The Yankees tried really hard to lose this game in the most annoying fashion possible. The Kansas City Royals granted them nearly a dozen free baserunners throughout the evening, and the Yankees squandered opportunity after opportunity throughout the first seven innings, but three late-inning hits sent the Bronx faithful home confused but happy after a 6-5 win. The Win Probability chart can probably tell this story better than I can:
To the takeaways.
Four clutch hits. The Yankees managed to win this game because of four extremely “clutch” hits. Down 2-0 early and already having left a small squadron of men on the bases, Clint Frazier came through in the bottom of the 4th after walks to Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar, lacing a two-out, two-run double to tie the game.
The offense went silent again until the 8th inning, by which point the Royals had gone ahead 3-2 on a Carlos Santana home run against Zack Britton. Gleyber Torres walked to lead off the inning and was promptly erased on an Andujar double play; the Royals, however, wouldn’t take the gift and walked Clint Frazier, setting the stage for a two-out, go-ahead home run by Rougned Odor.
Referring back to the Win Probability graph, Odor’s home run and Chapman’s subsequent appearance put the Yankees’ probability of victory at close to 90%, but somehow (the “somehow” will be discussed later) the Yankees found themselves at bat again, in the bottom of the ninth, down 5-4. The Yankees’ odds of losing, at that point, were in the 80% range, but never tell Gary Sanchez the odds. With one out, he lined a game-tying home run into the left field bleachers, much to the glee of the full-capacity crowd. Since May 30, he is hitting .323 with 6 home runs and 14 RBIs. He is Gary. He is scary.
Giancarlo Stanton then singled, pinch-runner Tyler Wade took second on a wild pitch, and Luke Voit, fresh off the injured list, smacked a game winning single off the left-field wall. His Sammy Sosa hop after making contact indicated that he definitely thought the ball was going out, but it did the job just as well.
It seems like we’ve been saying “if X can get going, that would be a great way to stabilize the Yankees’ lineup” all year, but if Voit can stay healthy and get back to his powerful 2020 self, that would be cool.
Otherwise, the offense was bad. The story for the Yankees today was almost another one of missed opportunity. The Royals issued eleven walks, and the Yankees always seemed to have runners on base, but left ten men on throughout the game. If the team’s situational hitting was a little bit better, maybe this game wouldn’t have been such a heart attack.
For most of the evening, it looked like every stereotype of the frustration of the Yankees 2021 season was being exemplified. In the second inning, Royals starter Danny Duffy walked the bases loaded but then got Odor on a strikeout to end the threat. In the third, DJ LeMahieu’s leadoff single was neutralized by a double play. The Royals walked the bases loaded again in the bottom of the seventh, and the Yankees again were unable to capitalize.
Fortunately, the clutch kicked in in the late innings and kept this from being the primary takeaway from today, but the situational hitting still needs improvement up and down the lineup.
Mike King was once again okay. If Mike King could get past his first inning jitters, the Yankees might really have something with him. He gave up a double to Salvador Perez and a home run to Ryan O’Hearn with two outs in the first inning, and for the next four innings allowed just one hit and no further runs. He has a 14.40 first inning ERA after today’s start, but has a 2.32 ERA in innings 2 through 5. His stuff looked good today, as he relied heavily on his sinker and curveball and changed speeds well, topping out his fastball at close to 97mph. He struggled with command in the 5th, being relieved by Chad Green with two outs in the inning, but overall he was effective over 72 pitches.
That’s Not Chappie. Chapman, who was absolutely unhittable in the first months of the season, continued to struggle. He sandwiched a single between two strikeouts before the real trouble began; with one on and two outs, he gave up a hard single to Whit Merrifield, putting runners on first and third. Aaron Boone then made the almost inexplicable decision to have Chapman intentionally walk Carlos Santana to load the bases; while I understand the concept of walking one of the team’s best hitters to get to rookie Sebastian Rivero, intentionally loading the bases with a one-run lead and a pitcher struggling with command is, bottom line, baffling. The decision came back to bite the Yankees almost immediately as Chapman walked Rivero on four pitches, none of which were close to the strike zone, to force in the tying run. He then gave up a soft infield single to O’Hearn to give the Royals a 5-4 lead before getting the last out.
Chapman went full Paul O’Neill in the dugout after the 9th inning, for lack of a better descriptor, and was obviously very upset at his performance. Since June 1, he has pitched to a 7.77 ERA, and the Yankees really need him to get back to his April/May performance level. I’m sure he feels a lot better leaving the stadium after getting the win than he did between the top and bottom of the ninth inning.
- Chad Green was once again excellent. He relieved King with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the 5th and quickly recorded the final out of that inning, and he wound up going 2.1 hitless innings, and has now recorded six straight scoreless appearances.
- The home run Zack Britton surrendered in the 8th inning was the first he had given up since game 3 of the 2019 ALDS in Minnesota.