On a night the Yankees truly needed him, Masahiro Tanaka put the Yankees in a position to win the game. The offense did just enough to secure the win, and the bullpen and Brett Gardner’s defense shut it down in the latter half. Overall, it was a great bounce back to the disaster that was Thursday night’s game.
Coming into the game, Cleveland starter Aaron Civale had only given up two runs in 18 innings, but the Yankees doubled that total after one inning of play on Friday night. Aaron Judge got the offense going with a hard-hit single into left. A Gio Urshela bloop single and a Didi Gregorius fielder’s choice put Judge on third. Gary Sanchez brought the run home with another bloop single, then Gleyber Torres scored another with a groundball RBI up the middle.
For much of the night, the Yankees’ offense was able to put guys on, but they didn’t always amount to much. Cameron Maybin had a lead-off double in the second, but was cut down at the plate by Yasiel Puig on a would-be sacrifice fly. Brett Gardner had a two-out double in the fourth inning that didn’t go anywhere either.
They did plate a run in the fifth though. Judge doubled into right field with two outs. Urshela brought Judge around to score with a single into right field that Puig misplayed, although he didn’t have much of a shot at Judge anyway.
Tanaka wasn’t exactly the same pitcher that went eight scoreless innings in Toronto earlier this week, but he was still quite good tonight. The score of this game was always close for as long as Tanaka was pitching, but he kept Cleveland at bay. He never let them into the game until the seventh inning. His overall line was 6.1 innings, four hits, two runs, no walks, and two strikeouts. Both runs came off homers.
The first shot rang off the bat of Jose Ramirez, who has stayed red hot in this series. After two homers last night, he added another one in the top of the second inning tonight, which brought the score to 1-2.
Ramirez has been great in the second half of the season, but his season line still looks pretty bad. Over the last three years, he put up a cumulative 137 OPS+ between 2016 and 2018 but was just worth 99 OPS+ prior to Friday’s game. He had two other hits tonight too.
Puig delivered the second homer of the night in the seventh inning. That home run made it a 2-3 game and put Tanaka on dangerous ground with Ramirez coming to the plate. The infielder hit a double, which knocked Tanaka out and brought Tommy Kahnle into a suddenly tight game.
Kahnle was brilliant finishing off the seventh inning. With one out and the tying run in scoring position, he got back-to-back strikeouts to finish off the inning, and his changeup looked as sharp as ever. He threw 10 pitches in the inning, and nine were changeups.
Zack Britton came on in the eighth inning, and things got interesting for a moment. After Mike Ford missed a catch at first base, Cleveland put the leadoff man on base and Robert Perez moved him over with a bunt. Francisco Lindor knocked a pitch into the right-center field gap, but Gardner ran it down to record the second out of the inning.
Lindor’s batted ball had an expected batting average of .600, so Gardner covered ground to keep the tying run off the board.
Aroldis Chapman came on in the ninth to face the heart of the Cleveland order. Carlos Santana led off the inning with a walk, but he very quickly got Puig to pop out to first. He then got the red-hot Ramirez to strike out swinging on four pitches. Jason Kipnis came to the plate with the game on the line, and Chapman got him to strike out swinging on a 102 MPH fastball.
Friday’s win was an all-around great game. The defense did well. The pitching was phenomenal. The offense wasn’t exactly typical of the slugging Yankees, but they put up enough runs to win, and that’s all that matters after getting trounced the night before. The Yankees will square off with Cleveland again tomorrow at 1:05 PM EST.