It’s hard to get much more frustrating than losing 1) a winnable game against a subpar opponent, and 2) your MVP right fielder for at least 10 days in the span of one night, but that’s what happened for the Yankees on Tuesday. It’ll be a little while until Aaron Judge comes back, and as DJ LeMahieu unfortunately demonstrated late last year, the Yankees will have to be very careful with how they handle the toe injury recovery. Those things are so finicky and yet vital to hitting mechanics.
A few other American League rivals had better luck on Tuesday. Others didn’t. One had a very mixed bag. Let’s run through it.
Tampa Bay Rays (44-19) 7, Minnesota Twins (31-30) 0
In another season, a matchup of two division leaders would be a highly-regarded showdown. But in this one, it’s a mismatch with the Twins playing on the road and barely over .500, while the Rays are on pace to win over 110 games.
Sure enough, Tampa Bay brought the lumber after three shutout innings from Minnesota’s Louie Varland. Luke Raley led off the fourth with a triple and scored on a single by Randy Arozarena. A walk and a fly out later, Christian Bethancourt drove Arozarena in, and a squeeze play made it 3-0. The next time up, Raley made the run-scoring process a bit more straightforward by obliterating a Varland pitch 450 feet to dead center:
Raley didn’t even win the Rays’ longest drive contest, though. In the seventh, Jose Siri launched a 457-foot shot:
Per the esteemed Sarah Langs, it was the first time since Statcast began tracking in 2015 that the Rays clubbed multiple 450-foot homers in a single game. Sounds about right.
Toronto Blue Jays (34-28) 5, Houston Astros (36-25) 1
The Blue Jays made the tough decision to send Opening Day starter and 2022 AL Cy Young Award contender Alek Manoah down to the minors to work out his horrible slump at their Florida complex. So his expected co-ace/actual ace Kevin Gausman took the ball on Tuesday night against Houston and made a statement. Unlike Manoah, Gausman has been cruising with a terrific start to 2023, so he wasn’t fazed when he gave up a leadoff homer to Mauricio Dubón. As it turned out, the Dubón dinger became the Astros’ only run of the night.
Gausman tied a career high with 13 strikeouts as he emphatically shut down the powerful Houston lineup, holding them to just three singles and no walks in seven innings after Dubón went deep. I can’t imagine trying to hit this:
Toronto didn’t explode on offense, as they mustered just three hits of their own off rookie Hunter Brown. But they made their knocks count, as both Daulton Varsho and George Springer went yard against him to give the Jays the lead. Bo Bichette joined in on the fun with a solo shot off Rafael Montero in the eighth to give Toronto some insurance, and the Jays got a much-needed win.
Milwaukee Brewers (33-28) 4, Baltimore Orioles (37-23) 3 (10 innings)
The O’s had the Brew Crew right where they wanted them. Aaron Hicks’ first homer in a Baltimore uniform had tied the game at 2-2 in the second, and with Kyle Gibson settled down after a two-run first from Milwaukee, the Orioles grabbed a seventh-inning lead on an opposite-field solo shot from another scrap heap contributor, DH Ryan O’Hearn.
The dinger allowed Brandon Hyde to begin the “game shutdown” process with his somewhat-surprising three-headed monster of Danny Coulombe, Yennier Cano, and Félix Bautista. Things didn’t go as planned though, as Coulombe needed 22 pitches to record just two outs in the seventh while putting a pair of runners on. Cano cleaned up by striking out Brian Anderson, but that meant he would likely need to get three more outs on top of that to hand the baton to Bautista.
Former Yankees farmhand Blake Perkins worked a leadoff walk in the eighth, stole second on a strikeout, and scored the tying run when rookie Brice Turang lined a clean hit to center.
Turang swiped second himself and Cano had to do work to escape the inning, but he did the job by fanning fellow rookie Joey Wiemer and getting a groundout from Owen Miller. Perfect frames from Bautista and Milwaukee’s Devin Williams sent this game into extras.
Queens native Peter Strzelecki notched two strikeouts and a fly out to strand Baltimore’s zombie runner in the top of the 10th, so the Brewers just had to get a hit off Austin Voth to walk it off. Perkins popped up and Turang went down on strikes, so it was up to Wiemer to atone for his earlier missed opportunity. The center fielder did exactly that, lining a ball to the left-field corner to put Milwaukee back in first place in the NL Central after a brief takeover by the Pirates.
So the Yankees at least did not lose any ground to the Orioles, who remain two games in front of them but sit 5.5 back of the first-place Rays in the AL East (the Yankees are at 7.5 games behind, two up on Toronto).
Texas Rangers (40-20) 6, St. Louis Cardinals (25-37) 4: It would have been easy for the Rangers to deflate like a balloon upon hearing the crushing news that recently-signed ace Jacob deGrom would need season-ending Tommy John surgery. But they’re quietly (thank the Rays) off to the best start in franchise history for a reason, and they won again on Tuesday to become the second team to 40 victories. deGrom’s replacement, Dane Dunning, recovered nicely after a first-inning blast from Nolan Arenado put St. Louis up by two, and the high-power Rangers offense took over.
Nathaniel Lowe tied it in the third on a homer and Marcus Semien cleared the bases on a fourth-inning double to extend his hitting streak to 25 games in a row, tied for the second-longest in franchise history. Adolis García put the cherry on top by slugging his 15th dinger of the season, and though each of Willson Contreras and Jordan Walker went deep off Dunning in the sixth to chip away, the Rangers bullpen threw no-hit ball to get the final 10 outs.
Boston Red Sox (31-30) 5, Cleveland Guardians (27-33) 4: Behind good work from Shane Bieber and Sam Hentges, the Guardians led this one for most of the way, as a pair of RBI doubles gave them a 2-0 lead in the first. But James Paxton held tough for Boston and didn’t allow another run across his seven innings, and with the score 2-1 in the top of the eighth, the normally steady Enyel De Los Santos imploded for Cleveland. He didn’t record a single out, and successor Nick Sandlin didn’t fare much better. Here’s the damage:
Justin Turner double
Rafael Devers walk
Triston Casas single
Kiké Hernández walk (tie game)
Rob Refsnyder single (3-2, Boston)
Pablo Reyes single (4-2, Boston)
A sacrifice fly off James Karinchak gave Boston a fifth run, which they needed when Cleveland rallied for two of their own off Chris Martin. Kenley Jansen retired the side in order in the ninth for his 404th career save. Cleveland is six games under .500 and yet only 3.5 back of the Twins in the AL Central. Pathetic.
Seattle Mariners (30-30) 4, San Diego Padres (28-33) 1: The M’s have been disappointing in 2023, but they’re nothing compared to the offseason’s high-flying Padres. The San Diego lineup mustered just one run on three hits against Logan Gilbert in seven innings, and while Joe Musgrove also held Seattle to a single run, his high pitch count forced him from the game after five. That let Teoscar Hernández launch a Brent Honeywell offering 420 feet to give the M’s the lead. Julio Rodríguez chimed in with a blast of his own in the eighth off Steven Wilson, and Seattle held on.