The Yankees got absolutely no offensive production from the upper two-thirds of their lineup – seriously! They went 0-19! – but they won the game 3-1 over Toronto anyway. That’s because they have a legitimate and incredible top-of-the-rotation ace in Gerrit Cole and got some clutch production from the bottom third of the order, namely the backup catcher.
In baseball, you are going to win 50 games and lose 50 games every year. It’s what you do in the other 62 that will make and break your season. This one had all the makings of one of the 50 losses but they got it done, and it feels like they stole a win today. They improve to 5-5 on the young season and they’re winners of two straight. Let’s get to today’s takeaways, right after the jump.
1 Gerrit Cole is So, So Good: I might just start auto-naming this takeaway whenever I am responsible for games started by Gerrit Cole. What else can you even say about this guy? Tonight was that special kind of ace performance, too. He was not himself and not even particularly sharp, as his pitch plot demonstrates:
That’s a lot of pitches all over the zone, and many that are not even particularly close. But the thing about Cole is that it doesn’t really matter, because he can bear down and make pitches like this when he’s really in trouble:
Seriously, what the hell are you supposed to do with that? Making it even better is the fact that this was in the first inning, when Cole really needed to bear down and get an out. And it’s worth noting he really wasn’t sharp. With runners on first and third with one out, Cole even threw a wild pitch that preceded an attcha grounder to short – which allowed a run to score instead of a double play. (It even gave us our first “fallacy of the predetermined outcome” of the season!) All told, he threw 18 pitches in the first, 25 in the second, and 16 in the third – and it was clear he was laboring a bit. Still, as I said, pitches like the above help make the difference. His stuff is just so good.
While he didn’t quite have command of any of his offspeed or breaking pitches – with the possible exception of the slider, which he was able to dot on the corner – he was able to turn to his fastball to turn it around. Cole really started attacking as the game went along, and it helped him find solid footing. He relied on a first-pitch fastball to get ahead and he really didn’t back down from it.
Spoiler: it worked. He retired the last 15 men he faced for a line of 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, and 8 K. The dude is an absolute machine, and he is just so damn overpowering. It was nice to see him rely on his changeup in his first two starts:
But there is nothing quite like watching an ace bear down and just blow it by a very good opposing lineup. Nothing like it.
2. Kyle Higashoika, The Home Run Stroka: Before we get into Higgy’s game today, I just want to point out one thing: “Kyle Higashioka, the Home Run Stroka” is an all-time, 80-grade home run call. It’s one of John Sterling’s best. And we got to hear it not once but twice tonight. After getting shut down for the first few frames by almost-a-2019-Yankee Robbie Ray, Sunday’s hero Roughned Odor got the Yanks in the hit column. That brought up Robbie Ray, who deposited a middle-middle fastball into the seats. See, fastball:
That gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the 5th inning. A no-hitter and a lead all gone in two batters. (As if the Yankees were going to get no-hit by Robbie Ray or the Blue Jays.) Anyway, it’s pretty neat to have a backup catcher who can make a pitcher pay for trying to sneak one by him. It’s a nice luxury, to say the least.
That score held for the next three innings, until Higgy took the plate again in the top of the 8th. This time, he did this:
That was Higashioka’s third multi-homer game as a big leaguer, which is cool. It made it 3-1 Yankees, all because of Higgy’s bat. Again, a backup catcher with pop? Good with me. Gary has looked incredible to start the season, but even the very best catchers don’t play every day. If Higgy can keep up the production, he is a valuable piece on the team. And, tonight at least, his production won the Yankees a baseball game.
3. The Bullpen: The Yankee bullpen is absolutely filthy right now. Just filthy. Gerrit Cole left the game after 6 innings with a 2-1 lead and the team didn’t have Chad Green or Jonathan Loaisiga tonight. (Nor, of course, do they have actual set-up man Zack Britton.) Did that matter at all? Absolutely not. It did not matter even a little bit. Justin Wilson, who returned from the IL last weekend, took the seventh. He retired the side in order even though he was wild as hell:
Darren O’Day replaced him in the 8th. While he retired the first two in order, he got in a bit of trouble with two outs, putting two men aboard, but he escaped the jam with a strikeout. O’Day is just such a different look for the Yankees. I know I’ve said this a few times, but he is mesmerizing. It’s just a lot of fun to watch him pitch.
That led to Aroldis Chapman, who genuinely looks as good as he ever has as a pitcher in New York. I’m not exaggerating. He is legitimately unhittable, throwing 101 mph regularly, with not one but two gross breaking pitches. He had it all working today, too. Look at this:
Chapman’s stuff has always been untouchable. His issue, when he has one, is that he is predictable and/or can’t find the zone. That has not been the case in 2021, to put it mildly. He is attacking the zone (one of those middle-middle fastballs was hit for a loud single, but alas) with velocity and using his slider and new splitter to look as unhittable as he ever has. He’s been incredible throughout his Yankee tenure, but if this is the Chapman we get all year, we can look forward to a year of sustained dominance in the pen. No doubt about it.
- Double Plays: The Yankees absolutely LOVE to hit into double plays, hitting into three more tonight. They just love to do it. They see a guy on first and they say “I should hit the ball hard, straight into the ground, and directly at an infielder.” And then they do it. Someone needs to tell them it’s actually bad. They now have 11 GIDP on the season, tying them with San Diego for the most in the league.
- Rough Night at the Top: Woof was that a brutal offensive performance for every non-Odor/Higgy Yankee. The top 6 slots in the order, which included 7 Yankee hitters, went 0-19 with 7 strikeouts. (This even included 3! from DJLM.) The only saving grace was 3 walks, but yeah. That is not going to win you many games, but the Yankees did it anyway. Feels like a stolen win.
The Yankees and Jays will play the second of this three-game set tomorrow evening in Dunedin. First pitch is at 7:07 pm. Jameson Taillon (0-0, 3.86 ERA) will take on Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-1, 2.92 ERA) in that one. It’ll be on YES, with WFAN on the radio. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone.