The Yankees looked pretty deflated after the first inning. They had stranded their leadoff hitter and had to sit back and watch helplessly as Cleveland teed off on their starting pitcher, quickly jumping out to a 3-0 lead that looked like it would get worse once the Yankees inevitably had to dip into their long relief by the third (at best). Thankfully, the team didn’t take long to rally, their starter calmed down, and they locked in another win to bring them ever-closer to that .500 mark.
The funny thing about that paragraph is that it could be applied either Thursday or Friday night. The Yankees followed almost exactly the same script. Normally, I’d say that reruns are boring, but the fireworks from the team’s bats made it quite fun.
The poor opening frame on Friday can be pinned on Jordan Montgomery, had nothing from the jump. His command was all over the place in the first inning. With one out, he issued back-to-back walks to Cesar Hernandez and José Ramírez, and then allowed Franmil Reyes to slug a booming double to left off the wall in at a vicious 114.9 mph.
Cleveland was up 1-0, and they plated Ramírez and Reyes when Eddie Rosario hit a grounder too slow to make a play on at home, and Amed Rosario snuck one through the left side. The Yankees were staring at a three-run deficit.
Perhaps the memory of Thursday’s early struggles gave the Yankees an assist, as this time, they didn’t even wait until the third inning to tie it. Batting from the right side against Logan Allen in the second, Aaron Hicks crushed a solo shot that sailed 397 feet and over the left-field wall:
It was Hicks’s second long ball of 2021 and a much-needed step toward a return to normal.
Gary Sánchez follow the Hicks drive with a single up the middle, and one out later, Rougned Odor stepped up and demonstrated the kind of semi-surprising pop that led him to launch 146 dingers in Texas:
The perfect bat flip was just the cherry on top. Odor’s 385-foot drive tied the game at 3-3.
To Montgomery’s credit, he worked a perfect second to send Allen back to the hill in a hurry. The first man to face him was Giancarlo Stanton, who entered Friday in a 3-for-34 slump, but can still demolish a meatball as well as anyone around the game. His missile put the Yankees up, 4-3:
Stanton’s fourth homer of 2021 was the ninth of his career that was blasted at least 118 mph. The only other man with more than one? His teammate, Aaron Judge.
Allen departed the game shortly afterward. As Max Goodman of SI noted, the Yankees absolutely feasted on him:
Now that’s a lot of hard contact. With all due respect, that’s what lineups like the Yankees’ offense should do against the Logan Allens of the world.
Two innings later, former Yankee farmhand Trevor Stephan was in the game for Cleveland and got his own crack at Giancarlo. It didn’t go much better:
Compared to Stanton’s previous long ball, this was a measly 115.7 mph off the bat and 418 feet ... though to the opposite field. Ho-hum right? No one hits homers quite like how Giancarlo Stanton hits homers. He’s an alien.
As Domingo Germán did on Thursday, Montgomery ended up turning in a decent performance after a rocky start. Following Amed Rosario’s RBI single, the southpaw retired 12 of the next 14 batters, fanning five in the process. The 13th player of that group was Jordan Luplow, who doubled, and on Montgomery’s possible final batter, Gleyber Torres couldn’t pull off a tricky play on a slow grounder to short, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in Reyes.
To Montgomery’s chagrin, he was pulled an out shy of qualifying for the win, but Lucas Luetge stepped in to get that much-needed last out. He spun a beautiful curve to catch Reyes looking and end the threat.
Lucas Luetge, Pretty 75mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/N1sfJHvTOl— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 24, 2021
Luetge spun another scoreless inning in the sixth and the back end of the Yankees’ bullpen took over from there. Darren O’Day, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman blanked Cleveland through the final three frames, allowing just one baserunner to reach. Chapman got infielder Yu Chang to pop up to Sánchez, who caught the final out to secure the Yankees’ 5-3 win.
Although Montgomery didn’t get the W, it was cool that it went to Luetge, who hadn’t won a game in the majors since September 4, 2013. That was long enough ago that Raúl Ibañez hit two doubles as part of a 6-4 Mariners win. It’s been a minute.
Winning pitcher for the Yankees tonight:— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) April 24, 2021
His first MLB win since 9/4/2013 SEA at KC
That's 2,788 days ago
The 15 winning pitchers around the majors that day (h/t our pals @StatsBySTATS) pic.twitter.com/oX8pIlGeSd
We’ll get a Cy Young-caliber matchup tomorrow night, as the man who should have won the honor in 2019 (Gerrit Cole) takes on the starter who did take home the award in 2020 (Shane Bieber). It’s a rematch of the 2020 AL Wild Card Series opener, when Cole fanned 13 Cleveland batters in a 12-3 win. The showdown will kick off at 6:10pm ET.