If you were checking the out-of-town scores before the game, you’d know this was a great chance for the Yankees to gain a little ground in the AL East, as the Orioles, Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays all lost. Unfortunately, the Bronx Bombers came up short against the Oakland Athletics in one of the craziest games of 2017.
The start of the game looked promising, as the Yankees loaded the bases with two hits and a walk in the first, but couldn’t cash in. Keep that in mind, we’ll return to a situation like that later.
Jordan Montgomery seemed to struggle early, especially with two outs. Jed Lowrie had a solo home run in the bottom of the first, and an inning later, Monty allowed a walk and ground rule double with two outs before Adam Rosales laced a ball into left to score two more. Montgomery looked good after that, but it was still 3-0 Athletics.
It looked like it might stay that way all night, as Sonny Gray was dealing through the middle innings. Gray has always been known as a pitcher with all the potential in the world, and he showed that off tonight, striking out six Yankees while cruising through the first five innings.
The Yankees finally made some noise in the top of the sixth, seeing Starlin Castro, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius reach base with one out. Chase Headley saw an opportunity to thrust himself back into the AL MVP debate, singling in a pair of runs, and just like that, we had a one-run game. Chris Carter then worked a full count, and at a time we all would have been happy with a walk, Carter dumped a single into left and the game was tied. Sean Doolittle came in and finished the inning, but the damage was done and the lineup was turned over.
Montgomery came out for the bottom of the sixth looking for a clean inning to get his lineup back up. That didn’t happen, as Yonder Alonso hit a ball to straightaway center for his seventeenth home run of the season, and it was 4-3 A’s. Monty faced two more batters, one of them reached on a single, and it was time for Chad Green. Montgomery wasn’t really bad, he’s really cleaned up his walks lately with only one tonight. Those two home runs were the problem. Green worked out of the sixth with no further damage.
The seesaw continued in the seventh when Gary Sanchez, with two outs, doubled home Starlin Castro to tie the game. Reliever Ryan Madson got a swinging strikeout from Didi, and at stretch time, it was 4-4.
Of course, seesaws go up and down, and Matt Joyce scored in the bottom of the seventh thanks to Brandon Pinder, which was all caused by a sacrifice bunt from Rajai Davis. I hate bunts.
A half inning later, that seesaw went right back up, as Chris Cater took still-has-a-career-in-baseball John Axford deep to tie the game AGAIN. Yes Tyler, for one more night you can be right.
Next inning, the seesaw swung again, as Tyler Clippard faced three batters and let two reach base. For those new to baseball, that’s not a ratio that could be called “good”. Joe Girardi seemed to realize the importance of bringing his best pitcher in a tight moment, and the call went out to Dellin Betances. Betances walked his first batter, then got the ground ball he needed but Matt Joyce was able to beat it out, and the Athletics were on top once again. Betances did get Rajai Davis to strike out, ending the eighth a batter too late.
I’ve run out of ways to describe seesaws, so I’ll just say it: Castro hit a double in the top of the ninth, and Gary freakin’ Sanchez knocked a ball up the middle to tie the game for the fourth time. 6-6. For an encore, Sanchez stole second to put himself in scoring position. Unfortunately, he seemed to tweak his ankle [Editor’s note: It was apparently his abductor muscle] and took himself out of the game. Aaron Hicks also left the game, possibly after injuring himself trying to catch Alonso’s home run [Editor’s note II: Hicks was feeling pain in his Achilles, according to Girardi].
The bottom of the ninth was eventful, and unpleasant. A single, walk and hit by pitch loaded the bases against Betances, and on his 37th pitch of the day, he managed to strike out Matt Chapman to preserve the tie. To extras!
Top of the tenth: After an Austin Romine strikeout, Brett Gardner singled, then had a back and forth with reliever Liam Hendricks involving several close pickoffs. Rob Refsnyder, substituting for Hicks, played the hit and run beautifully, knocking an infield single that put runners on the corners with one out, and Aaron Judge at the plate. The big man walked after being down in the count 0-2, passing the baton to Castro, who lofted a ball to right field, deep enough to score a blazing Brett Gardner. 7-6 Yankees!
Matt Holliday pinch hit for Ronald Torreyes, and struck out, leaving it up to Giovanny Gallegos to close out this ridiculous baseball game.
Gallegos faced catcher Stephen Vogt first, getting him to roll a slow ground ball to Chase Headley. It was an awkward play for the shifting Headley, but it worked. One out.
Next: Matt Joyce. Gallegos strikes out Joyce swinging on a full count. Two out.
Third up: Rajai Davis. The speedy centerfielder lined a single to right field, and the tying run is on first.
Chad Pinder followed Davis. Pinder and his weird bicep-less arms knocked a ball to right field that seemed to fool Aaron Judge, who slipped fielding it, putting men on second and third with two out. After intentionally walking Jed Lowrie, Gallegos was left facing Khris Davis, two out, bases loaded.
In a 1-2 count, Davis lifted a bloop to center. Gardner and Castro closed hard, and the ball bounced off Castro’s glove, allowing two runs to score. 8-7, final score. I thought the ball was catchable, but it fell in. Baseball things.
I want to leave you with an absolutely bananas WPA chart:
The Yankees have to find a way to shake off tonight’s game by 9:35 pm EDT tomorrow, as they’ll be out to even this series against Oakland. Luis Severino is tabled to start, and that’s probably the best news a severely depleted bullpen could get. I’m sure a couple relievers will be shuffled between Triple-A and the big league club, so check in Friday [Editor’s note III: Adam Warren is also injured, according to Girardi] and we’ll keep you posted on roster moves.