It was a game of “almost” for the Yankees against the Phillies on Thursday night. Jordan Montgomery almost avoided the big inning, but couldn’t put the Phillies away. The Yankees’ bullpen almost gave it up a few times, but tightroped out of trouble repeatedly. Ultimately, the Yankees had a chance in the ninth, but the ball only almost made it out of the park.
The Phillies came out swinging against Montgomery. After Rhys Hoskins worked a walk and Bryce Harper singled, J.T. Realmuto took the Yankees’ southpaw deep on a hanging curveball, and it was 3-0 Phillies after just one out. Montgomery got out of the rest of the inning, but not before tossing 32 pitches in the opening frame.
However, the Yankees picked him up in the next inning. Brett Gardner started things off with a beautiful bunt single, Gio Urshela reached base from a fielding error, and Tyler Wade walked to load the bases for Mike Tauchman. The Sock Man came through with a two-run single right up the middle, cutting the deficit to one. Tauchman has seven hits and 3 RBI in his last four starts, and is definitely pressing for regular playing time. Luke Voit popped out next though, leaving two runners on base.
Montgomery couldn’t hold the 3-2 score in the next inning. Andrew McCutchen dodged a double play with a smart baserunning play, taking enough time to get tagged to allow Harper to reach first. Realmuto singled next, and then Phil Gosselin drove them both in, punishing a 1-2 changeup that split the outfielders and plated two runs. Montgomery’s inability to put away Realmuto or Gosselin in two-strike situations directly led to all five runs Philadelphia got off him. He only struck out two Phillies and allowed seven baserunners in four innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn’t get anything significant going off the Phillies’ pitching. A strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play between Urshela and Gardner killed a potential rally in the fourth, and aside from the second inning, Eflin dodged trouble in his season debut. Going into the seventh inning, the Yankees hadn’t put a runner on second base since the second inning, a dry spell that probably cost them the game.
That all changed when Gio Urshela led off the seventh with a double, bringing Gary Sanchez to the plate. Sitting at 2-29 with no home runs and 18 strikeouts, Sanchez took a 1-1 fastball high into right field, barely landing over the wall before bouncing back onto the field. Bryce Harper thought it was a live ball, firing into second, but instant replay confirmed that Sanchez had hit his first dinger of the 2020 season, making it a 5-4 ballgame. Hopefully it’s the jump-start that Sanchez needs to get going in the batter’s box.
The Phillies threatened to take that three-run lead right back the next inning, but David Hale and Jonathan Holder combined to bail the Yankees out. Hale walked Roman Quinn, but picked him off, but then a McCutchen double chased him. Holder came in and walked Harper, but struck out Realmuto on a nasty cutter, stranding two runners and keeping it a one-run ballgame. With Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman out, the Yankees need their unheralded bullpen arms to step up, and Hale and Holder did that tonight.
The Yankees had a chance to tie things in the eighth, but couldn’t capitalize. Giancarlo Stanton blooped a one-out double, and although Gleyber Torres grounded out, it moved Stanton to third for pinch-hitter Aaron Judge. Joe Girardi countered by bringing in his closer, Hector Neris, for a four-out save and he did the job, whiffing Judge and keeping it 5-4 going into the ninth.
The Yankees got another opportunity in the ninth, but again couldn’t bring the runners home. After DJ LeMahieu lined a pinch-hit single and Tauchman blooped another, Luke Voit lifted a high drive to right-center field, but not far enough. The ball landed in Roman Quinn’s glove 379 feet from home plate, and the Yankees fell to 9-3 on the season.
Having finally made up the series against the Phillies, the Yankees will move on with their schedule. They open a four-game weekend series against Tampa Bay tomorrow, which includes a Saturday doubleheader. The series kicks off Friday with a good pitching matchup, featuring Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees and Blake Snell for the Rays.