The Yankees themselves probably didn’t care too much that they happened to be making their debut on Apple’s Friday Night Baseball series tonight. Nonetheless, if new audiences were tuning in, they got to immediately see why the team’s longtime nickname is “The Bronx Bombers.” The game was cut short after eight innings because of vicious rain in Kansas City, but it was still enough for the Yankees to slug four homers in a 12-2 victory over the Royals. They’ve now won seven in a row and are suddenly a very nice 14-6 on the season.
DJ LeMahieu smashed an opposite-field double on the third pitch of the game, and after Aaron Judge narrowly missed an RBI on a diving catch in center by Michael A. Taylor, Anthony Rizzo continued his resurgent April with his league-leading ninth homer.
Giancarlo Stanton was the next batter, and fresh off joining the 350-homer club on Thursday, he was determined to not give Royals starter Kris Bubic a breather.
No. 351 tied should-be Hall of Famer Dick Allen at 95th on the all-time home run list and —more importantly for the Yankees — gave them a 3-0 lead.
The Yankees handed that advantage to Nestor Cortes, who entered the game with a sparkling 1.15 ERA and 1.28 FIP through four outings, but got off to a bit of a bumpy start. The horrifically slumping Whit Merrifield touched the lefty for a double that Tim Locastro’s dive couldn’t quite reach, and an out later, Salvador Perez lifted a ball down the left-field line that was too far for even the speedy Locastro to snare in his shifted position. That put the Royals on the board at 3-1.
An inning later, Kansas City plated another run and could’ve had more. Bobby Witt Jr. laced a one-out double, but Cortes caught him in a pickoff. Yet Witt should have reached third anyway because for some unknown reason, Gleyber Torres thought that he could run down the kid with the fastest sprint speed in baseball rather than simply throwing to LeMahieu at third.
Witt beat Torres to the bag, but his slide seemed to start carrying him off the bag ... until Torres himself rolled into the rookie and removed doubt:
Witt was called out and Royals skipper Mike Matheny got ejected while arguing for interference. It could have gone either way, but the Yankees caught a break, especially when Edward Olivares followed with a hit. A passed ball by Kyle Higashioka moved Olivares to second, and he scored on a single by Taylor to make it a one-run ballgame.
Cortes wasn’t his sharpest on Friday night, but he worked out of a couple jams (partially caused by a defense that that also wasn’t its sharpest) that could’ve been worse. One of those came in the third when after recording two outs, he induced a popup from Perez in very shallow center. Unfortunately, the combination of the windy night in Kansas City and Torres’ shaky glovework meant that it dropped in. Carlos Santana then reached on an infield single that LeMahieu’s dive couldn’t corral, and Cortes had to fan Hunter Dozier to strand a pair of runners.
All told, Cortes did everything he could to hold the Yankees’ early lead, even as the offense strangely went to sleep for several innings against Bubic. Cortes finished his night with five innings of two-run ball (one unearned), walking none to help him work around the seven hits and just three strikeouts. Despite his April brilliance, the offense had yet to give him the support needed to earn a win; thankfully, they got the job done for him tonight.
Back at bat, the Yankees were stuck in that aforementioned malaise. Following the Stanton four-bagger, Royals pitchers combined to retire 19 of the next 22 hitters, and reliever Dylan Coleman appeared poised to turn New York away in the seventh. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was on first after a one-out single, but Locastro struck out and Coleman jumped ahead of the ice-cold Kyle Higashioka, 1-2. Credit to Higgy though — he hung in there for a nine-pitch battle and worked a rare walk (just his third the season).
The free pass meant that Coleman now had to face the top of the Yankees lineup with runners in scoring position. LeMahieu and Judge made the right-hander pay.
In the blink of an eye, the score went from a tight game — one that involved Yankees relief ace Jonathan Loáisiga pitching the sixth — to a five-run advantage. That’s the magic of a timely LeMahieu hit and Judge blast.
The score would only get more lopsided from there. Poor, poor Jake Brentz just had nothing, and the Yankees pulverized him. Stanton singled, Torres launched a two-run homer, and after New York loaded the bases for Higashioka, the beleaguered catcher came through again with a bases-clearing double.
That was only Higgy’s second extra-base hit of the season and first since April 15th. It was officially a 12-2 laugher. The rain came after the eighth and wrapped it up there.
The Yankees will have a pretty good shot at making it an eight-game winning streak tomorrow, as Gerrit Cole will get the ball. He’ll face Royals starter Carlos Hernández with first pitch coming at 7:10pm ET, back on the standard YES Network/MLB.tv schedule.