On another warm midsummer evening in the Bronx, trade rumors swirled in what could have been a distraction to players who long to stay in pinstripes but know that may not happen. But being a Yankee, even for a season, is being part of a team that pulls together and refuses to stay down. So with renewed vigor and a drive to win their way up in the standings, the Yankees treated the 31,192 fans tonight to an exciting and well-played game.
It just seemed like all the pieces fell in place tonight. Stellar pitching combined with strong defense and active bats added up to the kind of ball that leads to the playoffs. Tonight, Eovaldi, Swarzak, and Goody, yet another (surprising) Yankee pitching trio, showed their stuff.
Yankee fans gave a warm “welcome back” to Nathan Eovaldi as then starting pitcher in the second game of the series against Baltimore. After spending some time in the ‘pen, tonight Eovaldi confidently took command of the mound, and it seemed like “Nasty Nate” was back and in charge. He quickly dismissed the Orioles bats in the first 5 innings, allowing 2 hits but no runs. But the top of the sixth, Eovaldi began to falter quickly, loading the bases with a walk, a single, and a double that allowed the first run for Baltimore. A coaching visit to the mound and another walk, and it was time for Eovaldi to call it a night. Leaving the bases loaded, overall Eovaldi gave up just 4 hits and 1 run during his 5 1/3 inning tenure tonight. (Not a bad comeback, really.)
The pitching change in the sixth put the rather surprising choice of Anthony Swarzak on the mound with the bases loaded and just one out. Swarzak quickly got a couple of shallow pop ups to keep the bases loaded and the Yankees out of a jam, effectively halting Baltimore’s advance.
Betances was seen briefly warming up in the bullpen, but Swarzak continued his strong outing into the seventh with a quick 3 up and 3 down. And then he returned for the eighth with no one warming up in the Yankee bullpen. Swarzak kept consistent command on the mound, and because of the great backup from the pinstripe defense, the Yankees maintained their lead. The New York infield continued to amaze with their skill as Gregorius snagged a ball and, still sliding in the dirt, drilled it to first for the out. Actually, the entire infield — Refsnyder, Castro, Gregorius, Headley — pretty much dominated tonight on the infield and at the batter’s box.
And in the top of the ninth, one last pitching change allowed Nick Goody to quickly secure the win for New York. Facing 3 batters, he struck out the side in 13 pitches.
The offense and defense were equally strong tonight — getting runs on the board and preventing the Orioles from scoring. Basically, the Yankees were on their game against the AL East leaders Orioles tonight. In the first inning, (because as one reporter quipped, “maybe you can predict baseball”) Jacoby Ellsbury reached first as a result of a record ninth catcher interference, an MLB season record. The second inning saw a 2-out walk for Gregorius who then scored when Castro homered on a line drive right over the left field fence. The Yankees were on the board and leading by 2.
And the Yankees never lost their lead, adding runs to the board while stopping Baltimore from adding runs of their own. In bottom of the 5th, Refsndyer led-off with a walk and then scored on Ellsbury’s single. An odd tag play was successfully challenged and overturned in the O’s favor to help end that inning before the Yankees could tag on any more runs. At least then. Because in the bottom of the 6th, McCann led-off with a walk, and Gregorius’ single put them in the perfect place for Starlin Castro’s double to score both of them to double their score.
Bottom of the eighth, with 2 outs and Castro at first on a fielder’s choice, Chase Headley sent a home run soaring into the right center field stands, scoring Castro and ensuring Yankee victory. Goody’s precision pitching at the top of the ninth, the win streak continues! Once again, the Yankees just played like a well-oiled machine. Complete with hits worthy of the name “Bronx Bombers”. Seems like we are getting glimpses of a team that wants Girardi to change his number to 29.
Final score: 7-1, Yankees.
Tonight, for the seventh inning stretch, fans rose and removed their caps to honor a decorated veteran who served in both the Korean War and World War II. The cheer was deafening as they honored this veteran, and all the vets in attendance reminded us of life outside of baseball. As the strains of “God Bless America” began and the crowd joined in singing, it gave me pause to remember how important it is for us to express to our military our gratitude for all they do to serve our country. And to remember that those who sacrifice so much for our freedom is one of the reasons we can enjoy a happy night at the ballpark with our family and friends.
Okay, trade rumors are heating up, and every sportswriter and media outlet has an opinion. And just trust me that they’re all very wrong. It seems that Beltran’s name is popping up more and more. Eovaldi, Nova, Pineda, and Chapman also seem to be a couple of other names being discussed. But the rumors continue to be rumors for now. So we’ll leave it to the actual decision-makers to do their work instead. Seriously, the Yankees have 11 more days of a packed schedule to think about contributing towards the postseason push. The chatter is just meant to be distracting and give the talking heads something to jabber on about. Because the on-field action every day isn’t enough?
Mark Teixeira is still off the roster with a sore foot after smacking it with a foul ball a few days ago. And that’s the bad news, of course. But Refsnyder is doing really well at first and at bat, so there’s some good news. On one particular play in the sixth, Rob Refsnyder nicely caught a foul ball on the run and immediately fired it home to hold runners. Really not bad for the back-up of the back-up of the back-up first baseman. And after all the troubles plaguing anyone who plays first this season for the Yankees, it’s nice to see Refsndyer seems to be the exception, especially as he’s actually doing pretty well there.