The lineup that lost to the struggling White Sox this Sunday afternoon could hardly be mistaken for Murderers’ Row. No less than a third of today’s Yankee starters began the 2019 season in the minor leagues: Clint Frazier, Giovanny Urshela, and Kyle Higashioka. In fact, a full two-thirds of the lineup was in the minors at this time last year, including Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit playing the roles of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at the heart of the order.
Carlos Rodón, who allowed the Yankees just two hits in seven innings when he faced them last August, again made quick work of the depleted offense, permitting three hits over six innings. The White Sox bullpen took it from there, allowing just a single baserunner over the final three frames. In all, the Bronx Bombers mustered only one extra-base hit all game — a first inning double by Luke Voit.
For his part, Masahiro Tanaka pitched better than his final line of four innings, five earned runs suggests. But after striking out five White Sox in the first two innings, he surrendered a wall-scraping grand slam to Tim Anderson, the formerly light-hitting shortstop who now boasts a 1.093 OPS on the year. Tanaka has been plagued by the long ball for years, and he will continue to have solid outings tarnished by just a couple mistakes if he leaves 88 mph splitters over the middle of the plate.
Third inning turning points
After Yolmer Sanchez hit a broken-bat single off Tanaka in the top of the third, Leury Garcia worked a full count with the dangerous Yoan Moncada lurking. Moncada was 2-for-2 at that point in the contest, while Tanaka was just one ball away from putting two runners on in front of him. But the Yankees’ fill-in ace initiated a bizarre strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play to end the inning with a perfectly located splitter on the outside corner. As Garcia swung over the pitch, Sanchez took off running, and Higashioka appeared as though he was prepared to let him have the base. Higashioka eventually threw over anyhow — just in time to nab Sanchez as he jogged awkwardly into second without a slide. Sanchez has now been caught stealing 20 times in only 45 career attempts.
In the bottom half of the third, the Yankees held a 2-0 lead and seemed to have Rodón on the ropes. But after White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper “read him the riot act” — as Michael Kay put it — on the mound, Rodón retired 11 Yankees in a row. Just like that, momentum belonged to the White Sox, who never relinquished it.
While it hasn’t exactly been a fortuitous start to the season for the Yankees, we should at least be grateful to have Aaron Judge on our side. Judge once again flashed all five of his tools to will his beleaguered troops to victory: darting home like few other 6’7” humans can to score the game’s first run, knocking in the second Yankees run with a single to the opposite field, throwing out a runner with his laser beam arm, potentially robbing another White Sox grand slam — or at least a bases-clearing double — with a leaping catch against the wall, and running hard on a routine grounder in the eighth to force an error.
As the weather warms, the Yankees bullpen may have refound its trademark velocity, helping them combine to toss five scoreless innings this afternoon. A day after Aroldis Chapman quelled fans’ fears by touching 100 mph for the first time this year, Tommy Kahnle hit 98 mph himself and threw as hard as I’ve seen him throw since the 2017 playoffs. Recent call-up Joe Harvey also looked great again, hitting 96 mph. The critical test, of course, is pitching this well when the Yankees have the lead — something the bullpen has had a difficult time doing thus far.
With a record of 6-9, the Yankees have an off-day tomorrow before taking on the 6-10 Red Sox on Tuesday. You can’t predict baseball, Suzyn.