The Yankees’ offense has been running hot and cold the past few weeks. They dropped 13 runs on Houston in their two wins and scored just a pair of runs total in their three losses, and most recently, they plated 19 in Cleveland during a Saturday doubleheader before getting blanked on one measly hit the next day. After being held to two runs in a series-opening loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the feast-or-famine approach was tested again.
The verdict: feast. Oh boy howdy, was it a feast.
How did we get to this oddball moment of switch-hitter Aaron Hicks going righty-on-righty for a grand slam against a position player pitching to put the Yankees up by 14? It was a less obvious route than one might initially suspect to the team’s biggest shutout win in 62 years; this was a scoreless game until the fifth inning and was still somewhat within reach for Pittsburgh by the seventh. But the Yankees put the Pirates away (and then some) to earn the two-game series split.
Both ballclubs had to shake off a 69-minute rain delay before getting underway, and while the Yankees went down in order during their half of the first, the Pirates made Luis Severino sweat right away. Ke’Bryan Hayes led off with a single to center and 2021 All-Star Bryan Reynolds lined a double to right. Sevy then fell behind 3-0 on Jack Suwinski, and while the jam was already bad, one more wild one would’ve loaded the bases with no one out.
Severino didn’t get to where he is today by shirking from challenges though. He got a called strike and then Suwinski popped up to Gleyber Torres on a 3-1 offering. Fresh off a homer last night, Daniel Vogelbach nonetheless went down on strikes and Yoshi Tsutsugo hit a first-pitch grounder to end the inning.
Sevy’s hard work gave the Yankees a chance to take an early lead. Instead, the offense chose to continue the aforementioned trend from Tuesday by squandering terrific opportunities of their own against Pittsburgh starter Mitch Keller, who is not exactly 2015 Gerrit Cole out there. Torres doubled and Josh Donaldson hit a hard single to begin the second, but Joey Gallo struck out and Isiah Kiner-Falefa bounced into a double play. (Surprise, surprise.) An inning later, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge got consecutive singles to set up a chance for the streaking Matt Carpenter. Yet he had the same result as IKF, as the Pirates turned two on Carp’s roller.
In the fifth, fate intervened to slow the lineup’s strange return to its 2021-esque stylings. Gallo and Kiner-Falefa reached back-to-back to start the frame. No, really! Gallo walked and IKF grounded a single on a hit-and-run. The improbable stretch didn’t continue with Kyle Higashioka, but Kiner-Falefa swiped second on the K. Next up was the steady LeMahieu — a gentleman who has no interest whatsoever in regressing to 2021 mode.
LeMahieu’s hit made it 2-0 as the Yankees scored first for the first time since June 28th. It could’ve been more too, as Judge followed with a booming double to the right-center-field wall, but the combination of a bad LeMahieu read and questionable Luis Rojas send led to an out at the plate. Carpenter whiffed to end the inning, but the Yankees had that precious lead.
One of the reasons why the Bombers were able to jump ahead was because of Severino’s complete turnaround from that first-inning jam. After the bumpy start, he retired 18 of the next 20 batters he faced. The 28-year-old right-hander had solid stuff on Wednesday, but since he only got three strikeouts, he relied on grounders and soft contact to work through the Pirates’ lineup. That involved some nice plays behind him from Torres and Donaldson, who helped Sevy complete six shutout innings.
Sure, Pittsburgh was a lesser opponent than the Toronto and Houston offenses that got to Severino for 10 runs in his last 17 innings, but you can only pitch against the team you draw on a given day. Sevy deserves credit for rebounding in multiple ways to get the job done.
On the topic of rebounding, entering play on Wednesday, the Yankees’ three worst hitters since the start of June were Donaldson (64 wRC+), Higashioka (72 wRC+), and Gallo (76 wRC+). All three hitters were in need of a jolt, and thanks to Keller and Pirates reliever Tyler Beede, all three got it.
Thank-you letters may be directed to the following address:
115 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Judge obviously wasn’t slumping as badly as those guys, but he was in a 4-for-27 skid since his walk-off homer against the Astros on June 26th. Manny Bañuelos was in for his first outing with the Pirates after his trade from the Yankees earlier this week. He didn’t bring his best stuff to his Bucco debut though, and when Judge got a chance to face him with the bases loaded, he didn’t miss.
Just like that, Judge had a three-hit night and his 30th homer of the season. As a reminder, it is July 6th. The man is doing something special this year.
The Pirates didn’t want to use any further pitchers in a 10-0 ballgame, so in the ninth, out trotted infielder Josh VanMeter ... and up went the fireworks for the Yankees. Hicks ripped a grand slam of his own, Stanton slashed his 21st homer, and Higashioka put a bow on it with an RBI hit to center. The final score was a downright comical 16-0. Frankly, you love to see it.
The Yankees will now head northeast to Boston for their first trip to Fenway of 2022 and first head-to-head with the Red Sox since Opening Day weekend. It’s been a minute! Yes, there will be 16 Yankees/Red Sox games over season’s final three months. Best of luck to us all. Gerrit Cole gets the nod against Josh Winckowski with first pitch coming at 7:10pm ET.