Not all innings are created equal. Today, the fifth frame ultimately decided the outcome as Gerrit Cole navigated a bases-loaded jam in the top of the stanza and Yankees bats punished Twins pitching when they got a similar opportunity in the bottom half. From there, the Yankees coasted, and the latter innings provided a couple of interesting moments — one bizarre and one heart-warming.
What a top of the first inning. Cole came out like his hair was on fire to start this one. Two easy groundballs, one he fielded personally, preceded a beautiful strikeout of Josh Donaldson. A 99-mph fastball painted onto the low-outside corner froze Donaldson and sent Cole back to the dugout after throwing nine pitches to retire three Twins. That’ll do, ace. That’ll do.
After two cans of corn to Aaron Judge in the top of the second, Cole’s perfect game came to an end on a line drive to right field. Stanton played the ball quickly and cleanly, holding Ryan Jeffers to a single. Nick Gordon then ripped a ball into the right field corner for a two-out double. Good defense again from Stanton kept Jeffers at third and gave Cole a chance to get out of the inning without any damage. His solid play on back-to-back opportunities paid dividends, as Cole induced a weak pop up from Willians Astudillo to keep the game scoreless.
Maeda plunked Rougned Odor to begin the bottom of the second. The training staff came out to check on him, but Rougie stayed in the game. Luke Voit, red-hot recently, then ripped a 3-0 fastball into left field to put two on. Then the Yankees hit into tough luck. Apparent MVP candidate Andrew Velazquez ripped a 108-mph bullet to center that was caught, and then Kyle Higashioka dunked a ball into shallow right. Unfortunately, the less-than-stellar sprint speed of Voit allowed the Twins to get the force out at second base.
Tyler Wade rescued the Yankees, however, and put them on the board with a single through the left side of the infield to score Odor. For a brief second, it looked like it would be 4-0 Yankees after DJ LeMahieu drove a ball 343 feet to the corner in left, but it died on the warning track. Inning over.
The game stayed quiet until the top of the pivotal fifth inning. With one out, Cole surrendered back-to-back singles to Astudillo and Simmons, and then walked Max Kepler. Voilà: bases loaded and one out for the heart of the Twins lineup. Pitching coach Matt Blake came out for an extended mound visit. Facing Jorge Polanco, Cole reared back on a 2-2 count and blew a 99-mph high heater by the Twin for a huge second out.
Then, with Yankee Stadium roaring in anticipation, Cole painted a 91-mph changeup at the bottom of the zone to strike Donaldson out looking for a second time. Cole clearly knew where he wanted to go on Donaldson with two strikes.
With one-out in the home half of the stanza, Wade hit a booming double – or that’s what it will look like in the box score. Rather, he dunked a ball into very shallow left field and used his elite speed to turn it into an easy two-bagger. LeMahieu followed that up by lining a full-count pitch into right field. DJ hit it so hard, in fact, that even Wade’s fleet feet could not score on the play. It also prompted a mound visit to check on Maeda. Maeda then hit Rizzo with what would have been ball four, and now the Yankees had the bases loaded.
With Judge at the plate, and the Yankees desperately needing another run, the 2021 team MVP appeared. A wild pitch went to the backstop and Wade scampered home to make it 2-0 for the good guys. Judge then walked to re-load the bases and pass the baton to Big G Stanton.
Yankees: 15th run scored on wild pitch/passed ball this season. That's the 2nd most in MLB, behind the Twins.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) August 21, 2021
After a ball to lead off the Stanton at-bat, Maeda was clearly in distress. He called for the Twins dugout and ultimately departed the game. From the Twins ‘pen came Edgar Garcia to inherit the 1-0 count on Stanton. And on the first pitch from Garcia, Giancarlo ripped a slider for a two-run double into the left field corner. 4-0 good guys.
After Odor reached on a force out at home that prevented a fifth Yankee run, the incandescently hot Voit came through with two outs. He smoked a two-run double into left that scored both Stanton and Odor. 6-0 Yankees.
Velazquez struck out, but the Bombers batted around in the fifth and put five runs on the board. Cole’s navigation of his similar jam in the top of the inning starkly juxtaposes with the job the Bombers did of making Twins pitching pay. Cole then did his part with a one-two-three stress-free sixth inning to cap off his day. Six innings of shutout ball. Optimal result from the ace.
The bottom of the seventh inning had a brief sequence that even longtime baseball fans are unlikely to have ever seen. With an 0-2 count, Rougned Odor called time during his at-bat… Twins reliever Ralph Garza, Jr. continued his delivery and threw the pitch, which Odor crushed for a phantom dinger to dead center.
In the bottom of the eighth, after Jorge Polanco got the Twins on the board with a solo homerun in the top of the frame, hometown hero Velazquez got in on the action. The Kid from The Bronx crushed his first career dinger to right field, to the delight of the crowd and even the Fox booth.
Those two moments were all the drama the latter innings had in store as Lucas Luetge and Albert Abreu combined to get the final nine outs of the game and send the faithful home happy.
Another great win for the Yankees. Weather depending, they’ll go for the series sweep tomorrow in the Bronx with rookie sensation Luis Gil on the bump, but with a hurricane bearing down, that game may not happen. Stay safe, everyone in the storm’s path, and enjoy another Yankee win.