What happens when you pair an extremely pitcher-friendly umpire with two exceptionally hitter-hostile hurlers? Twenty-three strikeouts through six-and-a-half innings, that’s what. Michael King was responsible for 13 of those, a career-high and the most from a Yankees starter all season — better than even his Cy Young frontrunner teammate. What’s more, the Blue Jays only managed five baserunners against him.
Sadly, three of those came in a row, and the Jays pushed a run across, which in and of itself would’ve been nearly enough to down the Yankees’ pitiful offense in this one. The shaky efforts of the bullpen ultimately turned this game into a an easy 6-1 Toronto win, with rookie catcher Austin Wells’ first career homer the Yankees’ only highlight of the final couple frames.
With the help of a very generous strike zone, King retired the first eight hitters he faced, six via the punchout. But when it rains it pours, and the Jays strung together three consecutive singles with two outs in the third to drive in a run:
Luckily, that 100.9-mph Bo Bichette scorcher only caught leather and King emerged unscathed, able to notch a soft groundout to end the inning. He struck out seven more on the night, pitching into the sixth inning for the first time in his major-league career (let alone the seventh):
Kevin Gausman benefitted from the corpulent zone as well, prompting an Aaron Boone ejection in just the second inning and masking the fact that the Jays’ starter was wild for a second-straight start — he still walked three, though two may have come as the result of a cautious approach to Aaron Judge.
Gausman gave up some hard contact, too, but some stellar Jays defense preserved the shutout, including this excellent grab by Cavan Biggio at first:
Still, Gausman K’ed 10 through six with 11 whiffs on his trusty splitter before old friend Chad Green — in just his eighth appearance as a non-Yankee — relieved him and punched out a pair himself.
As for the Yankees’ bullpen, Tommy Kahnle came on in the top of the eighth and quickly erased memories of King’s mastery. He walked four and threw a pair of wild pitches, only getting two outs. With one run already in, he left the bases loaded for Ian Hamilton, who walked in another run before getting out of it. But Hamilton, rusty in just his second appearance off the IL, allowed Bichette to plate another run in the top of the ninth:
Hamilton then walked Biggio to load the bases before striking out Matt Chapman, but he couldn’t finish off Spencer Horwitz. The rookie grounded a single up to middle to plate two more.
Greg Weissert finished off the inning with one pitch, but the damage was done. One small bright spot for the offense in this one, Austin Wells, at least capped off the night with another positive moment in the bottom of the ninth — his first big-league homer and second extra-base hit of the game:
The Yankees have a chance to avoid the sweep tomorrow in what could be another pitchers’ duel. Gerrit Cole will take the hill for the Yanks; though the ace didn’t have his best stuff last time out against Pittsburgh, he struck out at least seven in four consecutive starts prior. José Berríos gets the nod for Toronto, in the midst of a nice bounce-back season. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET in the Bronx.