This was a day game with a lot of action. We saw a rookie make his MLB debut, the Yankees scoring in bunches to come back from a 3-0 deficit, a scary collision and, well, New York coming up victorious in the end. With today’s win, New York already clinched the home opening series versus Tampa and improved to a 4-4 record.
Jordan Montgomery‘s first big league inning was a whirlwind. He struck out the first two hitters on eight pitches. He then walked Evan Longoria after getting ahead in the count 0-2 allowed a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks. Montgomery threw a fastball right down the middle and those tend to get crushed in the bigs. Welp, welcome to the big leagues, kid. He didn’t let that get to his head too much though.
After that frame, Montgomery turned in a solid outing: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 2 BB sounds pedestrian, but 7 strikeouts stand out, and so do 17 whiffs. Sure, the Rays lineup doesn’t scare too many people, but for a rookie making the first ever ML start, that’s pretty solid.
Neither broadcast had a radar gun most of the game due to technical difficulties, but according to Brooks Baseball, Montgomery topped out at 93.4 mph with his four-seamer. What is more impressive though, is the pitch’s average vertical movement of 11.92, which means that he has a nice “rise” to his fastball, as David Cone mentioned several times during the YES broadcast. It is physically impossible for fastball to actually “rise” during flight but it can stay on higher plane and confound hitter’s eye levels. FanGraphs has the average vertical movement for lefties at 9.4, for reference. Also, Montgomery generally did a good job at staying away from the meat of the plate with his command.
He was able to locate a lot of the pitches on the bottom part of the zone (or lower). Maybe a few hittable ones up the zone but it would be strange not to see that from a guy making his first MLB start, with adrenaline, etc.
There aren’t a lot of guys like Montgomery in the bigs – a tall lefty with very high arm slot that can throw any pitch at any count. He has definitely earned a more long-term trial in the Yankee rotation with today’s start. I think, if the ML coaching can add some jazz to his secondaries, he can become a more dominant starting LHP long-term. That’s just my outlook though.
After being shut out by Blake Snell for the first four innings, the Yankees had a big offensive chance in the fifth. Chase Headley singled and Aaron Judge followed it up with a walk. Kyle Higashioka hit a grounder that Tim Beckham couldn’t handle and bases were juiced for Pete Kozma. It seemed like the Yankees were going to waste an opportunity though – Kozma struck out and Jacoby Ellsbury popped out on the first pitch. Thankfully, Aaron Hicks worked a full-count walk to push in Headley to make it a 3-1 game.
Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in Jumbo Diaz to face Matt Holliday. Diaz uncorked a slider that Derek Norris couldn’t block and let it slip in between his legs, scoring Judge. 3-2 Rays. With bases loaded — after Holliday’s walk — and a righty pitcher up, Joe Girardi stuck with Chris Carter, who ended up popping out to end the threat. Should be noted that Greg Bird was available off the bench, but I guess Girardi felt more comfortable sticking with Carter there.
In the sixth, with Diaz still on mound, Starlin Castro and Headley both singled to get on base. Judge followed it up with a 116.5 mph rocket up the middle to tie it up, 3-3. Higashioka’s bunt ended up being a force out at second base, putting the Yanks in a one-out, runners in corners chance. Girardi opted to pinch-hit Kozma with Brett Gardner and the Rays put in LHP Xavier Cedeno to counter.
Gardner hit a comeback grounder to Cedeno but the lefty’s throw to first got Weeks to handle it on the baseline. Weeks, who hadn’t played much first base, got on Gardner’s way and they both collided very, very brutally. It was a scary sight. While the go-ahead run scored for New York on the play, both Gardner and Weeks were taken out of the game. Hope they are both alright. You hate to see injuries like that. Gardner’s injuries were described as a “bruised jaw and strained neck.” Yikes. Get well soon, Brett.
On a much more positive note, the Yankees managed to score more in that frame. Ellsbury singled to center to score Higashioka and Hicks’ RBI ground drove in Ronald Torreyes, who replaced Gardner. New York came away with a 6-3 lead out the bottom of sixth.
They weren’t done scoring though. In the bottom of seventh, the Rays had Erasmo Ramirez up on the mound. With two outs and Carter on first, Ramirez served up a two-seamer on the inside part of the plate to Aaron Judge. Judge, with his huge power, drove the baseball into Monument Park for a two-run homer (435 feet, to be exact). It didn’t look like Judge got all of the pitch either — he didn’t get his arms extended and looked maybe a little bit jammed. Nonetheless, he made a solid contact off the bat and the ball just simply traveled far enough and a bit more. After today’s game, Judge is hitting .308/.379/.692 in 29 PA’s. That’s a reason to be excited!
The bullpen turned in another solid outing today. Bryan Mitchell, one of the starter candidates from the ST, relieved Montgomery and recorded four outs. After Mitchell, Tyler Clippard tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. It looked like Yankees would go with Betances in the 8th but Judge’s homer bumped their lead for five runs, which prompted Girardi to put in Tommy Layne instead. Layne allowed a run in an inning’s work, which shaved Yankees’ lead to 8-4. Well, that’s how the score remained for good. Jonathan Holder came in to pitch the ninth but allowed two baserunners while getting an out, making it a save situation for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman got the remaining two outs to earn the first save of the season, and that’s all she wrote.
While the top of the lineup was a bit quiet today (combined 2-for-16 from Ellsbury, Hicks, Holliday and Carter), the no. 5 to 7 hitters – Castro, Headley and judge – played catalyst to Yankees’ comeback today. They combined for 6-for-11 day with three RBI’s (all coming from Judge, by the way).
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The Yankees will play a 7:05 pm EST game tomorrow for a series finale versus the Rays. Luis Severino will make his second start of the year versus Matt Andriese. If you want to check out the game, RAB Tickets got you.