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Game 66: Now That’s More Like It

Great game. Ten out of ten; would watch again. The Yankees were really scuffling coming into this one and were down 5-2 late in it. But they bore down and came back and won. Against a divisional opponent! What a concept. Look at this:

That is not a chart that has typically favored the Yankees this season. It did not matter on this night. The Yankees came back and won 6-5 and now sit 2 games above .500. Thank god for that. The internet is depressing enough. It’s much worse when the Yankees lose. Anyway, on to tonight’s takeaways.

1. Jordan Montgomery Was Better Than the Line: I feel like we say this a lot about Jordan Montgomery, don’t we? We definitely do – and for good reason, honestly. Check out his ERAs vs his FIPs over the last two seasons, for context:

  • 2020: 5.11 ERA (3.87 FIP)
  • 2021: 3.99 ERA (3.34 FIP)

That’s the sign of a pitcher who should be performing better than the actual performances, if you buy into that sort of analysis. Tonight was another good example. Montgomery’s line was meh – 5.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R (4 ER), 4 K, and 4 BB – but there were quite a few good things going on under the hood.

First, his locations were pretty good overall. Check out this distribution:

A little too much out over the plate, sure, but mostly where you want those pitches. Fastballs up, curves down, sinkers down, etc. That’ll play on most nights. That translated into a pretty solid 32% whiff-per-swing rate, which will very much play. (His changeup was most effective, garnering 6 whiffs on 13 swings, or 46%.) Finally, he limited the hard contact. The average exit velocity against him was just 84 mph tonight, which will very much do.

That is a winning formula on most nights, but it didn’t translate to real results for Monty tonight. He struggled in the first, walking the first three batters he faced and giving up a sac fly. Then, in the third, he gave up a home run to Bo Bichette to make it 2-1 Blue Jays. The 4th inning was the most frustrating of all, though. He surrendered another walk, allowed two ground ball base hits, and then Gary missed a very catchable ball that brought in a run. Bichette lined a two-run single to make it 5-2 Blue Jays.

All in all, a quintessential Montgomery performance. It should have been better than it was, though he was admittedly not helped out by his defense. I still have faith in him being a solid mid-rotation pitcher, but he’s a perfectly cromulent back-end man right now. I’ll take it. (Since someone will ask, his spin rates were comparable to the norm. No Spider Tack for Jordan, apparently.)

2. The Offense is Turning It Around: There is absolutely no question that the Yankees offense is turning a corner right now. There is a long way to go before the team returns to its status as an offensive juggernaut, but the signs are there. Consider:

  • Miguel Andújar: hitting .302/.333/.585 over his last 15 games coming into tonight
  • Brett Gardner: hitting .286/.409/.600 over his last 15 games coming into tonight (and is scorching hot over the last week or so)
  • Gary Sánchez: hitting .340/.400/.660 over his last 15 coming into tonight (and is also scorching hot over the last week or so)
  • DJ LeMahieu: hitting .303/.343/.485 over his last 7 games entering tonight

These are important players to the Yankees and they’d all been dramatically underperforming so far in 2021. That they’ve started to turn it around is essential, and tonight was a perfect illustration as to why.

Let’s start with Gary, who helped bail out Jordan Montgomery early on in the game with this home run:

Gary added another hit and went 2-4 on the day. He’s been scorching hot offensively and it makes a huge difference for the team. Similarly, Miguel Andújar hit three balls hard – one in each at-bat – and added a single. He even walked! Miggy Mantle had an RBI, too.

Brett Gardner, whom everyone seems to have quit on, is also having a bit of a resurgence. Tonight, Brett ripped a HR to right that helped close the gap and kickstart the Yankee comeback:

I’ve always been a “don’t doubt Brett Gardner” person – probably much to the annoyance of many of you – so this his little resurgence is pretty satisfying, not going to lie. Let’s just hope it lasts. (I was annoyed that Boone pinch hit Frazier for Brett in the 8th, but it paid off. Shows what I know.)

Finally, DJ LeMahieu was not a pivotal part of the comeback, but he went 2-4 on the day and hit 3 balls hard. His OPS is almost at .700, which is a sad marker of his season. DJ is so, so important to the Yankees, though, so it’s been nice to see him swing the bat better of late.

Anyway, there’s much more that could be said about the Yankees offense, but the most important thing is that there are real signs that it is turning around. That is the best news we could possibly ask for.

3. The Bullpen Does the Job: Once again, the Yankees bullpen did the trick tonight. Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, Zack Briton, and Aroldis Chapman did not allow a run in 3.2 innings of work. They allowed 4 hits and struck out just 2 (Cessa and Chapman), but who cares. That’ll play. They held the deficit and then kept the lead. It’ll work.

To be fair, Zack Britton did run into some trouble in the 8th. He looked very much like a pitcher who did not have a real Spring Training or rehab, and he walked two guys and gave up a hit. That meant the bases were loaded with two outs against Bo Bichette, and honestly? The game felt VERY precarious at that point. Not just for the obvious reasons, either. It was just sort of moment the 2021 Yankees lose. Britton bore down, though, and got out of it. Nice to have him back, and he’ll only get better.

Chapman didn’t break a sweat and that was that. The Yankee bullpen is excellent, and tonight was really no different. Love it.

Leftovers

  • Clint Frazier’s Bat Speed: I mentioned not liking the pinch-hit decision above, but it made me look stupid. Clint Frazier came on in the 8th to hit for Gardner and he immediately ripped – and I mean ripped – a double down the left-field line. His bat speed was really on display, and the Yankees had the lead. Love it. This is why I don’t manage the Yanks. Lucky you.
  • Hard Hittin’ Chris Gittens: After last week’s tease, Chris Gittens finally got in the hit column with a mammoth home run to left center. No doubt that this one was fair. Love to see it. Check it out:
  • Tyler Wade’s Nice Defensive Play: In Britton’s adventurous 8th inning, old friend of the blog Tyler Wade had a nice play in center. The ball, a fly ball to center off the bat of Santiago Espinal, only had an expected batting average of .120 but that shouldn’t take away from the play. Wade had to cover a lot of ground and he is, of course, not an outrielder by trade. Good stuff.

The Yankees and Jays will play the second of this three-game set tomorrow night at 7:07 in Buffalo. The Yanks will turn to their ace Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.31 ERA) as the Jays turn to Ross Stripling (2-3, 4.91 ERA) in that one. A good game tonight, folks. May tomorrow be the same. Enjoy the rest of your night, everyone.

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5 Comments

  1. chip56

    I would give Tyler Wade a couple of games in CF as the starter. He’s not going to hit, I mean at all, but prior to last night’s HR, Gardner wasn’t hitting either, so maybe you at least get a little lightning with Wade.

    • Steve

      Prior to last night’s HR? Gardner has a .391/.500/.870 line for the last two weeks and 263/.368/.474 the past month.

  2. Mungo

    I wonder if Gittens got his first hit back? Looked like some guy out in the parking lot was running away with it.

    Beyond that, the main positive from the Yankees recent play is we’re finally starting to see some signs of the offense awakening. Can’t underestimate how important DJLM is to make that happen.

  3. dasit

    there’s no such thing as a must-win game in june but this felt like one

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