The Yankees finally swept a competitive AL East opponent. It took a while, but they accomplished the feat. Things slowly look like the team may be building their killer instinct. It is only three games, but there are encouraging signs. They have to build off this now. There will be time to discuss the future, but let’s enjoy the present. The Yankees win tonight’s game in Buffalo by the score of 8-4. They are now 36-32. Here are the takeaways.
We should start this off with some history. Michael King did not start this game off on the right foot. He walked the dangerous Marcus Semien and then gave up a seeing-eye single to Bo Bichette. Early season MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stepped up to the plate looking to do some damage. Instead, he helped deliver a historical moment for the Yankees:
First, it is really shocking to see a team run the bases worse than the Yankees. Second, what are the Blue Jays doing here? This was a nice play by King to get off the mound quickly, hold the runner at third, and throw a strike to first. The problems for Toronto begin and end with Bo Bichette. He’s assuming Semien is going home on contact and runs to third without evaluating what was going on in front of him. He forces Semien, who correctly ran back to third, to start breaking for home.
At this point, Bichette should run to third and occupy the base. You want to keep a runner in scoring position. He ended up choosing the worst of the available options. Bo inexplicably started running back to second. Once Gio made the tag on Semien, Bichette tried to break for third. He was correctly called out. For all of the Yankees’ baserunning blunders this year, Toronto told them to hold their beer.
More importantly, the Yankees displayed excellent and fundamental defense here. They did everything correctly. King held the runner at third and threw out the hitter. DJ LeMahieu threw to second base with Bichette so far off the base. Gleyber threw home once he saw Semien break for the plate. Gary held onto the ball just long enough to get the first out at third. And Gio also made a fantastic play to get Bichette at third. We’ve criticized the Yankees’ defense this season, but they looked great on this play. It saved a big inning from taking place in the first inning and put them in position to win the game. Here are some interesting stats regarding the triple play:
About That Defense
This night perfectly captures the Yankees’ defense in a nutshell. At this point, I don’t know what to make of it. It is more volatile than the stock market. The triple play was the first impactful play on defense, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Gio Urshela was front and center again. This is just a spectacular play:
The lateral quickness, the agility, the athleticism, and the throw were all elite in this play. This is incredibly difficult to pull off. It was early in the game, but this is a double down the line if he doesn’t get to this. With how this game was going, you never know how the rest of the frame turns out.
While the defense was able to prevent a big inning in the first, it did plenty to help the Blue Jays score the majority of their runs. Toronto had first and third with one out and the aforementioned Bichette up at the plate. Michael King threw a well-executed pitch low and away. Bichette chased and hit a ground ball to short. I’ll let the video take it from here:
What is this?
When you’re a part-time depth player, you have to fulfill your role. That requires making the plays in front of you. Wade has to turn that double play. At the very least, he has to give himself a chance to turn it. It gave the Blue Jays a free run and extended the inning for King. This can’t happen.
Miguel Andújar is obviously learning a new position on the Major League level. This isn’t easy to do. It is challenging when you are switching positions that either move you further away from home plate or closer to it. While the outfield can appear simple, the nuances of the position can be tricky to pick up. You have to gauge depth, execute the right angle on the ball, have spatial awareness, and then catch the ball. Miguel Andújar struggled with a little bit of everything in the fifth inning.
On a fly ball deep to the wall, Miggy had a chance to make a nice catch but couldn’t pull it in. You want to give him some leeway given the position switch, but an average Major League outfielder makes that play. Beyond the impact of the actual play, it demonstrates the limitations the Yankees have caused by Clint Frazier’s poor play and the organization’s hesitance to play Stanton in the outfield. This misplay allowed Toronto to tie the game.
And then maybe the biggest defensive play of the game came from Aaron Judge. As Yankees fans, we all know how great of a defender Judge is. It appears the team told Judge to minimize risky plays early on in the season. That potential edict feels like it went out the door. Judge is flying all over the field and making incredible plays like this:
This is a remarkable play. He covered a ton of ground and showed impressive body control. The timing was perfect. The leap was amazing. Aaron Judge is a great baseball player. This was the turning point in the game. If there any doubts about that statement, here is the win probability chart for the game:
Toronto’s win probability before the Judge catch was 75%. It immediately swung to the Yankees after Judge’s play. Big-time players make big-time plays.
The Yankees Offense Is Beginning to Click
Admittedly, this heading may be a bit misleading. There are still too many instances when the lineup fails to blow a game open. The Yankees had the bases loaded with Judge and Gleyber Torres up and failed to score. The game featured other moments where tack-on runs were welcomed.
With that said, the Yankees are starting to drive the ball out of the park again. Gio Urshela’s two-run home run was a welcome sight. Giancarlo Stanton’s two-strike, opposite-field home run to take the lead was very encouraging. The power is starting to return to the lineup. The team was able to flex their muscles a little bit in Buffalo. This could be a sign of more encouraging things to come.
The second encouraging sign is the increase in timely hitting. We saw it with Clint Frazier on Tuesday. Gary Sánchez delivered the big blow last night. And tonight, it was the rookie, Chris Gittens, coming through in the clutch. Despite striking out a lot, Gittens has put on really good at-bats. Tonight’s pinch-hit appearance was especially impressive. He was in a big spot and didn’t expand the zone. He took a big swing in a 3-1 count, and when he missed his pitch, he cut his swing down for an opposite-field single. We see more and more productive at-bats in clutch situations late in games. Hopefully, this will continue.
Things weren’t all great in Yankeesland. Gleyber Torres left the game early with back stiffness. He will be re-evaluated soon. Hopefully, this isn’t a long term thing. The Yankees will look to build on this sweep as they return home to a maximum capacity Yankee Stadium against Oakland. The atmosphere should be great. It will be Jameson Taillon versus old friend James Kaprielian. Have a great night.