Generally speaking, when the game kicks off with a Giancarlo Stanton home run, you get a gut feeling that the vibes are just right. Stanton clubbed a ball 427 feet in the first inning, but the Yankee offense was deep and relentless after that, and they tied up this series with the division-leading Orioles on an 8-3 primetime win.
After a good first inning, we had an extremely 2023 Yankees second, where Isiah Kiner-Falefa worked a terrific 10-pitch walk to open the frame. Harrison Bader bounced the ball back to starter Tyler Wells, who got the fielder’s choice at second. Great start to the inning, not a great follow-up, but in the “speed and defense” tradition of these new Yankees, Bader immediately stole second and moved to third on an overthrow.
Then, well, Bader went for a stroll by himself down the third base line and was gunned down by Adley Rutschman. From a promising leadoff walk, to a manageable man-on-third, nobody out, to nothing at all in a couple of minutes. Yankees baseball, baby!
That became a particularly thorny blunder in light of what happened in the bottom half, where Ryan Mountcastle drilled a ball into the right field seats and Ramón Urías brought in Adam Frazier a couple batters later to take the lead 2-1. Bader’s misstep on the bases might be a token of the worst of Yankees baseball, but fortunately, we got a pretty good look at the absolute best of Yankee baseball not long after:
It’s pretty crazy to see a guy miss two months, not play in a rehab game, and then immediately look like he’s in complete control at the plate. Even more than that ... look, I took six weeks off from this site, today was only one game, caveats caveats caveats. Still, with all that, when Aaron Judge is locked in, it sure feels like everyone else in the order sharpens up a bit. DJ LeMahieu is starting to really look like himself again. I don’t want to ascribe Kyle Higashioka’s 3-for-3 game today to being because Judge looked so good but ... today was his second three-hit game all season.
We want to be careful with mythmaking, but Aaron Judge is kind of becoming a myth in and of himself. It’s not just that he seems to have mastery over every part of this game; it’s that his team—the other 25 professional baseball players—simply seem to get it when he’s in the lineup. Maybe I’m overreacting to one very, very good game, but there’s just a light around him.
And despite how good it was to have the Yankees captain clubbing home runs again, we talked above about IKF’s great 10-pitch walk, and the guy outdid himself with a bases-clearing double in the sixth. With the Yankees up 5-3, they really needed one big hit to ice the game, the kind of hit it seems they’ve been struggling to notch all season.
To simply show the hit leaves out a huge chunk of the story.
I have a funny feeling this well end up as our AB of the Week deep dive, so I won’t rave about it too much. But to see IKF come so far, from a point last year where I wanted him playing in another league altogether, to having at-bats like this, multiple times a game? Pitches five and seven should especially stand out, one slider and one fastball on the edges of the zone.
These are the kind of pitches that IKF would whiff or roll over on last year, this year — or at least, this at-bat — he gives himself a little extra life. He should not be the starting shortstop of the New York Yankees, and frankly probably shouldn’t be a starter on a team with World Series aspirations. As a true depth piece though, how can you be upset with him?
Friday night sucked, and the Subway Series didn’t feel that great. Tonight was only one game and the same way we can’t mythmake about Aaron Judge, we can’t overreact to 0.00617 percent of the season. Having said that, on one hot night in Maryland, this team felt a lot more like what they should be. Luis Severino will be tasked with keeping these good vibes going, as the Yankees look to take this series on Sunday Night Baseball, with first pitch at 7:10 pm on ESPN.