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Another day, another blown four run lead. But this time, the Yankees pulled it out! They topped the Orioles 6-4 in the first of two games this evening. Let’s get right to the takeaways:

It’s tough to be a King without command. 25 year-old rookie Michael King labored through this one. The righty didn’t record a single 1-2-3 inning as the Orioles put seven runners aboard in four innings of work. His final line: 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 1 hit batter, 3 strikeouts, and 2 homers.

Baltimore broke through against King immediately. Cedric Mullins wasted no time giving the Orioles a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first:

He retired the next three batters in order, but every other inning he pitched in this evening featured at least two baserunners. King prevented the Birds from scoring in the second and third frames, but gave up two in the fourth. Both runs came on one swing:

Including tonight, King’s ERA and FIP stand at 6.33 and 5.90, respectively, through 21 1/3 innings this season. It just doesn’t seem like he’s a viable rotation option at this point. And that’s OK. Remember, 2019 was mostly a lost year for King as he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow early on. That said, it doesn’t mean he should be getting too many important innings this season. I don’t expect him back in the rotation again anytime soon. He’s only taken a couple of turns over the last week because of the absurd amount of doubleheaders.

King’s time in the rotation might not be now, but it’s also not hard to see why the Yankees like King. His minor league track record is excellent (2.93 ERA in 387 innings across all levels). He didn’t rack up big strikeout numbers, but he induced a ton of ground balls (54.2 percent) and limited walks (4.1 percent). However, since coming to the majors, his batted ball profile has changed:

LevelGB%FB%LD%
Minors54.2%28.0%17.8%
Majors41.7%45.0%13.3%
Major league numbers entering tonight’s game.

This appears to be a big reason why King hasn’t succeeded with the Yankees in limited time. It seems pretty obvious why he can’t keep the ball on the ground too. His sinker, a pitch he throws over 55 percent of the time, has been up far too often this year. Look:

He has to bring that pitch down for it to be effective. Otherwise, he’s going to get hit hard and give up dingers like he did tonight.

Now, further on the bright side: King has shown some proficiency in limiting hard contact. Tonight, even with the dingers, the average exit velocity against him was 84.4 miles per hour. Entering this evening, he was in the 89th and 90th percentiles for exit velocity and hard hit percentage, respectively. That’s good, but again, those need to be on the ground to be converted into outs. Otherwise, we’ll see bloop base hits more often, and when he does get hit hard, home runs.

Offense strike early, but couldn’t put this one out of reach. Sounds a little bit like yesterday, right? Well, I don’t really want to blame the offense for last night’s loss. The Yankees should win when they score seven runs, period. Tonight is a different story though. They scored one in the second and three in the third, but the bats probably could have done more in that third frame. First, here’s how the run in the second came about, courtesy of Gary Sánchez:

That tied the game at one.

Let’s move to the third. The Yankees loaded the bases immediately for the scuffling Brett Gardner. To his credit, he delivered:

That put the Yankees ahead, 3-1. Clint Frazier walked thereafter to reload the bases, still with no outs. But up came a triumvirate of batters hitting under the Mendoza line: Mike Ford, Sánchez, and Mike Tauchman. Ford flew out to left, not deep enough to score a run. Gary struck out. Tauchman managed to draw a walk on an eight pitch at-bat, which increased the lead to 4-1. Thairo Estrada struck out to end the frame. Let’s go back to that Tauchman walk. Yes, it drove in a run, but look at some of the pitches he fouled off:

You really can’t make it up. Tauchman fouled off three fastballs right down the middle. The guy cannot hit a middle-middle fastball. Literally!

Tauchman had three chances to smack a ball into the gap or over the wall. Instead of a five, six, or seven run inning, his walk resulted in a four run frame. Sigh. In fairness, Ford, Gary, and Estrada deserve a bit more ire. Even though Tauchman missed some very hittable pitches, at least he didn’t make an out. The other three couldn’t do anything against Branden Kline, who entered today with a 5.93 ERA.

As you know, King allowed the Orioles to get back into this one. Ben Heller then gave up a solo homer to Renato Núñez. It stinks the pitchers gave it up, but really, the offense has to do better. Must I remind you that these are the Orioles!? Three runs while loading the bases loaded twice with no outs in an inning is an incredibly bad job.

The Yankees finally catch a couple of breaks. This one went to extra innings, which meant the 2020 extra inning rule was in effect. Gary Sánchez started the inning on second base and immediately advanced to third on a wild pitch. So, runner on third and no one out. The Yankees are gonna score, right? Nope. Thairo Estrada lined out and Aaron Hicks bounced into what felt like a back breaking double play.

The Orioles had a chance to win it in the bottom of the eighth and Aaron Boone went to Jonathan Holder. Ryan Mountcastle hit a sac fly to center to advance designated runner Pat Valaika to third. It looked like things were about the end, but Holder escaped. He struck out Dilson Herrera, walked Ramon Urias, and finally got Anthony Santander to fly out to preserve the tie. Phew.

Holder’s escape was the first break. The offense scoring not one, but two runs, in the ninth was a pleasant surprise. Miguel Andújar, fresh up from the Alternate Site, played hero:

Yes, that’s Jonathan Holder scoring the go-ahead run. The Yankees pulled removed their DH to put Miggy in at third when Aaron Hicks pinch hit for Tyler Wade. Anyway, the Yankees weren’t done there. Clint Frazier added one on for good measure with a single to make it 6-4.

That Frazier RBI proved to be a pretty big insurance run, as Baltimore did score once in the bottom of the ninth against Chad Green. It took a little bit of good fortune to do so. An infield single put runners on the corners with nobody out, but Núñez hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Even though that made it 6-5, the bases were clear with two outs which allowed Green to wrap this one up. Bryan Holaday flew out to end it. Exhale.

Leftovers

  • That’s 19 wins in a row against Baltimore.
  • It’ll be curious to see how the Yankees handle the nightcap’s bullpen. No Holder, Green, Britton, or Chapman I’d assume, as all pitched tonight.
  • Clarke Schmidt is on the active roster! The Yankees optioned Ben Heller after the game. Perhaps we see Schmidt in relief given how many arms pitched in game one.
  • Three hours and forty five minutes later, whaddya say? Let’s play two! The second game should start around 9:20 p.m. EDT. I’ll share the lineups below once they are out.

New York Yankees

  1. Aaron Hicks, CF
  2. Luke Voit, DH
  3. Brett Gardner, LF
  4. Clint Frazier, RF
  5. Mike Ford, 1B
  6. Miguel Andújar, 3B
  7. Erik Kratz, C
  8. Tyler Wade, SS
  9. Thairo Estrada, 2B

RHP Deivi García

Baltimore Orioles

  1. Cedric Mullins, CF
  2. DJ Stewart, RF
  3. Renato Núñez, DH
  4. Pedro Severino, C
  5. Ryan Mountcastle, LF
  6. Rio Ruiz, 3B
  7. Pat Valaika, 2B
  8. Dilson Herrera, 1B
  9. Andrew Velazquez, SS

RHP Jorge López