The Yankees’ magic number is down to three. Tonight’s 7-2 win over Toronto and Boston’s 4-2 loss to Baltimore (!!) has put the Bombers in prime position to snag one of the two Wild Card spots with five games to play. They’re now up two on Boston for the top spot and have a three game cushion (pending the Mariners game tonight) overall.
Tonight’s game got off to an inauspicious start, but thankfully, ended comfortably in the Yanks’ favor. Toronto grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first and Jameson Taillon reinjured his ankle and left after three innings, but it didn’t matter. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton drove in five of the team’s seven runs scored, with Stanton’s three-run homer in the seventh representing the knockout blow.
More on this game in the takeaways after the jump:
The Yankees should give Giancarlo Stanton a raise. Here’s a question: what month(s) of the year do we typically see headlines like the following?
Typically April, November, or December, right? In other words: the time on-field play matters the least. Meanwhile, Stanton launched his 35th homer of the season tonight on a next to impossible pitch to hit, and now owns a 141 wRC+ this season.
Just an amazing swing by Stanton to hit that changeup out of the park— Chris Black (@DownToBlack) September 29, 2021
How unlikely was it?
Trevor Richards had thrown 917 changeups down & out of the zone in his MLB career before tonight and none (!!!) had ever been hit for a HR.
Crazy & unbelievable hit. pic.twitter.com/HiCN15EX2n
He’s extremely good, folks. And extremely clutch, I might add. This isn’t new, either. Stanton’s had a knack for the big hit — particularly the big home run — even in years when he hasn’t been healthy in pinstripes. If 2018’s second half or last postseason wasn’t enough, this better seal the deal for anyone on the fence.
Luis Severino’s changeup is a thing to watch. This is worth a post of its own, but I have seen it talked about quite a bit on Twitter tonight, and it’s worth mentioning here. Sevy’s changeup has looked really sharp in his return from Tommy John surgery. Sure, it’s just three games, but take a look at this from tonight:
Severino threw six changeups in that 8th inning, all to right-handed batters. The Yankees have seemed pretty keen on changeups to same-handed batters this year. Here's the one that struck out Springer on 3-2. pic.twitter.com/5OvacRjVEY— Lucas (@DBITLefty) September 29, 2021
Coming into tonight, Severino had racked up a 55.6 percent whiffs-per-swing rate against his changeup. That went down tonight as Toronto swung through it once on three tries. We’re talking about extremely small sample sizes here, so take it for what that’s worth, but it sure looks like an interesting development.
As I wrote on Saturday, Severino’s ability to throw three plus-pitches out of relief is a luxury. As a starter, he was pretty successful with just his fastball and slider with a fair amount of changeups mixed in. They flashed potential, but were never consistent then. Right now, he’s clearly very confident in this offering. He went to it on six of his 15 pitches tonight. His confidence to use it says a lot.
Again, we’re talking about just 19 changeups thrown since his return from the injured list, so take things with a grain of salt. Still, it’s hard not to like what we’ve seen. In the short-term, having three nasty pitches in relief is unfair. Down the road, it certainly bodes well back in the rotation.
I don’t think we can count on seeing Jameson Taillon again this year. He exited today’s game in the third inning. Maybe if things break right Taillon can be a bullpen option late in the playoffs (assuming such a run), but even that will be hard to do if his ankle can’t hold up to the physical demand of pitching. If this indeed is the end of Taillon’s year, it’s a bummer, though he can hold his head high given how well he performed down the stretch.
Taillon posted a 3.59 ERA in 15 starts from June 18th through September 6th and garnered AL Pitcher of the Month honors for July. This came after being nothing short of awful in the early going. He did a great job solidifying the rotation over the summer when the likes of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Corey Kluber, and Domingo Germán missed varying amounts of time.
As good as the rotation has remained without Taillon in the mix for most of September, losing him again is still a blow. The Yankees still have work to do in order to reach the ALDS, but now the team is locked into Kluber and Nestor Cortes in a postseason rotation behind Cole and Monty. With a good start today and one more against Tampa to close the year, Taillon could have leapfrogged one of Kluber or Cortes. Oh well.
- Aaron Judge’s pinky is just fine. Stanton has stolen the show since Friday — deservedly so — but man, Judge keeps getting big hits too. After his clutch double vs. Adam Ottavino Sunday, he went 2-for-2 and drove in a couple of runs tonight. Judge hit a solo homer to tie the game in the third and hit a go-ahead sac fly in the fifth.
- Let’s give Anthony Rizzo his due. The first baseman went 2-for-5 including a game-tying RBI single below. This doesn’t top Stanton in terms of difficulty (and result), but this sure was a tough pitch to hit against Hyun Jin Ryu. It also sent him to the showers, which was a welcome sight as the lefty was shutting the offense down.
- The return of Good Chad Green would be awfully nice. Green threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning and now has five straight scoreless outings (6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 6 K). This recent stretch follows four straight games in which he did allow a run (and three homers total). He got four days rest after a rough outing against Baltimore on September 15th, and I wonder if that really helped him. Green’s already surpassed his career highs in innings and appearances. I still always fear the long ball whenever Green pitches, but banking these good outings has been huge at a time it’s needed most. More, please.
- Michael King did a nice job in relief again. He gave up a run in 2.2 innings, but the length he provided was huge. It’s not an easy task to come in cold after the starter gets injured, even if allowed all of the time necessary to warm up. His work really saved the bullpen as no other reliever had to pitch more than an inning tonight.
These two sides are back at it tomorrow. Gerrit Cole (16-8, 3.08 ERA) and José Berríos (12-9, 3.48 ERA) square off tomorrow night at 7:07pm. See you then.