It wasn’t how they drew it up, but the Yankees managed to squeak by the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday night, 3-1, courtesy of an unorthodox eighth-inning rally that ultimately snapped the five-game losing streak.
With the score tied at one, Aaron Hicks began the eighth with a walk, pinch-hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman. Back-to-back singles by DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge loaded the bases. As Clint Frazier pinch-hit for Brett Gardner, Atlanta reliever Nate Jones bounced a ball in the dirt, allowing Hicks to score. After Frazier popped out to second, the Braves intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton to set up the double play; that move backfired, however, as after a Gleyber Torres fly out to shallow center field, Mike Ford walked to force in another run.
Yankees take a 2-1 lead in the 8th on a wild pitch! pic.twitter.com/5iJ7Uvok9Y— YES Network (@YESNetwork) April 21, 2021
Scoring only two runs after loading the bases with nobody out is less than ideal — particularly when those runs scored off a wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk — but at this point, runs are at a premium. The Yankees will take it.
As has been the case in the early going, the real story of the night was the Yankees’ pitching staff. Looking for a big outing after last week’s disaster against the Toronto Blue Jays, Jameson Taillon answered the bell in a big way. In 5 innings and 80 pitches (roughly the same number of pitches he threw in 3.2 innings last time out), Taillon gave up only one run on four hits, striking out five.
Taillon generated primarily soft contact, limiting Atlanta hitters to .189 xBA. Most importantly, when he got hitters into two-strike counts, he put them away, something he struggled with against the Blue Jays.
Mightily impressed by Taillon's start tonight, easily his best in pinstripes. Particularly encouraging was his effectiveness in two-strike counts, something he struggled with in his last outing vs. the #BlueJays.— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) April 21, 2021
That start (4/13) and tonight's: pic.twitter.com/5WOHeuCITi
That’s not to say that Taillon had an uneventful night. Back-to-back doubles by Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza with one out in the third inning gave the Braves a 1-0 lead, but Taillon bounced back to strike out Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna to prevent any further damage.
Taillon found himself in trouble again in the fourth, with runners on first and second with one out. This time, a 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Dansby Swanson allowed the Yankees to escape unscathed. In essence, these two innings were the difference between this outing and Taillon’s previous one; last week, he let these innings snowball, putting his team in an early hole.
The Yankees’ bullpen picked up right where Taillon left out. Lucas Luetge, Chad Green, Justin Wilson, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Aroldis Chapman combined for four shutout innings, striking out five and allowing only five base runners — two hits, three walks, and one HBP. Only once did Atlanta threaten, loading the bases in the seventh courtesy of a leadoff walk to Pablo Sandoval and one-out singles to Austin Riley and Heredia, but Green struck out Adrianza and Wilson induced a Freeman grounder to end the threat.
Once again, the Yankees’ offense could not get anything going against Atlanta starter Charlie Morton, who surrendered only three hits in six innings while striking out a batter per inning. Although the Bombers challenged in the fourth, having runners on first and second with one out due to walks to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, their only offense against Morton came via a Gio Urshela home run in the fifth.
Gio Urshela! The most happy fella! pic.twitter.com/7OjzlGZo4r— John Sterling Calls (@JSterlingCalls) April 21, 2021
Loaisiga (2-0) was credited with the win and Tyler Matzek (0-2) took the loss, while Chapman recorded his second save of the season. With the win, the Yankees broke their five-game losing streak and improved to 6-10.
Both squads will play again tomorrow evening, weather permitting, with Corey Kluber (0-1, 6.10 ERA) facing off against Ian Anderson (0-0, 4.70 ERA).