Another day, another win. Tonight's 4-3 triumph over the Cardinals was the Yankees' fifth consecutive win. Ever since the Yankees staved off a sweep at the hands of Baltimore and returned home to the Bronx, almost everything has been clicking.
After a quick St. Louis strike, Masahiro Tanaka settles in
Did anyone else think "here we go again..." after Matt Carpenter took Tanaka deep for a two-run homer in the first? I admittedly did. After falling behind Carpenter 3-1, the first baseman fouled off three straight pitches before driving a ball into the right field seats. After struggling to put away hitters in his first two starts, it appeared Tanaka would be at it again tonight.
Thereafter, Tanaka turned it around. He retired seven straight batters after the Carpenter home run and 17 of the next 19 opponents overall (including 10 in a row in that stretch). Tanaka ran in to some trouble in the seventh as he wore down, and was knocked out of the game after Randall Grichuk delivered an RBI double with one out in the inning.
Tanaka's final line wasn't outstanding, but it his performance was unquestionably an improvement from his first two turns. He left with the Yankees up 4-3, and his final line was as follows: 3 runs in 6.1 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, and five strikeouts. Tanaka's next chance to rebound from a slow start will be in Pittsburgh a week from today.
The Yankees didn't wait long to even up the game after falling behind in the top of the first. In fact, it only took two hitters in the bottom half of the frame. Brett Gardner led off with a walk against St. Louis' Michael Wacha. Starlin Castro, who has fared well against Wacha from his time in Chicago, touched off on an opposite field dinger to tie it up.
The level pegging wouldn't last for long, either. In the bottom of the second, fill-in catcher Austin Romine lifted a homer to right field to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. How about the job he's done since Sanchez went down last weekend? Including tonight, Romine's batting .313/.368/.563 (159 wRC+) in 19 plate appearances. I'm well aware that it's a small sample size, however, these are the types of mini streaks that are so helpful when a key player goes down for a spurt. We know the talent gap between Sanchez and Romine is stark, but a little bit of fortune can go a long way in filling the void.
In the fifth, the Yankees plated their fourth and final run of the game. It wasn't a longball, but it was an extra base hit. Slackers. All kidding aside, Chase Headley, who continues his hot start, ripped an RBI double to make it 4-2.
The bullpen formula does its thing
After the aforementioned Grichuk double in the seventh that cut the Yankees' lead to one, Joe Girardi summoned Tyler Clippard. T-Clip retired Kolten Wong on a fly ball to Jacoby Ellsbury for the second out of the frame. The next hitter was Dexter Fowler, who drove one to deep right center that looked troublesome off the bat. In a hold your breath moment, Aaron Judge tracked the ball down at the track in front of the auxiliary scoreboard in right field. Exhale.
The eighth inning was a bit easier. Dellin Betances recorded all three outs via strikeout with one four pitch walk to Stephen Piscotty mixed in.
For the ninth inning, Girardi called on Aroldis Chapman for his third straight day of work. After putting away Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta to start the inning, Chapman had a hard time putting the finishing touches on the game. He walked Grichuk with Kolten Wong on deck, who manager Mike Matheny pinch hit for. Up came Jose Martinez in Wong's place, and on a 1-2 pitch, Martinez drilled a double into the left field corner. Fortunately, Brett Gardner was there quickly which forced Grichuk to hold at third. Finally, Chapman held on to the save by inducing Dexter Fowler to ground out.
- Gardner returned to the starting lineup for the first time since his collision with Rickie on Wednesday, which is good news. He reached base twice in four chances, both on walks.
- Ellsbury hit cleanup tonight for the first time in his career. I had to do a double take when I saw the lineup before tonight's game. He was 2 for 4 with a stolen base.
- RISPFail: The Yankees were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position tonight. That's not usually a recipe for winning, but hey, who cares tonight?
The second game of this three game weekend interleague set with the Cardinals is tomorrow at 1:05pm. Will it be six straight wins? CC Sabathia will have a chance to help make that happen. Carlos Martinez, the ace of the Cardinals, will be a tough beat.