After a brusque ending to the suspended game earlier this afternoon, it was up to Sonny Gray and company to get the Yankees back on track. With a 4-2 dumping of the Nationals, the Yankees secured a season split against the National League powerhouse.
Gray was looking to bounce back from his disappointing start last week against the Nats, and I think he did so in an admirable fashion. He pitched into the sixth, with seven strikeouts against just one walk. Sonny’s always at his best when he’s able to attack hitters and keep the ball in the strike zone, and he did that well tonight.
Sonny did have a slight issue with contact, giving up six hits in his start, but like CC Sabathia yesterday, that can be managed as long as they’re not extra base hits and the strikeouts are there. The Nationals are a tough lineup to work through, credit to Sonny for doing so effectively.
The lion’s share of credit though, on the pitching side, should go to Jonathan Holder. Gray yielded a pair of hits to start sixth, including yet another to new Yankee killer Juan Soto. That was enough for Aaron Boone, as he went to Holder for the three outs needed. In about as high a leverage situation as you can get, Holder was outstanding, striking out Mark Reynolds and Daniel Murphy before getting a popup to escape the inning. The book was closed on Gray and the Yankees kept the lead. In just one inning of work, Holder accrued a redonkulous .302 WPA.
Giancarlo Stanton, meanwhile, was working on quite a game for himself. He broke open the scoring in the first inning, driving in Aaron Hicks with a single. Hicks himself smashed a two run home run in the fifth that gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish:
An inning later, Stanton was back up with two men on. Manager Dave Martinez elected to leave in the left-handed Sammy Solis rather than go to a warmed righty in the bullpen. As Michael Kay so eloquently broke down, the “analytics” pointed towards a pitching change, given Stanton’s ravenous hunger for left handed pitching. Martinez’s “gut” told him to stick with Solis, and surprise surprise, the analytics won out. Stanton crushed a double off the wall that gave the Yankees a crucial insurance run. All in all, Stanton had four hits while Hicks scored the first run of the game and the eventual winning run. Not bad for a pair of guys that are often the biggest targets of Yankee fans’ ire.
David Robertson and Dellin Betances carved their way through the Nationals order, giving the ball to Aroldis Chapman in the ninth with a two run lead. Chapman did get into a bit of trouble, surrendering a double and a walk, bringing up Trea Turner as the tying run. It’s here that I’m going to take a moment to recognize the defense Aaron Judge plays in right. It’s easy to overlook just how good the big man is out there, since his bat will almost always overshadow his other accomplishments.
Earlier in the game, Judge made a great sliding catch to record an out. Here, with two men on, he secured the win with a crazy running grab, with his back to home plate:
YANKEES WIN 4-2!— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 19, 2018
Aaron Judge makes the game-saving catch at the wall to lock up the W!
Postgame up next on YES! pic.twitter.com/Fm44xIbS0b
If that balls gets by Judge, the game is tied. Heck, Trea Turner is one of the fastest men in baseball and it’s entirely possible he’d turn that into an inside the park, walk-off home run. Instead, it’s a simple F9 in the scorebook, but not nearly that simple in practice.
The Yankees will head back to the Bronx still holding the best record in baseball. My girlfriend, who is a die-hard Nats fan, and I will have to settle for our collective wager going unfulfilled, since the season series between the two teams is split at two wins apiece. Hopefully, we’ll get closure in the World Series. Meanwhile, the Yankees will take on the very exciting Seattle Mariners in a three game set starting tomorrow, with first pitch at 7:05pm EDT.