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Yankees 3, Blue Jays 2: DJ LeMahieu walks us off

A pinch-hit appearance in the ninth was all the difference in the Bronx.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees won ugly.

Almost nothing happened offensively for the Yankees before their final four outs, but they were eventually able to clog up the bases and win today’s matinee with a walk-off single. DJ LeMahieu came off the bench in the ninth for a pinch-hit appearance, bounced a ball past a drawn-in five-man infield, and New York came away with a victory in a game that was otherwise super sleepy.

This was honestly a tough one to sit through for until the fireworks later on. Aaron Judge is in a bit of a slump, which happens, but with LeMahieu sitting and Gleyber Torres coming back to level after the start he had, the lineup was pretty thin with two players cut at the end of their spring training seasons now batting in the middle in of the Yankees’ starting nine (Willie Calhoun and Franchy Cordero). It was a boring, uncompetitive matchup between Alek Manoah and Yankee hitters today, as the nominal Jays ace went seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.

I remarked in the game thread that Manoah really steps up when he faces the Yankees, and he especially had a feel for his slider for seemingly the first time all season. A 50-percent whiff rate and trio of called strikes kept the Yankees off balance all day, most notably Aaron Judge who was fed a steady diet of ‘em. Manoah’s better than his ERA shows, and we saw the first glimpses of that today. Of course it helped that the Yankee lineup was pretty uninspiring.

Gerrit Cole was also strong. It’s a good day when your ERA is below one, and you leave the game with it lower than when you started. He didn’t miss bats at the rate that we expect from a Cole start, with just four strikeouts against two walks, but he managed to work around trouble in multiple innings.

I thought it was odd he was yanked with two outs in the sixth. Runners were at the corners and righty Alejandro Kirk at the plate, and it seemed like a scenario we’ve seen from Cole a lot — he gets into a bit of a pickle near the end of a start, comes up with a big strikeout, and we all remember why he’s not just the ace of the staff but one of the best pitchers in baseball. His command had been slipping through the inning, though, and he barked something at the Yankee dugout during the previous at-bat.

Regardless, 5.2 innings of shutout ball will do, and Ron Marinaccio was able to retire Kirk and end the threat. Not much else happened until the bottom of the eighth, where quite frankly, everything started to happen.

Anthony Volpe has had a solid start to his major league career, getting on a lot and being a menace on the basepaths, but these kind of hits are the ones that can launch a player to stardom. Two outs, a sluggish day for the whole club, and the rookie takes Yimi Garcia deep to give his team the lead late. It wasn’t quite a porch job either, being a dinger in seven MLB parks, and seemed to vent a little bit of pressure that had built up on the offensive side.

Wandy Peralta was asked to close out the ninth, immediately giving the lead back. Peralta’s been one of the best arms in the Yankee bullpen to start the year, but Danny Jansen golfed a two-run shot, a pinch-hit shot of his own, to tie the game in the top of the ninth:

As the YES broadcast noted, it’s been a challenge for hitters to take Peralta yard since he joined the Yankees almost exactly two years ago. This was just his eighth homer allowed in 107 innings pitched (0.67 HR/9), and he only gave up two last year. But Jansen got to him to knot things up at 2-2.

After Jimmy Cordero engineered a double play to get out of further trouble, the Yankees finally looked alive against a talented reliever in Jordan Romano. Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a double and was replaced by Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The pinch-runner had himself a heads-up baserunning play, advancing to third on Gleyber Torres’ infield single when Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette converged on the ball, leaving nobody near the third-base bag.

Romano pitched around Calhoun, unintentionally-intentionally loading the bases to set up a force at home, but DJ was just a little bit better. Yankees win.

Like I said, this was winning ugly, but they all count in the standings. After being swept aside by the Jays last night, and after Cole bent but didn’t break, and after Volpe played hero for the first of what will probably be dozens of times in his career, this would have been a terrible game to lose. They didn’t, they can win another series tomorrow with a victory, and this becomes just another number in the left side of the win/loss column.

If there ever was a time for Clarke Schmidt to right the ship this season, it’s tomorrow, as the righty will get the ball in the rubber match opposed by Kevin Gausman for the Jays. First pitch comes at 1:05pm EST as the Yankees go for their seventh series in a row without a loss to begin 2023.

Box Score