Two out of three isn’t as nice as a sweep, but I’ll sure as hell take it. That was a very good series from the Yankees, who have now won 5 of the first 6 games in a grueling and critical 9 game stretch. Hard to expect much more than that. It’s all but assured the Yankees of a playoff spot, too. The Yankees are now 91-68 on the season, which puts them 2 games ahead of Seattle and Boston, who are tied for the second spot. The Jays sit a game outside the dance.
What a great, great few days it’s been. One more win for New York and a loss from either Seattle/Boston and they’re in the dance – and, honestly, I didn’t expect this to happen as recently as a few weeks ago. I gotta give the Yanks credit here. They stood up when they needed to.
Anyway, we’ll have much more on that tomorrow. Until then, let’s get to some takeaways, shall we?
Corey Kluber Was Lucky He Didn’t Get Hit Harder. I don’t think that was a very good start from Corey Kluber. Our man was up in the zone quite a bit, and he got away with a few hangers. Check out his pitch plot:
That’s an awful lot of pitches either right down the middle or up in the zone, including sinkers, curveballs, and changeups. That’s a sign he wasn’t all that sharp despite walking just 1 batter. In fact, he gave up 7 hits and it felt like he was walking on a tightrope the entire game. He scattered them throughout the innings, though, and managed to get a key double play in the first.
The only real damage came in the second on a Corey Dickerson double that plated (who else) Bo Bichette – that is, until the wheels came off in the 5th inning. In his 5th and final frame, Kluber gave up a scorching liner off the glove of Gio Urshela at short. (Gio absolutely should have caught this ball, but didn’t. It should have been an error.) A near double play almost got them out of the inning, but a challenge overturned the call.
That brought up Vlad Guerrero Jr., and was what I thought the clear end of the line for Kluber. Again, he hadn’t looked sharp at all, and Vlad absolutely crushes pitchers he sees for the third time to the tune of a .742 slugging. Given the fact that this was a de facto playoff game on the road against one of the best hitters in baseball, I just assumed that Boone would go to the pen in this spot. I assumed wrong – and the Yanks paid the price.
Vlad hit an absolute rocket off the dead center field wall to give the Jays a 2-1 lead. It was a microcosm of the Yankees struggles in 2021. Bad infield defense and questionable at best (and bad, honestly) managing trying to steal outs from a gassed pitcher. It was very frustrating.
The Bullpen is Electric. It’s not the guys we expected, of course, but the Yankee bullpen has been getting the job done lately. (Holmes HR yesterday aside.) I’ll start by giving Michael King some credit, because I do think Boone put him in a tough spot. King came on in relief of Kluber and immediately walked the first guy he faced. That put runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs. It felt very much like the game was in the balance, but King bore down and got out of it.
After that? It was pretty much straight up dominance from the pen. King, Luis Severino, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman collectively allowed just 3 hits in 4.1 innings of work. They had 7 strikeouts, walked just 1 (the first batter King faced), and didn’t allow a run. That’s what you need in a game like this.
I had my quibbles – I would have stuck with Severino over Green – but it’s hard to complain. The pen has been good lately, including Green, and not a moment too soon. If the Yanks are going to stick around for a few more weeks, they’ll need a shutdown pen to do it.
A Canadian Cy Young? Fuhgeddaboudit. Boy did the Yankees take it to Robbie Ray tonight. Ray, the presumptive Cy Young prior to this start, was really dominant at first, too. He was mowing through the Yanks, allowing just a gargantuan HR to Aaron Judge in the 1st inning as the only blemish through 5. With the score 2-1 in the 6th, I don’t want to say it felt precarious – it’s too early for that – but the Blue Jays were certainly in control at that point. Things changed fast, though.
First up was Anthony Rizzo, who slammed a game-tying HR to right field that was followed by another gargantuan blast from Judge to dead center. As John Sterling delightfully said into the mic – it was a back-to-back…and a belly-to-belly! A Giancarlo Stanton walk (on quite a good at bat, might I add) followed another HR from Gleyber Torres and all of the sudden it was 5-2 New York. In a span of 4 batters, the Yanks slugged 3 homers and scored 4 runs. The Bronx Bombers, indeed.
A few things to note here. First, that was so damn satisfying. It’s just so fun to watch when the team clicks like this. Second, it was kind of frustrating. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade – better late than never – but it did make me think about how this is what I expected of the team all year. Third, nice to see the Yankees pick up Gerrit Cole. Ray is still the frontrunner for Cy Young, in my opinion, but this little outburst put him back into contention. You love to see it.
- Brett Gardner joined the fun with a 9th inning home run to pad the lead to 6-2. It’s been really great to watch Gardner on this role, during which he’s been one of the Yanks’ best hitters. Love to see that.
- That was a true too many homers game. The Yanks had 6 hits, 5 of which left the yard. Let’s keep that up for another month.
- DJ LeMahieu left the game in the 7th inning with his hip “thing”acting up. Annoying injury at an annoying time, but hopefully the Yanks can get him right soon. He’s an important piece, obviously, even if they’re winning without him.
- A very annoying bottom of the 8th for Chad Green, despite striking out the side. He was hanging curve after curve despite blowing guys away with the fastball. It was annoying to watch but the end result was fine.
- Aaron Judge is legitimately incredible and almost certainly underrated. He’s been a borderline MVP candidate for the Yanks this year.
- Giancarlo Stanton had another nice game, this time including a nice running grab in left field. What a tandem he and Judge make.
The Yankees head back to the Bronx for the final series of the 2021 regular season. They’ll take on the Rays tomorrow night. Nestor Cortes Jr. (2-2, 2.85 ERA) will take on Shane McClanahan (10-6, 3.44 ERA) in that one. Enjoy your night, everyone.