NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Miguel Andujar #41 of the New York Yankees reacts after his third inning double against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Let’s begin with the positive. The New York Yankees closed out their final homestand of the regular season by taking two of three from the Baltimore Orioles and sealing a postseason berth for the second consecutive season. The bad news is Didi Gregorius is out with torn cartilage in his right wrist and the Yankees lost a game they needed to win with home-field advantage still outstanding. Finishing out the season on the road, the Yankees need to string together some more victories or buy some ear plugs for those drums in Oakland.
The 10-8 final was closer than it should’ve been but fortunately, the Yankees had a response for every time the Orioles inched closer, keeping them at arm’s length.
If this was the last start in pinstripes at Yankee Stadium for CC Sabathia, “Dub” made the most of his opportunity. Sabathia more than did his job and handed the bullpen a lead. In six frames Sabathia whiffed five, yielded two runs on six hits and three walks. A two-run single by Adam Jones in the fifth frame would be the only major damage incurred by the veteran southpaw. The victory marked the 20th of Sabathia’s career against the O’s, a feat which he’d accomplished against the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.
During the first frame, the Bronx Bombers didn’t waste any time jumping on Yefry Ramirez. Aaron Hicks coaxed a leadoff walk and Aaron Judge followed with a single to left. While a double-play by Andrew McCutchen would erase a pair, Didi Gregorius wouldn’t let the early rally go for naught.
Gregorius clocked a 3-1 slider into the second deck in right. The two-run tater marked No. 27 on the season for Sir Didi.
In the fourth frame, the pinstripes took advantage of some Baltimore miscues. Neil Walker lined a one-out double to right, followed by a Gleyber Torres RBI-single to center. Torres would steal second and advance to third on a passed ball by Austin Wynns. The passed ball would be pivotal, as Torres would score on an Austin Romine groundout.
Ensuing batter Brett Gardner would draw a walk, setting the stage for Hicks.
Hicks blasted a 3-1 slider from Ramirez into the bleachers in right for home run No. 25 on his season, sending Ramirez to the showers.
What felt fairly innocuous at the time with Jonathan Loaisiga entering the contest in the seventh inning, took a sharper turn off the tracks faster than you can say MTA. Loaisiga surrendered a home run to left to Wynns and a single to Cedric Mullins. After a strikeout of DJ Stewart, Mullins stole second and advanced to third on a Romine throwing error.
With Zach Britton on, Jonathan Villar plated Mullins on a single to right but Britton would hold the damage there.
In the home half of the seventh, the Yankees would strike back. A McCutchen RBI-single to center off Cody Carroll and a two-run single to left by Luke Voit pushed the New York advantage to 9-4.
The bullpen got the yips again in the eighth. After Stephen Tarpley did his job with a strikeout of Chris Davis, A.J. Cole and David Robertson got knocked around. Cole walked Tim Beckham and allowed a two-run homer to right to Renato Nunez. With two down and Mullins reaching on a bunt, Robertson entered and surrendered a two-run home run to right to Stewart.
AARON ADDS INSURANCE
Once again in the home half, the Yankees lineup countered. With two down in the eighth inning, Hicks coaxed a walk against Paul Fry. Judge followed with an RBI-double to right.
Dellin Betances provided the Yankees with a solid ninth inning, stopping the bleeding. Betances extended his strikeout streak and worked a scoreless frame for the save.
It was much more difficult than it should’ve been but the 3-2 walk-off win in 12 innings was worth the wait. Earning the victory, the Yankees locked up their second consecutive postseason berth.
BOMBERS BLAST OFF
During the second stanza, the Bronx Bombers busted out the heavy-duty lumber against David Hess. Hicks staked New York to a 1-0 lead with a homer to right off a 0-2 slider. After Miguel Andujar was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double, Voit connected on a first-pitch fastball to right-center, doubling the pinstripes advantage to 2-0 with a home run.
In the third inning, the Yankees were let down and picked up on defense. Breyvic Valera and Steve Wilkerson connected on consecutive singles against Lance Lynn. With Caleb Joseph batting, a passed ball by Sanchez enabled Valera to advance to third base. After Joseph struck out, Mullins reached on a throwing error by Sanchez, which overshot Voit at first base, allowing Valera to score but an alert Torres backing up the play, threw home to a covering Lynn, who tagged out Wilkerson at the dish, preserving the 2-1 edge.
Fast forward to the fifth and the Yankees defense prevented what could’ve been a bigger inning for the O’s. Judge cut down Wilkerson at the plate and Sanchez made a nice block to prevent him from scoring on a Joseph single to right. Baltimore would square the contest at two apiece following consecutive singles by Mullins and Stewart.
With virtually all of their top-flight relievers used up, the Yankees defense helped bail out Jonathan Holder from a jam in the tenth. With runners at second and third and the infield in, a nice pick by Gregorius held the runners and made for an out at first. After an intentional walk to Trey Mancini, Voit stabbed a liner from Davis for the second out. Holder got Valera to pop out to Torres to end the threat unscathed.
HICKS GETS LAST LICKS
In the eleventh inning, Gregorius led off with a single against Fry. With one out, Hicks fouled a ball off his leg but would rebound and wouldn’t have to run much with a walk-off, RBI-double to left, wrapping up a postseason berth for the Yankees.
Playing their final game of the regular season home slate, the Yankees made some dubious moves considering they still needed to lock down home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card game. Judge, Hicks and Gregorius were out of the lineup and for some reason with a 3-1 lead in the sixth and 8,000 relievers, A.J. Cole was allowed to pitch. As we would learn after the game, Gregorius tore cartilage in his right wrist while sliding into home the night before on the winning run. Hicks was also banged up after fouling the ball off his leg. In any event, a 6-3 loss wasn’t the way the Yankees wanted to end the homestand.
NO EARLY HANGOVER
After O’s starter, Alex Cobb went down fast with a blister injury on his hand, the Yankees lineup pounced on reliever Mike Wright Jr. Following three consecutive free passes, a sacrifice fly RBI to right by Torres made it 1-0. RBI singles to center by Andujar and Sanchez provided New York with a 3-0 advantage.
J.A. Happ was sharp in the first frame, fanning the side. Although the long delay in the bottom half of the first might’ve thrown off Happ’s rhythm a bit, he still managed to toss five frames of one-run ball, a home run to Beckham, fanning seven and allowing five hits and a pair of walks.
WHY A.J. COLE EVER?
Were Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams or anyone not named Cole not available among the 8,000 arms in the expanded Yankees bullpen in a two-run game in the sixth inning? Yes, it’s the Orioles. Yes, the Yankees lineup stalled after the first inning but still, no reason to pitch Cole here or any other spot.
Cole allowed a two-run homer to left to Beckham and a home run to Nunez and that was the end of his disastrous day. Tommy Kahnle and Luis Cessa each allowed another run along the way on an ugly day for the bullpen.
At 95-60, the Yankees travel to St. Petersburg, Fla. to play the Tampa Bay Rays in a four-game series starting Monday night.