The afternoon got off to a good start on this sunny Memorial Day game, but quickly soured as the Yankees’ offensive troubles once again reared their ugly head. For the 21st time this year, they scored two runs or fewer, actually only mustering a single run on Monday, spoiling an impressive pitching performance by the staff.
The afternoon got off to a good start at least, as Taillon worked an economical 11-pitch first. He fought his way back into the count after falling behind Randy Arozarena and finished him off with an overpowering 95-mph fastball. He deployed an intriguingly varied pitch mix relative to previous outings, something which continued through the outing.
There was an abundance of hard contact for the Yankees in the first inning. However, they only had one hit to show for it, an Aaron Judge single down the left field line. While I liked the aggressive approach, the Yankees would probably have benefitted from making veteran Rich Hill work more than a six-pitch-per-inning pace.
The trend from the opening frame carried into the second for Taillon. He threw a healthy dose of sinkers, and its arm-side run paired nicely with the straight action of his four-seamer. Taillon collected two more strikeouts, whiffing Austin Meadows and Mike Zunino on elevated fastballs.
The Yankees’ loud contact continued in the bottom half. Miguel Andújar and Kyle Higashioka collected two-out singles both stung 108+ mph, but a Gardner groundout killed the momentum.
Taillon surrendered the first run of the game in the third, allowing a leadoff single to Kevin Kiermaier, who scored from first on a Manuel Margot double to right. The Yankees had a slim chance of preventing the run, but a high throw by Judge to the cutoff man made it impossible. Taillon did well to limit the damage to the lone run, but the way the Yankees’ bats have been swinging, that looked like a mountain to climb.
That mountain specifically was the 41-year-old on the hill for the Rays, who retired the Yankees in order in the third, fourth, and fifth. Hill befuddled the home team with his sub-90s fastball, inducing late swings as if they were looking for the curveball.
Taillon’s effectiveness began to wane as the outing dragged on. He gave up a leadoff solo shot to Meadows in the fourth and a leadoff double to Kiermaier in the fifth. The center fielder came around to score on a Randy Arozarena single to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. In the sixth, Diaz reached on a throwing error by Torres and Walls walked to knock Taillon out of the game.
Lucas Luetge came on and promptly struck out Zunino on a nasty curveball. He then got Kiermaier to groundout and Margot to line out to escape the two-on, no-out jam unscathed. He notched two more strikeouts in a one-two-three seventh. Luetge has been a hell of a find by the Yankees and pushed his season ERA down to 2.45 with this scoreless outing.
To be fair, Taillon wasn’t even that bad, limiting the Rays offense to three runs after they had averaged over seven per game during their 15-1 streak entering today. He threw a season-high nine sinkers — a pitch that used to be his primary offering in Pittsburgh. This is quite a development, considering the much-publicized shift to four-seamers since joining the Yankees, but if he can command the pitch, it could pair nicely off the four-seamer from a movement standpoint.
Ultimately, Taillon allowed too many leadoff batters to reach, putting undue stress on the rest of the inning. His final line: five innings, five hits, three runs, three walks, and five strikeouts on 85 pitches.
Jameson Taillon 95mph four-seamer, 94 mph sinker overlay. Something to build on for subsequent starts pic.twitter.com/KitVXzwNKV— Peter Brody (@PBrods7) May 31, 2021
The Yankees were dealt a blessing, as Hill was pulled after just 56 pitches through five innings. It didn’t matter though, as Michael Wacha retired the side in order on seven pitches. The offense showed the first signs of life in the seventh, as Andújar lifted an opposite-field solo shot off a 3-1 Wacha fastball to cut the deficit to 3-1. It was Andújar’s first home run in Yankees Stadium in over two and a half years.
Wandy Peralta and Luis Cessa worked scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth. The Yankees threatened with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, as Rougned Odor lined a double down the right field line, but Andújar waved at strike three to end the game.
I was actually really impressed by the overall pitching performance, particularly the bullpen. The relievers held the Rays scoreless in the final four innings, but it wasn’t enough. The top five hitters in the Yankees lineup combined to go 1-for-20, with Giancarlo Stanton struggling particularly of late — he’s 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts since returning from the IL.
The Yankees have now lost four straight and are 1-6 dating back to Blue Jays series. They’ll need to win their next three if they want to take this series from the, and will hope Domingo Germán can match Rays ace Tyler Glasnow step for step tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET so join us in the game thread.