The recipe for success of this Yankees team is to receive adequate length from the starting pitcher, have the big boys slug, and let the shutdown bullpen do its thing. Well, they got two out of three tonight, but it was more than enough as the Yankees downed the Blue Jays, 7-2, in game one of this critical series.
The game got off to an inauspicious start, with Jameson Taillon reaggravating his injured ankle. However, another dominant display from the bullpen kept a scary Blue Jays lineup in check. On the offensive side, things puttered along until the seventh, when Giancarlo Stanton blew this game open with another clutch, late home run. The man is simply unstoppable!
The Yankees created some trouble early for Ryu, but ultimately were unable to capitalize. Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge reached on back-to-back one-out walks, and both moved up a base on an ill-advised Teoscar Hernández throw to third. However, Stanton struck out and Joey Gallo popped out to strand the pair.
Unlike their opponents, the Blue Jays did in fact capitalize on the runner in scoring position in the first. George Springer led off with a four-pitch walk, stole second, and came around to score on a Bo Bichette two-out single up the middle. Frankly, the Yankees are lucky it was only a single, considering the location of the pitch he hit.
Credit to Taillon, he settled down and retired the side in order in the second, allowing Judge to tie the game in the third. After falling behind 0-2, the big man battled all the way back to a full count before lining a center-cut fastball just over the wall in right. The 106.4-mph laser traveled 366 feet and leveled the score at 1-1.
Just when it seemed like Taillon was getting into his groove, disaster struck. He struck out Danny Jansen looking and immediately signaled for the trainer to come out. Taillon had just returned from the IL after suffering a partially torn tendon in his right ankle in the first week of September, and was in visible discomfort as he limped to the clubhouse. His final line: 2.1 innings, one hit, one run, one walk, and two strikeouts on 38 pitches. Michael King was brought on in relief.
The Blue Jays once again took the lead in the fourth. Bichette led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a groundout. Corey Dickerson brought him own with a line drive double pulled down the right foul line to restore Toronto’s one run advantage, 2-1.
That lead was short-lived, however, thanks to some clutch hitting in the top of the fifth. Gio reached on a one-out single after falling behind 1-2 and DJ LeMahieu walked to put two for Rizzo. He too fell behind in the count, but managed to throw the bat head at a cutter well out of the zone for an opposite field single that scored Urshela and drove Ryu from the game with only one out in the fifth.
Both LeMahieu and Rizzo moved up a base on Dickerson’s throw home, allowing Judge to drive DJ home with a sac fly line drive to right field off the reliever Adam Cimber. The Yankees finally had their first lead of the night, 3-2.
As he has since returning from the IL, Michael King pitched admirably. He navigated through the dangerous Toronto lineup, saving his best for his last inning of work — a one-two-three fifth on eight pitches. He gave up one run on one hit and one walk with one punchout across 2.2 innings and 42 pitches.
Clay Holmes entered in the sixth and immediately walked Guerrero Jr. despite getting ahead 0-2 in the count. Bichette grounded into a force out and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but was gunned down at third by Gary Sánchez while attempting to advance on a bobbled pitch. Holmes struck Lourdes Gurriel Jr. out to end the inning and maintain his dominant form since joining the Yankees. If we want to be nitpicky, we can criticize his two walks in the inning after entering the game with a 30:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in pinstripes, but what matters is that he got the job done.
This game was a little too close for comfort through the middle innings ... that is, until we reached the seventh. The Yankees put two on via a one-out LeMahieu single and two-out Judge walk to bring Stanton to the plate. And boy was that at-bat an emotional rollercoaster. It started out with this absurd called strike one:
It would have been all too easy for Stanton to ruminate over this potentially AB-shifting call, but he was not fazed, immediately locking back in and ready for the next pitch. Six pitches later, the focus paid off, as he somehow drilled this 2-2 changeup 107 mph, 421 feet into the second deck in left to give the Yankees a 6-2 lead.
How.......how do you hit this out? pic.twitter.com/1Eb214Av4r— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) September 29, 2021
Stanton is on an absolute tear right now, with four home runs in his last four games and 19 home runs and a 169 wRC+ since the start of August. There are still few in baseball who can match what he does when he goes on one of these unconscious stretches, almost single-handedly dragging his team to the finish line. Long may it continue.
Chad Green tossed a 14-pitch, one-two-three seventh, and Luis Severino followed with a 15-pitch, one-two-three eighth. Just for good measure, the Yankees decided to tack on an additional insurance run in the ninth. Gio Urshela yanked an inside 3-2 slider for a solo shot to left to extend the lead to 7-2. It looked like they might add more with Judge and Stanton reaching second and third via walk and double respectively, but Gallo struck out for the third time of the night to strand the pair.
Wandy Peralta mopped up in the ninth to cement the final score at 7-2. With the win, the Yankees gain some crucial separation atop the AL Wild Card race. Add to that the Red Sox losing to the Orioles, and New York now sits two games ahead of their rivals and three games ahead of Toronto. The biggest surprise is that thanks to their ferocious late play against Oakland, the Mariners now sit just half a game behind Boston (a hair closer than Toronto).
The Yankees will go for a series win tomorrow night with their ace on the mound. Gerrit Cole is set to face José Berríos with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 PM ET. Be sure to join us in the game thread!