Category: Game Recaps Page 2 of 25

ALCS Game 1: Tanaka Time and Gleyber Day

Good game, would like it to happen again. The Yankees handily took Game 1 of the ALCS in Houston, 7-0. As you could have guessed by the headline, Masahiro Tanaka and Gleyber Torres delivered brilliant performances.

Once the Yankees’ offense got going – well, Torres mainly – this one was pretty much over. Tanaka overwhelmed Houston through six shutout frames before handing it to the bullpen. And, aside from Torres, Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster homer while plenty of others contributed. In fact, only Brett Gardner didn’t reach base.

Of the many highlights of the night, which I’ll get to in the takeaways in a moment, a personal highlight was seeing the train conductor for Houston asleep. I do not have fond memories of that horn sound from 2017. I’d be quite pleased to see the Yankees make tomorrow night his last game of 2019.

Anyway, let’s get to the important stuff:

October is Tanaka Time

Masahiro Tanaka did not have a good regular season. It was just the second season of his career in which his ERA started with a four. He memorably struggled to get a feel for his splitter with the different baseball used this season, though he seemingly got a better handle on it later in the summer. But as per usual with Tanaka, nothing that happened from April through September matters come October.

With tonight’s six shutout innings, he lowered his career postseason ERA to 1.32. This was his seventh postseason start; he’s never allowed more than two runs in any of those outings. Just amazing. He’s the definition of a big game pitcher.

Just about everything was on the edges for Tanaka tonight. (Baseball Savant)

Tanaka was nothing short of dominant tonight. He faced the minimum through six innings of work and probably could have pitched a seventh frame, but Aaron Boone didn’t take any chances. Kyle Tucker had the lone hit in the third inning, but was quickly wiped out when the Yankees turned a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Robinson Chirinos.

The fifth inning was really the only time Tanaka was in any sort of trouble. He walked Alex Bregman to start the frame. Then, up came Yordan Álvarez:

What. A. Play. Not only was that a tough catch for Judge, but it also required him to throw a strike to first base from right center. He did just that, 87.8 MPH off his back leg. DJ LeMahieu made a heck of a scoop too.

That Álvarez rocket was one of three batted balls to leave the infield against Tanaka. He simply mowed down the Astros lineup. His command was on point, and even though he only recorded four strikeouts, almost everything else was on the ground.

Once again, it was Gleyber Day

People, have you heard? Gleyber Torres is 22 years of age. He’s also a superstar. The kid drove in five of the Yankees’ seven runs tonight.

The Yankees had a few opportunities (and some bad luck) early in this one against Zack Greinke, but they finally got on the board in the fourth. After LeMahieu led off with a single and Judge struck out, Torres came to the dish:

That double made it 1-0 Yankees. It was a bit of a relief to see them finally score considering everything else that had happened against Greinke to that point:

  • In the first inning, Judge absolutely clobbered a ball that looked gone off the bat. Per Statcast, it was a “barrel”, which in short is an ideal launch angle and exit velocity combination. It wound up a fly out. Maybe the regular season ball would have been out of the yard…
  • In the top of the second, Brett Gardner lined into an inning ending unassisted double play. He hit a liner right at Yuli Gurriel, who stepped on the back to double up a helpless Giancarlo Stanton who had singled earlier.
  • One inning later: Bregman robbed Gio Urshela of a surefire double down the left field line. His leaping catch stole a hit that per Statcast falls in 86 percent of the time.

Later in the fourth, after Gleyber’s go-ahead hit, Stanton *just* missed one against Greinke (don’t worry, he made him pay later). He hit a 105 MPH popup to center.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Gleyber content. He got to Greinke again in the sixth:

Hilariously, that homer into the Crawford Boxes had a .050 xBA and literally is only a homer in this very ballpark. You love to see it.

Of course, Gleyber was far from done. He delivered the knockout blow in the seventh frame. Ryan Pressly, one of baseball’s top relievers, loaded the bases with two outs. Torres worked the count to 3-2 and blooped one into center to score two more and make it 5-0.

In the ninth, because why not, Torres notched one more RBI. He dribbled an RBI groundout to Carlos Correa which made it 7-0.

Here comes Giancarlo Stanton

Somewhat lost in tonight’s shuffle is Stanton’s big game at the plate. The left fielder, one of the Yankees’ many large adult sons, went two-for-four with a mammoth dinger. Like I wrote about earlier and Bobby previously predicted, Stanton was due for a big game. He singled in his first trip to the plate. And, after the aforementioned just missed popup, he didn’t let Greinke slide in his final opportunity against Houston’s starter:

Juiced ball, unjuiced ball, whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter for Stanton. Pretty nice to have one of the strongest guys in the league on the Yankees, right? That laser beam was 111 MPH off his bat and made it 3-0 at the time.

Leftovers

  • Gio Urshela hit an opposite field solo shot in the ninth to make it 6-0. Nice to see him get a knock after Bregman’s robbery earlier. Urshela also had a nice game in the field.
  • There was some debate about pulling Tanaka after an easy six innings of work, but Boone didn’t mess around and went to the bullpen. Even though Tanaka was curising, Boone didn’t take any chances with Houston’s lineup a third time through.
  • Adam Ottavino came in for the seventh, up 5-0, and blanked the Astros. It was a little scary though; Didi Gregorius and Torres had some miscommunication on a single up the middle, but then Otto induced an inning ending double play thereafter.
  • Zack Britton pitched a scoreless eighth around one walk and Jonathan Loaisiga closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth.
  • A few other notable offensive performances tonight: LeMahieu reached base thrice and scored all three times aboard. And, similar to the ALDS, Judge kept on hitting with two more singles and a stolen base.

With that, the Yankees lead this best-of-seven series 1-0. Game 2 starts at the same time tomorrow and the pitching matchup features James Paxton and Justin Verlander.

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ALDS Game 3: Yankees Dismiss Twins 5-1, Advance to ALCS for 2nd Time in 3 Years

New decade, new players, same teams, same results. The 101-win Twins became the first 100 win team to ever be swept in the first round of an MLB postseason since 1980 because of course they did. They were playing the Yankees, who thoroughly manhandled them. The Yankees won this game 5-1 (box score) and outscored the Twins 23-7 in the three-game sweep. New look Twins? Give me a break. The Yankees are returning to the ALCS and they don’t know their opponent yet. Life is good. Life is very good.

I’ll have more thoughts on this in the morning–somehow I didn’t get it all out in the below monster takeaways–but I gotta say. The Yankees pitching staff held the monster Twins offense to seven runs across three games and the defense–coupled with expert shifting–mitigated a lot of hard contact and probably won the team this game. You have to tip your cap.

Anyway, we’ll have a lot more on this in the days to come, so get right to the takeaways.

1. A Tale of Two Luis Severinos: Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way right away: holy crap did Luis Severino battle through this one. His stuff was electric but all over the place and he really had no command at all coming out of the game. He felt like a disaster waiting to happen, frankly, and I thought he was going to get tattooed or at least only last an inning or two. But there were two Luis Severinos tonight: the one pitching with the bases empty and the one pitching with a guy on base. Thankfully, the latter was a truly dominant force.

Here was his line on the night: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K. And boy where those four strikeouts–as you’ll see below, three of those four came with runners in scoring position and two of them with two outs. Those are the strikeouts of a big-time pitcher right there. Anyway, here was Severino’s pitch usage for the night:

  • Fastball: 42 (5 whiffs)
  • Slider: 27 (4 whiffs)
  • Changeup: 14 (1 whiff)

That’s 10 whiffs, which is great, but also 18 foul balls, which is why it felt like Severino was teetering on the edge the entire game. Anyway, here is his velocity chart:

Severino was bringing the heat, that’s for sure, but not in the first, when he was sitting 94 mph and was all over the place. He surrendered a leadoff walk to Max Kepler, and check out the strike zone plot for the 1st inning:

Yeesh. He was nowhere near the zone or right down broadway, but he recovered to get a pop-fly to Stanton in left and a huge double play off the bat of the always terrifying Nelson Cruz. He was still shaky in the second inning, when this happened:

  • Eddie Rosario: double off the wall (I thought it was gone off the bat)
  • Mitch Garver: five-pitch walk
  • Luis Arraez: single to left

That loaded the bases with nobody out for Miguel Sanó–and man oh man did Severino turn it on in this at-bat, but not before Sanó made him work. It’s worth looking at the plot of this at-bat because you can pinpoint exactly where Severino turned it around:

See pitch 7 there? That was a biting slider–really, it felt like Severino’s first good pitch of the game–and he didn’t look back. He induced a pop-up on the very next pitch to Sanó and then completely overpowered Marwin Gonzalez and former Yankee Jake Cave on two consecutive strikeouts to end the inning and escape unscathed. It was a classic moment–one of those “punch the air five million times and almost dislocate your shoulder” moments for me–so it’s worth watching the video if you missed it live. Check it out:

Severino again had to work out of trouble in the third–a two-out single put runners on first and second–but he again got a strikeout to get out of the inning. A 1-2-3 fourth followed, and that was it for the Yankees’ ace. All told, a really impressive outing after just three regular season starts. It’s not easy to battle like that on the road, but Severino did it. Consider me very impressed.

2. Brett Garder for How Long? Brett Gardner Forever: I have written so many words about Brett Gardner this season. So, so many. It feels like every game I did had a designated Gardner takeaway, so it makes sense that today would be no different. The longest-tenured Yankee worked a 9-pitch at-bat in the 1st inning against Odorizzi, which, even though it ended in a strikeout, was just a classic Gardner at-bat. He worked Odorizzi, he fouled pitches away, and he was just a tough out. Remember, here is the amount of pitches Brett has seen per plate appearance in each of the last 5 seasons, with his MLB rank in parentheses:

  • 2019: 4.32 (5th)
  • 2018: 4.24 (9th)
  • 2017: 4.23 (12th)
  • 2016: 4.09 (30th)
  • 2015: 4.16 (11th)

Working pitchers is what Gardner does. I love it, especially in the postseason, even when the results aren’t there. Anyway, in his 2nd at-bat, it was another classic Gardner appearance: the slapped 2-out RBI knock. After a leadoff Gio Urshela double, the Yankees were on the verge of wasting it–until Gardner slapped a two-out, two-strike grounder just past the bag to knock him in and make it 2-0 Yankees. This followed the Severino Houdini act, so it was a huge hit in terms of doubling the lead but also further deflating the crowd and the Twins themselves.

He ultimately went just 1-for-4, but that was a huge day at the park for Brett Gardner in a huge game for the Yankees. What else did you expect?

3. The Yankee Bullpen Does The Damn Job: As expected, the Yankee bullpen was tasked with getting a lot of outs in a huge postseason game–that is, after all, exactly why the Yankees built the team the way they did. And it paid off not just tonight but all series. The A-Team came out and they did the damn thing.

Here are each of their lines:

  • Tommy Kahnle: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
  • Adam Ottavino: 0.0 IP, zeros, 1 BB
  • Chad Green: 1.1 IP, 2 H, zeros, 1 K
  • Zack Britton: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R
  • Aroldis Chapman: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K

Kahnle was getting smashed all over the yard–his surrendered a leadoff blast that I thought was a sure home run, but instead, it smashed off the wall. Aaron Judge used his trademark arm and defensive prowess to hold Jake Cave to a single. He also gave up a loud liner to Gardner in center so it wasn’t Tommy Tight Pants’ finest outing, but he emerged unscathed. No harm, no foul.

But here is where things got interesting again. Boone predictably went to Adam Ottavino for right-handed power-hitter extraordinaire Nelson Cruz, and, just like in Game 1, Ottavino walked him immediately and then was pulled from the game. Not Ottavino at his best, but it is still curious managing to say the least, in my opinion. To be sure, Ottavino is vicious on righties and his slider makes him a good matchup for the fastball mashing Cruz. Here are his splits:

  • Against RHB: .177/.292/.266 (.558 OPS)
  • Against LHB: .241/.361/.392 (.753 OPS)

So, yeah, Ottavino is capital-v Vicious against RHB, so it makes sense to match him up against a righty masher like Cruz, but it’s weird that he’s turned into a ROOGY overnight. Ottavino is one of the best relievers in the game, but clearly the Yankees have a specific role in mind for him. Seems strange to me–why limit yourself by limiting a reliever with Ottavino’s stuff against a fastball-eating team like the Twins?–but what the hell do I know? I’ll defer to the Yankees, but I do think it’s really weird. Especially with FB-heavy Green following him. Oh well.

Speaking of Green, the Yankees really relied on him tonight and even sent him back out for the seventh, though they pulled him for Britton once he surrendered a leadoff single. I thought that was curious because of the Twins’ aforementioned fastball feasting, but the Yankees felt differently. I don’t think Green looked the best he had all year, but again, no harm no foul. Hard to complain with the results.

Britton came on after and he looked good in the seventh, though he appeared to hurt his knee at one point? FS1 showed him grimacing, and even though he came out for the 8th, he surrendered a HR (video below) and left with trainer Steve Donahue after recording a groundout. Seems…not great. He did his job, but hopefully just precautionary. (It was precautionary. He jamemd his ankle, but after the game, Britton and Brian Cashman both said he’s fine and won’t need further tests). Here’s the video of the Rosario HR:

The Britton injury — please let it just be a precautionary or minor thing, since I do think Chapman was coming in either way — sucks but Chapman, most assuredly, did not. He really brought the heat tonight. For a long time folks were worried about how Chapman would respond without regular work in September. Well, here’s the strike zone plot and velocity from his eighth inning at-bat against Miguel Sanó:

Good grief! Look at that location and look at that velocity. I do not care who you are. That is straight-up untouchable stuff right there. And I mean untouchable. 100 mph on the black? Just do yourself a favor and sit down. It’s over before you even try. (That’s a good allegory for a Yankees-Twins playoff series in and of itself.)

Chapman was a bit shaky for a second in the 9th, but he used his trademark slider (lol) to settle down and then retired Nelson Cruz looking on a blazing fastball to end the Twins season. Folks. You love–you absolutely LOVE–to see it.

4. Gleyber Torres is So, So Special: I don’t even know what else to say about Gleyber Torres. (Have you heard that he’s just 22-years-old?) I really don’t. He had that huge go-ahead double in Game 1, he had an RBI single in Game 2, and tonight he had a truly spectacular game. One of those games that makes you take a real step back and just appreciate what a special talent Gleyber really is.

Let’s start with the second inning. With the game knotted up at 0 and Odorizzi looking like he had good stuff–it was easily the best stuff any Twin has shown to that point this series–Gleyber stepped up and did this:

That was his first postseason home run, clocked at 97+ mph and traveling 370 feet. It gave the Yanks a 1-0 lead and that felt huge, at least to me. All afternoon, it felt like if the Yankees could jump out to an early lead, they’d be in great shape. Obvious statement is obvious, but you know what I mean. Gleyber made sure that happened. Love it.

Gleyber was not done, though. After Ottavino’s walk of Cruz highlighted above, things got really interesting in the fifth inning with runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs. Eddie Rosario lined a 90+ mph grounder in what looked to be the hole off Chad Green. Statcast says it is a hit more than half the time, but Gleyber (and DJLM, but there’s more on him below) had other plans. Check it out for yourself:

That sure is pretty! What a ridiculous talent Torres is, but it also feels like it is worth shouting out the Yankees’ analytics office and defensive placement, because Torres really was in the perfect position to make that play. Just truly great stuff.

Anyway, Torres was STILL not done. The Twins had consistent traffic on the basepaths all night, and the 2-0 lead felt like it could evaporate at any point–so the 22-year-old (I am going to keep saying this) phenom rocketed a double off the left-field wall that was very nearly a home run. He’d score on a one-out base hit from (who else?) Didi Gregorius, certified Twin killer. That made it 3-0. Torres was 3-for-4 with an RBI, three runs scored, a home run and two doubles on the night. He probably saved at least one more with his glove. I don’t know what else to say, so I’ll keep it simple: Gleyber Torres is special, and I sure am glad he plays for the New York Yankees. What a player. Here is a final nugget about Gleyber:

Leftovers

  • Aaron Judge, WAR Machine: Earlier today, I wrote how Aaron Judge’s performance in the ALDS is showing just how and why he ranks among the most valuable MLB players by WAR since making his debut despite missing so many games, and spoiler: it’s not just because of his home runs. It’s also because of his ridiculous defensive prowess. In the 6th inning with a guy on second and a 2-0 NYY lead, Miguel Sanó ripped another screamer for what looked like a guaranteed double…and Statcast agreed. It was hit 107.9 mph and carried a .700 expected batting average, but Judge–who is always perfectly positioned and also huge–made a nice leaping catch to end that. Ho-hum. He also threw a rocket into second on a Jake Cave missile off the wall earlier in the game that also looked like a double, but Judge kept it a single because of course he did. He came up hitless but he still provided value. Even with Gleyber Torres on the team, make no mistake about it: Aaron Judge is the Yankees’ best player. Here is the video:
  • Gary Sánchez with a Hidden Good Game: Gary Sánchez recorded his first hit of the postseason tonight with a solid base hit and also drew another walk, but I was more impressed with his defensive performance. It felt like he stopped a lot of balls in the dirt and really called a good game, but I didn’t keep track in real-time. There were a lot of things going on, but I’m pretty sure that’s true. You love to see it and it’s important to take note of this after the outsized criticism of his defense throughout his young career.
  • Didi Gregorius, Certified Owner of the Twins: What can you say about Didi Gregorius? Our guy who looked terrible as recently as a week ago, has just simply owned the Twins again in a playoff series. He went 2-for-4 tonight with 2 huge RBI to give the Yankees some breathing room. Folks, you love to see it. You really do. He also made an INCREDIBLE diving catch in the ninth inning that potentially killed a Twins rally. What an incredible player and what an incredible play. His defense here is proof exactly of why you stick with a guy like Gregorius, slumping or not. To the video!
  • Giancarlo Stanton With a Hit: Giancarlo Stanton got a hit! It was a blooper to center but it was a hit nonetheless, and I hope that is a portent of things to come for him. I am rooting for him like I haven’t rooted for a Yankee to succeed in the playoffs since A-Rod. Funny how that works. Anyway, Stanton was replaced in the seventh inning for defensive reasons by…
  • Killa Cameron Maybin Does it Again: Defensive replacement Cameron Maybin, who has been ridiculously good whenever called upon this year, of course answered the call again tonight. It feels so appropriate that he hit a home run tonight. It’s very 2019. Here’s the video, for what it is worth:
  • DJ LeMahieu, Defensive Corner Specialist: It was not a night to write home about for DJ LeMahieu offensively, but our man provides value every single night. Tonight was no exception. There was the great pick on the tremendous Gleyber play I highlighted before, but there was also another great play. On Severino’s final pitch of the night, Marwin Gonzalez hit a 100+ mph screamer of a line drive down the line, but LeMahieu’s reflexes were even quicker, as he snagged it and ended the inning. It wasn’t even surprising, but it was a hell of a play. Here’s the video:

Up Next

Four full days of bliss. The Yankees will not play again until Saturday, when they’ll take on the winner of the Astros-Rays ALDS. The Rays won that game today and forced a Game 4, and tomorrow we’re all Rays fans. We’ve never said anything bad about the Rays, have we? No. I don’t think so. Force a Game 5 and then force extra innings. Make the Yankees’ eventual ALCS opponent, whoever it may be, really work for it. Sounds good to me.

Anyway, enjoy the rest of your night everyone. I’m going to get approximately five minutes of sleep before work tomorrow, but you know what? I do not care at all. Sign me the hell up for another two weeks of this. There’s never a bad day the day after a Yankee playoff win and tomorrow will be no different.

ALDS Game 2: Yankees clobber Twins behind Didi, Tanaka

Curtain call. (MLB Gifs)

It’s Yankees-Twins. What did you expect?

For the 12th straight time, the Yankees topped Minnesota in the postseason and they didn’t mess around this time, clobbering the Twins for an 8-2 victory in ALDS Game 2.

The Bombers now have a 2-0 lead in the ALDS and will have three chances to take the series, starting with Game 3 on Monday in Minnesota. But before we turn our attention to the road, let’s appreciate the dominant Yankees win Saturday.

The Yankees lineup broke the Twins in Game 2

It took all of two batters for the night to turn for Twins starter Randy Dobnak. Facing DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, he gave up a double and was worked for a walk. The rookie seemed tentative and the crowd was on him right away.

The Yankees didn’t waste the opportunity. After a flyout advanced LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnación lined a single into left for a lead the Bombers wouldn’t surrender. A Giancarlo Stanton double play ended the rally (he looks a little slow out of the box, right? I might be imagining things), but the Bombers kept the pressure on.

After two two-out singles in the second inning failed to score, Judge led off with a single in the third. Brett Gardner promptly walked and Encarnación singled again, basically to the same spot.

There, Rocco Baldelli had to admit defeat on the Dobnak experiment. The rookie couldn’t handle the moment and with a 1-0 deficit and the bases juiced, he called on Tyler Duffey.

Duffey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up a long sacrifice fly to Stanton and an RBI single to Gleyber Torres before hitting Gary Sánchez with a pitch. He got to two strikes on all three hitters and was now down 3-0 with the bases again loaded.

Enter Didi Gregorius.

THAT’S YOUR STARTING SHORTSTOP!

The Didi Grand Slam

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Remember when there was talk about Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius not starting in October? LOL. Aaron Boone had to answer questions about whether he was healthy before this game. I think those questions can officially go away with his third inning.

With the bases juiced and a 3-0 lead, Didi immediately got behind 0-2. After tossing a ball, Duffey left a fastball over the heart of the plate and … GREGORIUS WAS ABSOLUTE BOX OFFICE.

OK, that video was good. But let’s get the proper angle.

The pause at home plate. The “Oh, did I do that?” expression. The nonchalant bat flip. Didi taught a class in how to pimp a homer with that celebration. That was a special moment. Not his top October moment, mind you, but this is in the pantheon of overall Gregorius moments.

Postseason #TanakaTime

From the first batter of the game, it was clear that Masahiro Tanaka was sharp. The right-hander once again saved his best for October and came out firing with sliders and splitters that flabbergasted the Twins.

His only jam came in the first inning. He hit Jorge Polanco with a misplaced slider and gave up an infield single to Nelson Cruz. It would have been a double play if it didn’t deflect off Tanaka.

No worries, though: Tanaka promptly got a 3-6-1 double play off Eddie Rosario’s bat. (Sidebar: Tanaka should have received a Gold Glove by this point in his career. He’s a superb fielder and covering first there was just another example).

After that, he retired the next seven batters he faced before walking Cruz in the fourth inning.

The Twins strung together two singles after Cruz’s walk in the fourth to score a run, but Tanaka focused in to strike out Luis Arraez and Miguel Sano (Sano was just waving at anything. Not a good AB). Arraez struck out twice in a game just four times all season, but Tanaka got him in each of his first two at-bats.

Tanaka finished his night with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Even with an 8-1 lead, Boone didn’t want to mess around and have Tanaka go through the order a third time.

In the end, Tanaka tossed 83 pitches, 52 for strikes, and faced 19 batters. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out seven. He got 16 swings and misses and threw just 16 fastballs (19.3 percent of his pitches), opting for 35 sliders and 28 splitters. It was vintage #TANAK.

Offense tepid after Didi slam

The Yankees got another run in the third inning. Devin Smeltzer took over after Duffey walked LeMahieu and allowed back-to-back singles to Judge and Gardner. Boom. 8-0 lead.

From there, the left-hander stifled the Bombers for 3 1/3 innings. He couldn’t get a 1-2-3 inning as he scattered a couple hits and three walks, but he settled the game down, though the Yankees’ pitchers didn’t let the Twins back in the game.

Combined with sterling mop-up relief against the Yankees in July, Smeltzer passed a silent audition for a Game 4 (if necessary) start. Unless Jose Berrios goes on short rest, it would probably be a bullpen game started by Smeltzer if the Twins make it to Game 4.

Still, the Twins were unable to get through a single inning without a Yankees hitter reaching base. Though the Bombers took their foot off the gas, they kept the Minnesota relievers working.

Leftovers

  • The Yankees tied their franchise postseason record for runs in an inning with the seven-run third.
  • Can we talk about Aaron Judge? Oh my goodness. After going 1-for-3 with two walks in Game 1, he went 2-for-3 with two walks in Game 2. All the hits were singles, but he is incredibly locked in and just keeps the lineup moving from the No. 2 spot. Between him and LeMahieu, the Yankees are giving themselves multiple runners on every time the lineup turns over.
  • The Yankees’ top relievers cleaned up. Tommy Kahnle went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts against the 2-3-4 hitters for the Twins, then Adam Ottavino pitched around a one-out double for a scoreless seventh.
  • From there, Tyler Lyons struck out two in a scoreless inning and Jonathan Loaisiga gave up a run with two outs in the ninth.
  • Stanton went 0-for-2 with a walk and sac fly. He again was lifted for a pinch runner (Cameron Maybin) and played just six innings. Keeping him fresh when he’s not 100 percent is possible when you’re up by seven runs.
  • Encarnación, Gregorius, Judge and Gio Urshela each had two hits while LeMahieu and Gardner each had a hit and a walk. Sánchez walked and was hit by a pitch. Encarnación and Gregorius also walked. Everyone got in on the action.
  • The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the ALDS? The 2017 Yankees. Before them, it was the 2012 Giants topping the Reds after blowing Games 1 and 2 at home.

The Yankees have a day off and will then try to close out the series in Minnesota on Monday night. It’ll be Luis Severino against Jake Odorizzi on FS1 with an 8:40 p.m. start. Late-night Yankees!

ALDS Game 2: Yankees clobber Twins behind Didi, Tanaka

Curtain call. (MLB Gifs)

It’s Yankees-Twins. What did you expect?

For the 12th straight time, the Yankees topped Minnesota in the postseason and they didn’t mess around this time, clobbering the Twins for an 8-2 victory in ALDS Game 2.

The Bombers now have a 2-0 lead in the ALDS and will have three chances to take the series, starting with Game 3 on Monday in Minnesota. But before we turn our attention to the road, let’s appreciate the dominant Yankees win Saturday.

The Yankees lineup broke the Twins in Game 2

It took all of two batters for the night to turn for Twins starter Randy Dobnak. Facing DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, he gave up a double and was worked for a walk. The rookie seemed tentative and the crowd was on him right away.

The Yankees didn’t waste the opportunity. After a flyout advanced LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnación lined a single into left for a lead the Bombers wouldn’t surrender. A Giancarlo Stanton double play ended the rally (he looks a little slow out of the box, right? I might be imagining things), but the Bombers kept the pressure on.

After two two-out singles in the second inning failed to score, Judge led off with a single in the third. Brett Gardner promptly walked and Encarnación singled again, basically to the same spot.

There, Rocco Baldelli had to admit defeat on the Dobnak experiment. The rookie couldn’t handle the moment and with a 1-0 deficit and the bases juiced, he called on Tyler Duffey.

Duffey couldn’t stop the bleeding. He gave up a long sacrifice fly to Stanton and an RBI single to Gleyber Torres before hitting Gary Sánchez with a pitch. He got to two strikes on all three hitters and was now down 3-0 with the bases again loaded.

Enter Didi Gregorius.

THAT’S YOUR STARTING SHORTSTOP!

The Didi Grand Slam

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Remember when there was talk about Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius not starting in October? LOL. Aaron Boone had to answer questions about whether he was healthy before this game. I think those questions can officially go away with his third inning.

With the bases juiced and a 3-0 lead, Didi immediately got behind 0-2. After tossing a ball, Duffey left a fastball over the heart of the plate and … GREGORIUS WAS ABSOLUTE BOX OFFICE.

OK, that video was good. But let’s get the proper angle.

The pause at home plate. The “Oh, did I do that?” expression. The nonchalant bat flip. Didi taught a class in how to pimp a homer with that celebration. That was a special moment. Not his top October moment, mind you, but this is in the pantheon of overall Gregorius moments.

Postseason #TanakaTime

From the first batter of the game, it was clear that Masahiro Tanaka was sharp. The right-hander once again saved his best for October and came out firing with sliders and splitters that flabbergasted the Twins.

His only jam came in the first inning. He hit Jorge Polanco with a misplaced slider and gave up an infield single to Nelson Cruz. It would have been a double play if it didn’t deflect off Tanaka.

No worries, though: Tanaka promptly got a 3-6-1 double play off Eddie Rosario’s bat. (Sidebar: Tanaka should have received a Gold Glove by this point in his career. He’s a superb fielder and covering first there was just another example).

After that, he retired the next seven batters he faced before walking Cruz in the fourth inning.

The Twins strung together two singles after Cruz’s walk in the fourth to score a run, but Tanaka focused in to strike out Luis Arraez and Miguel Sano (Sano was just waving at anything. Not a good AB). Arraez struck out twice in a game just four times all season, but Tanaka got him in each of his first two at-bats.

Tanaka finished his night with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Even with an 8-1 lead, Boone didn’t want to mess around and have Tanaka go through the order a third time.

In the end, Tanaka tossed 83 pitches, 52 for strikes, and faced 19 batters. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out seven. He got 16 swings and misses and threw just 16 fastballs (19.3 percent of his pitches), opting for 35 sliders and 28 splitters. It was vintage #TANAK.

Offense tepid after Didi slam

The Yankees got another run in the third inning. Devin Smeltzer took over after Duffey walked LeMahieu and allowed back-to-back singles to Judge and Gardner. Boom. 8-0 lead.

From there, the left-hander stifled the Bombers for 3 1/3 innings. He couldn’t get a 1-2-3 inning as he scattered a couple hits and three walks, but he settled the game down, though the Yankees’ pitchers didn’t let the Twins back in the game.

Combined with sterling mop-up relief against the Yankees in July, Smeltzer passed a silent audition for a Game 4 (if necessary) start. Unless Jose Berrios goes on short rest, it would probably be a bullpen game started by Smeltzer if the Twins make it to Game 4.

Still, the Twins were unable to get through a single inning without a Yankees hitter reaching base. Though the Bombers took their foot off the gas, they kept the Minnesota relievers working.

Leftovers

  • The Yankees tied their franchise postseason record for runs in an inning with the seven-run third.
  • Can we talk about Aaron Judge? Oh my goodness. After going 1-for-3 with two walks in Game 1, he went 2-for-3 with two walks in Game 2. All the hits were singles, but he is incredibly locked in and just keeps the lineup moving from the No. 2 spot. Between him and LeMahieu, the Yankees are giving themselves multiple runners on every time the lineup turns over.
  • The Yankees’ top relievers cleaned up. Tommy Kahnle went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts against the 2-3-4 hitters for the Twins, then Adam Ottavino pitched around a one-out double for a scoreless seventh.
  • From there, Tyler Lyons struck out two in a scoreless inning and Jonathan Loaisiga gave up a run with two outs in the ninth.
  • Stanton went 0-for-2 with a walk and sac fly. He again was lifted for a pinch runner (Cameron Maybin) and played just six innings. Keeping him fresh when he’s not 100 percent is possible when you’re up by seven runs.
  • Encarnación, Gregorius, Judge and Gio Urshela each had two hits while LeMahieu and Gardner each had a hit and a walk. Sánchez walked and was hit by a pitch. Encarnación and Gregorius also walked. Everyone got in on the action.
  • The last team to overcome a 2-0 deficit to win the ALDS? The 2017 Yankees. Before them, it was the 2012 Giants topping the Reds after blowing Games 1 and 2 at home.

The Yankees have a day off and will then try to close out the series in Minnesota on Monday night. It’ll be Luis Severino against Jake Odorizzi on FS1 with an 8:40 p.m. start. Late-night Yankees!

ALDS Game 1: Savages wear down Twins

I’m tired after this one too.

This one was a lot more stressful than the final score indicates, right? The Yankees may have won by six, but this was a nail biter for the first five or six innings. The Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, and after blowing it to give the Yankees a 3-2 advantage, tied it again at 3. It looked like this was shaping up to be one of those tight high scoring affairs that we saw in Minnesota this summer, but thankfully our hearts were spared.

The offense started to pull away against Minnesota’s bullpen thanks to home runs from DJ LeMahieu and Brett Gardner. LeMahieu also broke the game wide open with a bases clearing double in the 7th inning. Oh, James Paxton pitched in this one too and did respectably. The final score: 10-4. On to the takeaways:

It’s DJ LeMahieu’s world and we’re living in it. Tonight’s game didn’t start off all that great for LeMahieu, but gosh did he make up for it.

Here’s the poor start for DJ: In the first inning, he struck out against Twins’ starter José Berríos. Then, in the second, it got ugly:

Fortunately, James Paxton bailed him out of this one. He induced an inning ending 5-4-3 double play to escape further trouble.

After that, LeMahieu started cooking. He led off the third inning with a bloop single and came around to score on Edwin Encarnación’s RBI double, which made it 2-1 Twins at the time.

LeMahieu struck out again in the fourth, but rebounded two innings later:

That solo shot increased the Yankees’ lead to 6-4. Later, with the score 7-4 and the game still feeling tight, LeMahieu let everyone exhale:

10-4. LeMahieu’s line: 3-for-5, 4 RBIs, a double, and a homer. Not bad, not bad at all.

It wasn’t just LeMahieu — Gleyber Torres and the rest of the offense are a bunch of savages too. The lineup’s first four hitters were excellent today, but there were contributions all around this evening. First, a glance at spots one through four:

We already touched on LeMahieu. Aaron Judge was on base three of four times and scored twice, though his biggest highlights in tonight’s game were on the defensive side of the field. He made two excellent diving catches to slow down Minnesota’s offense.

Shortly after LeMahieu homered in the sixth, Brett Gardner got in on the action himself:

It’s amazing how he’s turned into a power hitter this year.

And then there’s Edwin Encarnación, who immediately put to bed any health concerns. Obviously, the Yankees were confident enough to roster him, let alone bat him clean up tonight.

EE rewarded the team’s faith right away with a rocket double in the first inning. That nearly led to a run, though Minnesota barely escape on a swinging bunt groundout by Giancarlo Stanton. But, later, Encarnación opened the scoring for the Yankees with an RBI double in the third.

Hitters five through nine only had one hit — Gleyber Torres’ tie-breaking two-run double in the fifth that put the Yankees up for good.

In fairness, the latter half of the lineup contributed by working Twins’ pitchers hard. They reached base via free pass six times, three for Stanton alone.

James Paxton had a solid playoff debut. The Big Maple’s final line wasn’t pretty, but all things considered, his first playoff start was a success. Minnesota’s lineup is a bear to deal with, and that he allowed 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings is no small feat.

In spite of a first inning solo homer allowed to Jorge Polanco, you could tell Paxton was sharp from the start. He struck out 3 in that first frame and 8 overall while generating 12 whiffs on 86 pitches. Let’s circle back to Polanco’s dinger for a second though, which gave the Twins a quick 1-0 advantage.

Polanco ambushed a 97.7 MPH four-seamer for the homer. Can’t say I expected that. Earlier this week, I had noted how poorly Polanco hits from the right side of the plate. So of course, Polanco also got a clutch hit against Paxton in the fifth inning that knocked him out of the game: a two-out RBI single that tied the score at 3. That time, Polanco looped a knuckle curve into left field for the hit. Go figure.

Paxton’s only other mistake of the night was against Nelson Cruz.

It’s no shame to get beat by Cruz, of course. He’s very, very tough to get out.

Obviously, I’d love to have seen Paxton shove against Minnesota, but that’s a tall task against that lineup. More importantly, it didn’t look like Paxton was rattled one bit. He looked composed throughout the entire outing.

Aaron Boone was aggressive with his bullpen. So, how did everyone feel about Boone’s managing tonight? After all, we haven’t seen him put to the test on in-game decisions for at least a month or so now. The division had been all but locked up for September. Here were the big moves:

  • Brought in Adam Ottavino to face Nelson Cruz in the fifth inning with two on and two out. The score was 3-3 at the time.
  • After Ottavino walked Cruz, Boone summoned Tommy Kahnle to face Eddie Rosario. Kahnle retired Rosario on a fly out.
  • In the sixth, Kahnle was yanked with one on and one out. The Yankees had a 5-3 lead to start the frame, but Kahnle allowed a leadoff homer to Miguel Sanó to cut the lead to one. After a walk and a strikeout, in came Chad Green.
  • Green pitched got the next two outs and was done. Zack Britton pitched a clean 7th to hold onto a 7-4 lead.

My two cents: I liked the Ottavino move. He’s the Yankees’ best option to retire Cruz in big spots. Yes, he walked him, but not before Cruz spit on a bunch of nasty sliders. I don’t love the fact that he was burned after just one batter, but I also understand not wanting him to face the lefty in Rosario.

I also liked that he didn’t push things with Kahnle, who didn’t look all that great in September anyway. Also, I expected Green to pitch the seventh, but no dice. That would have allowed Britton to stay in the ‘pen until the 8th.

Before LeMahieu’s double, it got a little scary when we saw JA Happ warming for the eighth inning with a three run lead. It was no certainty that Britton would pitch a second inning. Thankfully, the insurance runs allowed the Yankees to exhale and use Happ.

Leftovers

  • Cameron Maybin pinch ran for Giancarlo Stanton in the 7th. Maybin stole second and later stole third on a double steal with Gleyber Torres trailing. Stanton’s fine by the way — G’s a good fielder generally speaking, but given his health this season and Maybin’s skills, the move made sense.
  • So, about that Twins’ bullpen. They allowed 7 runs in 5 innings tonight, though they really only pitched one of their good relievers, Tyler Duffey. Part of that was Rocco Baldelli’s fault, who oddly brought in Zack Littell to start the fifth in a 3-3 game. He walked Judge and plunked Gardner and was promptly pulled. Both of those runs were inherited by Duffey and came around to score.
  • Happ put up a zero in the eighth inning and Aroldis Chapman pitched a clean ninth frame in a non-save situation.

That was a long one, huh? Worth it though! The Yankees lead the best of 5 series 1-0. These two sides are right back at it tomorrow at 5:07pm in the Bronx.

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