The Yankees shook off their sweep in Oakland and took two of three from the Dodgers, claiming a 5-1 victory on Sunday Night Baseball. DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Mike Ford took Clayton Kershaw deep as Domingo German held LA to one run in six innings (Box Score).
New York is tied for the AL’s best record and is one game back of the Dodgers for MLB’s top mark. The magic number to win the AL East is 22.
Now to the takeaways:
1. ‘Sunday’ dominates Sunday Night Baseball
There’s been plenty written about Domingo German’s innings limit and how he could be wearing down. However, for the second time in a month, he’s come through against a top-notch lineup on Sunday Night Baseball on the road.
In total, German went six innings and allowed five hits and a run, walking two and striking out five. He pitched out of trouble all night long with the Dodgers putting on a baserunner in all but the second inning.
The first inning could have felled ‘Sunday’ tonight. On his first pitch, he gave up a towering home run to Joc Pederson. Gave him a high pitch and the high-ball hitter made him pay. A batter later, Max Muncy doubled.
German walked Cody Bellinger before settling down, striking out Corey Seager and getting Chris Taylor to line out. Taylor just missed the ball and nearly had a three-run homer but instead hit a harmless flyball to Mike Tauchman.
His only other major problem was the third inning when he walked Muncy and allowed a one-out single. Facing the middle of the order, he got Bellinger to ground out and, again, gave up a towering flyball, this time to Seager. But he hit it to straight center and Brett Gardner ran it down.
From there, German settled down to earn his MLB-leading 17th win. He took down the bottom of the order well and managed the top hitters. Gary Sanchez assisted him on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play in the fifth. Getting 2.5 times through the order from German is special against this lineup and the Yankees will need that in the postseason.
2. Solo shots take down ‘Playoff Kershaw’
Kershaw was terrific Sunday. He struck out 12, walked none and allowed just four hits in seven innings. He’s now gone at least six innings in every start this season, something no one has done since 2015.
But he made three key mistakes and, with German and a rested bullpen opposing him, he had no margin for error.
Leading off the first inning, LeMahieu rocketed a Kershaw curveball to left-center field and gave the Yankees a lead right away.
Two innings later, Kershaw again left a curveball up and Judge was there to punish it to right-center. It’s funny: According to Katie Sharp, they are just the second and third right-handed batters to take Kershaw’s curveball out in the last two years (other is Ronald Acuna).
Finally, Ford made a surprise entry to take Kershaw out to right field. Ford hadn’t started the game, but he took over for Didi Gregorius (more on that below) and made the most of his brief appearance by ambushing a Kershaw fastball.
In between and after those homers, Kershaw mostly cruised through the Yankees’ lineup. He struck out every starter but LeMahieu. For his playoff choker label, he’s generally been great in big moments recently (2017 WS G5 and 2018 WS G1 are notable exceptions). The Yankees beat him the way you need to beat elite playoff starters: the long ball.
3. Playoff formula bullpen?
German got the Yankees two-thirds of the way there. Still, shutting down the Dodgers for three more innings isn’t exactly a sure thing. It felt like it Sunday though.
The Yankees’ Big Four of Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman combined for nine outs with no hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. It took just 36 pitches between the four of them and New York is still undefeated when using all four pitchers this year.
Ottavino and Kahnle struck out the side in the seventh (Kahnle came on just to get Pederson). Britton got two one-pitch grounders against the heart of the order. Chapman issued a leadoff walk before striking out the rest of the slate.
Whether the Yankees get four, six or however many innings out of their starters this October, these four guys will need to be on their game. Aaron Boone has been able to rest them plenty in the last week and could do more of the same in September to have them fresh for the games that really count.
4. Didi down?
Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch in the first inning and left the game before his second at-bat in the third inning. The HBP got him in the right shoulder and he left with a “right shoulder contusion.”
Aaron Boone downplayed the significance of the injury, saying it tightened up on Gregorius. He underwent X-rays and they were negative. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon
- The Yankees got their last two runs on a Mike Ford RBI double (scoring LeMahieu) in the eighth and a Gio Urshela bloop single in the ninth to score Brett Gardner. Gardner singled off Adam Kolarek and reached third on a pickoff error.
- Judge hadn’t homered in back-to-back games all season before this series. He back.
- Other than plays mentioned above, Tauchman had the other single off Kershaw. Gary Sanchez went 0-for-4 with 2 K.
- Finally, that’s just the fourth home series the Dodgers have lost this season.
With the Dodgers momentarily vanquished, the Yankees travel to face the AL West cellar dwellers in Seattle. Neither team has announced starters yet, though it’ll presumably be J.A. Happ (10-8, 5.58 ERA) up against LHP Tommy Milone (3-7, 4.48) at 10 p.m. on YES and ESPN.