Trying to find the player of the game in a loss can be a difficult challenge. In the best of circumstances, you’re looking at a player who put together an incredible afternoon but who, at the end of the day, was let down by his teammates. Other times, you’re sifting through a sea of garbage, aiming to find a small bit of gold amongst the iron and rust.
Yesterday afternoon’s 4-2 loss contained a bit of both. The Yankees pitching staff for the most part locked down the Cleveland Guardians lineup, allowing just two runs to score during regulation — an admirable effort, considering they had a decent amount of traffic on the base paths. Giancarlo Stanton, meanwhile, proved to be the one shining light in a lineup that could not get anything done against Cleveland ace Shane Bieber and a small army of relievers. With this in mind, I struggled to find one player worthy of a spotlight in this game. After a long ponder, I thought to myself, “Why should I have to choose?” And so I present to you all, the Game 2 Players of the Game, the Yankees relief pitchers.
Nestor Cortes gave the Yankees a solid start, allowing just two runs on six hits across five innings (in part due to some nasty defense by Nasty Nestor with the bases loaded in the 4th. But it was a battle, as he allowed six hits and walked three, leaving the game with the scored tied at two apiece. After 92 pitches, he handed it over to the bullpen, and boy, did they take things to another level. Lou Trivino, Jonathan Loáisiga, Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, and Clarke Schmidt absolutely shoved, allowing just two base runners across five scoreless innings of work, both of which were walks; they struck out a batter per inning, and did not allow a hard hit ball. Thanks to them, if the Yankees lineup had been able to do literally anything — and it’s not like they lacked the opportunity, as they had the bases loaded in the 8th — they would have come away with the win.
But notice how I said “the Yankees relief pitchers,” not “the Yankees bullpen,” two paragraphs ago. Starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, coming on in relief for the first time in his career, came on for the 10th and immediately got into trouble. A José Ramírez pop fly landed in No Man’s Land and an E5 put him on third base to lead off in the inning, and he would come around to score on a Oscar Gonzalez single. Josh Naylor doubled him in, extending the lead to 4-2 and chasing Taillon from the game. I wouldn’t say that Taillon was a disaster — the first two hits had xBA of .090 and .370, after all — but he just wasn't’ as lockdown as the rest. Schmidt would come on and induce a trio of ground ball outs to stem the bleeding and keep the Yankees within striking distance.
A major question mark headed into the series, the Yankees relief pitchers stepped up in a big way yesterday. While they were ultimately let down by the offense, their effort nonetheless ought to be commended.