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Homers & Strikeouts: Thoughts from Yesterday’s Exhibition Game

By Patrick Gunn

For the Yankees, Thursday cannot come soon enough. The Bombers proved their namesake with five home runs from their big boppers against the Mets after two dominant pitching performances in their 6-0 exhibition win.

Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, and Giancarlo Stanton each deposited a tape-measure shot into the empty Yankees’ stadium bleachers. Aaron Judge gave baseball-starved fans an extra fest with two bombs of his own. New York needs their big boppers to stay healthy and mash like they did today.

Remember, Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez have homered in the same only game once during the regular season over the last two years. That fact has more to do with the three players being injured, as Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez have yet to play at least 100 games in a season as a full unit. Obviously, none of them can reach that milestone this year, but they can still make quite a storm this year if they can stay healthy and keep mashing.

Their health is important because whichever way you look at it, the Yankee’s strength is power. They can put up six runs even while going hitless with runners in scoring position (in seven at-bats).

That is not to say that the Yankees were just sitting and waiting for the long ball. Met’s starter Corey Oswalt through 67 pitches in three-plus innings of work, while allowing seven baserunners. The Bombers took four walks along the night to go with nine hits. Those home runs were impressive, but the Yankees were still forcing the Mets’ pitchers to work for each out. The Yankees are hitting like they’re in midseason form…after nearly four months away from the game.

On the mound, Jordan Montgomery dazzled. He struck out six Mets in five-shutout innings, while only allowing three-baserunners. He had pinpoint command of all of his pitches, with a sharp fastball and a wipeout curve. He was incredibly efficient, throwing only 59 pitches (40 strikes) in five innings. He even successfully picked-off Michael Conforto in the second inning.

Montgomery looked just as strong as he did before he had Tommy John surgery in 2018. He is going to be an important cog in the back end of the Yankees’ rotation this season, with Domingo German suspended, Masahiro Tanaka hurt, and few major-league proven starters in their player pool.

With that said, Monty benefits from the longer layoff because he has more time to ease into the regular season. Also, he may have more room to go deep into games because he only has to maintain his form for 60 games rather than 160. If Montgomery can pitch near this level this season, the Bombers will be in good shape on the mound.

In relief, Jonathan Loaisiga also impressed on the mound. He only struck out one batter in three innings, but he only allowed one hit while keeping the Mets off the scoreboard. His fastball looked sharp and he induced plenty of week contact. Most importantly, Loaisiga threw efficiently, using only 39 pitches to mow down the Mets in his three innings.

Loaisiga has always had the pure talent to dominate hitters but, when healthy, he has struggled to finish off hitters (he has a career walk rate of 4.5 per 9). Maybe Loaisiga can grow pitching out of the bullpen, focusing on fewer pitches and through strikes.

So, power at the plate and on the mound. Sounds about right. Tomorrow, the Yankees wrap up their summer camp game slate with a date with the Phillies. This is the first time ex-Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi will coach a game in the Bronx since the 2017 playoffs. Oh, and Didi Gregorius returns to New York after hitting a home run while wearing a mask against the Nationals.

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