It is amazing how quickly a game can go from in-control to spinning out at 100 miles per hour. Everything seemed to be going fairly well for most of the first half of the game. For most of the second half of the game, it looked more like the aforementioned car crash. Then, the offense somehow pulled the careening car out of a slide and managed to correct it back onto course.
The Yankees managed to get on the board early with a Rizzo solo home run in the first inning. Following quickly after that in the third, Judge hit his 40th home run of the season to score LeMahieu, who had walked. It has been nice to see that LeMahieu has gotten back on track after a disappointing season last year. With him providing solid on-base skills, it allows Judge to do all the more damage when he hits a mammoth blast. At the end of the third inning, the Yankees led the Royals by three.
For the first four innings, Gerrit Cole cruised through the Kansas City Royals’ hitters. In the first at-bat, Aaron Judge managed to snag a would-be home run in right field off of MJ Melendez’s bat. It was an amazing catch, and helped ensure that the game did not start out badly for Cole. The Royals’ players were making some good contact, but they were not making any consistent contact through the first four innings.
The wheels came off for Cole in the fifth inning. To a certain extent, he is not responsible for the results. The official scorers gave him five earned runs in the inning, but some of the blame rests with the Yankee defense. During this inning, he got two quick outs when trouble started to brew. Maikel Garcia got his first major league hit when IKF double-clutched a ball. Two more singles followed quickly after to load the bases.
Whitt Merrifield then hit a single to score two runs. At this point, the Yankees were still up three to two. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Salvador Perez returned from the injured list today. With the runners on first and third bases, he hit a towering home run to center field. This was no cheap shop — He got all of that 100 mph fastball. Here’s where you can hang the inning on Cole — the defense left him out there longer than he should’ve been, but the ace needed to shut the door after the initial stumble and he couldn’t.
On a positive note, Aroldis Chapman had a scoreless inning in relief. Even better, it was a 1-2-3 inning with strikeout. Maybe there is some hope that he might finally be starting to round into the regular Chapman. The Yankees could certainly use the old version of him with the injuries that they have faced.
For a lot of the game, there was a real risk that the game would be delayed. They played through a lot of the game with rain spritzing down. Before the beginning of the eighth inning, after a lot of messing around with drying agents, the umpires finally had the tarp brought out. After a relatively brief rain delay, Albert Abreu pitched for the Yankees in the eighth. He has been providing some very good relief pitching since he came back from the Rangers/Royals. This trend continued today, when apart from a single, he managed to keep the game within reach.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees started to threaten with a Rizzo dribbler and a Torres liner for singles. Josh Donaldson then hit a ball to Royals shortstop Maikel Garcia, who could not handle the ball. He reached on Garcia’s error. With the bases loaded, Andrew Benintendi came to the plate and hit a ground ball to first base, but he managed to pull Nick Pratto far enough to his right to reach. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was Benintendi’s first hit with the Yankees and it scored a run. With the bases still loaded, Aaron Hicks came to the plate and worked a walk to tie the game. The baton passed to IKF, and he came up clutch with a single to give the Yankees the lead for the first time since the fifth inning, with the Yankees up by one. With the bases still loaded, Jose Trevino hit a dribbler which scored another run, but resulted in an out for him at first base.
DJ LeMahieu managed to walk to load up the bases again. Judge then came up to unload the bases with a grand salami of epic proportions. With that home run, he sits at 41 home runs, tied for the most home runs by a Yankee before August — with two games to spare. Even better, this home run put the game at 11-5, Yankees leading. After a couple more singles, the inning ended with a Josh Donaldson popup. Wandy Peralta was brought in to pitch the ninth inning, and with a little bit of heartburn, he managed to pitch a scoreless ninth.
For much of the night, I would have said that everything sucked. However, a miraculous eighth inning managed salve my angry soul. In fact, I feel like my emotions have gone through a roller coaster of highs and lows. I went from the high of Aaron Judge giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead to the low of Cole giving up a five spot. Then another high when the Yankees retook the lead in the eighth. With this win officially in the book, I can say that this has been one of the more emotionally exhausting games. All’s well that ends well. I don’t know about anyone else, but I need a nap.