If you’re only going to spend one day in Kansas City, you might as well win. The Yankees beat the Royals by the score of 8-1 on Monday night, in the makeup of a rained out game from early-June. The Bombers have won five straight — that ties their longest winning streak of the season, which they had previously done back in April — and seven of their last nine games overall.
One Run, Three Times
The Yankees scored the first run of the game without hitting the ball out of the infield. Ichiro Suzuki led off the third inning with an infield single and moved up to second when James Shields threw the ball wide of first. Zelous Wheeler drew a walk but was erased on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s grounder to first. Ellsbury is way too quick and the Royals didn’t even attempt to turn the 3-6-3 double play. That gave the Yankees runners on the corners with one out.
The run came across on Derek Jeter‘s tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball. Thankfully Ellsbury was running on the pitch and he slid in safely at second, meaning it was only a fielder’s choice. Ichiro scored and the Yankees were up 1-0. The Royals answered right back in the next half-inning with Mike Moustakas’ solo homer, and the Yankees answered that back with a Stephen Drew solo homer in the next half-inning. So, after all that, the Bombers were up 2-1 in the fourth inning. The two teams combined to score exactly one run in three consecutive half innings.
James Big Mike
For the first time as a Yankee, Michael Pineda recorded an out in the seventh inning on Monday. The team has understandably had him on pitch limits this year, both back in April and now coming off the injury. Pineda’s only real mistake was the homerball to Moustakas, which was nothing more than a pitch left up in the zone. Otherwise he allowed only two runners to get as far as second base — the speedy Jarrod Dyson singled and stole second in the sixth, and Salvador Perez doubled to center with one out in the seventh. The double ended Pineda’s night.
With an assist to David Huff for stranding Perez, Big Mike’s final pitching line was just the one run allowed on five hits and no walks in 6.1 innings. He struck out five and recorded eight of his other 14 outs on the infield. Pineda has walked just one batter in 17.1 innings since coming off the disabled list and four batters in 37 innings overall this year. That’s not a surprise — part of what made Pineda so special a few years ago was the combination of high-end stuff and strike-throwing ability. He’s always pounded the zone.
Pineda threw 96 pitches — Joe Girardi said he was scheduled for 95-100 before the game — as he continues to stretched out. PitchFX says he averaged 94.6 mph and topped out at 97.6 mph with his fastball — those are both season highs, but the PitchFX system has run hot in Kansas City for whatever reason over the years. I’m not sure if that’s still the case though — and the velocity plot shows he actually threw harder and harder as the night went on. Pineda’s been awesome. Just please stay healthy, Big Mike.
It was a random makeup game miracle. Rather than force the pitching staff to nurse a one-run lead for the rest of the game, the offense went out and scored some insurance runs. A bunch of them too. The four-run seventh inning started with a Martin Prado leadoff homer — OMG he is sooo hot right now — and continued with four singles by the next five batters. The only out during that stretch was Wheeler’s failed bunt attempt. He bunted back to Shields with runners at first and second and the force out was made at third.
The Yankees still had runners at first and second after the bunt, only this time with one out instead of none. Ellsbury pulled a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Ichiro and getting Wheeler to third. Jeter followed that with a single literally off Shields — the grounder hit him in the foot and deflected away from shortstop Alcides Escobar to score Wheeler. Brian McCann lifted a sac fly to right to score Ellsbury for the fourth and final run of the inning. He was originally called out at the plate, though the play was overturned after Girardi asked for a challenge.
It was great to see the offense string together some hits for a big inning, especially with the botched bunt mixed in there. Big innings are few and far between with this club, mostly because they don’t have a ton of power and it’s tougher to get a simple base hit right now than at any other point since the mound was lowered (shifts, specialized relievers, etc.). Ellsbury tacked on even more runs with a two-run homer in the ninth inning. For the first time in a long time, it actually felt like a game was in the bag. A seven-run lead with three outs to go will do that.
Shoutout to Huff for retiring eight of ten batters faced to close the game out in relief of Pineda. He allowed an infield single and a traditional single while throwing 2.2 scoreless innings. The key bullpeners got the night off thanks to the big offensive explosion and Huff’s quality work. Twenty-one of his 25 pitches were strikes too. Pretty cool.
Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit while Ellsbury, Prado, and Ichiro had multiple hits. McCann, Beltran, and Wheeler all had a single and a walk. The Yankees had nine different players record at least one hit in a nine-inning game for the third time this season. They did it twice in April in the span of four days.
The Yankees scored 5+ runs in back-to-back-to-back games for the first time since late-June and the fourth time overall this season. It’s only the second time they scored 7+ runs in back-to-back games this year. They did it against the Mets back in May, and they managed to lose both of those games.
And finally, Ellsbury’s seventh inning single was his 1,000th career hit. He singled in the first and homered in the ninth for a three-hit game. One-hundred-and-thirty-six of those 1,001 career hits have come in Yankees pinstripes. Congrats to him.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
If you want to check out the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. You can find some other stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings at ESPN. The Orioles pounded the Rays, so the Yankees are still six games back in the AL East. They’ll be either 2.5 games (Mariners lose) or 3.5 games (Mariners win) back of the second wildcard spot depending on the outcome of the late game. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 11.1%.
So long, Kansas City. The Yankees are done with the Royals and now they’re off to Detroit to start a three-game series with the Tigers. That one has some pretty serious wildcard implications. Brandon McCarthy and Rick Porcello will be the starters for Tuesday night’s opener.