You don’t get to 57 wins at the All-Star break without some clutch hits along the way. The Yankees have had four walk-offs wins and plenty more comebacks.
In the vein of River Ave. Blues, I chose to look at the Yankees’ top five plays this season by Win Probability Added. With three of the top five coming in Baltimore, I almost made a No-Orioles caveat, though I held off.
Some of the season’s most memorable hits don’t make the list. Walk-off singles from Gio Ursehla, D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres just missed the cut. Aaron Hicks’ tying home run Saturday with two outs in the ninth inning was the highest WPA event in a loss and came in eighth.
Meanwhile, LeMahieu and Luke Voit rank seventh and 10th in WPA this season, yet neither have a hit in the Yankees’ top five. That speaks to both the Yankees’ depth and the pair’s sustained output.
Without further ado, vamanos.
No. 5 – April 4: Gleyber Torres homer vs. Mike Wright
Of the five hits on this list, this was both the earliest in the season and in the game. The Yankees were 2-4 and trailing by an identical score in the sixth inning in Baltimore. Yankee fans were on edge after losing series to the O’s and Tigers.
Gary Sanchez homered with two outs to cut it to two runs before Greg Bird and DJ LeMahieu singled. Torres came up after already homering once and made Mike Wright the losing pitcher with one swing.
The three-run homer was a 39-percent swing in WPA. It was par for the course with Gleyber, who had clinched the first of four multi-homer games against the Orioles this season.
No. 4 – May 20: Gary Sanchez homer vs. Mychal Givens
Again, the Orioles. The Yankees had already tied the game in the ninth inning thanks to a two-homer night from Torres and a pair of Aaron Hicks sacrifice flies.
Baltimore had their top reliever on the mound in Givens and after a two-out walk to Luke Voit, there were men on third and first, two outs for Sanchez.
The script would have been simple last season: Sanchez strikes or pops out and the Bombers fall in embarassing walk-off fashion to the lowly Orioles.
Instead, Gary flipped the script and demolished a 1-1 pitch down left-field line to win the game, a run of the mill 46 percent swing in WPA.
The O’s brought up tying run a half inning later, but Aroldis Chapman struck out two to end the game.
No. 3 – April 17: Brett Gardner grand slam off Ryan Brasier
This one deserves to be higher simply coming against the Red Sox. The Yankees were vying for a two-game sweep but couldn’t get to Nathan Eovaldi and trailed Boston, 3-1.
Brandon Workman came in for seventh inning. He’s been the Sox’s best reliever for much of this season, but not on this night. A Clint Frazier single led off the frame before two more walks brought Gardy up with the bases juiced and just one down.
Alex Cora went to Brasier, who got ahead 0-2. Instead of putting away Gardner, the right-hander left a 97-mph fastball up in the zone and allowed the outfielder to power one into the short porch in right-center.
This was also a 46-percent swing. Adam Ottavino narrowly got out of a self-made jam in eighth inning and the Yankees swept the Sox. Thanks to this and the London Series, the Bombers are 6-1 against Boston this season.
No. 2 – May 7: Gio Urshela homer off Anthony Swarzak
Gio Urshela had already shown off some heroics with a 14th-inning single against Angels two weeks earlier. This one loomed even larger.
The Yankees trailed 4-2 after a rain delay against the Mariners and were down to their final two outs when Torres singled off former Yankee Anthony Swarzak.
As with Brasier and Gardner, Swarzak got ahead 0-2. After a foul ball, he too left one up and knew right away that he’d blown the game.
This 47 percent swing tied the contest and set the stage for LeMahieu’s walk-off single three batters later. That hit was a 39-percent swing, so I’ll make an educated guess that this was the Yankees’ top WPA turnaround in one inning for the year.
No. 1 – April 6: Clint Frazier home run against Miguel Castro
Funny enough, No. 1 and 5 on this list came in back-to-back games, though predictably, it was against the Orioles.
Jonathan Holder and Ottavino coughed up a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Yankees faced a 4-3 deficit before making two quick outs. Torres and LeMahieu each reached, bringing up Frazier, who’d come into the game earlier to pinch hit for Mike Tauchman.
Miguel Castro got the count to 2-2 before leaving a slider right in Frazier’s wheelhouse. The resulting three-run homer was a 58-percenter in WPA and was Frazier’s first long ball of the year.
Frazier and everyone on the Yankees tormented the Orioles in the first 12 meetings this year and this list drives that home all too literally.