For a little while, it looked like the Yankees were going to lose this game. CC Sabathia struggled for the first time since last September and gave up an early lead. Rather than rolling over, the team managed a late rally, capped off with a Starlin Castro walk-off home run. The Yankees avoided the sweep and topped the Rockies by a score of 9-8.
Sabathia entered the game as the most reliable pitcher in the Yankees rotation. He was bound to have a rough start eventually; all pitchers do. His just happened to come this afternoon. It seemed like Sabathia had baserunners all day. We’ve seen that all season from Sabathia. He put men on but never broke or allowed that big inning...until today.
The first inning made it look like another one of those escape artist outings. Charlie Blackmon, who has tormented the Yankees this series, got things started with an infield single. DJ LeMahieu laid down the sacrifice bunt to put Blackmon in scoring position with one out. That brought the dangerous Nolan Arenado to the plate. He singled to left, sending Blackmon on the run. Rockies third base coach Stu Cole aggressively waved him home, only for Blackmon to be thrown out at the plate by Brett Gardner. Carlos Gonzalez struck out to end the inning.
Unfortunately that was the only time that Sabathia wiggled out of a jam. The Rockies got on the board in the third inning when Blackmon singled in Nick Hundley and Brandon Barnes. Things really unraveled for Sabathia in the fourth inning. After walking Trevor Story and allowing a single to Mark Reynolds, Hundley launched a three-run home run to give Colorado a 5-4 lead.
Sabathia allowed six runs (five earned) over 4.1 innings. That raises his season ERA to 2.71 (3.45 FIP). All things considered, I’m willing to give Sabathia a mulligan on this start. He’s been so good all year. It doesn’t make sense to panic over one bad start.
Speaking of rough starts, the Yankees scored first against Rockies right-hander Jon Gray. The hard throwing 24-year-old found himself in trouble in the second inning. Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius drew walks around Castro single to load the bases with no outs. That brought up Chase Headley, who was expecting a fastball over the plate, and he got it. Headley launched a grand slam dead-center into Monument Park to make it 4 - 0. That was the Yankees first grand slam of the season, and Headley’s first in pinstripes.
The bats went quiet until the seventh inning, when Carlos Beltran crushed a three-run home run off of Rockies reliever Jordan Lyles, his 19th on the season. That made it a one-run game. Former Yankee Boone Logan came in to face McCann, who promptly smashed a ground rule double to deep right. Gregorius later went on to tie the game on an RBI single to left.
With the game tied in the ninth, the Rockies sent Jason Motte to the mound with Castro due up. Castro wasted little time and launched a walk-off home run to left field on Motte’s second pitch. It was a no-doubter off of the bat. It was Castro’s first career walk-off home run, and the second of the season for the Yankees. (Brett Gardner had one against the Tampa Bay Rays back in April.)
Closing Thought: Joe Girardi had a questionable bullpen selection today. He replaced Sabathia with Anthony Swarzak in the fifth inning with a runner on. Swarzak allowed the inherited runner to score, plus chipped in his own two runs on a Ryan Raburn two-run home run. It would be nice to not pigeonhole the Big Three relievers to the seventh, eighth, and ninth, but what are you going to do? Speaking of the Big Three, they each tossed scoreless frames. Aroldis Chapman closed out the ninth with a long battle against LeMahieu.
The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow. They resume their schedule on Friday night against the Twins. Sounds familiar. I think I’ve seen this movie before. Masahiro Tanaka and Tommy Milone are the probables, and the game can be caught on YES at 7:05 PM.