At one point during tonight’s game, I was searching for the appropriate meme to post. I felt like the pitchers were doing their best to be like Oprah where everyone gets a home run in some massive surprise gift giveaway. Of course, much was made prior to tonight’s game about the visiting “reigning World Champions” (read: only Kansas City media and like Fox Sports has been touting this phrase). Sorry, Royals, but talk to Yankee Universe when your number jumps from 2 to 27 and then we can chat about championships.
Also, this current team is really not the 2015 team in so many ways. We here at Yankee Universe get that every season, with the comings and goings of the players, is a fresh start, and sometimes (especially after a big championship season) that’s not a good thing. (Most recently, take a look at the differences between the 2009 and 2010 Yankee teams.) Going back-to-back is so rare that even the Yankees have only done that 12 times in their history.
Anyway, the Royals flew out to Gotham for a 4-game series this week for this middle of this home stand. And the Yankees seemed bent on reminding the “reigning World Champions” who exactly holds the title of both “Bronx Bombers” and “all-time World Champions”. Helmed tonight by Ivan Nova, taking Sabathia’s spot in the rotation as Sabathia heals from his groin injury, the Yankees were in full force tonight after last night’s awful loss to Boston.
Nova was on a strict pitch count of 81 pitches and met it in the 5th inning. By then, he gave up 6 hits, a walk, and just 1 run, striking out 3 Kansas City batters. That lone run was a really nice 1-out solo home run in the 2nd inning straight up to Monument Park. Nova reminded everyone not to underestimate his starting potential simply because he’s been a long-term bullpen option for a month now. Nova continues to remain a vital part of the pitching staff, proving himself again tonight why they keep him around and active.
Phil Coke came on to finish the 5th for Nova (much to the glee of many fans and writers who remember the last time he pitched for the Yankees — Game 5 of the 2009 World Series). After an out and a walk, Coke handed the ball to fellow reliever Kirby Yates who sailed his way through the rest of the 6th and through the 7th innings, adding 2 more strikeouts and setting himself up as the recipient of the win for tonight’s game (yes, this is still an odd way to record wins and losses for pitchers).
Chasen Shreve got his turn in the 8th, and despite giving up a solo shot to the lead batter, shut down the rest of the order in Shreve-like fashion. To be fair to all home-run-giver-uppers, most pitches that become home run balls are beautiful strikes in the first place; the batters just also recognize this to their advantage. This is usually where a good amount of deception comes into play so that the batters don’t see a beautiful strike coming towards them and thus get their timing off.
And in the 9th inning (though not a save opportunity), coming off his 30-game suspension, Aroldis Chapman made his pinstripe debut as the flame-throwing closer we all knew he could be. Chapman was actually pretty tonight, in control and ready to jump right in to help the Yankees. Chapman threw 17 pitches, getting the first 2 batters to swing at just filthy strikes, topping out at 101mph. A pinch-hitter doubled and then scored on an RBI single before the final batter hit a comebacker that bounced back to Chapman to get the easy out at 3rd to end the game.
On the flip side of things, the Yankees put up their own numbers early and often. Brian McCann got things started with a 2-out solo home run in the 1st inning. Carlos Beltran led-off the 2nd with his own solo home run into the right field seats. But it was the 3rd inning that became the Oprah-story. Brett Gardner led-off with a solo shot only to be followed immediately by Aaron Hicks and his solo shot. Then 2 outs later, Beltran decided to hit his 2nd home run of the night to add to the home run giveaway. (It was a great night for those fans in the right field seats!)
Beltran’s 2nd homer of the evening also forced the Royals’ starter out of the game. They could read his pitches like yesterday’s mail. (I could almost hear my grandfather’s voice on that one.) And the new reliever did his best to keep the Yankees from multiplying their score exponentially. So they traded in their mega-bats for some small ball in the 7th inning. Headley and Torreyes each singled to lead off the inning and moved to scoring position on Gardner’s ground out. They continued to move up on Hicks’ sacrifice fly, as Headley scored. But a strikeout ended their small ball streak for the night.
But that’s okay. The Yankees seemed to be sitting pretty on their home runs tonight.
Final score: 6-3 Yankees.
Ben Gamel made his MLB debut tonight, coming into the game at the top of the 8th, playing right field and getting his first single in the bottom of the 8th. (Ball spared and saved for the mantle.) His debut during a win, which included his first single — not a bad way to make your break into the majors.
Also, for those who were wondering when the Yankees were going to make up that cancelled game (due to snow) from April 10, the Tigers-Yankees match-up is rescheduled for June 2 at 7:40 pm at Comerica Park in Detroit. Current ticket holders can use their tickets dated for April 10th for admission to that game next month without any exchanges necessary. More information can be found on the Tigers’ ticket information site.
Also, the corresponding roster move for Chapman’s reinstatement on the 40-man roster was a bit of a chess game. The Yankees optioned Johnny Barbato to AAA and moved Branden Pinder to their 60-day DL, effectively taking him off the 40-man roster. Pinder, as you may remember, is out for the rest of the season and into next year for Tommy John surgery due to a tear in his UCL (elbow). However, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Barbato who’s pitched rather well this last month.