Clearly, the Yankees haven’t heard Bobby’s plea to win a laugher. The Yankees may have won 5-3 this afternoon, but it wasn’t easy. The offense stranded 14 runners, Aaron Boone made some questionable decisions, and the bullpen nearly collapsed once again. Exhale.
The win moves the Yankees to 65-52 this season and pushes them closer to a postseason spot as a couple of clubs they’re chasing lost today. Minnesota walked off the Rays, so the Yankees are now five games out of the loss column in the division. Boston won, but Oakland fell to Texas, bringing the Yanks to within two games in the loss column of the top Wild Card spot. Now, let’s get to today’s takeaways.
Improbable or not, Nestor Cortes continues to get the job done. Today, Nasty Nestor shut down one of MLB’s best offenses. He mystified White Sox hitters all afternoon and carried a shutout into the sixth inning. Andrew Vaughn’s solo homer broke that up, but it was one of the very few hard hit balls against Cortes today.
Including Vaughn’s homer (107.6 MPH), the ChiSox averaged a measly 82.4 MPH exit velocity against Cortes and totaled just three other hard hit balls. This is how Cortes has found success this season. His stuff isn’t overpowering and never will be, so he needs to live on the edges and trick hitters. Different arm angles, varying his breaking balls, and good command have helped him induce soft contact for much of 2021. We saw all of those things today.
Those percentiles will only improve upon Baseball Savant’s refresh tomorrow morning. In terms of more traditional metrics, the southpaw now owns a 2.55 ERA in 49.1 innings for the Yankees this season. He’s been a huge windfall for this pitching staff bereft by injuries and COVID. I don’t know how sustainable this is, but those strong innings are in the bank and can’t be returned.
Cortes looked like a minor league depth arm when 2021 began, but now, he’s throwing pivotal regular season innings. And depending on the word on Luis Severino’s MRI tomorrow, Cortes may remain in the rotation even longer. He certainly deserves it over Andrew Heaney, who should get the boot with Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery coming back.
Breaking down the eighth inning bullpen management. There’s some good and some bad here. I’ll start with the good: Aaron Boone called on his best reliever to face Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters with the tying run on base. It was undoubtedly the highest leverage spot of the game (to that point, at least), so using Jonathan Loaisiga made perfect sense in that scenario.
Now, for the bad: Boone should have started Loaisiga with a clean inning. I know it worked out in the end, but there’s really no reason to go batter-to-batter. I know Stephen Ridings looks electric, but if you’re going to have a short leash with him in a second inning of work and have Loaisiga ready, why bother at all? Again, instead of waiting for the tying run to reach base with the likes of José Abreu and Eloy Jiménez up, Boone could have avoided doing so altogether. If Loaisiga walks César Hernández to lead off the inning, so be it. At least Boone would have put his best foot forward.
Breaking down the ninth inning bullpen management. This was not good. First of all: why not let Loaisiga finish the game? I know the Yankees added a couple of more runs in the top half of the frame to remove the “save situation” (technically Loaisiga would have gotten the save still, but you know what I mean). Plus, it’s not like Loaisiga was going to be available tomorrow anyway. He pitched yesterday and the Yankees do not like to go back-to-back-to-back with any reliever. So, don’t get cute and go to Lucas Luetge. Just let Loaisiga finish it off. He was going to be down tomorrow anyway.
Next: Luetge has not looked good of late. He’s surrendered runs in two of his last three outings, and with today’s performance, it’s now three of four. Boone still has him in the Circle of Trust, though. There’s a decent chance that the clock has struck midnight on him.
As long as this offensive process continues, results will come. I know that sounds hollow after going 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position today, but there were a lot of good at-bats in this game.
Lucas Giolito had to work really, really hard just to complete four innings in this game. He threw 101 pitches total, and needed 33 pitches in the first inning alone. No, the Yankees didn’t score in that frame, but it set the tone for a grind. The Bombers broke through for three in the next frame, which is all they got against Chicago before the ninth inning. Two of those runs came on this swing:
In all, the Yankees recorded nine hits and eight walks against the White Sox. This was with Kyle Higashioka and Tyler Wade, the eight and nine hitters, going 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts (yikes). Luke Voit’s two-run blast in the ninth gave the Yankees some breathing room, at least.
Again, the Yankees stranded a small village of baserunners today, which is never good. I mean, the top three hitters in the lineup reached base eight times today and scored just once. That’s good process without a good finishing performance from the heart of the order. Joey Gallo, yesterday’s hero, had a particularly rough one: 1-for-5, four strikeouts, and seven runners left on base.