Bombs, Controversy, and Another Man Down: The Yanks Reach .500
The Yankees came into Saturday’s game looking to win their second series in a row, and gain some semblance of momentum despite the vast number of injuries the team has experienced this year. Saturday’s rubber match had a little bit of everything: controversy, home runs, strong pitching, and yet another significant injury. Ultimately, the Yankees beat the Royals easily, 9-2, and moved to 10-10 on the season.
Another One Bites The Dust
Let’s start with the most significant outcome of today’s game: Aaron Judge is likely joining the Yankee masses on the Injured List. Judge was in the midst of a typically strong game when disaster struck on a single swing. Following a swing that resulted in a single to RF in the bottom of the sixth inning, Judge was in noticeable pain as he jogged gingerly to 1B. Judge wasted little time in leaving the field when trainer Steve Donahue came out to check on him. It was obvious that Judge was grabbing at his core, and Aaron Boone confirmed following the game that Judge sustained an injury to his left oblique. Boone did not seem to have much faith that Judge would avoid the 10-day IL, and that passes the sniff test: oblique injuries take time to heal, and are particularly rough injuries for baseball players to recover from. The crowd quieted considerably when Judge left the field, knowing the gravity of the situation for the Yankees.
When I saw the injury on my TV, I uttered the same choice words Judge did at 1B as he was pulled from the game. If the Yanks didn’t have bad luck this year, they’d have no luck at all.
While he struggled in his previous turn through the rotation, Tanaka gave the Yankees 7 strong innings against the Royals. The sole blemish on Tanaka’s stat line for the day came on a lead-off solo homer by Whit Merrifield in the 6th inning off of a hanging 2-2 two-seam fastball. Otherwise, Tanaka worked efficiently and pitched through some big moments, finding a way to gut through some trouble in both the 1st and 3rd innings.
Tanaka worked around a couple of walks in the first inning, ultimately striking out Ryan O’Hearn to strand a couple of runners.
Pitching with a 2-run lead in the third inning, Tanaka allowed a lead-off triple to Billy Hamilton, bringing the top of the Royals’ lineup to the plate. Tanaka dug deep to strike out Merrifield and Mondesi, before ultimately forcing Gordon to ground-out on a first-pitch slider. I was sure that at least one run would score, but Tanaka was impressive against the top of the Royal order mixing his pitches effectively to escape the jam.
All-in-all, this was the type of outing I expect from Tanaka after he has a sub-par outing. He gave the Yankees some much-needed innings and gave the team a relatively stress-free outing.
Torres had at least an extra-base hit stolen from him in the bottom of the third inning. Torres hit a deep fly ball to LF with runners on 1st and 2nd, and as Gordon leaped to try to rob a possible homer, a fan interfered with the ball. The umpires initially ruled the play a home run, but the play was reviewed back at MLB headquarters. The call on the field was changed to an out, and Aaron Boone was rightfully incensed. Boone was ejected from the game, and I would have been right there with him had I been on the Yankee bench.
Number one, it is impossible to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Gordon would have made the catch, since all angles available to the fans showed that the ball was traveling into the stands. There’s no way to confirm that a Gordon catch was assumed in that scenario.
Secondly, while I agree that you could claim that Gordon was interfered with on the play, changing the home run to a ground-rule double would have been far more reasonable – the call on the field would remain a hit, but the interference with Gordon would have been acknowledged.
Either way, the Yankees experienced a three-run swing on one bad ruling. A message to all fans: stop reaching over the fence for live balls.
Luckily, the lost homer didn’t matter: the Yankees hit homers almost at will on Saturday. Judge (sigh) hit a solo opposite field homer in the bottom of the first on a 2-1 fastball. Clint Frazier led-off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a homer to right-center field. In the bottom of the fourth, Tauchman and LeMahieu went back-to-back to bring in 4 more runs. Special shout-out to LeMahieu for hitting his first home run as a Yankee.
In the non-homer category, the Yanks just had the Royals’ number today, swatting 100+ MPH liners and grounders all over the field. Torres and Frazier brought in a run each in the bottom of the sixth with line drive singles.
The Yankee bats seem to be waking up, and it’s a wonderful thing to watch. The Yanks are supposed to beat teams like the Royals, and they won the series on the back of solid pitching and big bats.
Odds and Ends
How about Clint Frazier? I really thought he’d need 100 ABs or so in the minors to get back up to speed, but he’s been awesome here in the early going. I’m not sure where the Yankees would be without him. No way he leaves the lineup once the outfield gets healthier.
I was firmly in the Wade over Tauchman camp at the end of Spring Training, but I think I was wrong there as well. Multiple projection systems project Tauchman to be a roughly average big league player, and I think he is at least a good fourth outfielder watching him play the last week or so. There’s talent in the bat, and he’s good defensively. I’m not sure he’s a Voit-like diamond in the rough, but he sure is impressing me.
Jonathan Holder does not look like the same pitcher this year. He gave up a throw-away homer in the 9th, and while it didn’t change the outcome of today’s game, I can’t say I’d trust him in a high-leverage situation. Something isn’t right mechanically, and Holder and Rothschild need to get it straightened out.
Thairo Estrada is coming up to the majors to take Judge’s spot on the 25-man roster. If anyone else gets hurt, who’s left down on the farm to come up as a warm-blooded body? We’re running out of 40-man eligible players…
Gio Urshela has made the most of his opportunity at 3B. He went 3-4 at the plate today, and made a beautiful play on a pop in foul territory despite being shaded over towards shortstop. Small-sample size applies here, but Urshela has been impressive, and his performance given the Yankees injury troubles has been much needed.
Did I mention that I’m upset about the Judge injury? Because I’m upset about the Judge injury. Happy as I am with much of what I saw today, I’m still going to sulk in the corner about Judge.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images