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Yankees 7, White Sox 1: Clutch hitting backs up great pitching

The ideal formula for a win as the Yankees continue to climb from the basement

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Yankees want to pull themselves out of the AL East cellar, one of the ways to do that is beat up on the bad teams — something they decidedly did not do in a bad loss last night. While the taste of that game may not be completely gone from your mouth tonight, we can all at least agree that this 7-1 win over the White Sox was more what we expect from a playoff hopeful matched up with a tire fire in a baseball uniform. Clarke Schmidt and Michael King had standout performances on the mound and the offense made a bad pitching staff pay, to set up the rubber match tomorrow.

When I recapped Saturday’s game I talked about how it felt like the Isiah Kiner-Falefa/Harrison Bader/Anthony Volpe trio has been punching above their weight for a couple of weeks now, and they spurred the offense tonight. With two men on in the fourth inning, Izzy ensured we would have a better offensive night than in Monday’s series opener:

Bader then chased IKF home with a single, Volpe walked, and Ben Rortvedt made an appearance on base walking as well. That set up Jake Bauers’ sac fly, and by the time the final out was made in the frame, the Yankees were up 4-0.

As for Clarke Schmidt, he’s a true five-and-fly pitcher but does put up decent enough performances in those five innings. He made one big mistake, leaving a sweeper out over the plate to Luis Robert Jr., who promptly put it in the left field bullpen. The home run in the bottom of the fourth was the lone run Clarky allowed, as he struck out seven Sox and allowed a single run.

Schmidt’s curveball was particularly strong tonight, as he threw it 22 times and it engineered a 67 percent whiff rate. Four of those seven strikeouts came with the curve, leading the way for Clarke in another solid start.

He did get in trouble in the sixth — facing the 2-3-4 of the White Sox order to open the frame, Andrew Benintendi clocked a leadoff double before Eloy Jiménez singled, the end of Schmidt’s day. With a lead you can afford to let your starter go one extra man, but as we approach the stretch run it might be best to cap Schmidt at five innings. Of course it didn’t mean much that the Sox got a little traffic in the sixth, because Michael King came in and struck out both men he faced. He then struck out two more batters in the seventh and allowed one hit in a shutout eighth, a dominant relief outing as he played the fireman’s role tonight.

Unlike so many games we’ve seen this year, the lineup was able to reward the pitching staff for such strong performances. It looked like the four in the fourth would be all the runs we see, but the Yankees were able to pull away in the later innings:

Kyle Higashioka cranked his first pinch-hit home run ever, and Aaron Judge had one of those patented moonshots to take the pressure off. Yesterday was a very, very frustrating one, and this is a series the Yankees should have swept. You can’t change the past, can’t go back and get that win from Monday night, but there’s a repeatable formula from tonight. Get a couple clutch hits, rely on a strong pitching staff to silence a pretty bad team, and club a couple big flies to put the game out of reach.

If the Yankees want to make the playoffs, they’ll need a lot more games like this in the season’s final seven weeks. They can start by repeating Wednesday to win the series, as they send Luis Severino to the hill, with a fairly rested bullpen after needing just two relievers tonight. The rubber match of this series comes at 8:10pm Eastern.

Box Score