With a game like this, it’s only appropriate to go reverse chronologically. This was a mess and … the Yankees somehow won. Let’s go to extra-innings
Hicks and Tarpley save the day
One reasonable hero, one “Get out of here! Really?” hero.
Tied at six going to extra innings, the Yankees got to face Oliver Perez, who was doing a Johnny Cueto/Luis Tiant/Jesse Orosco impression and nearly got away with it.
However, Cameron Maybin and Aaron Hicks were locked in. Maybin fought back from 0-2 down to get a pitch to drive over Oscar Mercado’s head in center field. He nearly went for three bases but thought better of it.
Hicks made that decision look more shrewd two batters later. Batting from the right side, he also blasted one over an outfielder’s head to left-center field and gave the Yankees an 8-7 lead.
Hicks had one hit in five at-bats and it was enough.
With the Yankees running through all their top relievers (much more on that soon), Aaron Boone turned to the freshly-called-up Stephen Tarpley. The sinkerballer improbably struck out the side and picked up his first Big League save. The outing might give Tarpley a chance to stick in the Majors for a bit. I’d break down his entire inning, but there’s so much more to get to.
The Highs and Lows of the 9th
The Yankees were tied at five going into the top of the ninth and hadn’t scored since the second inning. A series of former Yankees relievers (Cole, Goody, Clippard and Olson) shut them down and kept Cleveland in the game. Finally, Terry Francona turned to a non-Yankee, Adam Cimber, and the Bombers broke through.
Luke Voit singled and Gary Sanchez doubled with one out. Sanchez’s ball was a grounder down the line and Voit couldn’t get across. Francona chose to intentionally walk Gleyber Torres, bringing up Clint Frazier. Sunday’s designated hitter worked the count to 3-2 and lined a sacrifice fly. Boom, the one run needed for Aroldis Chapman … or so you thought!
Chapman was sitting in the mid-90s early and had less-than-perfect slider command, and was fighting with a man on base from the third pitch. Jose Ramirez lined a single, advanced on a pickoff error and then Chapman issued a walk.
Cleveland fortunately gave away an out on a failed bunt and Chapman then allowed a fly ball to the base of the wall in left. Looked like a winning homer or double off the bat, but Brett Gardner chased it down.
So now you just have to get Francisco Lindor out? Welp. Except Chapman did what he needed to, got a grounder to short and Didi Gregorius, in for defense, booted it. Right off the glove and into right field, allowing Ramirez to score from second. Props to Chapman for getting the next man out, but it goes as a tough-luck blown save.
The thing that will get lost in this inning? Gary Sanchez saved the Bombers by catching a bunch of tough balls from Chapman and had the key hit. Just a great all-around inning from the All-Star backstop.
Eight Straight Baserunners
Let’s rewind quickly to the second inning. Shane Bieber dominated the first five batters of the game, striking out four while twirling fastballs by hitters. However, the second-year starter wouldn’t get another out.
Let’s go to the play-by-play and break things down:
1. Frazier let two balls go and hit a hard grounder to left. When he was really struggling in May, he wasn’t getting ahead in counts and letting the game come to him. Now he appears locked in at the plate.
2. Gardner! Saturday was a struggle on the field and in the dugout for Brett Gardner, as evidenced by his six stiches in his lip. That tough son-of-a-gun didn’t stop slugging and hit the same ball that Luplow caught yesterday, just about 20-feet further out to right-center. He was 1-for-23 in May going into this one.
3. Gio Urshela drew a walk and Maybin got on with a dribbler that he beat out for an infield hit. That brought up the RISP-God himself.
I think D.J. LeMahieu is the only hitter who hits the ball up the middle and there isn’t a defender just waiting there. He sprays the ball all over well, so defenses have to respect that, making him one of the few hitters in baseball that has room for the grounder up the box.
5. This was the second big blow. Hicks drew a walk — he looks locked in again after a slump and you can tell that when he works the count — and that brought up Voit. He lined it into the right field corner for two runs.
Voit had a mini-slump of his own as he was 0-for-12 with three walks and six Ks since June 5 going into this one. It was hit too hard to score Hicks, but it was enough to knock out Bieber.
The Good Arms Melt Down
A 5-0 lead through five innings is a win nearly every time for the Yankees. It shouldn’t even require much effort. This was a nightmare as the Yankees’ best arms melted down.
It started with Tommy Kahnle, who needed five batters to remove the safety valve of a lead and reduce it to just one run. A homer on the first pitch, a line drive single, an out, a bloop single and another homer.
This wasn’t a classic Kahnle blowup; Those usually involved plenty of walks. Instead, the Indians knew to attack early in the count.
Not to fear though: Adam Ottavino came on for the seventh. He should be able to hold this? Nope, not today. For the first time since Apr. 21, the Yankees’ fireman gave up a run, a solo homer to Jake Bauers to dead center field.
It was just the third homer Ottavino’s given up this year. He’d put together 18 straight scoreless appearances and this was just his third since April in which he didn’t strike out a batter.
While Zack Britton shut things down in the eighth inning, that’s three of your best relievers giving up runs and two of them giving up homers. That’s how you blow two separate leads and a 5-0 lead at that.
The Opener and Beyond
- Chad Green remains the ideal opener and he looks like his old 2018 self. He got a 1-2-3 inning in the first and was cruising before a bloop single in the second. Just two hard-hit balls, one that would have been a homer but went foul. After issuing a walk and going down 3-0 on the next hitter, he dialed up some 97-mph fastballs to strike out Jake Bauers. Green’s ERA is down to 8.27 and he had his first scoreless outing of two innings or more since Sept. 15, 2018.
- Nestor Cortes Jr. faced nine batters and got all nine out. He benefitted from facing an Indians lineup that was littered with left-handed hitters, which was weird considering you knew he was coming into this game.
- Cortes struck out two and one was on a change in arm slots against Jason Kipnis. Threw off his timing and got mostly soft contact in this one.
- Frazier was outstanding as the DH. 2-for-3 with a walk and the almost-winning sac fly. He was working counts consistently. When he was scuffling in early May, he wasn’t seeing or laying off many pitches out of the zone.
- Urshela walked four times against four different pitchers. Had a chance to get a fifth but got out. A great day without positive contact.
The Yankees will have to shake off a tired bullpen when they begin a two-game set with their Subway Series foes on Monday in the Bronx. It’ll be Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees against Jason Vargas for the Mets. 7:05 scheduled start on YES, but there’s a strong chance of rain. Both teams share an off-day Wednesday and could do a doubleheader Tuesday.