It’s over. It’s finally over. The Yankees-Twins slugfest of a series goes to the Yankees with a 10-7 victory Wednesday that featured neither starting pitcher reaching the fifth inning. Oh boy.
Let’s get to the takeaways.
1. All you need are three loud innings
Everyone got in on the party for the Yankees on Wednesday with each player in the lineup getting a hit and all but Gio Urshela either scoring or knocking in a run. That’s a complete effort.
For the second straight night, it was the foursome of Didi Gregorius, Mike Tauchman, Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres doing most of the damage.
After an Edwin Encarnacion double in the second, Didi doubled him home. Just three batters later, Mike Tauchman hit a line drive that Jake Cave misplayed into a two-run triple. Boom, Yankees take the lead for good.
Leading 4-2 in the third, Hicks and Torres hit solo home runs. Hicks’ shot was an absolutely monstrous blast and he rightfully admired the heck out of it. A beaut.
And then in the fourth, the Yankees strung together four hits: Singles from Austin Romine, Aaron Judge and Hicks to score one run, then a two-run triple from Gregorius to bring home two more.
Didi finished 3-for-5 and went 8-for-10 with 10 RBI over the last two nights, while Hicks and Tauchman each had two hits. Torres had just the one hit, though he walked and scored a run in the second inning as well.
In a normal game, those nine runs would be a comfortable win … Not with the pitching in this series though.
2. Marcus Stroman and/or aa fresh arm can’t come soon enough
For the fifth consecutive game, the Yankees’ starter gave up 5+ runs. For the first time this month, the starter to get blown up was J.A. Happ.
Happ did what he unfortunately often does: Give up home runs. The Twins hit him hard — 92.4 mph average exit velocity — and swung and missed just four times compared to two long balls.
He was even getting ahead of hitters, although he would eventually walk two and end up giving up hits to many more.
Ultimately, the left-hander got just 10 outs and allowed eight batters to reach base, a horrid total when you’re handed a significant lead by the second inning. The Bombers needed length out of Happ tonight and he couldn’t give it to them.
Now that the bullpen is getting taxed more than ever, the team needs reinforcements. With Luis Cessa and David Hale unable to be optioned, that means cycling through less than stellar Triple-A options or seeking outside help to reinforce the rotation and/or bullpen.
In three games against the Twins and Astros, Happ has allowed 18 runs and seven homers in just 13 innings. That makes him nearly unpitchable in the postseason, not that he was first in line to start anyway.
3. The Nestor Cortes Experience can stay
Goodness, I enjoy watching Nestor Cortes Jr. The southpaw is a complete change of pace from the rest of the Yankees’ pitchers, and I enjoy him as a long reliever.
He stepped in for Happ in the fourth inning with men on second and third, one out, and held Minnesota to one run that inning. From there, he gave up a solo homer to Nelson Cruz and little else over 3.1 innings.
Cortes doesn’t make it look pretty out there; He doesn’t have Ottavino’s wipeout breaking ball or Chad Green’s fastball. He allowed five men to reach base. Still, he finds ways to limit the damage in the tradition of a junkballer, though he still lives mostly in the low 90s.
If Cortes had given the lead back to Minnesota but soaked up innings, dayenu. Instead, he both gave the team length and held onto the lead while Devin Smeltzer kept the Yankees off the board.
4. Holding on
After Cortes kept Minnesota at arm’s length, Tommy Kahnle was lights out for four batters, striking out three. He had his filthy changeup — eliciting five swings and misses on 11 offerings — and he averaged 97 mph on the fastball. He still hasn’t allowed a run since London.
Meanwhile, rookie Devin Smeltzer was the equivalent to Cortes, holding the Yankees to just one run in five innings of relief after the Yankees bombed Jake Odorizzi (You could write a whole story on the pinstripers wearing down a playoff team’s No. 2 starter, but alas, just this footnote).
The one run was a solo homer by Edwin Encarnacion, who went 2-for-5 and now has 30 home runs for the eighth straight season.
Then it was Aroldis Chapman time. Max Kepler took him to the wall in right for an out and he dished out a four-pitch walk to repeat yesterday’s failures. However, he settled down, got a groundout and a strikeout and that was the game.
- Gleyber had a stuffed parrot waiting for Edwin Encarnacion’s home run in the ninth inning. It’s between that and the hoddie picture from before London for best Gleyber picture of the year.
- Encarnacion fouled a ball off his foot just before his home run and was grimacing in pain during the walk around the bases. With Brett Gardner nursing a knee injury, the team needs all the health luck it can get right now.
- Aaron Judge went 2-for-5 and had a 108 mph flyball that died on the warning track. It’s funny that he raised his average to .311 and is absolutely killing the ball, yet this was a lackluster game measured against his last couple. lol.
- No steal attempts on Romine, who drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and singled.
- Presumably, the Yankees will have Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton fresh for tomorrow. Kahnle, Chapman and Cortes should be down, as David Hale may be. Wouldn’t be shocked to see Cortes go down for a fresh arm, be it Joe Harvey, Domingo Acevedo or otherwise.
- Overall, there were 57 runs scored in this series, 30 by the Yankees. Can you imagine a seven-game playoff series between these two teams?
If that series didn’t mentally exhaust you, have I got a series for you! The Yankees head to Fenway to battle the Red Sox with a depleted bullpen. Hopefully, there will be no protest or 26-run outbursts as Masahiro Tanaka (7-5, 4.00 ERA) gets a rematch of London Series Game 1 with Rick Porcello (8-7, 5.61). Prepare yourself mentally for that 7:10 start on YES.