I was debating whether this was one of the best games I’d ever seen or one of the worst. It was an absolute roller coaster, with fifty-seven (I think) lead changes, and more than a fair share of heroes and goats. On the other hand, it was an absolute slog, I’ve been sitting on my couch for more than six hours, there were 19 combined walks, and lots of yelling at my TV and Aaron Boone.
In the end, the Yankees won 10-9, sweeping Cleveland right out of the playoffs. So, I guess, that’s a good game.
The story of the first inning is the rain delays. The start of the game was delayed 45 min, and after the Yankees were set down in order, the skies opened up and I’m not sure how Masahiro Tanaka could even see the plate. He certainly pitched that way, giving up back-to-back doubles to put Cleveland up one before yet another rain delay.
After 35 more minutes of waiting, Tanaka was back out, but continued to struggle with location, eventually backing pitches up over the plate and giving up a double to Josh Naylor and another RBI single. It was 4-0 bad guys before the first inning was over.
After the first, Tanaka did pretty good for himself - getting outs and working efficiently. When you get kicked in the teeth early, all you can do is keep getting your lineup up and hoping they chip away at the lead. This was the worst start of Tanaka’s playoff career, but he got over a bad start and did enough to keep the team in the game.
The Yankee offense, meanwhile, helped cover for such a bad start. Giancarlo Stanton hammered a home run in the second inning to get New York on the board, and then came the fourth inning. With Carlos Carrasco struggling with location, Aaron Hicks hit a soft fly ball to center that Delino DeShields Jr. underran, and instead of starting the inning with an out, the Yankees started with a man on third. Walks to Luke Voit and Giancarlo Stanton loaded the bases, and Carlos Carrasco was done for the night.
Enter James Karanchik. The righty boasted the second-best strikeout rate in baseball this year and had given up just one home run in 32.1 career innings in the majors. He is as good a reliever as you will find in MLB. And Gio Urshela owned him.
Gio Urshela, man.
The Yankees added another run an inning later on a Giancarlo Stanton sac fly, and those runs would be key when Tanaka’s night ended following an RBI double from Francisco Lindor and walk to Cesar Hernández. Chad Green hung a breaking ball to Jose Ramirez, and the game was tied, the first in a series of concerning matchups for Green.
Gary Sánchez announced himself just an inning later:
I like this home run a lot because it literally broke Statcast:
However, as noted above, Chad Green had trouble with traffic for his entire appearance, allowing three hits and recording four outs. He ceded to Zack Britton who induced a massive double play to keep the Yankees in the lead, in what felt like the biggest at-bat of the game. How wrong we were.
Britton got into walk problems of his own, and after Sandy Alomar Jr. made a questionable decision to pinch hit for Josh Naylor, Aaron Boone made an even more questionable decision, going to Jonathan Loáisiga, who was just, just awful. He’s only charged with one earned run, because he allowed both of Britton’s runs to score. He walked more batters than he got out. He allowed the same number of hits, as outs recorded. He was absolutely dreadful and I implore you all to stop thinking he is a good pitcher.
Aroldis Chapman, fortunately, was as good as the Yankees needed him to be, allowing a single weak hit while recording four outs, with four Ks. He closed out the bottom of the ninth to seal the win, but first we have to talk about how the Yankees got the lead back.
Cleveland brought in Brad Hand, an excellent reliever and as reliable as it gets in the ninth inning. He walked Stanton, then allowed singles to both Urshela and a weak infield tapper to Gleyber Torres. The bases were loaded with nobody out, and the Yankees down by just one. Brett Gardner struck out, and Gary Sánchez was at the plate with a chance for his second huge appearance of the day.
It wasn’t as dramatic as the lofting home run, but Gary did his job, tying the game with a sac fly to right. That brought up the only Yankee to be pretty quiet on the night, DJ LeMahieu, and you just knew he would factor in the decision somehow, lopping a solid single into center field to put the Yankees up for good.
That game was nuts.
The Yankees will now take a few well-deserved days off, get Gerrit Cole back to full rest and head to San Diego for the ALDS. Their opponent will be some whiney squealing little brother of a baseball organization, whose name escapes me at this time. Must be the late hour.