It looked like the Yankees were cruising to their 50th win of the season on Father’s Day, but alas, the Toronto lineup had other plans, knocking in seven runs across two innings to secure a 10-9 victory and avoid the sweep. That cut the Yankees’ lead in the division all the way down to just 11 games — not a bad spot to be in during the third week of June.
But there’s still more than half a season to go, and anything can happen. With that, let’s check in on the Yankees’ rivals last night.
Tampa Bay Rays (36-30) vs. Baltimore Orioles (30-38)
You have to give the Baltimore Orioles credit. In a division that had four 90-game winners last year and might see four teams in the postseason this year, nobody would have been surprised if they reached triple-digit losses for the fourth time in the last five full seasons. Instead, they’ve become very much a thorn in the side of everyone else in the American League East — headed into this weekend, they had won a three-game series against the Yankees, Red Sox, and the Rays and had split four-game sets with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.
With the weekend series tied at one apiece, everything seemed to line up in favor of the Rays yesterday afternoon. For starters, they had Corey Kluber on the mound, a two-time Cy Young winner who has had a 2.53 ERA and limited opponents to a .610 OPS since he gave up eight runs in three innings to the Angels on May 10th. The O’s, on the other hand, saw their projected starter, Jordan Lyles, scratched before the game with a stomach virus and were running out a bullpen game, with Austin Voth serving as the opener.
The Orioles jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, courtesy of an Anthony Santander solo shot, while Cedric Mullins would extend that lead to 2-0 with an RBI double in the third. That would be the extent of the scoring, and in fact, after the third inning, only two hitters reached base — Santander, who led off the sixth with a single, and Jorge Mateo, who led off the eighth by getting hit by a pitch. By all accounts, Kluber and Luke Bard pitched more than well enough to win.
Unfortunately for the Rays, although they were able to scatter nine hits against the Orioles bullpen, they were only able to bring home one run, courtesy of a Taylor Walls double in the fourth. For anyone who has watched the Orioles at all this year, this should not come as too much of a surprise: Baltimore relievers have put up 3.3 fWAR this year, third in baseball (behind the Braves and Yankees). Thanks to them, even without their starting pitcher, the Orioles were able to send the Rays packing with a 2-1 victory that nicely parallels their 2-1 series win.
Oh, and by
the way, Baltimore has now improved to 9-8 in June.
Chicago White Sox (31-33) vs. Houston Astros (41-25)
Less than a week after leaving his start 13 pitches in with a knee injury, Michael Kopech returned to the mound for the Chicago White Sox. He didn’t do particularly well against Houston’s potent lineup, allowing four runs on seven hits — including a pair of home runs — in five innings, but he did get through the start healthy, which is the most important thing the White Sox could have asked for last night.
The Astros struck first, stringing together three hits — all singles — to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Rookie J.J. Matijevic extended the lead to 2-0 with his first career home run in the bottom of the fourth. Luis Roberts would cut that lead in half with an RBI double in the top of the fifth, but Mauricio Dubón (he of the 57 OPS+ this season) belted a two-run shot in the bottom half of the inning to undo that and more, giving the Stros a 4-1 lead.
From this point on, neither offense was able to get much going until the top of the eighth, when Héctor Neris came on in relief for Houston. Luis Robert singled to open the frame, coming around to score two batters later on an AJ Pollock triple — Pollock himself would score on the very next batter when Jake Burger grounded out to second base. Just like that, the deficit was down to one.
Unfortunately, that’s where the game would end, as Ryan Pressly worked around a leadoff walk to close the door in the ninth inning and record his 13th save of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals (38-30) vs. Boston Red Sox (36-31)
The first two games of the weekend were a rollercoaster for the Boston Red Sox. They cruised out to a 6-1 lead on Friday night before giving up four ninth-inning runs and almost blowing the game, while on Saturday night, they found themselves on the receiving end of an 11-2 laughter. Looking to take their fifth straight series, they turned yesterday afternoon to Nick Pivetta, who has somehow — to the astonishment of someone who watched him pitch as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies when he was in college — established himself as a reliable No. 2-3 starter this season. St. Louis countered with the 23-year-old Andre Pallante, making just his third career start.
Much of the afternoon was very much a pitcher’s duel. Boston got on the board first with a second inning solo shot off the bat of Trevor Story, while Harrison Bader (who went to high school in the Bronx) drove in Tyler O’Neill with two outs in the fourth to tie it up. Boston retook the lead in the fifth after Jackie Bradley Jr. singled up the middle to bring home Alex Verdugo, who was able to get a good jump off second because there were two outs. Former Yankee Rob Refsnyder would extend the lead to 3-1 with a single of his own in the seventh, while Christian Vázquez broke the game open with a three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth.
The Cards, however, would not go quietly against reliever Tyler Danish in the top of the ninth. O’Neill led off the inning with a double before being lifted for a pinch runner, Edmundo Sosa; Sosa would advance to third when Dylan Carson grounded out to first. Nolan Gorman, pinch hitting for Albert Pujols, walked to put runners on the corners with one out. After Bader flew out to left for the second out of the inning, Juan Yepez — pinch hitting for Ivan Herrera — drilled a three run shot over the Green Monster to cut the deficit to two. At this point, Boston brought in Tanner Houck, who appears to be in the process of becoming their closer, to keep it there, and Boston would escape with a 6-4 victory.
Minnesota Twins (38-30) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (32-36)
For the second straight day, we round up daily roundup with a blowout, although this time, it’s not what you’d expect, as it was the Diamondbacks — you know, the team with the 92 OPS+ (sixth-worst in baseball) — that came out victorious in this one.
Things started off smoothly for the Twins, as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after Luis Arraez, who led off the game with a double, scored on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Carlos Correa. At this point, however, everything went downhill for them. Christian Walker tied the game up in the bottom of the second with a home run to left-center, his 17th of the season, and two innings later he gave the D-Backs the lead with his 18th. The next inning, Pavin Smith welcomed relief pitcher Griffin Jax to the game with a solo shot to lead off the fifth. In the sixth, Buddy Kennedy capped off a rally with a grand slam off Caleb Thieler to give the D-Backs a 7-1 lead.
After this point, Arizona did not score again, and in fact only had two baserunners — both of whom immediately followed the grand slam in the sixth. Fortunately, that was more than enough, as starter Merrill Kelly absolutely stymied the Minnesota offense — following Correa’s run-scoring double play in the first, Kelly allowed just three hits, and never more than one base runner per inning. Former Yankees Joe Mantiply and Ian Kennedy alongside Noé Ramirez shut the door in the eighth and ninth to cap off the series win.