The Yankees won a game tonight, and in doing so won a series, this one over the Blue Jays. This was a game in which their starter, CC Sabathia, got hit around, a game that a different Yankees team (the 2016 Yankees, perhaps) just wouldn’t have had the firepower to win. It might still be too early to say that this is the kind of Yankees team that will make a season-long habit of winning these tight slugfests, but they are making of habit of it now, and it sure is fun.
Things really went south quickly for Sabathia, though. Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista both singled to put the first two runners on. Sabathia recovered to retire Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales, but Justin Smoak singled home a run to open the scoring, and Steve Pearce continued his torment of the Yankees with a three-run homer. 4-0, before many fans had a chance to settle into their seats.
But Toronto starter Marcus Stroman immediately found himself in a jam in the bottom of the first. Brett Gardner singled to lead off, and Aaron Hicks, ever patient this year, worked a walk. Just as rapidly as the first two runners were on, they were home, as Matt Holliday made up most of the deficit with a three-run bomb of his own, his 300th of his career, to make it 4-3:
Not to be outdone, Sabathia again put the first two runners on in the second, as Darwin Barney doubled and Ryan Goins reached on a bunt-single. Walks to Martin and Bautista forced in a run, and an RBI groundout by Morales made it 6-3.
The Yankees wouldn’t go away quietly, and of course, everyone’s favorite Big Baseball Boy, Aaron Judge, had something to do with that. After Starlin Castro singled leading off the third, Judge drove him home with another shot into Monument Park. Judge homers have become a nightly event, the kind of phenomenon we definitely haven’t seen in at least, say, eight months.
Stroman was removed early, with manager John Gibbons yanking him in the bottom of the fourth. Stroman entered the night with a sub-3 ERA, but left with just three innings, five runs, and a pair of strikeouts to his name. He reportedly felt some discomfort in his throwing arm, which is the last the thing the 9-19 Jays need to hear right now.
Sabathia settled down a bit to save the bullpen from an extra-long night, but the early innings cost him. He just couldn’t quite find the zone early on, and when he did find the zone, he found hard contact there waiting for him. Sabathia’s night ended after four-plus innings, six runs, four walks, and five strikeouts.
He left a two-on, no-out mess in the top of the fifth for Adam Warren to clean up, but Warren retired the next three hitters to keep the score at 6-5. The Yankees had a major chance to tie or take the lead in the bottom of the fifth, with Ryan Tepera issuing a two-out walk to Ronald Torreyes to load the bases for Kyle Higashioka, but Joe Biagini came on and caught Higashioka looking at a borderline, 3-2 pitch at the knees:
That call on Higashioka was one of a number of close calls from home umpire Bill Welke that seemed to irk both sides. So irksome were Welke’s calls of balls and strikes that Joe Girardi was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing said balls and strikes.
With an impending off-day, Girardi (well, at least while he was still in the dugout) utilized his bullpen aggressively, in an attempt lock Toronto at six runs. The strategy proved effective, as Warren gave way after a scoreless fifth to Tyler Clippard, who managed five outs before Dellin Betances came on. Betances recorded four outs, and Aroldis Chapman pitched a shutout ninth, bringing the bullpen’s final tally to five innings and zero runs.
That gave the Yankees’ bats plenty of time to seize control of the game, and eventually they did. In the bottom of the seventh, Judge got things started with a one-out single for his third hit, and moved to third on Chase Headley’s double. Chris Carter drove in Judge with a broken-bat single, and the Yankees took the lead on Didi Gregorius’ pinch-hit, infield RBI single. Walks to Gardner and Hicks pushed the score to its final tally of 8-6.
This was a long victory, one in which the Yankees clogged the bases with 23 baserunners until finally grabbing the lead late, but a satisfying one over a division rival nonetheless. They will next play on Friday at Wrigley Field in what looks like a delightful matchup with the Chicago Cubs. Continuing this fresh winning streak against the defending champs will be a tall task, but this team has proven to be up to tall tasks so far. The good times are rolling at the moment, and maybe, just maybe, they won’t stop too soon.