Just when you thought the Yankees were dead, they win two of three from the first place Red Sox by taking tonight’s rubber game, 9-1. I gotta say: I was preparing myself for a sweep after they fell behind 1-0 yesterday and looked pretty lifeless. So much for that.
With tonight’s win, the Yankees are now 7.5 games out of first place (six in the loss column). That’s still a big hill to climb, though these two sides meet again this weekend at Fenway Park. There’s also Toronto and Tampa Bay in between, of course. Meanwhile, the Bombers are 3.5 games (two in the loss column) out of a Wild Card spot. The season is far from over, as unpleasant as it’s been.
Tonight’s victory featured a little bit of everything. Jameson Taillon looked sharp, the bullpen did its thing, and the offense contributed a mix of small ball and long ball. Let’s break it down right after the jump.
It looks like Jameson Taillon has turned his season around. Tonight, the righty threw 5.1 shutout frames, with an assist from Chad Green who stranded two runners Taillon left aboard upon departure. Since hitting rock bottom in Philadelphia on June 12th, when he only recorded one out before getting the hook, Taillon has a 2.86 ERA in his last six starts (34.2 IP). Simply put, he’s been much better of late.
Taillon looked terrific out of the gate tonight. He retired 11 of the first 12 Red Sox he faced. The righty wasn’t overpowering, as he only picked up three strikeouts on the day, but Boston couldn’t square him up either. The Red Sox had a .190 xBA against Taillon through five before finally getting to him in the sixth.
Now, about that sixth inning, when he was facing the Sox lineup for a third time. Much of the story around Taillon’s season has been his difficulty turning the lineup over. That remained true this evening:
- 1st time: 0-for-8, 1 BB, 1 K
- 2nd time: 2-for-8, 1 BB, 2 2B, 1 K
- 3rd time: 2-for-4, 2 2B, 1 K
Yeah, things started crashing down in a hurry, but Aaron Boone did a good job calling on Green before things could have unraveled. I do want to see Taillon get more opportunities to work through some of his third-time-through troubles, but in an important game like this, Boone absolutely made the right call.
Maybe Taillon can figure out how to go deeper effectively in games, but he has a chance to be a very good five-and-dive pitcher. He’s been doing this for about a month now, which is a very good development for a guy who was starting to look like a bust not long ago. And that’s really all the Yankees need from him, provided they have a healthy and effective bullpen.
Gleyber Torres looks more comfortable at the plate. Since the start of the Houston series — small sample size caveats apply — Torres is 6-for-20 with two homers, a double, four walks, and four strikeouts. That includes tonight’s 1-for-2 with a homer and two walks. As silly as it is to make much out of two series worth of results, it’s really good to see Torres lifting the ball:
Torres isn’t a guy who lights up exit velocity leaderboards, so it’s important for him to hit the ball in the air. This year, he has a career-high ground ball rate (43.9 percent) which just isn’t going to cut it with his typically meh hard contact rates.
Now, he’s got homers in back-to-back games and a seemingly more confident approach at the dish. As great as his second inning dinger was, I really loved the at-bat he took against Brandon Workman in the seventh.
All but pitch number three (a cutter) were curveballs. Workman was being really careful — perhaps too careful, even — but Torres went with it. He didn’t try to do too much. This is purely anecdotal, but it feels like a big part of Gleyber’s troubles this year have been him getting himself out in situations like this. Workman threw a pretty nasty 3-2 curveball that just missed off the plate for ball four, and I can’t help but wonder if earlier this season, Torres would have flailed at such a pitch.
All that said, it’s way too soon to declare that Torres has turned his season around. We’re seeing some good signs at least: more balls in the air and better plate discipline. For now, let’s be happy that he’s showing some semblance of life again offensively. Hopefully, it continues.
The small ball was fun to watch. Tonight, we saw the Yankees execute a successful hit-and-run (DJ LeMahieu), drag bunt (Rougned Odor), go first to third on a single (Ryan LaMarre), hit a sac fly (Greg Allen), and steal two bases (LaMarre and Allen). It was different! It was exciting!
We’ve harped on the Yankees needing more lineup diversity, and tonight exemplified that to an extent. The reason I say “to an extent” is because there’s no way the replacements from Triple-A can salvage the Bombers this season. The Yankees still need external help, particularly in the outfield. They also need their existing personnel to hit like they have in the past (Gleyber, for instance).
Point is: the Yankees should look to invigorate this offense with players who offer some different skillsets. Whether or not you believe this team can contend in 2021, it’s something that should be addressed for the short and long-term. There are players available on the trade market who can do what the likes of Allen and LaMarre did tonight, and then some. Think Starling or Ketel Marte, for instance.
The funny thing about bringing up the team’s small ball success today: the Yankees hit three homers, responsible for five of the nine runs scored. It’s always easier to put up runs in bunches via the long ball, and I want the Yankees to continue to emphasize power, but they don’t need to be so one-dimensional either.
- Rougned Odor went 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk and is up to .224/.297/.443 (103 wRC+) this season. I get some of the complaints about him — he shouldn’t bat third — but he’s a good bench piece. He will frustrate you with some ugly, high strikeout stretches, but he seems to have found a home here after a couple of awful seasons for Texas.
- Aroldis Chapman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to finish this one off. He still looked a bit wild and gave up a deep flyout, but I’d say this was progress nonetheless.
- Luis Severino threw 30 pitches at Yankee Stadium today. The plan is to have him ready to pitch five or six innings by the time he returns. (Bryan Hoch)
- Jonathan Loaisiga was cleared to rejoin the team, but it sounds like he needs to build up some arm strength again before getting back into game action. (Justin Shackil)
- Darren O’Day is likely done for the season, per Aaron Boone. He’s dealing with a severe hamstring strain.
- Trey Amburgey left this one with a hamstring cramp. He was trying to beat out a double play ball at first before he pulled up lame.
The Yankees are off tomorrow before playing two games against Philadelphia in the Bronx starting Tuesday. Have a good night all.