Yanks battle back, top O's 6-5 in first walk-off win of the season

Swish likes pie (photo c/o The AP)

Through the first five innings, Thursday night’s contest between the Yankees and the Orioles unfolded in about as unsurprising a manner as possible. While I had high hopes that Phil Hughes would be able to put his ugly first two starts behind, #65’s struggles continued, as he only made it through 4.1 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and only striking out two. Hughes has yet to complete five innings in a start.

There were a few batters here and there in which he almost looked like the Hughes of old — and in fact, he actually registered negative linear weights on three (four-seamer, curve and change) of his four pitches — but his fastball velocity still hasn’t returned (89.1mph average four-seamer; 90.9 max), and despite only throwing seven (per Brooks) his cutter got demolished for a third straight game, racking up 2.7449 linear weights. That’s actually a pretty impressively awful number considering how little he threw the pitch, and clearly Hughes is not fooling anyone with a cutter that averages 85mph.

On the flip side, Jake Arrieta continued his dominance of the Yankees, no-hitting the Bombers through four innings until the scalding-hot Alex Rodriguez hit a double to lead off the fifth. Alex had himself another insane game, going 3-3 with a walk and sac fly, and is now hitting .412/.512/.882 (.566 wOBA) on the young season. With the way things have been going for Alex, I figured for sure he’d be blasting the game-winner in the bottom of the 10th, but he had to settle for another double. Instead, with runners on second and third and one out, Nick Swisher hit a walk-off sac fly, and the Yankees had battled all the way back from the 5-0 hole that Hughes had put them in to beat the Orioles 6-5 in 10 innings and claim sole possession of first place.

Of course, they couldn’t have gotten there without more stellar relief work from Bartolo Colon, who, aside from letting his inherited runner score, was great, tossing three scoreless innings and striking out three. Joba Chamberlain tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, including a huge block of home plate preventing the Orioles’ sixth run from scoring, and Mariano Rivera once again threw a scoreless frame of his own in the 10th to keep the game tied. And they definitely wouldn’t have gotten there if the Yankee bats hadn’t been able to slowly chip away over the latter innings and Jorge Posada didn’t lead the bottom of the ninth off by taking closer Kevin Gregg yard on the first pitch he saw to knot the game at 5 apiece (at a mammoth .424 WPA, it was the biggest swing of the game by far).

All in all it was terrific to see the team be able to battle back after Hughes dug them an early hole, and, if I’m not mistaken, this marked the team’s first five-plus run comeback since last June in Los Angeles in that wild game against the Dodgers. Though a few areas of concern linger — Brett Gardner struck out three times, is hitting .150, and just looks completely overmatched right now and seems to find himself in an 0-2 count before he even steps into the batter’s box; Derek Jeter grounded out three more times and really hasn’t hit any balls with authority whatsoever; and the Player Formerly Known as Phil Franchise still isn’t going deep or keeping the team in any of his starts — nothing can put a damper on a win like this one.

6 thoughts on “Yanks battle back, top O's 6-5 in first walk-off win of the season

  1. Very nice comeback, reminicint of 2009. Hughes is obviously a big concern at this point, and I wonder if he’ll make his next start. Maybe they give him one more shot, although some time in the bullpen could help his fastball. I seem to recall him throwing 88-90 for awhile there in 2009, and then he got his fastball back up to 94 after moving to a relief role. Perhaps this could work temporarily.

    That said, something needs to be done about the top of the order at some point. It’s still early so I wouldn’t rush to any conclusions, but Gardner/Jeter are killing the offense now. And sadly no one else who can hit high in the order is really setting the world on fire (Swish, Grandy). But Gardner simply looks overmatched. Jeter just looks old (swinging at the first pitch in the 9th, a pitch that was a mile wide and high and pullig it to short, ugh).

    • Certainly Hughes needs to get better–a lot better–to keep his rotation spot, but he seemed noticeably less rotten yesterday. I saw enough so that I’d give him at least two more starts.

  2. Hughes will get at least two more starts because there are no other options. That’s first off. They are not going to dip into Scranton if they can help it, especially not in April. We do not know yet if this is a “dead arm” or shoulder issue, or if it is simply mechanical.

    As for Gardner, he betrays the body language of someone who is not relaxed and instead, jittery. I was at the game last night (bleachers) and without even peering at the monitor, Gardner appears to be swinging late on mediocre fastballs and completely fooled by breaking stuff. I have a feeling this is all attitude and not ability.

    Jeter will be fine. This is all being overhyped. If he hit .310 last season, no one would be hawking over his seeming slow start this year. The talk about his new “stride-less” swing is just that – talk. He still breaks out that stride every now and then if he tries to get around. At best he is confused with his approach, not “old.” The only missing component to his stance is the leg-tap, which I surmise will wind up finding its way back in eventually.

    All in all, the Yankees do have issues but so far have found ways to get some wins in the early going. Here’s hoping these issues get ironed out. Gardner is not going to hit .138 all year and Jeter is not going to be slapping at pitches he is fooled at every at bat. Jorge Posada will have hits other than home runs, and even Phil Hughes may very well find out that his fastball has returned.

    • I admire your optimism although I’d be curious to know what about the way Jeter has been approaching his bats leads you to believe he’s going to magically turn on a switch? He leads all of MLB by far with a near-80% GB% and has an absurd 7.50 GB/FB ratio. He literally cannot hit the ball in the air. I don’t think Jeter’s issues are being overhyped; he’s a pretty legitimate concern at this point.

      • I agree with Larry, why do people think Jeter will just be “fine?”. I would say that’s probably true if he were in his early 30s, but lets face facts, the man is 37 years old. This isn’t a slump, or an injury. He’s old, and he’s playing like he’s old. I do believe he can be close to average for another year, maybe two, but I’m not holding my breathe. This was bound to happen eventually.