Maybe an extra night’s rest was all this Yankees offense needed to reset from their lethargic performance in Houston. The bats struck early and often, providing a much-needed cushion as Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman (especially the latter) looked far from invincible for stretches in this contest. Thanks in part to two blasts from Matt Carpenter, it was a bit of a laugher in the end with the Yankees bashing their way to a 13-4 victory, but there was plenty of intrigue in getting us there.
The Yankees made sure that Guardians starter Kirk McCarty knew what he was in for from the word go, putting on a pair in the first via a DJ LeMahieu leadoff walk and Gleyber Torres one-out single. However, a Giancarlo Stanton inning-ending GIDP gave the rookie pitcher a temporary reprieve. In the bottom half, Amed Rosario walked with one out but was thrown out by Jose Trevino trying to steal second.
The afternoon briefly took an ugly turn for Cole in the second, giving up back-to-back home runs to Josh Naylor and Franmil Reyes to open the frame. One could be forgiven for fearing another Minnesota-esque meltdown — the now infamous contest when he gave up seven runs on five long balls in just 2.1 innings (including three-straight bombs to open the ballgame).
The thing about that fateful game against the Twins is that the Yankees won, with the offense picking up their ace. They seemed determined to replicate the feat this afternoon, with LeMahieu getting the Bombers on the board with one out in the third. After fouling off three straight two-strike pitches, he powered an elevated 3-2 fastball out oppo in prototypical DJ fashion.
The floodgates opened for the Yankees after that preliminary blow. Aaron Judge and Torres followed LeMahieu’s home run with back-to-back walks, and doubleheader 27th man Miguel Andújar singled the former home on a soft liner to left.
Richie Palacios’ off-target throw home allowed Torres and Andújar to move up to second and third, and both scored on an Aaron Hicks single punched out to the opposite field. Although I’m certain that this is far from the start to the season Hicks had hoped for, he has provided the Yankees with some timely hits with runners in scoring position in recent weeks. And while I’ll stop short of labeling it a full-blown RISP renaissance, it nonetheless is an encouraging development to see the veteran’s production tick up.
Pitching with a 4-2 lead allowed Cole to settle into the outing, and he navigated around a walk in the third and double in the fourth to log a pair of scoreless frames before retiring the side in order in the fifth and sixth.
The Guardians brought Anthony Gose in for the sixth and the Yankees feasted. Hicks led off with a walk before Carpenter crushed a 1-0 fastball to right-center for a two-run bomb.
Carpenter is now the owner of an absurd one home run per seven plate appearances pace after averaging one home run every 60 PAs in 2020-21. He also became the first player in MLB history to have seven of his first ten hits in a season go over the fence. His afternoon wasn’t over yet, either.
New York was far from finished in the frame, putting runners on second and third thanks to a two-out walk from LeMahieu followed by a Judge double. Torres continued his hot day at the plate, lining his third single of the game — this time off reliever Anthony Castro — to plate LeMahieu and Judge and give the Yankees an 8-2 lead.
Even with this six-run cushion, the Bombers’ bats did not relent. Andújar led off the seventh by reaching on an Andrés Giménez error — his fourth line drive of the game. Hicks and Carpenter followed with a pair of singles, the latter plating Andújar. A Trevino double-play ball allowed Hicks to score, giving the Yankees lineup its 12th double-digit showing this year after logging just six such efforts all of last season.
Cole’s outing ended after six innings. As much as the start of the game felt like déjà vu less than a month after that Twins game, to Cole’s credit he made the necessary adjustments to get the start back on track — something he was unable to do in Minnesota. He continues to have issues with his cutter running armside instead of cutting, which is exactly what happened on the pitch Naylor hit out. He didn’t throw another cutter all game, instead leaning on the slider and knucklecurve for whiffs. The ace’s final line: six innings, three hits, two runs, three walks, and six strikeouts on 107 pitches.
Aaron Boone replaced him with Aroldis Chapman, making his first appearance in 41 days after going down with Achilles inflammation in late-May. Even pitching with an eight-run cushion, Chapman tried his best to torpedo the Yankees’ lead, walking all three batters he faced before being unceremoniously pulled for Ron Marinaccio. Chapman’s outing mirrored the issues he faced prior to the injury. He has no idea where the fastball is going, forcing him to lean exclusively on the slider to simply throw strikes, except this time he couldn’t even manage to find the zone with the bender.
Although Marinaccio retired the three batters he faced (while dealing with “dead arm,” per Boone), the Guardians did manage to push across a pair of runs to cut the Yankees lead to 10-4. The Yankees scratched one of those back in the eighth on Torres’ third RBI of the afternoon. LeMahieu and Judge reached on a single and walk respectively, and a Torres fielder’s choice plated LeMahieu to make it 11-4, Bombers.
The bullpen made sure we didn’t tune out early, with Lucas Luetge working into and out of a mess in the eighth. He loaded the bases with two outs, but managed to strikeout Sandy León to leave them juiced.
The Yankees treated us to one final fusillade, with Carpenter and Trevino going back-to-back with solo blasts in the ninth off position player Ernie Clement. Make that 8 out of Carpenter’s 11 hits as a Yankee to leave the yard, bringing his pace to an even more bonkers one home run per just over six plate appearances.
This team continues to prove it can win games in a multitude of manners. Early in the season, it was stellar pitching providing a lift to an at times misfiring offense. This time, it was the offense who picked up their pitchers, which will hopefully be a shot in the arm for the rest of this series and the longer road trip as a whole. It’s the Yankees’ 25th comeback victory of the season, and they remain the only team in baseball with a winning record in games in which they trailed.
Make sure to stick around for Game 2 of the doubleheader later today. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM with Nestor Cortes set to face Aaron Civale.