Well, that was interesting. So, as of tonight, the Yankees and Orioles are tied for 1st place in the AL East, and tonight’s game is the reason why. These high batting numbers signal to many people the rise of the offense, but to me, it’s a sign of bad pitching. And that’s certainly true enough for both teams, giving up far too many base runners (both hits and walks) and far too many home runs, despite an average number of strikeouts.
Though no one can argue that things like monster home runs and a couple grand slams aren’t a whole lot of fun to watch.
Anyway, the Orioles came to the Bronx to kick off their weekend series against the Yankees, and tonight they faced CC Sabathia and certainly roughed him up a bit. Sabathia threw just 83 pitches into the 6th inning, but gave up 9 hits, 2 walks, and 7 runs, striking out 6 batters.
In the 3rd, with 2 outs and 2 runners on base, a double scored both to get things started for the Orioles. And a hit-by-pitch to lead off the 4th scored as part of a 2-run home run to double their score. A monster lead-off solo shot (that cleared the restaurant above Monument Park in center field) added yet another run to their O’s lead. And with 2 outs and 2 runners on base in the 6th, Sabathia turned the game over to the bullpen, responsible for those 2 runners.
Unfortunately, Bryan Mitchell continued the struggle, giving up a walk to load the bases and then a big grand slam to leap the Orioles even further ahead. Mitchell’s 7th inning was really no better, giving up another walk and a double to put runners in scoring position so that they both could on a nice single. After 2 more singles and (finally) an out, he handed the ball to Holder who sailed through the rest of the 7th and all of the 8th in just 16 pitches. Clippard continued that momentum in the 9th, with just 11 pitches to knock out those 3 outs.
Meanwhile, it was up to the pinstriped boys to spend the game chipping away at the Orioles early (and increasing) lead. It wasn’t until the 5th that the Yankees found their opportunity to get on the board with Aaron Judge’s lead-off solo shot into the visitor’s bullpen in left field. Holliday led-off the 6th with a double, moved to 3rd on Castro’s 1-out single, and then scored on Didi Gregorius’ groundout.
Then it would be Judge again to power another home run, a 2-run shot into Monument Park, his 9th homer of the season and 2nd in the game, making this also his first multi-home run game. Apparently, it was also the hardest hit ball since they started recording such things at 119.4 mph. Judge is clearly one of the strongest power-hitters in the game, but then all you need to know that fact is to hear the sound when his bat hits a ball out of the park — it just echoes.
The Yankees found their momentum. So in the 7th, the Yankees kept advancing. Romine led-off with a single, which forced the Orioles’ starter out of the game, and then Headley double and Holliday walked to load up the bases. And it would be Jacoby Ellsbury to hit his 100th home run and 1st career grand slam to electrify Yankee Stadium tonight.
Suddenly, winning the game wasn’t so far out of anyone’s scope. So it was on to the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees down by 3 runs only to have the O’s reliever walk Headley and give up a single to Holliday. Ellsbury grounded into a force out at 2nd, but scored Headley. This meant that the clutch hitter would be Starlin Castro, who came through with a big 2-run home run into the left field bleachers to tie up the game. It was the stuff of dreams and legends, and the crowd went insane.
And it was on to extra innings. Chapman’s 10th inning had a minor blip, a single allowed, but he pulled through with 2 nasty strikeouts. So, the Orioles sent in a new pitcher to face a few pinch-hitters, and that didn’t work out so well. Hicks and Higashioka both walked, and with 1 out, things were looking hopeful. A collective breath was being held by the 36,000 some fans in the stands. And the heroics of this inning fell to Matt Holliday, with a big 3-run walk-off home run, earning his first Gatorade shower as a Yankee (it was purple tonight).
Final score: 14-11 Yankees, in 10
And yes, the Yankees came back from a huge deficit (down 9-1 in the mid-6th) to win this game, something they haven’t done since 2012 (in that now-famous game when they trailed by 9 runs and came back to win it 15-9).
I think my favorite part about the run-scoring part of this game is that it was really a little bit of everyone that contributed. Some got on base to be part of the big scoring, some hit the big homers, and some did a bit of both. As much as we count on defense to be a team effort, so does run-scoring sometimes.
And speaking of big hitters, Jacoby Ellsbury’s big one tonight was his first ever grand slam and his 100th career home run. Almost immeditately, someone put up a link to show an interesting new club Ellsbury is now apart of for hitting a grand slam on his 100th homer, some very interesting names on their including some active players you’ll probably recognize.
In roster moves: yes, you read that right, Didi Gregorius is back and sharp once again on his defense and hitting (2 hits and an RBI tonight) like he didn’t miss most of Spring Training with the WBC and an injury. But with Didi up and off the DL, someone had to say goodbye. The Yankees opted to designate Pete Kozma for assignment to make room for Gregorius.
Now, Kozma could resign with the Yankees (if they offer) for a minor league contract (the most likely option) or he could end up signing somewhere else should he clear waivers. As this develops, I’ll make sure I let you Koz fans know what’s up.