With so many games in a baseball season, every team is bound to have its share of stinkers. Sometimes a starter just doesn’t have it. Sometimes, the offense can’t hit its way out of a paper bag. Other days, the starter goes seven scoreless, only to see the bullpen implode.
This game wasn’t like those kind of stinkers. There are other bad games that live in an irritating gray area, where the team plays well enough to win, but frustratingly finds ways to fall short. That’s the category a night like tonight falls into. Rookie Jonathan Loaisiga wasn’t great, but the bullpen was in relief of him. The offense consistently put runners on against the Braves’ staff. Yet after 11 innings, the game ended, and the Yankees had lost, 5-3.
Things at least started auspiciously. The Yankees continued their homer binge early on, as Aaron Judge smacked a solo homer in the first inning for the second game in a row. He didn’t get all of it, with the ball just barely scraping over the right field wall. On a cooler night, or in a larger stadium, Judge may have flied out, but in the record books, it counts all the same.
The Braves responded in kind. Johan Camargo, Atlanta’s young third baseman, roped a solo shot into the right field seats to tie the game in the third. It was the first home run surrendered by Loaisiga this season. Per Statcast, neither solo homer had better than a 40% chance of going for a hit.
Gleyber Torres took matters into his own hands to put the Yankees back on top. Torres doubled off the wall in right-center to lead off the bottom of the third, took third on a wild pitch from starter Anibal Sanchez, then scored on second wild pitch.
Loaisiga couldn’t hold the Braves though. Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki, and Ronald Acuna laced back-to-back-to-back doubles in the fourth to push two runs across and give Atlanta a 3-2 advantage.
As has become a theme in his short career, Loiasiga failed to progress deep into the game. He lasted four innings, allowing three runs, with three strikeouts against zero walks. The great velocity he showed in his first three starts was there again, sitting 96 mph on his fastball. His slider and changeup still generated whiffs. He just wasn’t economical, and the Braves did enough to blemish the outing.
Aaron Boone went to Jonathan Holder to cover the middle innings. Holder has been quietly excellent in middle relief, and he continued to do the job tonight, blanking the Braves in the fifth and sixth innings. Chad Green was next, and pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth.
Holder and Green bought the Yankees time, and they leveled the score in the fifth. Torres continued to be a thorn in the Braves’ collective side, singling with one out, advancing to second when Acuna fumbled with the ball in left, and eventually scoring on a Didi Gregorius sacrifice fly.
The Yankees had numerous opportunities to pull ahead but couldn’t break through. Sam Freeman, relieving Sanchez after six solid innings, walked Torres and Gardner to lead off the seventh, but Judge lined out to right, and Gregorius grounded into a double play to end the threat. The Yankees had two on in the eighth, but Neil Walker, pinch hitting for Kyle Higashioka, struck out to end the inning.
Aroldis Chapman came on and pitched a perfect ninth, continuing the bullpen’s dominance. Chapman was dialed in, throwing as hard as he has all year, eclipsing 104 mph. The Yankees couldn’t end the game in the ninth, though, and the game went to extras. They wasted another golden opportunity in the tenth, loading the bases for Bird. Lefty Jesse Biddle fanned Bird on three pitches, and punched out Austin Romine to escape the jam.
The fatal blow came in the 11th. Boone went to David Robertson, who, like Chapman and Dellin Betances before him, was working on second straight night after pitching in a blowout yesterday. Markakis reached on an error by Torres, and Acuna, a star in the making, homered to right to put the Braves on top for good. This was another wall-scraper, one that doesn’t evade the outstretched glove of Judge if it’s 20 degrees colder. Alas, it is July, it is hot, and Acuna had a game-winning homer.
The loss stung a bit more as the rival Red Sox narrowly defeated the Nationals 4-3 to take back the AL East lead. It was just one game of many, and the Yankees will be back tomorrow night with Domingo German on the mound. They will surely have every opportunity to win, just as they did tonight. Let’s hope they actually take advantage.