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Thoughts on the Yankees’ Wild Win in an Instant Classic vs. the Twins

When looking at the schedule for the beginning of this season, never in my wildest dreams did I think that a Yankees-Twins game in the middle of the summer would be a game of the year candidate.

In all honesty, I never thought that a Yankees game against Minnesota would be the most tense, wild, ridiculous, insane roller coaster ride. If you had asked me in the fourth inning of this game how this was ending, I would have said the Bombers should just throw in the towel and win the final game of the series and avoid the sweep.

Wow, I was in no way prepared for this insanity.

A comeback from six-runs down. A blown lead. Another come-back. Another blown lead. Yet another comeback. One of the best defensive plays that almost led to the final out. A line drive to the gap somehow caught. All over the course of three innings.

This all adds up to a thrilling, 14-12 Yankees win over the Twins. In a lengthy matchup that makes a Yankees-Red Sox game feel concise in comparison, the Yankees kept coming back on the backs of Didi Gregorius’ historic performance, a little Yankees magic (or luck), and Aaron Hicks making what might be the catch of the year.

After seven innings, the Yankees looked like they were in for another mediocre loss against the Twins, with every ball dropping for the Twins with men on base, Domingo German struggling mightily, and Didi Gregorius the only player able to get a hit with runners in scoring position.

Everything changed in the eighth inning. Mike Tauchman and Aaron Judge both hit deep RBI doubles to put the Yankees in a place seemingly impossible earlier in the game: within one run of the Twins. With two-outs, the Yankees caught a break, as Luke Voit walked on a full-count pitch that looked like strike three. Regardless, this allowed Gregorius to step up to the plate and he delivered with his second two-run double of the game for his sixth and seventh RBIs of the night. Gregorius now joins Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig as the only Yankees to have multiple games with at least four hits and seven RBIs. More importantly, the Yankees had their first lead since the third inning, now up 10-9.

Astonishingly, the game was not over. Zack Britton, like the Twins pitchers of the previous inning, struggled and surrendered a two-run bomb to Miguel Sano. His second home run of the night put Minnesota up 11-10.

After making two quick outs against Taylor Rodgers, it seemed as though the Yankees were done. Then, Tauchman fought for a two-out walk, and Hicks deposited the first pitch he saw into the left-centerfield bullpen to give the Yankees another lead.

Now, Aroldis Champman – struggling in July (ERA over 9 coming into the game) – with a chance to close it. Like he has done throughout this month, Chapman was not his dominant self. He walked the first three Twins to load the bases and looked like he had completely lost the strike zone. His slider was a mess and his fastball barely budged above 95 miles-per-hour. Fortunately, Chapman only gave up one run on a loud sacrifice fly to Jorge Polanco and send the game into extra innings.

Once again, Gregorius led the charge with a single to start the tenth. After an Austin Romine pinch-hit single, Gleyber Torres hit a 3-0 pitch into right center for another go-ahead hit. Romine would score on a wild pitch to give the Yankees a 14-12 lead.

Adam Ottavino now had a chance to lock down a victory. Like his predescesors, he struggled. He walked three batters and despite almost getting a ridiculous game-ending double play from Gregorius and Torres, Ottavino could not get the job done. This time, Boone decided to pull his top reliever struggling with his command.

It was up to Chad Green to end this madness with Max Kepler up with the bases loaded. After falling behind 2-1 with two near-misses, Green threw a fastball over the heart of the plate. Kepler laced it deep to left-center, appearing to have won the game for Minnesota. Aaron Hicks thought otherwise. His insane, diving catch saved the lead and ended one of the most memorable, tense games of the year.

Some thoughts on this wild game:

KNIGHT IN PINSTRIPED ARMOR:

Within the insanity, the one constant performance came from Didi Gregorius. A day after being benched, Gregorius responded by reaching base safely in all six of his plate appearances and being a part of nearly every Yankees rally.

Again, Gregorius is now in the company of only DiMaggio and Gehrig. That’s quite the company to align yourself with. Didi has gotten off to a bit of an inconsistent start to this season. He has not played terribly but he has yet to go on a hot streak, nor has he found the power that he had the last two seasons. Maybe after a historic performance in a landmark game, Gregorius will get back to playing like his usual knightly self.

THE YANKEES NEED PITCHING:

It might be easy to forget this game’s starters, but Domingo German easily had his worst start since his return from the injured list. Even after only allowing one run in the frame, German showcased that he was off after a 30-pitch inning. His curveball was not generating swings-and-misses. His fastball was nonexistent. German was only getting consistent weak hacks from his changeup, and even that pitch abandoned him after the second inning.

That was win Minnesota came back with the long ball. Back-to-back home runs for Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz put the Twins up by a run. The next inning was even worse, as German struggled to put away Twins hitters again before serving up a three-run jack to Miguel Sano on a full-count pitch after a long at-bat.

I could sum up his outing after one moment. After throwing a wild pitch, German just stood still on the mound while Gio Urshela raced in from third to try to cover home. It was that kind of night for German, completely off in every facet. The only long-term issue I see from this outing is German’s high home run rate (1.5 homers per nine innings coming into this game). After a strong return to the rotation post IL stint, German’s rough night is just that: one bad outing that ended up being an after-thought in a wild game.

This further escalates the Yankees’ need for pitching depth, mainly in the rotation. Obviously, the bullpen was not its best tonight, but this is probably going to be one of the only nights when Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman all struggle. German has been a mostly solid replacement in the rotation, but he’s never thrown more than 123.1 innings in a season in his professional career. He’s still growing, and the Yankees could use a boost in the rotation to keep German fresh for the future. With a fantastic starter like Marcus Stroman on the market, the Yankees need to go out and get an arm to supplement this staff.

POOR GARY.

Another startling development, Gary Sanchez exited this game in the eighth inning running down the first base line. He is due for an MRI within the coming hours, but it is possible that he may return to the IL for the second time this season. The only solace the Bombers can take is that Sanchez is mired in a horrific slump, with only six hits in 59 at-bats in July. Maybe a few games off will help Sanchez clear his head and get back to mashing baseball like he was in the first half.

THIS TEAM MIGHT BE SOMETHING SPECIAL:

I have always felt like this Yankees team was special, from the way they have recovered from their never-ending roster of players getting hurt. However, over the past few weeks, I felt like it was almost getting too easy for the Bombers, that there was no reason to watch anymore. I felt less interested in watching one of the best teams in baseball. This performance changed that. This game reminded me how insane the game of baseball can get, and how resilient, how much suspense, elation, dejection, and joy can be drawn from the game of baseball.

More importantly, it further proved to me that this team is truly resilient. Yes, they have had come-from-behind wins before this one but surviving this marathon of an effort against a relentless Twins lineup felt like something more. Every time the Twins rallied and beat up some of their best relievers, the Yankees had an answer. They never backed down from the madness they saw from the Twins offense and matched it beat-for-beat. Then, they found a way to overpower a lineup that has hit nine home runs over the past two games. Bottom line, to get to the top of the American League, your team is going to have to grind their way through these savages.

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