Baseball in New York City began on Saturday night with a stirring ceremony paying respect to those we lost as well as honoring the heroic first responders who put their lives on the line. The players from both teams stood side-by-side, unified in their remembrance of that day 20 years ago.
It’s moments of reflection like those that remind us of what really matters in life. Still, there was a baseball game to be played with crucial playoff implications for both teams. The Yankees jumped out to an early 5-0 advantage before the Mets came roaring back to lead, 7-5. But Aaron Judge’s big night ultimately propelled the Yankees to victory and put an end to their seven-game skid.
The Yankees had a chance early to put some runs on the board. DJ LeMahieu led the game off with a walk, and Giancarlo Stanton lined a two-out single up the middle. Unfortunately, Anthony Rizzo tapped back to the pitcher to strand the pair.
Corey Kluber looked sharp in a scoreless first, the only blip a Michael Conforto line-drive single to right. The stuff was coming out crisp, he was commanding three pitches to all four quadrants of the plate, and struck out two in the frame. Just check out the tunneling on these back-to-back pitches to Pete Alonso:
Corey Kluber fastball/breaking ball overlay pic.twitter.com/JBWZNeuSvZ— Peter Brody (@PBrods7) September 12, 2021
During the second inning, Joe Buck and John Smoltz were joined in the booth by Tunnels to Towers Foundation Chairman and CEO Frank Siller. He gave a moving account of his younger brother’s heroic efforts on 9/11. It was sincerely one of the best mid-broadcast interviews I’ve ever seen. Tunnels to Towers supports the first responders impacted by 9/11 as well as their families. I couldn’t think of a more admirable cause, so please check them out.
As for the play on the field, the inning featured an offense outburst the likes of which we haven’t seen from the Yankees since the 13-game winning streak. Gleyber Torres led off with a long, loud single off the wall in left. After a Gio Urshela lineout, Kyle Higashioka tomahawked a 1-2 fastball well above the zone into the seats in left-center. The ball was clubbed 103 mph, traveled 411 feet, and gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees weren’t finished there. DJ LeMahieu extended the inning with a two-out, line-drive single to right. Brett Gardner then yanked a 1-1 splitter into the Mets bullpen to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-0. Judge put a cap on the inning, going back-to-back with Gardner. His solo shot was launched a 108.5 mph and landed 424 feet away in left-center to make it 5-0, Yankees.
Gardy and Judge make it 5. pic.twitter.com/zO66th77d9— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 12, 2021
The lead was short-lived, as Kluber’s command began to wane in the bottom of the second. He issued a leadoff walk to Javier Báez, who stole second on a Jeff McNeil strikeout. Kluber then surrendered a double to Kevin Pillar, a James McCann triple that just barely missed Judge’s glove, and a Taijuan Walker single before retiring the next two to escape the inning. However, the damage was done and the Yankees’ lead had been cut to 5-3.
Walker settled down considerably after his shaky second inning, retiring the side in order in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. He struck out seven of the twelve batters faced including five in a row at one point. His command seemed to strengthen as he grew into the outing, and he fanned hitters with each of the four-seamer, slider, and splitter.
The hard contact off Kluber continued in the third. Báez sizzled a solo shot down the left field line to reduce the Yankees’ advantage to 5-4. His night was over after a scoreless fourth. This start mirrored his first two since returning off the IL. The pitches had their sharp movement throughout leading to a handful of strikeouts, but Kluber was plagued by the walks and the long ball. His final line: four innings, five hits, four runs, two walks, and six strikeouts on 82 pitches.
Things did not improve after going to the bullpen. Lucas Luetge worked a scoreless fifth, but walked the leadoff batter in the sixth, throwing four straight balls after working the count 0-2. Chad Green came in and promptly gave up a two-run home run to the second batter he faced, as McCann lined an elevated 1-1 fastball just over the wall in left to give the Mets a 6-5 lead. They extended that lead to 7-5 in the seventh on three straight singles by Báez, McNeil, and Pillar off Clay Holmes.
The Yankees finally snapped their baserunner-less streak at 16 in the eighth. Gardner led off with a line drive single to right that just evaded the shift. Judge then lifted a towering home run to left — his second of the night — on an elevated 1-0 Trevor May changeup to tie the game and breathe life back into a listless Bombers side. This one was stung 110.6 mph and soared 413 feet.
Stanton singled down the right foul line to knock May from the game. Aaron Loup came in and gave up a one-out single to Torres to put runner on first and second. Luke Voit pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot, and appeared to have grounded into an inning-ending double play. However, a weird hop delayed the throw from Lindor to Báez, and a good, hard slide by Torres at second caused Báez to sail his throw to first, allowing Andrew Velazquez — pinch-running for Stanton — to score from second and put the Yankees in front, 8-7.
Albert Abreu came in for the eighth and induced two quick groundouts from Guillorme and Villar on eight pitches. It’s never easy with these Yankees though, and he walked the next two batters he faced. Thankfully, he got Alonso to fly out deep to center, ending the inning.
Aroldis Chapman came on in the ninth to close it out and Yankees Universe collectively held its breath. He surrendered a one-put double to pinch-hitter J.D. Davis, but with an assist from Higashioka, managed to retire the next two batters to preserve the 8-7 victory.
With the win, the Yankees find themselves tied with the Blue Jays — who swept a doubleheader against the Orioles — for the second Wild Card Spot, still a game behind Boston, who took down the White Sox. The A’s and Mariners both lost, putting them both two games out.
The Yankees will look to secure a series win tomorrow with either Clarke Schmidt or Andrew Heaney (or both) facing off against Carlos Carrasco. As of the postgame press conference with Aaron Boone, there is no one announced just yet. First pitch is scheduled for 8:08 PM ET, so make sure to join us in the game thread.