Four homers. Three ejections. Two Gleyber homers. One win. The Yankees had an exciting afternoon that culminated in a 6-5 victory over the Indians on Saturday.
They move to 83-42, a season-high 41 games over .500, and, as of publishing, have MLB’s best record and a 4.0 game lead on the Astros. The magic number to win the division is 28.
Here are the takeaways
1. The Yankees’ middle infield is unreal
Having one powerful middle infielder is great. Having two can carry you for a season. Three? Wow. Gleyber Torres, Didi Gregorius and DJ LeMahieu powered the Yankees’ victory with four solo homers between them as Gleyber launched two.
With the game tied at two in the fourth, Didi and Gleyber went back-to-back. If you watch the video, you can see right fielder Yasiel Puig not even move on them and point at Didi’s moonshot.
And then after the Indians tied the game, LeMahieu took one to the right-field porch. It would have been gone in just five of 30 stadiums, but this is one of those and thems the ground rules. He now has his first 20 home-run season.
And for good measure, Torres went deep again. That’s his MLB-leading seventh multi-homer game this season. I exclaimed “Holy s***” after he hit to no one in particular. Just a monster off the bat.
He leads the Yankees and all MLB middle infielders with 29 home runs. Assuming he finishes the year with more games at short than second base (highly likely at this point), he would become the first Yankees primary shortstop to hit 30 home runs in a season. Fun fact: The Orioles have the most ever with four (Ripken, Tejada, Machado and Hardy).
2. Unfortunately classic Paxton
James Paxton had three straight quality starts to begin August and had looked about as good as he had since his return from a knee injury. However, he came back to earth a bit in Saturday’s start.
The left-hander was off at the start and again gave up first-inning runs. He walked Francisco Lindor as he couldn’t locate his curveball away, a trend in the first inning. That meant batters could key in on inside hard stuff and didn’t have to focus as much on the outer half.
Oscar Mercado doubled and Carlos Santana knocked him in with a two-run single. Paxton issued another walk before settling down, getting Jose Ramirez and holding the Indians to just two.
For about three innings, he cruised. Getting swings and misses over pitches down and in on righties and turning the lineup over the second time through. However, he ran into trouble the third time through, a classic trope for the Yankees’ starters this season.
With two outs in the fifth, Lindor doubled to left and Paxton walked Mercado on four pitches. Mercado is the guy you have to attack in between Cleveland’s top guys.
Paxton then thought he had Santana K’d on a fastball up and in, but it went uncalled. Santana and Puig proceeded to hit singles through the left side to tie the game. Paxton was clearly frustrated with the ump and himself after the inning and expressed it in the dugout.
3. The umpires made themselves felt
After Gleyber’s second homer, Cameron Maybin struck out looking in the sixth inning. The pitch was pretty clearly out of the zone, but home plate ump Ben May thought otherwise.
Maybin had words with May and went into the dugout, but that’s not where things ended. May soon ejected Aaron Boone, who got a few choice words in with May before exiting.
And it didn’t end there. Brett Gardner did his “bash the end of the bat against the top of the dugout” thing and first base umpire Phil Cuzzi came over to the dugout railing to eject him for it. Tossed CC Sabathia as well. You don’t know what CC or Boone said to the umps, but it seemed pretty clear Gardner was just ejected for the bat thing.
The Gardner bat thing is clearly a way of voicing displeasure with the umps — this is his third time doing it — but I’m unsure it’s worthy of ejection. It may be the umps not wanting to get shown up by Gardner. Regardless, Gardy is gonna have to cut it out, even if it shouldn’t be an ejection.
The ejections forced Thairo Estrada into right field, Mike Tauchman to center, Maybin to left and Mike Ford into Gardy’s spot at the first baseman. All of that was done to give Aaron Judge a full day off.
4. The bullpen marches on
Tasked with 1-2 run lead, the Yankees’ big four relievers held up yet again. Adam Ottavino had a 1-2-3 inning and looked about as good as he’s looked in recent weeks. Tommy Kahnle fielded a broken bat perfectly, turned a double play, and was the only guy to get Santana on a strikeout. Kahnle has low-key been the Yankees’ best reliever and is a tremendous part of this season.
Meanwhile, Zack Britton struggled for the second straight evening. Back-to-back hits by Puig and Ramirez put runners on the corners before a pitch got away from Romine. It was a wild pitch, but Romine should have blocked it. A groundout and a walk later, the tying and go-ahead runs were on for Kevin Plawecki.
What did Britton do? He did what he does best, got a weak grounder up the middle that LeMahieu turned two on. End of the Indians’ best threat.
And then Aroldis Chapman went 1-2-3 in extremely impressive fashion. He got Greg Allen looking at 101-mph on the black and ended the outing with a 103.9-mph fastball to Mercado. He’s unscored upon this month, so What’s Wrong with Chapman season is officially closed. https://www.mlb.com/video/oscar-mercado-pops-out-to-first-baseman-mike-ford-in-foul-territory
- The Yankees got their first two runs thanks to attempted steals. In the second, Cameron Maybin was going for second on a Mike Tauchman single, reached third and then scored on a Mercado error. An inning later, Estrada stole second and scored on a LeMahieu single.
- An 0-for-4 day for Gio Urshela? That’s so weird. He’s now tied with LeMahieu at .338 in the batting title race (though he’s yet to be qualified).
- Full day off for Judge for the first time in a while. That’s important to keep him fresh, even if he looked great Friday.
- Kahnle, Britton and Chapman have each pitched two straight days, so they’re likely down tomorrow. That means it’s Ottavino, Green and the long relievers to back up Sabathia.
- Almost forgot, the Mo ceremony was nice. Had same Andy Pettitte video before his Hall of Fame induction to recap what made Mo great. Joe Torre was there. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada had videos for Mo. An enjoyable pregame.
The Yankees look for another series victory when Sabathia (5-6, 4.78 ERA) returns to the hill and faces his old team for the last time. Mike Clevinger (7-2, 3.34) goes for Cleveland in a 1:05 p.m. start on YES.