On paper, this was one of the better games the Yankees have played all season long. For one, it was their first victory of the year against a winning team — they’d gone winless against the Astros and Diamondbacks. For another, Gary Sanchez continued to rebound from his nightmare 2018 in dramatic fashion, going 3-for-4 with two home runs. Jonathan Holder, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle combined for four perfect innings in relief. Aroldis Chapman earned his sixth save of the season, improving his ERA to 2.19 after early concerns about his declining velocity.
And yet — as is becoming a common theme — an injury cast a shadow over the whole affair, as James Paxton exited early with a sore left knee. He’s slated to receive an MRI tomorrow, with the potential of joining an injury list that already includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Miguel Andujar, and a slew of other stars. Andujar, for his part, will return tomorrow, and Yankees fans can only hope that Paxton doesn’t take his place on the IL. Knee soreness doesn’t seem to be the worst prognosis, although Paxton has never stayed healthy for a full season.
While he was on the mound, Paxton had to work harder for outs than we’ve seen in recent starts, but he managed to escape a bases-loaded jam in the second with an inning-ending double play. The Twins — who came into the game with the best statistical offense in baseball — loaded the bases again in the third, but an impressive Brett Gardner catch and a line drive hit right at Tyler Wade limited the damage. In all, Paxton surrender just one unearned run in three innings, throwing 32 strikes and 32 balls in 64 pitches. Emerging as the ace of the staff with Severino sidelined, losing Paxton for any length of time would be a major blow.
But back to the positives, which have to start with Gary Sanchez. With another two homers tonight, the Kraken has forced himself into the way-too-early MVP conversation, having belted a staggering 10 of them in just 18 games. He’s certainly a candidate for most improved player, at the very least, after posting a .186 average in 2018. Defensive struggles aside, his massive production from the catching position is nothing less than remarkable.
Ground Control to Major Sánchez ... pic.twitter.com/GpF9xG583W— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 4, 2019
The bullpen was another bright spot, with the only blemish a two-run Nelson Cruz home run against Zack Britton. Kahnle (1.42 ERA), Ottavino (2.20), and Chapman (2.19) have quietly been exceptional to this point, while Jonathan Holder’s two scoreless frames were an encouraging sign as well.
As I mentioned in the game thread, Luke Voit came into the game red-hot with a 41-game on-base streak. He pushed that streak to 42 straight games with a single and a walk, though the burly first baseman ended both the first and second inning by getting thrown out on the bases by Marwin Gonzalez. Blame for the play in the first rests firmly on the shoulders of third base coach Phil Nevin, who waved Voit home only to watch the throw beat him by 15 feet.
It was another tough night at the plate for Mike Tauchman, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounded into a double play. Tauchman has just three hits in his last nine games, and is now just a .164 career hitter over 128 at-bats. The recently acquired Cameron Maybin, meanwhile, has excelled so far with the Yankees to the tune of a .950 OPS, albeit in a very small sample size. He added a hit and a walk tonight, bolstering his case for playing time over Tauchman once Clint Frazier returns.
The Yankees will send out J.A. Happ tomorrow as they go for the series win against a talented Twins team. Let’s hope Paxton is okay...