The first month and change of the 2019 season has been an odd one. The Yankees started out a bit slow, nearly the entire team got hurt, and then suddenly, everything clicked. Beyond just the general weirdness of the season, let’s dig in and look back at the weirdest specific moments from the first month of the season.
In the opening week of the season, the Yankees inexplicably lost two of three to the Orioles. Sure bad teams can beat good ones, but Jesus Sucre recording three-hit games started by James Paxton don’t usually happen. A week later, the Yankees righted that wrong and nearly tied some records.
In the series finale against Baltimore, the Yankees clubbed seven homers, with Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier both recording multi-home run games. Frankly, the Yankees who didn’t homer that day should feel bad. Even Austin Romine hit one. Sanchez came back up in the ninth with a chance to hit a fourth home run, but he just got under a pitch and hit a popup. Had he pulled it off, he would have tied the individual record for home runs in a game, and also hit the Yankees’ eighth home run as a team, which would have tied the franchise record.
The Yankees have played two extra-inning games already this year, both of which we will get to. However, they’ve also played just their second rain-shortened game in the last five years. That doesn’t happen that often, so that’s a little weird. The stranger thing is that the final two at-bats were home runs in a game where the away team won. If that’s not a first, it can’t have happened too many times.
Mike Tauchman was a last-minute addition before the season when it became clear that the Yankees’ outfield wasn’t totally healthy to start the year. At the time, he looked like a good candidate to be the 2019 Shane Robinson. That seemed to be playing out as he then recorded just two hits in his first 16 at-bats as a Yankee. He stuck around because more outfielders kept getting hurt, and then he faced Chris Sale, which somehow ended up as a good thing.
The Yankees as a team crushed Sale and the Red Sox on April 16th, but Tauchman led the way. He picked up a two-out RBI double, and later added a three-run home run off Boston’s bullpen as the Yankees won 8-0. Tauchman now has a career 1.500 OPS against Sale, which is definitely sustainable.
The main storyline throughout all this for the Yankees was the continual pileup of injuries. The day prior to the Easter Sunday, Aaron Judge became the newest addition to that pileup, going down with an oblique strain. That led the Yankees to run out this lineup on April 21st.
Yet it worked. The Yankees had won the prior two games, but this game really seemed to kick off the inexplicably good run from the injury-depleted roster. The Yankees blew a five-run lead in this game, but eventually won in extra innings. Austin Romine got both the game-tying hit in the eighth, and the game-winning hit in the ninth.
The second extra-inning game came the very next day as the Yankees went out west. The first couple innings of a 10 PM ET between them and the Angels went fairly quickly, leading to me tweeting this on the Pinstripe Alley twitter:
I appreciate these teams taking it easy for their east coast viewers and breezing through this game.— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) April 23, 2019
Oops. Neither team mustered much offense after the third inning, and the game drifted into extras. In the 12th, the Yankees took a lead on a Gio Urshela sac fly. They then sent out Aroldis Chapman to get the save, he couldn’t do it, allowing the Angels to tie the game. During the Angels’ comeback in the bottom of the 12th, Zack Cozart was injured. The Angels had run out of position players, and they were forced to move DH Peter Bourjos to second base. He had never played an inning in the infield in his major league career. That move also cost LA the DH spot in the lineup, which comes back up later.
The Yankees took the lead again in the 14th. Urshela drove in the winning run. The runner who scored was Torres, who had reached base after a dropped third strike. Then, in the bottom of the inning, the Angels were forced to send out Trevor Cahill as a pinch-hitter while down to their last out. Cahill is not a position player. He is a pitcher who got the start on the mound three days later. He struck out and a very dumb game was finally over.
In search of his 3000th strikeout, CC Sabathia struggled against the Angels and was knocked out after just five innings with the Yankees down five. Meanwhile, the offense had managed just one hit in the first five inning and didn’t look like they were erasing that deficit any time soon.
Tyler Wade then kicked off a rally in the fifth with a single, but that was only the beginning of his interesting night. The Yankees scored two runs in the fifth, and then three more in the seventh. They could have even taken the lead in the seventh, but Wade fell for a hidden ball trick.
Wade would have the last laugh, scoring the winning run in the top of the ninth. Despite getting no-hit as late as the fifth and falling for one of the dumbest play imaginable, they still pulled out a win.