While you can quibble with a couple games here and there, the first half of the Yankees’ 2022 season could not have gone much better for them. Going into the All-Star break, they had a 64-28 record, sitting 13 games up in the AL East.
While we are into the second half now, let’s stop and take a second to take a look back before we get too deep into it. Let’s find the most consequential plays of the first half of the Yankees’ season.
In order to do that, we’re going to use Championship Win Probability Added. If you’re unaware, cWPA is a stat that measures how much the result of a game, play, player, etc, impacted a team’s chances of winning the World Series. In this countdown, we’re going to look at the five plays that positively or (in one case) negatively impacted the Yankees’ chances. If you’re wondering why a certain play’s not on the list, it’s because it didn’t surpass any of the top five. Let’s see what they were.
5. May 2nd: Gleyber Torres’ ninth inning go-ahead single (+0.29% cWPA)
The Yankees may have won nine in a row coming into a May 2nd meeting with Toronto, but the Jays were right there with them record-wise when the teams met north of the border. While Gleyber Torres had given the Yankees the lead with a fourth inning home run, that was quickly answered in the bottom half of the inning.
The game stayed tied until the ninth inning, when Giancarlo Stanton led off with a single, with Tim Locastro coming in to pinch-run. A couple batters later, Locastro was now on second, but the Yankees were also down to their last out of the inning. Gleyber Torres then stepped to the plate and delivered a possible turning point in the season.
The Yankees hung on in the bottom of the ninth and won to go up 2.5 games over the Jays. They’ve gone 5-2 against Toronto since that game, regularly putting up wins against a team seen as the AL East preseason favorite.
4. April 23rd: Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s game-tying single (+0.30% cWPA)
Sitting at just 8-6 early in the season, the Yankees played a very 2021 game against the Guardians on April 23rd. They had failed to take advantage of a good Nestor Cortes performance, needing a seventh inning run to take a slim 3-2 lead. They then lost that lead in the eighth (more on that in a moment), and went into the ninth down a run.
Down to their last three outs, Josh Donaldson drew a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Tim Locastro, who would steal second. However, Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase bounced back with a pair of outs, putting Cleveland on the verge of a win. With the game left up to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the Yankees’ shortstop delivered a game-tying hit.
The rest of the game was eventful for both in-game reasons and, uh other ones, but Gleyber Torres would win the game with a single in the next at-bat.
3. June 2nd: Anthony Rizzo’s eighth inning, go-ahead single (+0.31% cWPA)
This game will always be more remembered for Jameson Taillon’s near perfect game, but how it ended up playing out might be forgotten. As Taillon was going for history, the Yankees couldn’t find him a lead. In the eighth inning, his perfecto was broken up by a Jared Walsh lead-off double. Even worse was a couple batters later, Kurt Suzuki singled, bringing home a run. In just a couple batters, Taillon went from chasing perfection to being in line for the loss.
Thankfully, his offense finally got their heads together in the bottom of the eighth.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Anthony Rizzo delivered a single that scored two runs. That flipped the score, with Clay Holmes going on to finish off a win in the ninth.
2. April 23rd: Chad Green allows go-ahead home run (-0.32% cWPA)
Number two on the list was actually a negative one from a game we’ve already mentioned. Before Kiner-Falefa and Torres’ heroics, the Yankees lost the lead in a fairly catastrophic manner.
While Chad Green allowed a single to start the eighth, he then retired the next two hitters, getting on the verge of escaping the winning with the Yankees still in front 3-2. Austin Hedges then stepped to the plate. Green quickly went up 1-2 in the count, but couldn’t get Hedges to chase, as the count went full. On the sixth pitch of the at bat, Cleveland delivered a seemingly devastating blow.
While the Yankees went on to win the game, it was a big enough swing in the moment to have a pretty big effect on cWPA.
1. May 10th: Aaron Judge’s walk-off home run (+0.64% cWPA)
The Yankees had gotten off to a good start through May 9th, sitting at 20-8 and three games up in the AL East. They had an 11-game winning streak that had just been snapped six days before, and were in a very good position. In the next four games, though, they went 2-2, scoring just six runs total, and there was still an air of “well, are they that much better than last season?” The events of May 10th helped changed that notion.
The Yankees were down 5-3 to the Blue Jays going into the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium. To try and get the win, Toronto brought in closer Jordan Romano, who, just a few days prior, had wriggled out of a big jam to shut the door on the Yankees. He got off to a good start on this night, quickly striking out Isiah Kiner-Falefa to start the inning. Romano was then a strike away from retiring Jose Trevino, but he lost the zone and ended up walking both him and DJ LeMahieu.
That brought Aaron Judge to the plate. While Judge has had plenty of marquee moments in his Yankee career, he had yet to hit a walk-off home run up to that point. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, that changed.
In the blink of an eye, the Yankees went from potentially just two games up in the division to four. The lead hasn’t been that low since, and the homer added nearly two-thirds of a percent to the Yankees’ championship probability. A fitting play to top this list.