What a great week of baseball this has been so far. I would rate it a 10 out of 10, and I’d go so far as to say I wish every week this season had been like this. The Yankees dispatched the Sox 5-2 to complete a three-game sweep, and it was glorious. With the win, the Yanks are 69-52 and would host the AL Wild Card game if the season ended today. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. I do have one question for you all, though: what are your plans for the parade this fall?
To the takeaways.
Andrew Heaney’s Yankee Masterpiece. With both Domingo Germán and Corey Kluber waiting in the wings, Andrew Heaney’s time in the Yankee rotation is likely limited. There are no guarantees – injuries are a fickle thing – but that’s definitely the hope. And, even if Heaney doesn’t throw another pitch for the Yankees (he will), he absolutely left his mark on the 2021 team. This was an absolute masterpiece from Heaney, who left all the bad vibes in Iowa.
Rather inexplicably, Heaney threw 7 innings of 2-hit, 1-run ball. He walked 2 and struck out 5 across 108 pitches. He worked north-to-south, which is typical for pitchers these days, using his fastball up in the zone and everything else down:
That is generally a recipe for success, though less so when you throw low-90s, as Heaney does. Nevertheless, it was a recipe that worked on a very good night in the Bronx. He didn’t get many whiffs – just 18% of swings against him camp up empty – but he really did limit the hard contact. Red Sox batters averaged just 82.1 mph on their batted balls in this one. That will do the trick.
Overall, Heaney retired 21 of the 24 batters he faced. It was definitely his best performance as a Yankee, and it’s just enough to make you think maybe, just maybe, he has a roster spot on this team moving forward, even just as a long reliever. Who knows? Certainly wouldn’t be the first time a pitcher left the Angels and got better.
Zack Britton’s Velocity is Back. It’s obviously been quite a tough stretch for Zack Britton. We don’t need to pile on him any more than he’s piled on himself, but he’s a hell of a good pitcher when he’s right. Given his injuries and lack of a Spring Training, it was only fair to assume he’d get stronger with more innings under his belt. We saw glimpses of that tonight, when his velocity was fully back. Look at tonight compared to the year’s average:
That level of velocity is crucial for Britton. It really is – and it had been missing all season. Couple that with location like this:
And you’ll get yourself an easy one, two, three inning like Britton got tonight. (To be fair, some of those sinkers are a bit high. But he looked better than this shows, I think, and that level of velocity helps quite a bit with seeming mistakes.)
One night does not a season make, of course, but that was a promising outing from Britton. One step at a time. If he can return to elite status quickly, the Yankees are only going to get that much better.
What About Aroldis Chapman, Though? The 2021 Yankees giveth, the 2021 Yankees taketh away, right? Zack Britton looked great, so that meant another important reliever had to look horrible. Tonight, of course, I mean Aroldis Chapman. To be fair to the flamethrowing lefty, it was his first game back from the IL. You could tell. Here are two charts that sum up Chapman’s night:
Middling velocity and absolutely zero command? Sounds like Aroldis Chapman, fresh off an IL stint to me. Despite entering with a 5-1 lead, Chapman couldn’t finish the inning. He allowed a homer to Hunter Renfroe, walked Xander Bogaerts, and allowed a single to J.D. Martinez to put the tying run at the plate with two outs. He did not have it.
I’ve been tough on Boone lately, so let me give him due props here: he immediately pulled Chapman, and it was the right decision. Chapman had nothing, had no clue where it was going, and that’s enough. It was a rehab appearance for Chapman but not the Yankees. Boone turned to Lucas Luetge, who escaped the jam in large part because…
Andrew Velazquez has a Hell of a Glove. What a 24 hours for Andrew Veazquez, huh? After a few RBI yesterday, he added two more tonight in a 2-4 performance. He also scored a run. That, though, is not the big contribution this evening. That would come with two outs in the 9th and the tying run up in Kevin Plawecki. This is what happened:
Okay, so wow is that a hell of a play. What an arm. It was also incredibly, incredibly close at first. I think he was out – it looks like the ball beat him ever so slightly – but I admit to relief that he was called out on the field. I don’t think the umpires were reversing that one either way. The review took 2:20, but they upheld the call and the Yankees won the game. I will say it again: that is a hell of a play. It’s a hell of a play in any context, but especially that one. Velazquez is trying to prove he should stick around for his glove and speed, and he might be making that case. (Probably not, though.) Here are his hits for good measure:
- I was surprised that Luke Voit didn’t play in this one, especially after he was so outspoken last night. Anthony Rizzo made his return to pinstripes in his place, going 1-4 in the process. He made his 1 hit count, though, driving in 2 with it:
- A really rough day for the top of the order. DJ LeMahieu, Rizzo, Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, and Rougned Odor combined to go 2-19 from the dish with 4 Ks. The saving grace was that they walked 6 times between them. Judge had 3 of those, with Gallo, Stanton, and Odor each logging one as well. The Yankees see the most pitches in baseball and the walks follow. It makes sense.
- A two-hit day for Gary Sánchez, including a double and two runs. Love to see that. A catcher who can hit and really, really call games well behind the dish. That is a valuable player.
- That was a fun baseball game overall. The Stadium was popping from TV, and I love that. I specifically loved the “We Want Tampa” chants. That’s right. The Yankees are in playoff position now, so it’s time to set our sights on the Rays. Enough of this Wild Card stuff.
And thus concludes a very satisfying sweep of the Red Sox. The Yankees will now play the Twins for 5 in New York. The first of those games will be tomorrow night at 7:05 when Jameson Taillon (7-4, 3.89 ERA) looks to keep the good times rolling against John Gant (3.49 ERA). Enjoy your night, everyone.