You know what’s fun? Grand slams. You know what’s also fun? Winning both games of a doubleheader. You know what’s the most fun? The Yankees sweeping the doubleheader over the Twins on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s first career grand slam (after winning the wild opener, 5-4). Yup, you read that right: IKF. Grand slam. All part of a dominant 7-1 win.
The Yankees came in with a clear plan to run up Joe Ryan’s pitch count early, with Aaron Hicks working a 13-pitch AB to set the tone for the rest of the night. Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres followed with back-to-back walks and a successful two-out double steal. However, working Ryan’s pitch count to 34 was all they’d accomplish in the inning.
Gerrit Cole was dealing through the 2.2 innings, striking out five with overpowering fastballs and vicious sliders. However, with two outs in the third, he grooved a hanging slider to Carlos Correa, and looking back to the five-homer game in June, we know what happens when you do that. Correa launched a solo shot to left to open the scoring. The inning came a bit unraveled after that, Cole surrendering a walk and a single, but he dialed it in to strike out Gio Urshela looking.
That final out of the third got him back in the groove, and he struck out the side in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Yankees offense couldn’t follow suit. They had to wait until the fourth for their first hit of the contest, but sometimes one is all it takes for the floodgates to open.
Torres led off the frame with a walk, and Oswaldo Cabrera singled right after him. Marwin Gonzalez walked to load the bases for Kiner-Falefa, who lasered the first pitch he saw into the seats in left for his first career grand slam.
Aside from that offensive outburst, this game was all about Cole. Seemingly on a mission to punish the Twins for subjecting him to the humiliation of that aforementioned five-homer game back in June, the Yankees’ ace seemingly got better with each successive inning. The slider and cutter got crushed in that earlier game, with Cole himself admitting that his failure to establish the fastball (in addition to his breaking balls backing up all night) were the culprits for his troubles.
It should surprise no one then that Cole made a point of throwing his fastball a lot, and boy was it a good one tonight. He was able to throw it by the Twins hitters all night long as it was operating with a half-tick more velocity and inch more rise than his season averages. The slider also continued to be the dominant weapon it’s been over the last two months, inducing a 53-percent whiff rate tonight. All told, Cole induced 23 whiffs, going 6.2 innings while allowing a run on 5 hits and 2 walks against a season-high 14 strikeouts on a season-high 118 pitches.
Filthy 14. @GerritCole45 pic.twitter.com/fMy5wEMq0S— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 8, 2022
Neither side could manage much offensively after those fourth inning fireworks until Twins reliever Austin Davis lost the ability to throw strikes with two outs in the eighth. He issued three straight walks to load the bases again, this time for Hicks to be the unlikely provider. Provide he did, lacing a line-drive double down the left field line to clear the bases and give the Yankees a 7-1 lead.
Lucas Luetge came in to relieve Cole in the seventh and gave the Yankees 2.1 innings of indispensable relief, especially in the second game of a doubleheader. He held the Twins scoreless to finish out the game, racking up three strikeouts with the cutter, slider, and curveball all looking as sharp as they have all season.
The doubleheader sweep gives the Yankees a four-game winning streak to go along with their five-game winning streak a week ago. They’re 5 games up on the Rays with 25 games to go. Perhaps these are signs that the club is turning things around in time to finish the regular season strong?
The Yankees go for the four-game sweep of the series tomorrow, with Nestor Cortes set to come off the IL to face former Yankee Sonny Gray. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET, so be sure to join us in the game thread.