About Last Night: Yankees 3, Mariners 1
By Mike Whiteman 6/21/2023 Born on this day in 1918 was Eddie Lopat. “The Junkman” was from another era – one in which everyone didn’t try to throw 100 mph. The Yankee lefty survived – and thrived - by mixing slow curves, sliders and screwballs with the occasional fastball, frustrating American League hitters of the 1940s and 1950s.
Lopat was a crucial part of the Yankee staff from 1948-1955, winning 113 games with an ERA+ of 121 in Pinstripes. He was 4-1, 2.60 in World Series play, including a sparkling 2-0, 0.50 ERA in the 1951 Fall Classic. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lopated01.shtml https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/Eddie-Lopat/ On this day in 1939, the Yankees officially announce Lou Gehrig’s retirement due to his “affliction” of “muscular atrophy”. He would serve as captain of the AL squad in that season’s All-Star game, held in Yankee Stadium.
Quick Stats: The Yankees are 40-33, third in the American League East, hanging onto the third AL wild-card spot. They continue to play a strong schedule, ranking only behind Oakland’s in all Major League Baseball. Only the A’s have played fewer games against under .500 teams than the Yankees. Their .548 winning percentage amounts to 89 wins over the course of a complete season. Gerrit Cole is 8-1, 2.64 on the year. He ranks third in all of MLB in pitchers WAR. He has a 44-20, 3.17 career record in Pinstripes. The Yankees are 9-0 this season when I cover their game. I’m doing what I can! Big Story: The recently struggling Yankee offense started off on a high note when Anthony Rizzo - .083 in June coming into the game – doubled in Jake Bauers to take an early 1-0 lead. A two-run home run in the next inning by Billy McKinney put the Yanks up 3-0. An early three-run lead and Gerrit Cole on the mound is about as good as it gets for these Yankees, and the ace made the lead stand up, allowing only one run on four hits while pitching into the eighth inning. He turned the game over to Clay Holmes, who retired all five batters he faced for the save. Yankees win, 3-1.
Player of the Game: Gerrit Cole. The Yankees are reeling of late, and their ace stopped the bleeding. They also got some needed swagger back, as Cole was seen wagging his index finger at the Seattle manager Scott Servais after striking out the side in the seventh.
Notable Performances: Harrison Bader returned to the lineup from the IL and had a hit and stolen base. There was much (reasonable) speculation about Bader’s health when he took on extra rehab games after being eligible to rejoin the team. The stolen base is an encouraging sign; I don’t think a hurting player tries to steal a base…Holmes was dominant and efficient, getting five outs from 21 pitches, 17 strikes. Roughly fifty miles away from Yankee Stadium, Carlos Rodon made his first rehab appearance for the Somerset Patriots, throwing 42 pitches and amping up as high as 95 MPH. A healthy Rodon is a definite source of hope in the lean times.
Better to Forget: Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson were hitless in a combined seven at bats. Both players endured an extensive absence due to injury, and since returning June 2nd they have batted a combined .129 with seven home runs, nine RBI, and 29 strikeouts in 97 plate appearances. All this while almost always holding down key run producing positions in the batting order. They Said It: “It’s a real grind and a tough season at times. This is part of it…. We will grind through it.” – Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman before last night’s game. “I’m encouraged by what we’re seeing and just by my conversations with him” – Aaron Boone on Aaron Judge’s recovery process after his second PRP injection. "I felt sharp after the first. The third I felt like I started finding myself" - Carlos Rodon on his rehab outing.
My take: Much has been made of the Yankees struggles at the plate, who is responsible, and what can be done. There is a lot of noise out there, but I would steer readers to the SSTN podcast from Monday night for thoughtful, rational analysis. Give it a listen! https://www.startspreadingthenews.blog/post/the-sstn-podcast-6-20-23
The only things that I would add is that we need to take the Scranton-Wilkes Barre numbers with a grain of salt, as it looks like almost everyone hits in the International League this season, with the average team scoring 5.5 runs per game, about a run higher than the MLB this season. The numbers aren’t 1980s Pacific Coast League inflated, but they are a bit bloated. Next Up: Things do not get easier, as the Yanks go up against Luis Castillo (4-5, 2.73). Toeing the rubber for New York…will be determined.