Before the trip to Minneapolis, the Yankees made a couple of roster adjustments. Recent struggles sent Yangervis Solarte back to AAA Scranton. In his place, they signed Zelous Wheeler from AAA Scranton. To make room on the 40-man, they have designated Dean Anna for assignment. Now, all you Solarte fans (like my mom), don’t worry. A lot of rookies get sent back to AAA to work on the things they need to in order to come back stronger and better. Even non-rookies sometimes get that treatment when they’ve slipped into bad habits. I don’t think there’s one current starter that didn’t get sent back at one point early in their career. But don’t worry, Wheeler has already proved he’s MLB-level worthy (more below). And I know Anna will land on his feet somewhere.
Anyway, the Yankees faced a former teammate in tonight’s game against the Twins, one of the Twins’ more solid starters this year — Phil Hughes. But unlucky for the Twins, they faced one of the Yankees’ more solid starters — Masahiro Tanaka. And even though Tanaka wasn’t a flawless in his outing tonight, it was strong enough to give him the win and put him in the lead over all other starters with 12 total wins so far this season. That’s right, Tanaka now leads all of Major League Baseball in wins, and his numbers mean he could win 20 or more games his rookie year.
So tonight, over 7 innings, Tanaka threw just 85 pitches, giving up 9 hits and 4 runs, striking out just 3 batters. He managed to spread those runs scored out. In the 1st, with a runner on base, a double scored the runner before the batter that hit the double ended up getting caught in a rundown trying to get to 3rd. In the 3rd and the 6th, it was ground outs that scored a run per inning. And an RBI single in the 7th to push in the fourth and final Twins run.
It took the Yankees until the 5th inning to cross the plate themselves. In the 5th, Teixeira and McCann each single to get on base and then scored on Carlos Beltran’s sweet 3-run home run. Two batters later, in his second Major League at-bat, Wheeler smacks his first career home run, a nice solo shot into the Yankees’ bullpen. (I imagine that the same mother in Alabama who screamed when she found out he was called up was screaming as he rounded the bases with a grin as wide as Alabama plastered across his face.)
Then the Yankees decided to hit the Twins hard with another high-scoring inning in the 7th. Ichiro walked, Wheeler singled (and his mother screamed again), and Brendan Ryan doubled and scored Ichiro, which triggered a Twins pitching change. Brett Gardner’s single scored Wheeler (another Alabama scream), and Derek Jeter’s ground out (the first out of that inning) scored Ryan.
By the time, it was time to send in Dellin Betances in the 8th inning, the Yankees were up 7-4 over the Twins, so all the Yankees bullpen had to do was keep the score planted there. And they did. Betances threw a quick 14 pitch 1-2-3 8th inning. And then David Robertson claimed his 19th save of 2014, striking out 3 batters in his 9th inning. And they won.
As I write this, I can hear the echoes of fireworks from nearby celebrations starting early. And the Yankees will be on the road until after the All-Star Game in 12 days right there in Target Field. They took their first of a 4-game series against Minnesota tonight, before heading to another Great Lake state to play 4 games against Cleveland, and then back on the Eastern Seaboard for a 3-game weekend series against Baltimore. It’s a long road trip, but it will be interesting to see if the Yankees can use this trip to get back on the winning side of things.
After tonight’s win, the Yankees now sit at 42 wins-42 losses, or .500 average, currently 3.5 games behind Baltimore and Toronto (who are both struggling as of late). Now’s the time to make up for June struggles, gentlemen.
Also, to all those on the East Coast, stay safe during the storm.