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Yankees 4, Guardians 1: Aaron Judge’s first big night

New York opened up a series against the Guardians with a win thanks to superb games from Aaron Judge and Michael King.

Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In a battle of the thriving Guardians offense and the outstanding Yankees’ staff, the home team finished victorious. Behind the strong efforts of Jameson Taillon and Michael King, and the first big game of the season for Aaron Judge, the Yankees captured the series opener.

The start of the game certainly wasn’t inspiring given what we’ve been seeing at the beginning of the season. Guardians starter Eli Morgan ultimately had a stat line that won’t blow you away, but he took advantage of a struggling offense, outside of one mistake pitch. Morgan’s fastball was outstanding up in the zone forcing 6 whiffs on 13 pitches, but he left one of those heaters at a poor spot and Aaron Judge made him pay for it.

Three innings and a couple of earned runs won’t blow you away, but given that this was Morgan’s first start of the year, and that historically he’s struggled the second time through the order, the outing was rather solid. The Yankees offense needs to muster up more than a single hit against a starting pitcher, even if he doesn’t go deep into the game.

On the other end of the matchup, Taillon managed to hold the red-hot Guardians in check. The Yankees hurler went five strong allowing only a run. He pitched around some traffic, as Cleveland still managed seven hits over Taillon’s five innings pitched. Oddly enough, the only damage against Taillon came from the Guardians’ most struggling hitter, Franmil Reyes. The big cleanup man had a monster shot to right-center in the top of the fourth to put Cleveland on the board.

A point worth noting is that Taillon really mixed up his pitches, more than usual in Friday’s game. The former Pirate had a 42.1-percent four-seam fastball usage in his first two starts, and tonight he relied heavily on the curveball and changeup.

Some of the concerns regarding the offense still stand, but it was definitely nice to see Judge breaking out of it with a couple of home runs, tripling his total on the young 2022 season. His second blast came in the fifth, just a few minutes after throwing a runner out at third from center field, helping snuff out a Cleveland rally.

On a negative note, Joey Gallo’s struggles still continue and they’re now manifesting on both sides of the ball. The Yankees left fielder went 0-for-4 and also misplayed a drive to left by Amed Rosario that led to a double in the fourth inning. Fortunately, Taillon was able to bail him out.

Hot offense or not, the Guardians had a big task ahead, down by three with the Yankees ‘pen coming on after five. Michael King was absolutely superb with eight strikeouts over three scoreless (including seven in a row to end his night), and only one hit allowed. The Yankees reliever had such an outstanding performance, that he ended up with the most whiffs out of any pitcher in the game, 11 of them.

Here is an overlay of King’s sinker and breaking ball. This is just unfair:

Aroldis Chapman allowed a leadoff double to begin the ninth, but locked things down with three straight outs to earn the save, securing the 4-1 win.

The Yankees offense overall had a decent showing on Friday, although the context of the scarcity of runs over the last few days makes it look like this was a bigger breakthrough than it actually was. Credit to Isiah Kiner-Falefa as well for driving in the Yankees’ lone run that didn’t involve Judge, an RBI single in the fourth to score Josh Donaldson.

Aaron Judge had his night’ now, it is time to get Donaldson, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton going over the weekend — the latter of whom is still looking for that 350th career bomb. On Saturday, the Yankees will send out Nestor Cortes against the rookie Kirk McCarty, making his first start in the big leagues. First pitch is at 1:05pm ET.

Box Score