It’s no secret that a lot has gone wrong for the Yankees already this season. What has flown under the radar, however, is that so far, even more has gone right.
No position better illustrates these two extremes — very wrong and very right — than third base, which 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar left vacant with a potentially season-ending shoulder injury. Triple-A call-up Gio Urshela, of course, has been a revelation to this point at the hot corner. A career .225 hitter in 167 career MLB games before this season, Urshela is hitting .327 this year while playing spectacular defense.
In today’s game, Urshela had a single, two doubles, and a brilliant catch that he made on a dive into protective netting. Two other fill-ins, Thairo Estrada and Cameron Maybin, also continued their success in pinstripes to help the Yankees’ efforts on this sunny afternoon in San Francisco.
For all these surprising contributors, the hero of the game was a bona fide superstar: Gary Sanchez. The Kraken — who has faced almost constant criticism while posting the fifth highest career OPS among all catchers in history — hit an absolute moonshot grand slam to break the game open. It was a terrific sign for both the Yankees and their backstop, who had struck out in almost every prior at-bat since returning from the injured list. Giants starter Derek Holland apparently knew the ball was gone right away:
Yankees starter J.A. Happ, who seemed to find his command a bit in his last start, was dominant in seven shutout innings to earn his first win of 2019. He allowed just five hits, and although he recorded only two strikeouts, the Giants’ failure to draw a single walk off the left-hander hints at his total control of the game. Luke Voit, meanwhile, kept his 38-game on-base streak alive by sacrificing his body, getting hit by a pitch.
Luis Cessa — as he had been wont to do in seasons past — gave the Giants life in the ninth, turning a 6-0 shutdown into a 6-4 nail-biter. He allowed two home runs to two former Yankees, Yangeris Solarte and Erik Kratz. Cessa had pitched well all year, but this version of the righty was one with whom we’re all-too familiar. Boone was forced to use his closer for the second consecutive game to get the final out, but it only took four fastballs for Aroldis Chapman to strike out Pablo Sandoval and seal the win.
With more WAR on the injured list than any other team in this millennium, the Yankees’ beat-up replacement squad has shown not only tremendous heart, but also surprising skill. And after today’s victory, the Bombers — now 16-11 — are threatening for first place in the AL East, having won 10 of their previous 12 contests. Sure, these aren’t your grandfather’s Yankees, or even the Yankees of one month ago. And no doubt, they’ve been benefitted by an incredibly easy schedule that’s seen them play 24 of their 27 games thus far against losing teams. But wins are wins, and this afternoon was another one in the column.
They’ll go for the sweep tomorrow at 4:05 PM EDT, when Domingo German looks to augment his early season mastery (4-1, 1.75 ERA) against Dereck Rodriguez.