It was the best of pitching, it was the worst of pitching. It was the age of popouts, it was the age of home runs. Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays was remarkable in its contradictions, and the speed at which it went from the best starting pitching duel of the season to a laugher for the AL East leaders.
The Yankees scored first, driving in two in the top of the third. After Rob Refsnyder reached on an error, he was able to steal second and take third on a deep fly ball. Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge, who must be on some kind of joint Corvidae hunt this weekend, hit back-to-back doubles to go up 2-0.
It looked like the Jays were going to come right back in the bottom half, just like last night. Luke Maile and Kevin Pillar singled to open the bottom of the third, but Jordan Montgomery was able to elicit a Josh Donaldson popup and two swinging strikeouts to get out of trouble.
Fastball command was a little shaky for Montgomery, although both he and Joe Biagini benefitted from a pretty liberal strike zone. Both sides were complaining for a good chunk of the game, which means the zone was called equally large for both teams. The Jays worked the count against Montgomery, forcing the rookie over 100 pitches before the end of the sixth. Still, the kid did a good job, working out of some dangerous spots and generating tons of soft contact.
The Yankees got some help from poor outfield defense for the third straight game. Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar and Darwin Barney all either misplayed or took bad routes to soft fly balls that led to runs for the Yankees. For Barney, in the top of the seventh, Starlin Castro’s blooper bounced over his head for a double, and then Barney took a very bizarre path to a Didi Gregorius fly ball that should have only been a single. Instead, Sir Didi had two bases and the Yankees a three-run lead.
After Adam Warren worked a clean seventh, Jays manager John Gibbons gave the ball to Jason Grilli, which has been a bad decision all season. True to form, Grilli served up a home run to Brett Gardner, and another to Matt Holliday two batters later. My favorite moment of the game was Holliday coming back to the dugout and the Rogers broadcast picked him up saying “I got you, Gardy!”. On a team full of young stars, the two old bald men have sure held their own so far, and their ongoing home run competition has been a blast to watch.
The Yankees weren’t done against Grilli, as Castro got in on the fun, putting a 3-2 breaking ball over the left field fence to make it 6-0. A few pitches later, Gregorius hit one out to right to tack on the extra point. The game was close as long as the starters were in, but the Jays’ bullpen really gifted us that eighth inning.
Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances worked clean eighth and ninth innings, and the Yankees guaranteed at least a split in this four-game set. On the road, against what was a terrifically hot team at the beginning of this series, I’ll take that every time.
Montgomery gets the WPA nod today, .364, although all four pitchers were outstanding, allowing just three hits while striking out nine. Bautista was sat down three times alone.
The Yankees look to finish the road trip on a high note tomorrow. Luis Severino faces Marcus Stroman at 1:07 pm. That sounds like the kind of pitching match you’d find in a D1 Friday night game, and it should be fun to watch.