Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest for Gleyber Torres, but he wound up playing the hero with a pinch-hit, two-run double in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 logjam and produce the game’s decisive runs.
Aroldis Chapman closed out the 3-1 win over the Orioles with a perfect ninth, sealing a four-game series sweep of Baltimore and giving the Yanks their fifth win in a row as the regular season enters its final two-week stretch.
It was a mostly sleepy affair, with both teams struggling to generate offense. J.A. Happ was sharp for the Yankees, giving the club five innings of one-run ball, with five strikeouts and no walks. His only blemish came in the form of a short-porch homer to Renato Núñez in the second inning.
With a day off Monday, manager Aaron Boone used his bullpen aggressively, deploying Adam Ottavino for the sixth inning despite the fact that Happ had only thrown 73 pitches on the day. Ottavino retired the first two batters before conceding an 11-pitch walk and a single, prompting Boone to turn to Jonathan Holder. From there, the bullpen was perfect: Holder escaped the sixth-inning jam and was followed by Chad Green, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman. None allowed a base runner.
Baltimore starter John Means was also solid, limiting the Yankees to one run over six innings. Like Happ, the only pockmark on his day was a short-porch home run, this one by Tyler Wade in the third.
Former Yankees prospect Dillon Tate looked impressive, but was ultimately charged with the two runs allowed in the eighth. The inning started innocently enough, with groundouts by DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit. But Aaron Hicks singled up the middle to give the Yankees a slight breath. Clint Frazier expanded on it with a sharp grounder to first that Núñez could only knock down. He flipped the ball to Tate covering, but the right-hander missed the bag and Frazier was safe with a base hit.
With the lefty Brett Gardner, who entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement for Miguel Andújar, due up, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde opted for the southpaw Tanner Scott. Boone countered with Torres, who has been swinging a hot bat for the Yanks — 8 for 24, with four doubles and a home run —since returning from an IL stint (hamstring) earlier this month.
Torres greeted Scott rudely, driving his first offering to the wall in right-center, scoring both Hicks and Frazier.
It was a welcome relief for the Yankees as they keep their modest mojo going into a crucial three-game series against the Blue Jays starting Tuesday in the Bronx. The Yanks entered Sunday a half-game behind Toronto for second in the AL East and will be looking to better their position in the American League playoff picture.
It’s been a dark few weeks for the Bombers, but perhaps the sun is beginning to shine.