Friday, April 23, 2021

Kick in the Complacency Wakes Torres, Germán, Yankees Up

The atmosphere around the Yankees was getting rough. A 6-11 start, anger at the manager, anger at certain players.

None more so than general manager Brian Cashman's golden boy, Gleyber Torres, whose "excuse-me-check-swing" in the Wednesday night loss to the Atlanta Braves couldn't be faulted, but whose seeming refusal to run it out was, heavily.

We've heard it in all sports: Show passion. Play as if you care as much as we the fans do. We don't like failure, but we at least want to see you give the effort. You won't always win, but you always have to try.

Torres hasn't been hitting, and now this. It was beginning to look like Yankee Fans were turning on the 24-year-old Venezuelan 2nd-baseman-being-played-at-shortstop. It was time for him to step up.

It was also time for Domingo Germán to step up. Coming off what amounted to a year-and-a-half suspension for a domestic violence incident for which he was not criminally charged, but to which he has sort-of confessed, his 1st 2 starts this season were awful. If the Yankees are going to turn it around this season, his own turnaround has to be a part of it.

That turnaround was not apparent in the bottom of the 1st inning, at the beginning of an 8-game roadtrip, the 1st of a 4-game series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive (formerly Jacobs) Field. He allowed 3 runs on 4 hits and his own error on a play covering 1st base. His season, and the Yankees' had reached a new bottom, and it felt like it was going to get even worse.

But a funny thing happened on the way back to "the alternate site": Germán settled down. He wasn't great in any of them, but he kept the Indians from scoring again in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th innings. If those 3 runs he allowed had been staggered across the 6 innings, instead of all at once, we might have thought it was a really good performance. And it actually was.

But you gotta hit, and the Yankees haven't been hitting. That had to turn around, too. In the top of the 3rd, it did -- with help.

Kyle Higashioka, filling is as backup catcher to Gary Sanchez, continued his start as the Yankee with the best hitting numbers. He led off the inning with a double off Aaron Civale. A balk by Civale sent him to 3rd. Brett Gardner struck out, but DJ LeMahieu singled Higgy home. Aaron Judge struck out, but Mike Ford -- giving off a 2008 Jason Giambi vibe with that mustache and that batting stance -- drew a walk.

That brought Torres to the plate. Major clutch situation, about as major as you can get in April, anyway. He hit a line drive to right field, deep enough to score LeMahieu regardless of what happened next. Josh Naylor, the Cleveland right fielder, botched the play, allowing Ford to score all the way from 1st. 

Torres ended up on 3rd, although was only credited with a single and 1 RBI, due to the error. He'll take it, though. We all will. Tie ballgame, and it seemed to boost Germán's confidence on the mound. It was as if he thought, "If he can come through tonight, so can I." And he did get through the 6th without further damage.

Top of the 7th. Nick Wittgren came on to pitch for Cleveland. He struck LeMahieu and Ford out, but, in between, he walked Judge. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, even if they're not the leadoff variety. Torres got another hit. Aaron Hicks drew a walk to load the bases.

The batter was the newly-acquired Rougned Odor. He's been terribly inconsistent in the brief time he's been a Yankee. This time, he hit a ground ball with eyes, right up the middle, scoring Judge and Torres. 5-3.

That put Germán in position to be the winning pitcher. Aaron Boone brought Jonathan Loaisiga in to pitch. He has tremendously improved so far this season, and pitched a scoreless 7th. Cal Quantrill, son of former Yankee reliever Paul Quantrill, came in to pitch for the Indians, and was immediately greeted with a home run by Higashioka. Chad Green pitched a scoreless 8th, and Aroldis Chapman a scoreless 9th.

Yankees 6, Indians 3. WP: Germán (1-2). SV: Chapman (3). LP: Wittgren (0-1).

With the Boston Red Sox losing last night, the Yankees closed to within 4 games of 1st place in the American League Eastern Division. Maybe it was a little too soon to panic.

But, as Torres found out, and showed, it was not too soon for what Star Trek's Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) once called a "kick in the complacency."

The reaction to Torres on social media was overwhelmingly positive. To Germán, less so: Some people will never forgive him for what has been alleged against him. But, last night, both of them delivered the start of the turnarounds they needed. The team as a whole responded. May it continue.

The series continues tonight. Jordan Montgomery starts against Logan Allen.

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