All things considered, Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 win over the Blue Jays might have been the most important game of the Yankees’ season as Masahiro Tanaka returned to the rotation after more than three months on the shelf. He and his right elbow are mighty important to the team going forward. Let’s recap series-winning win:
- The Return: Tanaka’s return went as well as we could have reasonably expected. He was rusty, particularly with his location, but he didn’t shy away from his splitter or slider (or curveball) and it didn’t look like he was holding anything back, so to speak. Didn’t seem tentative at all. Tanaka ended the day right at 70 pitches (48 strikes, six swings and misses) and his pitching line was fine (5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K), though the performance is secondary to his health. With the caveat that they have to see how he feels in the coming days, Sunday’s return was overwhelmingly positive for the Yankees and Tanaka.
- Three Taters: The Blue Jays scored a quick first inning run on two singles and a double play, but the Yankees answered right back with a Brian McCann solo homer in the bottom half of the inning. The score remained 1-1 until the fifth inning, when Brett Gardner unloaded on a Drew Hutchison pitch for a solo homer. It was his 17th (!) of the season. Back-to-back doubles in the seventh by Gardner and Derek Jeter created New York’s third run, then the fourth and fifth came off the bat of McCann, who hit his second homer of the game as the next batter. I declare it the most aesthetically pleasing homer of the 2014 season. Here, watch. All three homers were bombs. No doubters.
- Bullpen: Weirdly, the Yankees’ least effective reliever on the afternoon was Dellin Betances. He allowed a run on a single (Jose Reyes), two stolen bases, and another single (Edwin Encarnacion). Encarnacion’s was off the wall, one of those “he hit it so hard it was a single” jobs. Adam Warren replaced Tanaka in the sixth and stranded a runner with two strikeouts, then threw a perfect seventh as well. His last two outings have been very good. David Robertson pitched around a two-out walk to close out his 38th save. Really hope he gets to 40 for no reason in particular.
- Leftovers: Gardner made #toomanyhomers history. His solo shot was the 15,000th homerun in Yankees history, easily the most among the 30 clubs (Giants are second with 13,984) … the Yankees hit three homers as a team for the first time in nearly a month, since the makeup game in Kansas City. It’s only their eighth 3+ homer game of the season … Gardner, Jeter, McCann, and Ichiro Suzuki all had two hits apiece. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-16. McCann, Chris Young, Chase Headley, and Frankie Cervelli (two) had the walks.
The box score and video highlights are at MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has the updated standings. At this very moment, the Yankees are four games back of the second wildcard spot with seven games to play. Their elimination number is five and FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 0.2%. Big Mike Pineda and Wei-Yin Chen will be on the bump for Monday night’s series opener against the Orioles. There are only four home games left in the season/Jeter’s career, so head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of them live.