When a contender brings in reinforcements at the deadline, they hope their new player(s) begin to make an impact immediately. Well, Anthony Rizzo has done just that, because in just his second day as a Yankee, he reached base five times, scored three runs, and flashed the leather, capping it off with a big seventh-inning home run to lead the New York Yankees past the Miami Marlins, 4-2, on Saturday evening.
Rizzo introduced himself to Yankees fans in a big way yesterday, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a big home run. Tonight, he was even better, reaching base every time he came to the plate. In his first plate appearance, Rizzo reached first on a hit-by-pitch and scored on a Rougned Odor single. He then walked with two outs in the third, although he would get stranded at third. Two innings later, he led off the fifth with a single, ultimately scoring on a bases-loaded wild pitch with Gio Urshela at the plate. With two outs in the ninth, he walked. And in between those final two at-bats he did this:
With that 410-foot homer that was recorded at 108.7 mph off the bat, Rizzo became just the second player with five runs and two RBI his first two games as a Yankee. The other? Joe DiMaggio, all the way back in 1936. Good company, I’d say.
On top of that, Rizzo showed why he’s a four-time Gold Glove and one-time Platinum Glove winner, sneaking up behind Bryan De La Cruz and applying a beautiful tag to receive a perfect throw from Gary Sánchez to pick De La Cruz off of first base.
First basemen don’t generally receive much credit for their defensive skills. While Sánchez deserves a ton of credit for this play, and rightfully so, the way this particular play went down requires the type of trickery only possible with an elite defender at first. Not many first basemen could make this play, and certainly none that the Yankees have trotted out there since Mark Teixeira. Given how much Sánchez likes to pick off runners — this was the 11th of his career, most in baseball since he came up in 2016 — this could be a partnership that pays dividends defensively down the stretch.
Outside of Rizzo’s performance, the Yankees offense tonight can be summed up by one word: almost. In the second inning, Giancarlo Stanton drilled a line drive into left-center field that Statcast recorded at 116.9 mph off the bat and would have traveled 411 feet had there not been a wall in the way. Unfortunately for Stanton, there was — just barely.
As this gif provided by our very own Peter Brody can attest, Stanton missed his first home run against his former team by mere inches — in fact, one ump even called it one on the field, although it was reversed in a review. It turned out to not matter — Odor would single Rizzo in and Sánchez would have a fly ball bounce into the right field seats for a ground-rule double to score Stanton. But still, almost a home run.
The following inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs, courtesy of Rizzo and Stanton walks and an Odor single; Sánchez, however, flew out. In the fourth, the Yankees had runners on first and second to drive Taylor Rogers from the game, but were unable to capitalize when David Hess struck out Aaron Judge to end the frame.
Two innings later, the Yankees put together another rally. Rizzo led off the inning with a single, followed by Stanton’s second walk of the day; both runners astutely advanced to third on a fly out to left field by Odor. After Sánchez struck out to make it two outs, the Marlins intentionally walked Tyler Wade to load the faces for pitcher Domingo Germán. Aaron Boone sent out Gio Urshela out to pinch hit, and the Marlins countered by bringing in Anthony Bender. If you were to look at the box score, you’d see that the move paid off, as Bender struck out the injured third baseman. The Yankees still managed to score a run, courtesy of the team’s most valuable player, Wild Pitch with Runner on Third.
It was the Yankees’ 13th such wild pitch of the season, second-most in baseball (somehow, the Minnesota Twins have more). This time, it gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. That would be all they would need, although Rizzo would give an insurance run with his seventh-inning blast.
And boy, did it feel like the Yankees needed that insurance run. With Aroldis Chapman having pitched in three of the last four games, the Yankees turned to Jonathan Loáisiga to close the game. After Miguel Rojas led off the inning by grounding out, Brian Anderson singled to bring the tying run to the plate. Lewin Díaz then hit a groundball up the middle straight to Gleyber Torres, and everything went sideways. With the shift on, there was nobody at second to take the throw, so Torres was forced to tag the runner, and he did — except his glove didn’t have the ball in it, and while the ump originally called Anderson out, replay swiftly corrected it. He then made a terrible throw to Rizzo at first, who was unable to come up with the scoop.
An utterly awful play by Gleyber Torres pic.twitter.com/ekrsMBVQcj— MLB Errors (@mlberrors) August 1, 2021
Fortunately, Loáisiga proceeded to fan Jorge Alfaro and get De La Cruz to ground into a 5-4 fielder’s choice to secure the save. Otherwise, this loss would’ve been squarely on Torres’s shoulders, because you have to get at least one of those two outs there.
Prior to the ninth, the Yankees pitching staff had done its job against the weak Marlins lineup. Germán was solid through four innings, giving up two runs on two hits, striking out five and walking two; additionally, he did not give up a hit until the fourth inning. He lost the strike zone a bit in the second, walking Alfaro and De La Cruz to put runners on first and second with one out, but after Odor called a mound visit, Sánchez and Rizzo picked off De La Cruz and Germán struck out Lewis Brinson to get out of the inning.
The only time he got into any lasting trouble was the fourth inning. Miguel Rojas led off the inning with the Marlins’ first hit of the evening. After Anderson struck out and Díaz popped out to third, Jay Alfaro tripled to cut the Marlins deficit in half; he would then score on a wild pitch that knocked the umpire’s mask off, tying the game at two apiece. Germán then got De La Cruz to strike out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Fortunately, that was all the Marlins would get. Because of National League rules, the Yankees had to pull Germán early and lean heavily on the bullpen, and this time, they delivered. Lucas Luetge, Clay Holmes, and Chad Green pitched four scoreless innings, striking out six and surrendering only two hits total. All in all, it was the type of performance the Yankees expected out of their bullpen in 2021, and type they will need if they want to make up ground in the American League playoff hunt.
Luetge receives credit for the win, improving to 4-1 on the season, while Hess is tagged with the loss and Loáisiga records his third save. The Yankees have now won six out of their last seven series and currently sit seven games back of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays at 55-48.
The Yankees look to achieve the impossible tomorrow and actually complete a sweep, with first pitch scheduled for 1:10 PM ET. Let’s hope it goes better than the last time the Yankees went for a sweep in a Sunday afternoon game, which ended in a bullpen meltdown against the Astros right before the All-Star Break. Or better than the last Sunday afternoon game, last week against the Boston Red Sox, which ended with a bullpen meltdown. On second thought, maybe we just need a complete game from Jordan Montgomery tomorrow.