It was a good ol’ fashioned pitchers’ duel with both Carlos Rodón and Jordan Montgomery racking up double-digit strikeouts while throwing shutout ball. But amazingly, that’s not the story of tonight’s game. This one had a little of everything, from gut-wrenching lows to improbable plays, so let’s jump right into this wild 2-1 Yankees win.
The White Sox squared up balls with alarming frequency, starting with the first batter of the game. Thankfully for Montgomery, it appeared that luck was on his side, as only one fell for a hit. He was aided by two nice running catches by Aaron Judge, who displayed some of the best jumps off the ball this year.
It wasn’t a pretty beginning for the home team, as Rodón struck out the side on 12 pitches. Fears started to creep in that the Yankees were in for another Scherzer-esque challenge.
The next inning was more encouraging for Montgomery. Although he gave up a leadoff single to Yermín Mercedes, he retired the next three batters, including strikeouts of Andrew Vaughn and Zack Collins. Fears from the opening frame sharpened as Rodón struck out the next two batters he faced. Per Elias Sports, he became the first pitcher to strike out five straight Yankees to start a game in the Bronx since Sandy Koufax in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series. It’s never a good sign to remind fans of a sweep, and it almost felt like a moral victory when Rougned Odor flew out to end the inning.
Judge’s defensive clinic in right continued in the third, as he made a sprinting catch at the wall. Just as he did in the previous frame, Montgomery struck out the final two batters. Despite two high-powered offenses going toe-to-toe, this is another year of the pitcher and the hurlers had the day.
At least the Yankees would not be the next no-hit victims, as Miguel Andújar looped a one-out single just over Nick Madrigal’s glove into shallow right. What followed was one of the stranger plays I’ve seen all year. Brett Gardner lined one right into Madrigal’s glove, who somehow dropped the ball. However, Andújar, thinking he caught it, began to scramble back to first, seemingly giving the White Sox an easy force out at second.
But then, Madrigal inexplicably airmailed a throw over José Abreu at first, allowing Andújar to scamper to third and Gardner to second.
Madrigal was issued two errors on the play, and I wondered if this was just the break that the Yankees needed to steal a run against a dominant pitcher.
Unfortunately, the answer was a resounding no, as TOOTBLAN struck again with Andújar being thrown out at home on DJ LeMahieu’s sharp grounder to first. Luke Voit struck out to end the threat, as Rodón tallied his seventh strikeout in three innings.
Montgomery once again struck out a pair in the fourth, though Mercedes did collect his second hit of the night. Rodón worked around a leadoff Judge single in the bottom-half, with the Yankees hitters continuing to look largely helpless. Montgomery then countered with another economical inning while Rodón secured his 10th and 11th strikeouts.
Neither pitcher showed any sign of slowing down in the sixth. Montgomery successfully sandwiched around a Yoan Moncada double between strikeouts of Tim Anderson and Abreu, while Rodón set a new career-high in K’s with numbers 12 and 13. Montgomery matched Rodón stride for stride, setting his own career-high in strikeouts with his 10th of the night, finally retiring Mercedes.
With two outs in the seventh, though, disaster nearly struck. Andújar reminded everyone in attendance why he is not a tenable solution in left field, as he cut in front of a Vaughn fly ball. Gardner was calling for it all the way, but couldn’t reel it in thanks to Andújar’s interference (the latter was tagged with an error on the play). Thankfully, Montgomery picked his teammate up, forcing pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal to whiff for his 11th punch-out of the night.
It was a relief to see that Rodón’s night was over after six, but the repose was short-lived. In came Michael Kopech, one of the most dominant relievers in MLB. “Have no fear,” said Gleyber Torres, as he lined a middle-middle 98-mph fastball on a 3-1 pitch into the first row in right field, giving the Yankees a precious 1-0 lead.
Montgomery’s night was over after a masterful performance. His line for the outing: seven innings, four hits, no runs, no walks, and eleven strikeouts on 90 pitches. He tied his season-high with 17 whiffs including a 57 percent whiff rate on the curveball.
Jonathan Loaisiga came in for the eighth and surrendered a leadoff walk to Adam Eaton. Eaton took second on a wild pitch and third on a soft grounder by Anderson. Madrigal threw his bat at a curveball, dunking it into right to drive Eaton home and tie it up, 1-1. Judge made another sparkling play in right field, deking Madrigal and gunning him down at second for the force on a sharp Moncada line drive.
The bottom of the inning was a rollercoaster of emotions, and not in a good way. Andújar led off with a single, his second of the night. Tyler Wade came in to pinch-run, and stole second. Brett Gardner capped off a 10-pitch at-bat with an opposite-field single to put runners on the corners with no outs. This is where things turned ugly.
Wade was thrown out at home on a LeMahieu grounder up the middle. Voit then lined out to third, and Gardner was doubled up at second after he forgot how many outs there were, I guess. The Yankees made their second and third outs on the basepaths in one inning — par for the course at this point — and once again wasted a scoring opportunity with a man on third and less than two outs.
The absurd carnival ride continued in the top of the ninth. Aroldis Chapman came on to preserve the tie and promptly walked the leadoff batter. Leury García laid down a sacrifice bunt, but reached safely at first after Chapman bobbled it. Just when things looked dire, Andrew Vaughn grounded into an around-the-horn triple play to cap off maybe the wackiest 30 minutes of the Yankees’ season.
It was the Yankees’ first triple-killing since a perhaps equally-improbable triple play turned by a trio of one-year Yankees on April 17, 2014: Yangervis Solarte, Brian Roberts, and Scott Sizemore. The sound of “Gio Urshela to Rougned Odor to Luke Voit” is just a smidge better.
The Yankees saved the best for last, thanks in part to Chicago skipper Tony La Russa electing not to use closer Liam Hendriks in a tie game on the road. Riding the crowd energy from that unbelievable escape, Judge and and Urshela led off with singles against Evan Marshall to bring Torres to the plate. The star shortstop delivered in the clutch, pulling a first-pitch changeup through the hole on the left to score Judge and send the season-high attendance into a frenzy.
What a (Gley) day at the ballpark. pic.twitter.com/rcwZmspCM7— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 22, 2021
Boy, I still need to catch my breath after this one. Montgomery was brilliant, and the Yankees overcame what could have been costly errors on the basepaths to win a crucial opening salvo of the homestand.
The Bombers have just the man they want on the mound to carry that through tomorrow, as Gerrit Cole takes on Dylan Cease. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05pm ET, so join us then!