Game 11: Worth the wait

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A long day of baseball has come and gone. Game one’s loss was frustrating, especially after watching 6 1/2 innings of bad baseball only to see a late rally come up short. This evening’s nightcap was particularly satisfying after game one, however. Sure, Aaron Nola mowed down the lineup, but the elite Yankees’ bullpen did its job to keep things in check. Once the Bombers finally got Nola out of the game, the Yankees struck for a couple of runs to win this one, 3-1. Let’s get to the details.

Loaisiga does his usual thing

This was yet another hot-and-cold outing for Loaisiga. Overall, he’s pitched well this season, but he’s had some frustrating moments. Tonight was no different.

The first inning was a bit of a slog for him, though he escaped unscathed. The good: a dominant, three pitch strikeout against Bryce Harper with runners on first and second and nobody out. The meh: it took him 26 pitches to complete the inning. The only two base runners were via infield single and walk, so it’s not like he got smacked around, but there were a bunch of long at-bats aside from Harper’s. Of those 26 pitches, the Phils swung 14 times, including two whiffs and 14 foul balls.

The second inning was annoying. Loaisiga has a tendnecy, at least anecdotally, to finish things off. The third strike or third out can be elusive for him at times, and this inning was a prime example. He got two quick outs to start the frame: Jay Bruce grounded out and Scott Kingery fanned swinging. That’s when the two out rally began. Neil Walker ripped a double down the right field line. After that, Loaisiga got to 0-2 on light hitting Andrew Knapp, but couldn’t put him away:

Was that a bad pitch, per se? No. A fastball up-and-in at 97 miles per hour blooped for a hit is a bit of tough luck. But perhaps Loaisiga could have tried to get Knapp to chase. I’m probably nitpicking a bit here, in fairness. That was all the damage Loaisiga allowed tonight, anyway.

To start the third inning, Loaisiga showed what potentially makes him so darn special:

Hoskins is not a guy who strikes out on three pitches often. In fact, he led the league in pitches per plate appearances last season. Of course, Loaisiga took a step back the next batter and hit Bryce Harper with a (literal) backfoot breaking ball. At 51 pitches, that was the end of Loaisiga’s night. In sum: 2 1/3 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 hit by pitch, and 3 strikeouts. Not bad by any stretch, but it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Nola stymies Yankees offense

It’s not often that a lineup like the Yankees’ has to tip its cap to the opposing starter, but tonight was one of those nights. Aaron Nola was on his A-game and carved up the Yankees’ offense, save for one bad pitch to Luke Voit. And yes, I know a few Yankees hitters are struggling (Gleyber Torres, Gary Sánchez, and Miguel Andújar in particular), but that’s no matter given how good Nola looked.

Nola faced 21 batters in six innings and struck out 12 (57.1 percent). He didn’t walk anyone and allowed just three hits, and really only two of them were well-struck. Nola struck out every single Yankee in the lineup except DJ LeMahieu (because of course). And perhaps unsurprisingly given how they’ve hit lately, Gary and Gleyber combined to go 0-for-5 with 5 strikeouts against Nola.

How’d he dominate? By keeping his breaking ball and changeup down while featuring his fastball upstairs. Take a look:

There’s almost no blue (curveball) or green (changeup) above the knees per that graphic. You see that one mini pie chart with the blue and green down the middle and thigh high? That’s where he threw Voit and hanger. Here’s what happened:

A classic hanger. That was one of two hard hit balls (per Statcast) against Nola. The other was an Aaron Judge single.

The bullpen holds down the fort

When you have someone like Nola dealing for the opponent, it’s pivotal that the pitching staff keeps the game within reach. That’s exactly what the Yankees’ relievers did. After Loaisiga exited, Luis Avilán, Chad Green, and Adam Ottavino didn’t allow a single baserunner as the bridge to interim closer Zack Britton.

Aaron Boone deployed the lefty Avilán at a good time — maybe even one batter too late. Perhaps he should have faced Harper instead of Loaisiga, but it didn’t matter. With Harper on and one out, the southpaw induced a popout from lefty swinging Didi Gregorius and then fanned righty Jean Segura. Avilán came out to start the fourth inning against another lefty, Jay Bruce, and got the job done again with a strikeout.

It’s a little weird to have someone like Avilán on the roster nowadays, particularly as a lefty specialist type given the three batter minimum rule. However, it’s a bit easier to justify with expanded rosters. It’s also sometimes worth the risk of facing one righty between a handful of lefties when you do things like this:

After Avilán, Boone summoned Chad Green. Green is good. He faced seven batters, retired all of ’em, and struck out two in the process. It only took him 21 pitches to do so. For whatever reason, Boone replaced him with Adam Ottavino to face Jean Segura to finish up the sixth inning. Otto got the job done, but Green was cruising. No harm, no foul at least.

After the Yankees took the lead in the top of the seventh (more on that in a moment), Britton continued the bullpen’s dominance. He threw a 1-2-3 frame to notch his fifth save of the season. In all, after Loaisiga’s exit, Yankees’ pitchers retired all 14 Phillies batters.

Happy to see the Phillies’ bullpen

Just like game one, when the Yankees almost came back after Zack Wheeler’s night was done after six innings, the Bombers’ offense came to life once Nola was out of this one. Could Nola have gone one more frame with just 88 pitches through six? Probably, but it’s early in the (short) season and pitchers have been dropping like flies anyway. Perhaps it just wasn’t worth the risk.

Anyway, Boone went to Tommy Hunter for the seventh inning and it didn’t take long for the Yankees to get things going. Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit hit back-to-back singles to open the inning. Mike Tauchman, who got the start over Aaron Hicks, delivered in the clutch:

That gave the Yankees’ a 2-1 lead. Scary moment immediately after that at-bat, though. Hunter drilled Gary Sánchez with a 90 MPH sinker directly on the elbow. That’s the last thing a slumping Gary needed. Fortunately, he remained in the game but that ball will leave a mark. So, with the bases loaded, up came Gio Urshela who delivered a single to make it 3-1. Was anyone shocked to see him come through? Just look at what he’s done with the bases full since joining the Yankees, tonight included:

Last year’s next men up are still delivering in 2020.

Philadelphia’s Adam Morgan managed to escape without any further trouble, but that was all the Yankees’ needed. 3-1 was the final score.

Leftovers

  • With Voit’s homer, the Yankees have homered in each of the team’s 11 games to start the season, a franchise record.
  • Phillies’ closer Hector Neris, who was forced pitched in game one during the Yankees’ failed comeback, was presumably unavailable tonight. That certainly came in handy when the Yankees rallied in the seventh.
  • Tonight was just the second game this season that DJ LeMahieu went hitless.

The Yankees have one more in Philadelphia tomorrow evening. Jordan Montgomery and Zach Eflin are the pitchers. Have a good night everyone.

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1 Comment

  1. meatface55

    Im pretty sure Girardi went to Hunter, not Boone

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