I said it on Twitter, and I said it in the game thread, but the rule of three dictates I’ve gotta say it again here: Kevin Cash, the Yankees have a whole stable of guys that can hit the ball 420 feet. You met four of them today, as the Yankees clubbed the Rays 9-3 to take the first game of the ALDS.
This game was as Jekyll-and-Hyde as the Yankee team themselves had been all year. The two sides scratched and clawed their way to a 4-3 score through eight innings, and then the Yankees blew up for five runs in the final frame. Cash had a passive day in the Rays’ dugout, and Gerrit Cole showed up just well enough to give the Yankees’ bats the time they needed to break out, and beat the big bad #1 seed.
Cole worked six innings, striking out eight with two walks. His night was really a BCH and ACH night – before Choi’s homer, and after. He struggled with location, sitting 97 and leaving two fat fastballs up to Randy Arozarena and Ji-Man Choi. Both balls left the park, accounting for all three runs Cole surrendered. That Choi dinger in particular seemed to really annoy Cole, as did his eventual decision to intentionally walk Choi in the fifth.
With the bases loaded, Cole struck out Manuel Margot on the hardest pitch he’s thrown as a Yankee:
Cole struck out two of the last three batters he faced on the night and threw his next-two fastest pitches of the season to get them. I don’t have a way to quantify Cole’s stuff getting better the angrier he is. All I’ll say is he didn’t hit 100 in any start where he was cruising with a five-run lead. If the Yankees play a potential game five, we need to make sure a clubbie opens some expensive vintage wine and tries to make a cooler with it before first pitch. Someone has to take one for the team to piss Cole off, and the results will probably be something like a 16-strikeout game.
Chad Green and Zack Britton didn’t quite have clean innings, both allowing a baserunner, but put up zeros in relief. The offensive outburst in the ninth meant that Aaron Boone didn’t have to use Aroldis Chapman, crucial in a series with no off days, and Luis Cessa could work a clean ninth.
Offensively, I really do want to hone in on what’s going right for the Yankees - they’re hitting the ball out of the park. For all the prognosticating and Old School types who say you can’t hit home runs in the postseason, that the Yankees’ approach doesn’t work against the best pitching...the Yankees have now played three games against the two best pitching staffs in the American League. They have scored 31 runs, with 11 home runs.
Clint Frazier homered in the second. Kyle Higashioka and Aaron Judge gave the Yankees back the lead after Cole struggled in the fourth. And, of course, Giancarlo Stanton continued his white-hot playoff run, with his third home run in three games, and possibly the biggest of his Yankee career.
Home runs are good. This Yankee lineup has more raw power than any team in the game. Ball go far, team go far.
Game two comes at 8pm tomorrow night, with Deivi García making his postseason debut. He’ll have a tough assignment, but can get the Yankees to within one win of a return to the ALCS. Just like Cole, he doesn’t need to be absolutely dominant - although that would be great! - he needs to get enough outs, pitch enough innings, for the stable of Yankee sluggers to do what they do best.