The 5-10 Yankees began a 2-game home Interleague series with the Atlanta Braves last night. Not exactly the kind of team against whom you expect to snap a 5-game losing streak.
Jameson Taillon didn't pitch badly. He went 5 innings, allowing 1 run on 4 hits, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. Still worried about his return from injury, Yankee management only let him throw 80 pitches. Had the Yankees gone on to lose, he couldn't be faulted much.
The problem is, he left trailing 1-0. The Yankees meekly went down 1-2-3 in the 1st and 2nd innings. They wasted a 1-out double by Gio Urshela in the 3rd, and 2 walks in the 4th. (Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you? No, Cliche Alert: You just can't predict baseball.)
But with 1 out in the bottom of the 5th, Urshela took Taillon off the hook, with an absolute blast, a 436-foot shot to center field, tying the game.
Lucas Luetge pitched a scoreless 6th. The Yankees needed both Chad Green and Justin Wilson to pitch a scoreless 7th. Jonathan Loaisiga came in to pitch the top of the 8th, and started it by hitting Marcell Ozuna. But he got Travis d'Arnaud, the former Mets catcher, to ground into a double play.
Did I use the cliche that "Walks can kill you"? I didn't add, "especially the leadoff variety." Aaron Hicks led off the bottom of the 8th with a walk. DJ Lemahieu singled. Aaron Judge singled, but Hicks couldn't score.
Bases loaded, nobody out, tie game, bottom of the 8th. I was expecting Giancarlo Stanton to strike out, and then Gleyber Torres to ground into a double play.
Except... this time, Hicks was batting 9th, having pinch-hit for Mike Tauchman. Of course, Aaron Boone -- probably on Brian Cashman's orders -- was still batting LeMahieu 1st, Judge 2nd and the center fielder 3rd. But now, Hicks had taken over for Brett Gardner in center field, and Clint Frazier had taken over for Tauchman in left. Is batting Frazier between Judge and Stanton the answer we've been looking for?
Not this time -- but, this time, it wasn't all that necessary. Nate Jones, who had just relieved Tyler Matzek, threw a wild pitch that scored Hicks. Frazier then popped up. The Braves walked Stanton intentionally -- not because they were afraid of him, but because 1st base was now open, and they wanted to set up the double play. It was a mark of disrespect Torres, and he lived up to it, flying out to short center, and LeMahieu couldn't score. For all we knew, that insurance run could have turned out to be important.
The batter was Mike Ford, who had started at 1st base. He drew a walk to force home a run. Gary Sanchez flew out to end the inning, but the Yankees had gone ahead.
Aroldis Chapman, our closer, hadn't been asked to come in to pitch in 7 days. That's how bad the Yankees have been. The top of the 9th was a typical Aroldis: Strikeout with a couple of wild balls, strikeout with a couple of wild balls, walk bringing the tying run to the plate. But he got a popupght by Ford, to end it.
Finally, a win: Yankees 3, Braves 1. WP: Loaisiga (2-0). SV: Chapman (2 -- that's right, it's late April, and he only has 2 saves). LP: Matzek (0-2).
The series concludes tonight, with Corey Kluber pitching against Ian Anderson. No, not the lead singer and flute player of 1970s hard-rock band Jethro Tull. Although he might have locomotive breath.