The Yankees experienced a nice change of pace from the pressure cooker that were both the series at home against the Tampa Bay Rays, and on the road, in Toronto, and the ballclub took advantage of it. They led from the first all the way to the ninth, and taking the opener in Cincinnati, 5-2.
The recipe of Great American Ball Park and a struggling pitcher in Clarke Schmidt against a veteran journeyman (Ben Lively) making his first start of the year fed a particular narrative. However, if anything, this was a pretty entertaining pitcher’s duel, with both arms limiting hard contact successfully.
Aaron Judge started the scoring, taking Lively deep, to dead-center, in the bottom of the first inning, on a blast that traveled far enough (431 ft.) to be a homer in all 30 MLB parks.
We are once again asking you to rise. pic.twitter.com/2Gg4kXzwyn— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 19, 2023
At this point, praising the reigning AL MVP feels like raining on wet ground, but the level Judge is currently playing at is just bonkers. Here’s a guy that missed time with an IL stint, and still entered play tonight with 12 bombs, a combined 56 runs and RBI, and a .993 OPS.
After the Judge homer, the Yankees offense decided to take a collective nap for the majority of the next several innings. Rizzo followed with a single, but after that, Lively retired a whopping 16 straight, until Judge walked with two outs in the sixth, to drive the Reds’ starter away from the game.
Both starters pitched very well, but more than that, ended up leaving with a sour taste in their mouth, as each saw inherited runners coming home, in an eventful sixth frame. Judge came around to score on that two-out walk as Anthony Rizzo crushed a ball to deep left, off reliever Ian Gibaut, to give the Yankees, at the time, a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, now with a three-run lead, Schmidt was nearing the end of his night, but Aaron Boone decided to send him out for one more, against the top of the order. Two batters later, the Reds had second and third, with a single, and double, and Schmidt was out of the game.
In hindsight, since the young right-hander wouldn’t have the leeway of a veteran, in case the Reds’ offense threatened, it would have probably been wiser to take him out with five scoreless, in line for the win. However, you know what they say about hindsight.
Both of those runners came around to score, and the Reds looked poised to take the lead, as Jimmy Cordero allowed the first two batters he faced, to get on. Nevertheless, with a couple of perfectly timed strikeouts, the Yankees’ reliever managed to keep the Yankees in front, 3-2.
With the book closed on the Yankees’ starter, Schmidt ended his night with five-plus innings, five hits, a couple of earned runs, a couple of walks, and six punch outs.
Despite a shaky zone, Schmidt’s sinker did really well, earning 10 called strikes, and the slider generated five whiffs on 12 swings. With those two pitches functioning well, Schmidt has a clear path to improve moving forward.
Outside the two runs in the sixth, the only time the Reds really threatened was in the third, with two on, and one out. But Kyle Higashioka caught Henry Ramos trying to steal third, and after a strikeout of Jonathan India, the inning was over.
Higashioka, along with pinch-hitter DJ LeMahieu, both wasted the opportunity to improve the Yankees lead, hitting with two men on, in the seventh. But, with baseball being prone to second chances, Higgy came up with a similar scenario, this time in the ninth inning.
The Yankees’ catcher was facing Silvino Bracho, with runners at first and second, and two outs, looking to give the Yanks some insurance runs. Higashioka did just that, driving a double to the left-field wall, upping the lead to 5-2, and completely changing the landscape for the bottom of the ninth. Bader added another one for good measure, with a RBI single.
Clay Holmes was already set to come in for the save situation, but with a four-run lead, Aaron Boone decided to give him a breather and went to Nick Ramirez for the ninth.
Once again the bullpen was strong, covering four scoreless, with Cordero, Abreu, Peralta, and Ramirez for an inning each. The Yankees won again, moving to 27-20 on the season.
A TBA starter will get the ball tomorrow for New York, though Jhony Brito is sure to be involved in some way, whether as opener or “bulk guy.” First pitch from Cincy’s Luke Weaver comes at 4:10pm ET.