Now that is much more like it. The Yankees snapped their four-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon. CC Sabathia’s return restored order to the universe.
The Big Man Returns
In the first start of his final season, it took CC Sabathia two innings to match J.A. Happ’s season 1-2-3 inning total and four innings to double it. Happ as two 1-2-3 innings this year, both in his first start two weeks ago. Sabathia had four 1-2-3 innings in his five-inning start Saturday. His only baserunner allowed was a soft little Jose Rondon single to center field in the third inning. Soft as in 72.5 mph exit velocity. Sixteen up, 15 down.
Sabathia threw only 62 pitches in his five innings Saturday, exactly as many as he threw in his minor league rehab start last Sunday. Minor league rehab pitches and competitive Major League pitches are very different in terms of intensity though, and Sabathia is coming back from offseason knee and heart surgery, so of course the Yankees played it safe. Was there enough in the tank for another inning? Yeah, probably. But the Yankees and Sabathia have to think big picture here.
Had you not known any better, it would’ve been impossible to tell Sabathia was coming back from offseason surgery and what amounts to a modified Spring Training. The White Sox stacked their lineup with righties (Yonder Alonso was the only lefty) and, as usual, Sabathia busted those righties with 90-ish mph cutters on the inner half and got them to reach for changeups and breaking balls away. Here are his pitch locations against those righties:
Sabathia’s final line: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K on 62 pitches. Tyler Wade and Brett Gardner both made stellar defensive plays behind Sabathia to take away hits, so he had help, but the process and the results were strong. The White Sox didn’t square him up much and there were no indications of diminished stuff. Sabathia looked like regular ol’ Sabathia and that is the best possible outcome. Hooray CC. Welcome back, big man.
Three Runs In The Seventh
This game was scoreless into the seventh inning. Sabathia threw his five scoreless innings and long man du jour Domingo German was very good in his two scoreless innings, all while former Yankee Ivan Nova mowed the Yankees down on the other side. They had runners on first and second with one out in the first inning when Gleyber Torres had the bat taken out of his hands by home plate umpire Ted Barrett (look at this called strike three location) and Greg Bird grounded out, stranding both runners.
The Yankees finally broke through and got on the board in the seventh inning. Let’s recap that inning with an annotated play-by-play.
(1) Since his home run binge in Baltimore, Torres has gotten a little big with his swing, which I suppose isn’t too uncommon for a young player. Sometimes they get a little anxious and start trying to yank everything into the seats. In this at-bat, Gleyber took a first pitch curveball for a strike, swung through a second pitch cutter with a great big hero swing, then settled down and punched the 0-2 cutter to right field for a leadoff single. That got the rally going and it also ended Nova’s afternoon, which kinda surprised me, even at 93 pitches.
(2) Boy did Yolmer Sanchez bail out Aaron Boone. Lefty reliever Jace Fry replaced Nova and pinch-hitting the righty hitting Luke Voit for the lefty hitting Bird seemed like an obvious move. Instead, Bird stayed in, and he hit a tailor-made 4-6-3 double play ball to second base. The rally should’ve died right there. Sanchez booted the ball though — it looked like he rushed to make sure he could get the out at second — and instead of two outs and the bases empty, the Yankees had runners on first and second with no outs. A gift to take Boone off the hook.
(3) Like Torres two batters earlier, Clint Frazier took a huge hack early in the at-bat and swung through a pitch. Gleyber swung through an 0-1 cutter in the zone. Frazier swung through a first pitch slider in the dirt. And, like Torres two batters earlier, Frazier shortened up and shot a single to right field. That loaded the bases. Torres could not score from second because it looked like Sanchez had a chance to snag the line drive, so the runners held. No run, but bases loaded and no outs, and I’ll take it.
(4) Not pinch-hitting for Bird worked out well for Boone. Sanchez botched the double play ball, and it also allowed Boone to use Voit as a pinch-hitter for Mike Tauchman. Voit jumped on a first pitch fastball and muscled it through the infield and back up the middle to score the game’s first run. It was hit so slowly that I thought Bird would be able to score from second because the ball took forever to get to center fielder Adam Engel, but nope. No need to risk it and send a slow runner home with the bases loaded and no outs. Voit gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
(5) Kyle Higashioka did a great Gary Sanchez impression Saturday. He had a hard single (109.5 mph exit velocity) and two hard outs (103.8 mph and 100.5 mph). The 100.5 mph out was this seventh inning sacrifice fly. Leury Garcia is the White Sox’s version of Wade. He’s a natural infielder learning the outfield to increase his versatility. Garcia got turned around a bit on Higashioka’s fly ball and it looked like it may fall in, but he was able to reach up and make the catch while going back on the ball. Got the job done and brought a run home, and that’s the most important thing.
(6) A squeeze bunt! It looked to me that the bunt was Plan B. Wade did not square around on the first pitch fastball out of the zone, and he took a hack at the second pitch fastball for a swing-and-miss. It seemed like he was going to take one rip early in the count and try to ambush a fastball. When he missed that opportunity, Wade squared around and dropped down a textbook squeeze bunt, scoring the speedy Frazier from this base. The video:
The Bullpen Comes Through
Been a rough few days for the supposed Super Bullpen. The bullpen had allowed at least three runs in each of the last three games — they hadn’t done that since September 2016 — and, aside from Adam Ottavino, no one has looked especially great in the early going. On Saturday, three relievers combined for four nearly perfect innings. The only baserunner came on a Wade throwing error that Bird really should’ve scooped at first.
German piggybacked with Sabathia and was dynamite in his two innings, striking our four and allowing just the one baserunner on the Wade error. If he weren’t needed in the rotation, I’d be interested in seeing German as a once-through-the-lineup multi-inning reliever. Zack Britton went 1-2-3 with a strikeout and two ground balls in the eighth, and now has as many swings and misses as baserunners this year (12 each). He needed a strong outing like that. Good to see.
Even with a four-run lead, Boone went to Aroldis Chapman in the ninth because, well, he hadn’t pitched in a week. Can’t go much longer without using him. Chapman struck out one in a perfect ninth and, for the first time this season, he hit 100 mph on the radar gun. The first four times, actually: 100.4, 100.1, 100.0, 100.0. Good to see. The weather’s warming up a bit and so is Chapman, apparently.
The Yankees had seven hits scattered throughout the lineup. No one had more than one hit, and the only starters without one were Bird, Tauchman (two at-bats before being removed for a pinch-hitter), and Wade (squeeze bunt). DJ LeMahieu drew the team’s only walk and is hitting .432/.490/.535 (183 wRC+). As of this writing he is second in baseball in AVG (Tim Anderson at .444), sixth in OBP, and 11th in hits. Pretty cool.
And finally, the Yankees threw a one-hitter! That soft Rondon single against Sabathia was Chicago’s only base hit. This is the Yankees’ first one-hitter since Luis Severino, David Robertson, and Chapman got the Rangers on September 9th, 2017. Their last one-hitter before that came in September 2014. Michael Pineda, Shawn Kelley, Rich Hill, and David Phelps teamed up to do it.
The Yankees will look to clinch their second series win of the season Sunday afternoon. Righty Masahiro Tanaka and lefty Carlos Rodon on scheduled starters. That is a 1:05pm ET game.