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Yankees 2, Blue Jays 0: All’s well that Wells ends

The rookie catcher had the only big hit of the Yankees’ series-opening win.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

They stole this one.

The headline coming in was a marquee pitching matchup, and we got just that as Kevin Gausman and Michael King traded zeroes all night. The two combined to throw 13 shutout frames while allowing just four hits, but neither factored in the decision as Austin Wells’ ninth-inning home run was the difference in the Yankees’ 2-0 win over the Blue Jays.

In the last six days, King has thrown 13 innings against the Blue Jays and allowed just a single run. He wasn’t quite as locked in as last week’s baker’s-dozen strikeout performance, walking five batters and striking out the same, but bore down when he needed to and got some key outs to deliver six shutout innings.

Similar to what happened last week in Clarke Schmidt’s start, I wonder if King is starting to feel a little bit gassed. We saw something similar in him yanking sinkers both east and west, but especially arm side, and turning borderline pitches into easy takes:

I’m not trying to copy and paste last week’s recap, it’s just a very similar phenomenon. Like Schmidt, King is well over his previous career high workload — a 59-percent increase over 2021’s 63.1 IP — and one has to wonder if fatigue is starting to set in.

It didn’t show up in the first two innings, where King set down a trio of Blue Jays:

As the game wore on though, King’s trouble with the strike zone plagued him even with the help of Malachi Moore’s rather wide strike zone.

King got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. here on a pitch that’s probably a ball, but Moore’s big zone came through. However, if MK hadn’t walked the previous two Jays to load the bases, maybe he wouldn’t have needed a generous call to end the inning. It was that kind of game for King — flashes of great stuff, some problems with his sinker, and taking advantage of the umpire all added up to a lower ERA than when he started the day.

Meanwhile, the Yankees made Gausman work in the first, seeing 29 pitches from the Jays’ ace. While they got both Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton on in the opening frame, a ground ball off the bat of Isiah Kiner-Falefa ended the threat early ... and the next dozen Yankee hitters were set down in order.

The Yankees were in fact no-hit through the fifth inning, the ninth time such a thing has happened this year. Estevan Florial broke into the hit column in the sixth only to be erased on a double play, and even after getting runners on the corners with one out in the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton was erased trying to score on a groundball to short.

Now, Jhony Brito had done just dandy picking up for King in relief, working out of a nasty bit of business with Daulton Varsho stealing second and moving to third on an error to keep the game knotted at zero. This being the 2023 Yankees though, I had resigned myself to some sort of depressing walk-off loss. This being the 2023 Yankees, though, one of the kids stepped up and made his presence felt:

Oppo taco against a pitcher as good as Jordan Romano is nothing to turn your nose up at, and Wells rewarded the Yankees’ faith in putting him in the three-spot tonight. The rookie catcher’s two-run homer was the only offensive blow of the night.

There’s nothing real to play for at this point. We want to see the guys like King, who now seems ticketed for a rotation spot next season, continue to build on their progress with maybe one start left. We want to see Wells pick himself up from a pretty lousy first two weeks in the majors, and at least from where I’m sitting he’s having better at bats and louder contact over the past few days.

As Yankee fans, we’re less used to the dregs of the season than other fanbases, but there were positives tonight. Tomorrow, we have the chance to see Gerrit Cole’s crowing start, as the AL Cy Young favorite takes the hill for the final time in 2023. That game comes at 7:07pm Eastern from Toronto.

Box Score