That was a very nice win. The Yankees were down 3-0 in the 4th as Jameson Taillon was struggling early, and it felt like the game was over. It really did, given the way the offense has been going lately. I don’t think this does it justice:
But it didn’t matter. The Yankees came back and won 7-4, and the series is tied at one game apiece. The Yanks are now 23-19 on the season and sit 1.5 games out of first place. Let’s get right to the takeaways.
1. Jameson Taillon’s Fastball Problem: I know that everyone is super frustrated with Jameson Taillon, and I get it. He has not been super entertaining to watch, and at times he’s been extremely frustrating. It’s felt like he hasn’t been able to put batters away with 2-strikes. I think it has a lot to do with his inability to get his fastball as far up in the zone as he would like.
Here is his fastball heatmap location of every such pitch he’s thrown with two-strikes in 2021, for example:
He’s clearly trying to get it up in the zone here, but it’s not high enough. The pitches live at the top of the zone, not over it, and too many trickle down over the heart of the plate. That’s why he’s given up a lot of homers, and it’s why he’s had some trouble putting guys away. That was really on display in the 3rd inning of this one, which was an extremely annoying inning that looked like it should have been over.
With a runner on second and two outs, Gary Sánchez fired a rocket behind the runner for the third out of the inning…or so it seemed. The call was overturned (Odor probably should have made the tag), and Taillon was really out of whack after that. Here is the video:
A single and two walks later, and the bases were loaded. This is the at-bat, against Adolis Garcia, that I want to focus on a bit.
Taillon got the count to 1-2. With just a 1-run deficit at this point, and the Yankee offense scuttling a bit, it felt like a pivotal moment in the game. It’s a batter Taillon has to retire, especially with two strikes. Gary called for a 2-strike fastball up and over the zone:
And Taillon threw it here:
It wasn’t even close. A 2-run single followed and it was 3-0 Rangers. I will admit to being frustrated here at this time. It was very poor execution from Jameson Taillon in a big spot. To his credit, he did settle down after this a bit. He retired the side in the 4th inning before allowing a solo homer in the 5th. Not great, but I thought he was done in the 3rd, so kudos to him.
All in all, it was a 4.1 inning performance with 6 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts for Taillon. His pitch plot tells the overall story:
The fastball was pretty good (35% whiff-per-swing rate) but nothing else was located well. The good news is that the fastball is working. Remember, Taillon is recovering from Tommy John and missed the last two seasons. It was never going to be easy in the early-going. What matters is that he irons these issues out. I expect that he will, even if it’s frustrating now.
2. The Offense Can Break Out: Hey, would you look at that. The Yankee offense can string together hits, just like the old days. The Yankees really picked up their man Taillon tonight after that rough third inning. They scored 5 runs in the 4th inning, including tacking on 5 consecutive hits with two outs. It was a sight to behold. Here is the full inning’s worth of highlights. It makes for some pretty viewing:
It was especially nice to see some big clutch hits from Gary Sánchez (more on him shortly), Mike Ford, and Miguel Andújar. Too often these days, the back half of the Yankee lineup is a complete black hole. I was surprised when each of these guys got a hit. That all three of them did felt like a minor miracle, but it was truly great to see. If and when the Yankee lineup is going to break out in a major way, it is going to take more consistent top-to-bottom performances. We saw what that could look like tonight, even from some unlikely players.
3. Bullpen Dominance: I really love the Yankee bullpen. Not much more to say about that one. Here are their respective lines on the day, which about tells the story:
- Wandy Peralta: 1.0 IP, 1 BB, 1 K
- Jonathan Loaisiga: 1.2 IP, zeros, 1 K
- Chad Green: 1.0 IP, zeros
- Aroldis Chapman: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 3 K
That is one hit and one walk against 5 strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work. The Yankees really needed to close the door in this one – none of the back three pitchers had pitched in a while – and the bullpen absolutely slammed the door home. The Rangers didn’t even stand a chance. Chapman was throwing 103 mph, for crying out loud.
It was a good reminder of two things specifically. First, that the Yankees are very, very hard to beat if the offense scores runs. And second, when the rotation is competent, the Yankees are very tough to hit. Very tough indeed.
There’s been a lot of frustration in 2021, but the Yankees feel very close to going on a very dominant run. At least to me. Maybe I’m just an optimist.
- Gary Leaves the Game: The Yanks removed Gary from the game after he scored a run on the basepaths. He really hustled to get home, and he seemed fine. Meredith said it was “left side tightness” on the broadcast, and I hope they’re just being precautionary. Higgy was likely to catch Kluber tomorrow anyway, so we can’t read too much into whether or not he plays tomorrow. Ugh. He was starting to look good offensively, too.
- Slick Defense: There was some good defense in this game. My favorite play was a slick double play from Rougned Odor, who also had a nice night ofensively. Check this out, though:
- Aaron Judge Mashes: Four more hard-hit balls from Aaron Judge today, who was 2-5. He’s been carrying the team so far.
- Gio Urshela Rules: I can’t believe how good Gio Urshela is. His double in the 4th inning came as part of a 9-pitch at bat with I think 5 two-strike foul balls. It’s been two plus years now, but I still can’t believe it. How is this guy so good?
- Awful Stadium: The new Rangers park is just awful to look at, isn’t it? I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m not enjoying it aesthetically at all. The turf is distracting, and it feels like the ball really carries. I don’t know. It was a long day at work and I’m tired. Maybe I’m just grouchy right now, but I’m not enjoying watching games in this park at all.
The Yanks and Rangers will play the third of this four-game set tomorrow night at 8:05. Corey Kluber (3-2, 3.48 ERA) will take on a to-be-announced starter from his former team. Have a great night, everyone.