Sunday, April 4, 2021

This Is What Happens When You Hit

This is what happens when you are a Major League Baseball team, and you hit well enough to back up your pitchers: You win the game. If ever a team proved that pitching does not necessarily win championships, it is the 2004 to the present New York Yankees.

Corey Kluber, hyped as the Number 2 starter the Yankees desperately needed behind Gerrit Cole, made his Yankee debut, against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium II. He got into some trouble, and threw too many pitches too soon. Clearly, he needed another Spring Training start or two to warm up.

But he also showed a lot of character, responding to his mistakes/shortcomings well. He ended each of the 1st 3 innings with a strikeout. His changeup was so sick. (How sick was it?) Dr. Fauci couldn't come up with a treatment for it.

After giving up a leadoff home run to Marcus Semien in the top of the 5th, Aaron Boone replaced him with Jonathan Loaisiga. Given the fact that he has been a starter, Loaisiga is the ideal "long man," as long as you don't overuse him. Good thing there was a day off the day before. He was perfect in the 5th and 6th innings.

But you gotta hit for your pitchers. On Thursday afternoon, Opening Day, the Yankees didn't hit enough for Cole. This time, they hit for Kluber and Loaisiga. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, they launched a -out rally: Single by Gio Urshela, double by Clint Frazier, single by DJ LeMahieu. One-nil to the Pinstripe Boys.

The Jays tied it up in the top of the 3rd, in part due to a throwing error by catcher Gary Sanchez. After his fine performance, hitting and throwing, on Thursday, one of the few bright spots on the day, it looked like the same old Sanchez.

Instead, "El Gary" opened the bottom of the 4th with his 2nd home run in as many games. Urshela struck out, but Frazier drew a walk, and 3 straight singles by LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks made it 3-1 New York.

Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. That ended up not happening when the Yankees needed it on Thursday. But on this Saturday, it did. With the score 3-2 Yankees, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo brought Rafael Dolis in to pitch the bottom of the 6th. As it turned out, it was Dolis he could do.

(Don't get on me about the joke on his name. The Jays' 1st 2 pitchers in this game were Ross Stripling and Tyler Chatwood. They sound like soap opera characters, the wastrel son of the show's industrialist villain and the college buddy who leads him astray, respectively.)

LeMahieu drew a walk. Judge flew to center, and Hicks struck out. Then came Giancarlo Stanton. I figured, strikeout, end of inning. Indeed, he worked a 3-0 count, then made it 3-2. Then he took ball 4. Giancarlo Stanton drew a walk. This was not a delayed April Fool's Day joke.

Then Gleyber Torres drew another walk, loading the bases. And new acquisition Jay Bruce, on his 34th birthday, singled LeMahieu and Stanton home. 5-2.

Lucas Luetge came in to pitch the top of the 7th. He arrived in the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners in 2012, and that year and the next, he was a decent reliever. Then he got hurt. He appeared in 12 games in 2014. He pitched for the Mariners on April 25, 2015. It was his only appearance that season, and he hadn't appeared in a major league game since. He had just turned 34. It was a big surprise that he made the Yankee roster at all.

Like Kluber, he needed more Spring Training. He began the inning with a single and 2 wild pitches. He got a strikeout, then a groundout that got a run home, then another groundout. It could have been a lot worse.

The Jays threatened again in the 8th, against Darren O'Day. Chad Green had to come in and get the last out. He then pitched a perfect 9th to end it.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 3. WP: Loaisiga (1-0). SV: Green (1). LP: Ross Stripling (0-1).

Brian Cashman's strategy is simple: Outhit and outscore the opposition. In two tries so far this season, it has worked once.

The series concludes this afternoon, Easter Sunday. The talented but much-maligned Domingo German makes his 1st regular-season start since September 18, 2019; and T.J. Zeuch goes for Toronto.

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