The Yankees and Braves played the second game of their doubleheader tonight. They lost it 2-1 (box score) for their 5th consecutive loss. They fall to 16-11 on the season. I’ll get to the game itself in a second. But first, the context.
That this game happened at all is notable for two reasons. First, the Yankees barely play baseball games these days. Second, and much more importantly, there is a wave of athlete activism underway right now that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It all started in the NBA, where Bucks players led a strike during the playoffs that then spread to the rest of the league – and to several baseball teams, as well. Baseball teams protesting like this for racial justice is borderline unfathomable to me, frankly.
This all started happening at the end of the first Yanks game, which Derek covered here. There was about an hour between the end of that game and the start of this one. I was really hoping that the Yankees would join in on the protest. They don’t just call the South Bronx home. They are an unparalleled power in American sports with unmatched global and national visibility. The organization had a chance to stand in solidarity with their colleagues and, in doing so, send a very important message. They chose not to act on that chance.
To be fair, this all happened very fast, much of it when the players were physically on the field, and we don’t know what the conversations were like behind the scenes. I am not going to pretend it was an easy choice. From my vantage point, though, choosing to play tonight was a huge missed opportunity for the most powerful sports franchise in America.
Anyway, with that out of the way, let’s get to tonight’s takeaways.
1. Tanaka Time in Atlanta: God, do I love watching Masahiro Tanaka pitch, especially when he’s on. Tonight was the anthesis of his last start against the Rays in that series we all want to forget. He was dominant, pitching 5 shutout innings of 3-hit ball. Tanaka walked none and struck out four and threw 44 of his 66 pitches (66%) for strikes. Boone pulled Tanaka an inning earlier than I expected given the pitch count, but I’m cool with it because it was just a 1-run cushion and boy did the Yankees need a win. I understood going to the pen (I’ll get to that later) even if it didn’t work out.
But I’ll admit it was a shame to not get to see more of this:
Tanaka’s slider was especially nasty this evening, generating 8 whiffs on 20 swings (40%). Those 8 swings made up 72% of the 11 whiffs against him, which is why he used it 33% of the time. He remaining usage was his splitter (16%), fastball (14%), and curve (3%).
He was only in trouble in the 3rd, when there were two and two out following singles by John Camargo and Ronald Acuña Jr. He got Dansby Swanson to ground out, though, so it was no harm, no foul. Overall, a masterful performance from
2. Hey, Look – A Lead: The Yankees took the lead in the 5th inning of this one on a Tyler Wade sacrifice fly. There was obviously no offensive action in game 1 of the doubleheader and very little in this game up to this point. In fact, the Yankees had just two hits – singles from Miguel Andújar and Aaron Judge – going into the 5th inning. That changed with a second Miggy single and an Erik Kratz double to lead off the inning, which put runners on second and third.
Thairo Estrada immediately struck out. To be fair, though, it was on this pitch:
That was at no point a strike. Alas, it doesn’t matter, as Tyler Wade drove in a run by doing this:
He lifted the first pitch he saw the opposite direction and drove Andújar in. It’s not the sexiest run the Yankees have ever scored, but a run is a run, and the Yankees badly needed that one. I’ll take it. Aaron Hicks then grounded out, which was less cool. All in all, the Yanks had second and third on and only managed to score one run. Would that come back to bite them?
3. The Bullpen Doesn’t Get It Done: Yes, of course it would. But I can’t get too worked up about it. Aaron Boone turned to Chad Green with a 1-run lead in the bottom of the
8th 6th inning, which is the right move every single time. Green is dominant and the Braves had the top of their lineup up. It makes sense and you want to do it every single time.
It didn’t work, though. Green – who’d allowed just two hits in his brilliant 2020 so far – gave up a two-out single to Dansby Swanson and then let served up this fastball to Freddie Freeman, who is way too good for this:
There’s no video right now, but it was a 402-foot homer to the opposite field. Just like that, a 1-0 lead was gone and it was a 2-1 deficit. Again, Boone will take some grief here, but he shouldn’t. Tanaka was rolling but you go to your pen at that point in the game. I get it. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work. And besides, Freeman is a hell of a hitter. Perhaps the offense could have scored more than one run!
- Aaron Judge Returns…Kinda: Judge made his triumphant return this evening and even had a hard-hit single! But then he was removed in the bottom of the 6th inning. It was a one-run game and Judge plays great defense, so I doubt it was “precautionary” or “for defense.” They do not deserve the benefit of the doubt at this point. I hope he’s fine – why play if you’re only healthy enough to play 5 innings? – but I am bracing myself for more bad news. (Update 9:26 pm: I was right. Judge is hurt again. More to come on this in the morning.)
- Miggy With Two Hits: Here’s a positive note to end on. Miguel Andújar had two base hits. Hey look, I’m trying, okay?
The Yankees are off tomorrow as they return to the Bronx for a doubleheader against the Mets. Enjoy your night, everyone.