After dropping a series to the last-place St. Louis Cardinals with Gerrit Cole on the bump in the rubber matchup, the Yankees needed to show some life against the division rival Baltimore Orioles. In the first 4.2 innings of the series opener, the team showed the same lack of life that they dragged through the Cards series. But with a streaking Anthony Volpe at the plate, there was still life for a two-out rally.
As the Yankees have kept afloat with Aaron Judge on the shelf, they’ve needed to rely on Anthony Volpe and Harrison Bader to be spark plugs. In the last few weeks, these two players have made it clear they are the two best on the team behind their record setting teammate. The aging veterans are still capable of being productive, but these two are all-around dynamic players that help on every side of the ball. Bader’s defense and Volpe’s baserunning are invaluable parts of their games, but their offense has been most important. In that fifth inning, Volpe had his second shot against Tyler Wells after hitting a warning track barrel in his previous at-bat. This was his chance to turn a long fly ball into an even deeper one. Here is his two-pitch at-bat that started the Yankees’ rally:
Pitch 1 (0-0 count, cutter)
Like I said, Volpe got the best of Wells in his previous at-bat, but he hit one to left center field and the stadium contained it as Aaron Hicks ran it down. He had a good look on Wells already, and he showed that he would have no interest in leaving the zone on an 0-0 count. This was an easy take and it would allow him to be aggressive on any pitch in the zone in the 1-0 count.
Pitch 2 (1-0 count, cutter)
In Volpe’s third inning at-bat, he took a hack on an inside four-seamer. The ball was right on the black and prevented him from getting all of it and sending it over the fence. But this cutter was a few mph slower and was plopped right in the middle of the plate for Volpe to unload a laser into the stands and cut his team’s deficit to only two runs. Make pitchers’ mistakes hurt – that’s step one to being a great hitter. Kyle Higashioka would follow Volpe with a solo blast of his own and cut the score to 3-2. After another run in the seventh to tie it up, the stage was set for the Yanks to jump ahead in the bottom of the eighth. That brings us to Harrison Bader’s chance to take the lead for his squad.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count, sinker)
Bader handled it well when he was asked about his relief of going yard instead of bunting in this at-bat, but anybody knows how much more fun a dinger is than a bunt. As you know from reading this weekly column, Bader has been the team’s most productive hitter with runners in scoring position as long as he’s been healthy this season. To have him bunt is a mockery. Thankfully, he watched this one go by and he had the green light to swing for the rest of the at-bat.
Pitch 2 (0-1 count, slider)
Bader is a flat swinging player, so he is the perfect candidate to swing over a left-handed backfoot slider. But this pitch was not executed and instead gave him the 1-1 count. This was Bader’s perfect opportunity to make the most of his controlled aggression. This was an ideal matchup for him if he got a pitch up the zone. He knew if a mistake came in, he had to produce for his team. Even though bunting is boring, you still don’t feel great if you’re called upon to do it and don’t execute. This was his shot to make up for it.
Pitch 3 (1-1 count, sweeper)
There are a lot of hitters that would let a pitch like this go by. Some guys just sit on the heater and will let a breaker drop in the zone for a free strike if they’re still in a 1-1 count. Bader is not that kind of guy. If he gets a pitch up in the zone – no matter the speed – he will attack if the ducks are in the pond. This was a fantastic swing that sailed 415 feet deep into the left field seats, and was the at-bat the team needed to get them on a roll. Bader is a vital piece of this team, and I’ve decided it’s time to start the propaganda:
Extend Harrison Bader.