another run there, even with a sac fly.
(6) Adam Jones left the game after the first inning with a hamstring problem. He’s been fighting it for a few days now. That led to Reimold in center with Hyun-Soo Kim and Mark Trumbo in the corners. That might be the worse defensive outfield alignment employed by any team this season. All three guys cost the O’s defensively that inning. Reimold dropped the Torreyes bloop, Kim made a poor throw on Gardner’s single, and Trumbo flubbed both Sanchez’s double and another single (I don’t remember if it was Teixeira’s or Didi Gregorius‘) when he cut the ball off. The Yankees put the ball in play and good things happened that inning.
The Good Luis
The box score says Luis Cessa allowed three runs on five hits and one walk in six innings. He was better than that would lead you to believe. Cessa made only two mistakes basically, and Machado hit them both out of the park. He’ll do that. The solo homer came in the top of the first and the two-run homer came in the top of the sixth, with the Yankees already up 12-1. The dingers more or less bookended Cessa’s start.
Between the dingers, Cessa retired 13 of 17 batters faced, and only three of the 17 hit the ball out of the infield. His moment of truth came in the second, before the six-run outburst, when a leadoff walk and a one-out double by Pedro Alvarez put runners at second and third with one out. Cessa escaped the jam by getting J.J. Hardy to pop-up and Francisco Pena to strike out. The game was very still much up for grabs at that point.
Machado is going to hit dingers. Thankfully he hit them in a game in which the Yankees scored a ton runs. Otherwise Cessa was really impressive because he again worked quick, pitched inside, and used four pitches. In fact, PitchFX says he had five swings and misses on his fastball, eight on his slider, two on his changeup, and one on his curveball. Getting whiffs with four different pitches is living the good life. Nice work by Cessa, Machado homers notwithstanding.
Headley and Sanchez added two-run home runs in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, to further put the game out of reach. Sanchez has now hit eight homers in his last nine games and ten in 20 MLB games this season overall. He hit ten homers in 71 Triple-A games before being called up, you know. George Scott, Trevor Story, and Gary Sanchez. Those are the only three players in history to hit ten homers in their first 22 games. Crazy.
Every starter had at least one hit. In fact, Judge and Gregorius were the only starters without multiple hits. The 14 runs are the Yankees’ second most this season, ditto their 18 hits. They scored 16 runs against the Astros on April 6th and had 20 hits against the White Sox on July 5th. The Yankees struck out four times, including only once in the first five innings. They also went 7-for-10 (!) with runners in scoring position. The offense had it going on.
And finally, congrats to Ben Heller. He finally made his MLB debut. Heller tossed a scoreless eighth and averaged 97.3 mph with a fastball that was running all over the place. It’s kind of amazing he doesn’t walk more people with a fastball that moves that much. Seems like Heller can just throw it down the middle and let the natural movement that care of the rest. I’m looking forward to seeing him more.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, ESPN is the best place to go. MLB.com has all the video highlights. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the boring (in a good way) win probability graph:
Same two teams Saturday afternoon in the middle game of this three-game series. Chad Green and Dylan Bundy are the scheduled starters. The Yankees are home this weekend, but they’ll head out on a six-game road trip Monday, so check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch Saturday’s or Sunday’s games at Yankee Stadium.