J.A. Happ grew himself a beard of sorrow that reflects the kind of season he’s having, but it was Aroldis Chapman who was hanging his head after tonight’s game. The Yankees went to the ninth in complete control, up 5-3, and Chapman came in for a save opportunity. He had one of the worst outings of his career, giving up four runs on two home runs without recording a single out as the Twins salvaged a game from the Yankees, 7-5.
Josh Donaldson took Chapman deep to tie the game after a leadoff single in the ninth inning. The game had felt too close all night, but with the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, and especially their closer, you still felt OK until Donaldson’s ball left the yard. Willians Astudillo singled, and then ageless wonder Nelson Cruz hit a ball high and deep into the Minneapolis night. It was the third time Chapman surrendered two home runs in an inning, the first since facing these Twins, in Minnesota, back in 2016.
I said in the game thread that J.A. Happ was lucky to be running as low a home run rate as he was, given how much more contact he’s allowing and how his stuff has declined. Sure enough, we didn’t have to wait long for the Yankees to jack that HR/9 average a little bit.
Giancarlo Stanton took him deep to center in the first inning, a three-run bomb to give the Yankees an early lead. It was Stanton’s third long ball of the series, a much-needed resurgence of power in a lineup that’s lacked it entirely too much this season:
Stanton continues to crush 'em pic.twitter.com/nrOL3EzHe8— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 11, 2021
Happ also gave up a home run to Gio Urshela a couple of innings later, as well as a triple to the Yankee third baseman, getting the two hardest parts of the cycle out of the way early. Outside of the two long balls, you could argue the team was a little feckless offensively — plenty of traffic but without the tack-on runs early that can make games laughers.
And this is, in fact, the importance of the home run. Without Stanton and Urshela going yard, the first two-thirds of this game would have been miserable, with the Yankees getting on base in every single inning and not having a big hit to cash them in. Instead, with the home runs, this game was one that was probably too close to comfort, but still a lead, rather than one where we all spent our night tearing our hair out.
Michael King was pretty sloppy. He threw 24 pitches in the first, allowing a walk, a hit, and a sac fly to get the Twins on the board. King also tossed 21 pitches in the third, and overall, he struggled with deception on his fastballs, generating just a single swing and miss against the two-seam, zero on the four seam, and two on the cutter. The right-hander relies on all three pitches to work east-west around the plate, and indeed, boasts some of the best horizontal movement in baseball.
Now, King was able to get ten called strikes on the sinker, albeit none on his other two fastballs, showing that he was at least able to command that pitch. Overall, he walked three, the same number of strikeouts recorded, and didn’t get out of the fourth inning, making it tough to give him a passing grade on the night.
Jonathan Loiasiga pitched spectacularly in relief of King, and Chad Green pitched well in his relief outing too. The big play that came from Green’s work, though, was a brilliant throw from sometime outfielder Miguel Andújar:
Andújar has had his share of adventures in left, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen his arm make up for lesser range or instincts in the outfield. If he can hit and play like that in the outfield, he’ll get all the chances in the world to succeed. Speaking of hitting, he reached base three times today.
Most of this game was pretty positive! The Yankees definitely could have tacked on a few more runs — Happ wasn’t sharp, the team got tonnes of traffic, and five runs probably feels like less than they should have managed. Still, they gave a lead to their all-world closer — a multiple-run lead at that — and despite entering action on Thursday with a 0.39 ERA, Chapman couldn’t deliver. That’s baseball, as they say.
The Yankees will take Friday off and hope to rebound Saturday from Philadelphia, taking on the Phillies at 1:05pm Eastern. Jameson Taillon will face Vince Velasquez.