So, it was 45° at the first pitch this afternoon at Wrigley, with 25 mph winds (and up to 35 mph wind gusts) bringing the wind chill down to around 37°. Yes, the calendar may read May 5, but Chicago clearly hasn’t gotten that memo yet. Sure, the skies cleared to a beautiful, crisp, clear blue, but the Chicago fans packed Wrigley in a sold-out crowd as the Yankees came in for the rare Friday afternoon game to kick off their weekend series there.
The Yankees were looking to continue their strong season so far, facing off the reigning World Champion Cubs today, behind Michael Pineda on the mound. Pineda threw 90 pitches in his strong 6 innings, giving up just 3 hits, a walk, and 2 runs, and striking out 6 batters. The runs scored were simply solo home runs in the bookend innings of his outing today — a 1-out solo shot in the 1st and a lead-off solo homer in the 6th. In fact, the other allowed hit and walk were in that 6th inning. This means that Pineda held the Cubs off the bases for the majority of his outing.
The Yankees bullpen continued that strength and upped it to include a scoreless final third of the game. Shreve, Holder, and Chapman each took an inning to make sure the Cubs weren’t going to add any more to their score.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were given many opportunities, 8 hits and 2 walks from the starter and his first 2 relievers, but they were unable to turn any of those into viable runs (though they certainly gave it their best shot). It wasn’t until the 9th inning that the Yankees saw their clear path to victory.
With 1 out, Headley singled and ended up at 2nd on a wild pitch. After a strikeout, Ellbury came on to pinch-hit and worked a walk. So it would be down to Brett Gardner — an out meant the Cubs shut them out, while a hit could mean the Yankees get on the board. Of course, there was another option that no one thought of. And Gardner picked door #3 — a big 3-run home run into the upper seats in right field to give the Yankees a slim lead.
And that would be enough thanks to former Cub closer Aroldis Chapman’s great 9th inning (despite a fielding error to kick off the inning), earning his 7th save of the season on a foul tip strikeout that no one realized was an out for a few seconds.
Final score: 3-2 Yankees.
Before the game, former Cubs pitchers Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman were presented with their 2016 Championship rings. And Cubs fans proved that they don’t forget their former stars, giving Starlin Castro a standing ovation on his first at-bat.
Fun fact about this particular trio: Warren was with the Yankees a very long time, but the Yankees traded him to the Cubs to get long-term Cub Castro to fill the much-needed 2nd base slot before the 2016 season. Chapman was signed in the same off-season. Then at the trade deadline, the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs for a few players (including Warren). And then of course, they got Chapman back after his stint in Cubs’ pinstripes at the World Series. All former Cubs and proud of their contributions that led to their championship last year, but now hoping to translate that into some Yankee championships.
And in roster moves: as expected, the Yankees activated Gary Sanchez from the DL and sent back-up catcher Kyle Higashioka to AAA Scranton. Sanchez didn’t have much success in the batter’s box today, but his time behind the plate was certainly part of why the Yankees found victory today. Higashioka never did find his first major league hit, so perhaps time back with the RailRiders can help him find that swing again so when he does hit the Bronx again, he’ll be swinging for the fences.