This is what playing the kids looks like. Anthony Volpe looked pretty silly in his first three at-bats, striking out each time, and clobbered his 19th home run in his final AB. Everson Pereira has not looked great at the plate, but gave a full-effort dive in the ninth inning and a quick throw saved a run — or rather, delayed one from scoring for the moment. And Michael King and Jhony Brito, neither of whom were expected to be in the rotation at the beginning of spring training, teamed up to throw 7.1 shutout innings as the Yankees beat the Tigers 4-2.
King was fantastic, throwing 61 pitches across four shutout innings, and looking more and more like he could be a real option for the rotation in 2024. The Yankees appear to be increasing his pitch limit by 10 each time, meaning his next turn to start a game he should be around 70ish pitches, and that sounds like a real starter to me.
Michael King, Wicked 95mph Back Door Two Seamer.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 29, 2023
18 inches of run. pic.twitter.com/EdNR8gaUn4
In particular, King’s sinker was cutting nicely back over the plate, freezing two Tigers for strikeouts and getting swinging strikeouts from two others. He got into a slight bit of trouble in the third, where Harrison Bader bobbled a ball after a leadoff single, allowing runners to reach second and third with one out. Fortunately, a popup and worm-killer got King out of the inning and preserved the shutout.
Brito took over for King and did just as well, which may indicate that this was more about the Tigers being bad than anything else. Three shutout innings capped by a beautiful double play when Brito did get in trouble will play anywhere though, and the twosome combined for 7.1 innings, no runs, and an 4:1 K:BB ratio. Yes, it’s the Tigers. Yes, I’m still very interested in seeing this combo run it back a few times in the season’s final month.
Offensively, the Yankees didn’t have much, but then they so rarely do. Gleyber Torres got us off to a hot start — and got a certain Tweeter ratio’d — with a solo bomb in the first inning, that would be the lone run for the first four innings:
Middle-middle fastballs should absolutely be tattooed just like that, and indeed, Torres took that ball 454 feet, the longest home run of his career. He added a single and HBP to his log for the game, and finished with a wRC+ of exactly 120, virtually identical to his Rookie of the Year finalist campaign. He added a shiny 4-3 double play to close out the eighth to boot.
Insurance was provided by the reasonably hot Kyle Higashioka, who came into play hitting above league average since the start of July, and Volpe, turning around what was up until then a dreadful night at the plate:
That leaves Volpe just one dinger away from a 20-20 season, which would be the 15th such campaign ever by a rookie. There have been warts in Volpe’s rookie season, but on net, there’s a lot of promise to build on, both in the last month of the season and 2024. Again, this is what playing the kids looks like.
This team is the worst team in the AL East, no question. I do think they are a tier above the real dregs of MLB — yeah, that’s faint praise, but they are better than the Athletics, the Tigers, the Royals, teams like that. I wish they would score more runs, especially since the team really does seem to have some tricks up its sleeve when it comes to the pitching side; Clay Holmes falling off and allowing runs in five of his last six outings notwithstanding. At least his last two bad outings have come in wins.
I don’t think it will be a very successful September for the Yankees, in terms of wins and losses. I do think there are promising things to watch, now that the team seems committed to letting this crop of prospects get playing time, and King seems destined to stay in the rotation. If nothing else, don’t bore me, and at least today the Yankees didn’t bore me.
With Gerrit Cole on the hill tomorrow, the Yankees can net just their second series win since the beginning of July. First pitch will once again be at 6:40pm ET.