Raise your hand if you had Yankees sweeping the Cubs at Wrigley. I certainly didn’t, but they went and did it. This game started as a nice pitching duel for the first six innings. The Yankee offense took a 4-1 lead into the ninth and, of course, Aroldis Chapman blew it. After another game’s worth of innings, New York finally took another lead in the top of the 18th and thankfully closed the game out. The Yankees are now 20-9, good for a .690 winning percentage. It’s (super way past) Sunday night so let’s do it bullet-point style.
- Could have been more: Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a clean single to right … and then got picked off by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. Ellsbury seemed to try to distract Jon Lester by having a pretty wide lead, but Contreras caught him way off-guard. Anyways, while it’s easy to wonder “what could have been,” that pickoff loomed large. Aaron Hicks followed it up with a walk and Matt Holliday singled to put runners on first and second. Both of them advanced on double steal and Starlin Castro’s ground out brought in Hicks. The Yankees had a 1-0 lead coming out of the top of the first and it could have been more had Ellsbury not gotten picked off.
- Luis Severino is… good: Severino did everything you could ask for him. He got strikeouts (9) and ground outs (10) and pretty much mowed down the Cubs lineup for seven innings. Who saw this coming after last year? The only flaw was the solo home run allowed to Javy Baez, which wasn’t even a bad pitch. Severino threw the fastball inside and Baez squared up on it quickly. Severino threw some mean heat today. Per Brooks Baseball, he averaged at 98.3 mph (!) and topped out at 100.6 mph (!!). I think, at some point in his career, he should learn to pitch with lesser velocity but this is very exciting to see. After tonight’s game, Severino has a 3.40 ERA with 10.21 K/9 IP and 1.59 BB/9 IP. Those are some pretty darn good numbers and I’m glad the Yankees have stuck with him in the rotation.
- More offense!: With a 1-1 deadlock tie going into the top of the seventh, Castro got on second base with a Kris Bryant throwing error. Aaron Judge followed it up with a big triple over CF Jon Jay’s head for an RBI and a 2-1 Yankees lead. In the eighth, with RHP Justin Grimm relieving for the Cubs, Brett Gardner (pinch-hitting for Severino) got on base with a lead-off single and Ellsbury drove him with a two-run HR to make it 4-1. With the back end of NYY bullpen working, you’d think that the game is pretty much over at that point, right?
- Blowing the lead: Bottom of ninth, the Yankees had a three-run lead and brought Aroldis Chapman out to pitch. And, for that frame, it seemed that the Fighting Spirit briefly fled towards the Cubs dugout. Chapman did not have his best command going and the Cubs hitters managed to hit ’em where they ain’t to get runners on base. Albert Almora Jr. and Baez both had an RBI single to make it a 4-3 nail-biter. With runners on second and third, Chapman struck out Kyle Schwarber to make it two outs. The Yankees intentionally walked Bryant (after Chapman fell behind to a 3-1 count) and had to deal with Anthony Rizzo with the bases-loaded … and Chapman hit him in the forearm on the first pitch. Tie game, 4-4. That was the end of Chapman’s night and Tyler Clippard mercifully got out of the inning with a Ben Zobrist ground out.
- The second game of the doubleheader: After Chapman allowed three in the ninth, the Yankee bullpen managed to hold the Cubs lineup scoreless for rest of the way through. Clippard threw a scoreless inning in the 10th, Adam Warren followed it up with two scoreless and both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve blanked the Cubs for three innings each. I definitely wasn’t confident that either would keep the Yankees in the game but what do I know? Shreve ended up with a well-earned win and Holder solidified his case to be a capable ML bullpen arm. Too bad that those two will be sent down to AAA (probably) tomorrow for another pair of fresh arms. Oh well, they’ll be back soon if that happens.
- A lead!: Top of the 18th, Hicks led off bunting to try for a base hit. Contreras’ throw sailed out of first baseman’s reach and Hicks ended up at the second base. Ronald Torreyes followed it up yet another bunt for a sacrifice. The Yankees then had their best chance to go ahead with runner on third with one out. Castro, who was 0-for-7 in the game prior to that at-bat, hit a grounder toward Addison Russell. With Hicks charging towards home plate, Russell rushed to field and made an off-balance throw home that was way off the mark. Hicks scored and Yankees took a 5-4 lead, about two hours and 40 minutes after Chapman’s blown save. Shreve managed to keep the lead and close the game out (mercifully) for a Yankees victory and a Wrigley sweep.
- Leftovers: Castro and Didi Gregorius both went 0-for-8 while Chase Headley and Austin Romine each had 0-for-7 nights. The Yankees and Cubs combined for 48 strikeouts total, which is a new MLB record. This was also the longest ever interleague game in MLB history. Records exist so they can be broken but I’m hoping that it’s some other AL team that goes for it the next time.
Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph. The Yankees will head to Ohio for a two-game series against the Reds at the Great American Ball Park. If you’re not asleep right now, for whatever reason, get to bed soon!