Baseball is a dumb, weird little game.
The Yankees have lost three games in a row for the first time all season. Gerrit Cole was...weird but not awful? Aaron Judge was brilliant, nobody else hit, and the Yankees dropped the first game of this series to Baltimore 6-4.
With Joey Gallo and Josh Donaldson on the COVID-IL, the decision was made to stick to DJ LeMahieu getting a day off, this consistent rest schedule that the Yankees have clearly decided is more important than any one game. We can now debate how good an idea that is, as while DJ did get a pinch-hit appearance late in the game, the lineup was awful, awful thin.
Let’s start with the positives. Aaron Judge got things going early:
That’s his sixth long ball in 11 games, pacing a hot streak that’s turned him into must-watch TV. It feels hard to ask even more of Aaron Judge this season, but he’s going to have to keep up this pace with so many issues with the lineup.
Now you might think this is an unfair burden to ask of Judge. He’s the best player in the game right now, and everyone cools off eventually. No one man can drag a baseball team to the playoffs, eventually the supporting cast is going to have to help out.
Or, then again, maybe not:
Two home runs, his fourth multi-home run game of the year, and a tie game. I said on Twitter that I am running out of superlatives for Judge’s season. His hot streaks in 2017 were some of the most dominant runs I’ve ever seen in baseball, and his hot streaks this year seem even more locked in. Yeah, one guy probably can’t drag a team to the playoffs himself, but one guy plus one or two random contributors a night might be able to.
Jose Trevino did his part with an RBI single, but outside of that the rest of the lineup managed just a single hit through the first six innings. I think we all knew that with no Joey Gallo, no Josh Donaldson and no LeMahieu it was gonna be a tough slog at the plate but, knowing ahead of time is one thing, seeing with your own eyes is another.
Gerrit Cole was stellar except for about twelve minutes of his start. Strong, quick first inning, two strikeouts in the second inning, then recording all six of his outs in the fourth and fifth on strikeouts. He did give up a solo shot in the sixth, but 11 strikeouts against 0 walks should speak for itself.
The problem was a deeply, deeply weird third inning.
Four runs came across on five hits and a fielder’s choice. He left three sliders over the plate early in the inning, one was hit hard, and otherwise that seemed to spook him in the third. He fell back hard on the fastball, throwing it 50 percent of the time in the frame, and while only one mistake was put in play, the O’s seemed able to time it, albeit with some funky swings:
You can see that only one of these fastballs was really a strike, which is part of what made that bad third inning so odd. You just shouldn’t be able to hit a couple of these pitches for damage, but the Orioles did, and by the end of the inning it was 4-2.
Cole’s ERA for the season went up by half a run because of tonight, but his FIP only 0.1. You don’t have 11:0 K:BB games by accident. Yeah, the third was weird, the solo shot happens with Cole, I wouldn’t worry too much about the start tonight. It’s not what you want out of your ace, but the guts of this machine are fine.
The only other thing I want to focus on for a second is the bottom of the ninth, where Marwin González was kept in the game, down two with one on and one out, and Miguel Andújar on the bench. You can’t make an out in that situation, so throw out batting average. OBP is king here, get on, turn the lineup over, get Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge a swing.
Over the last three years, Marwin has reached base, made fewer outs as a percentage of PAs, than Miggy has. In their 2022 projections, Miggy is pegged to reach base more often. The Yankees have more sophisticated projections than we do, specifically around handiness, swing planes, etc, but here’s an instance where you have to make a call of the track record, which favored leaving Marwin in, and the projections, which favored a pinch-hit.
Marwin hit into a game ending double play, so, who knows? Maybe Miggy would have struck out and Rizzo would have gotten a chance to hit. Maybe Miggy would have reached, in support of the projections but in spite of the track record. That’s baseball, Suzyn.
The offense is less one-dimensional and more just a one-man show, but if we can’t expect much production, Jordan Montgomery should feel right at home tomorrow. He’ll get the ball as the Yankees look to even up this series, with first pitch coming at 7:05 pm Eastern.