Barreling into the Windy City, the New York Yankees were looking to prove their early season might against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. It was a mostly tight series, with the Yankees coming within two pitches of dropping two of three. Yet, the Bronx Bombers persevered big time, earning the three-game sweep and the best record in baseball at 20-9.
As the late great Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Here’s what I observed in the Yankees series against the Cubs.
As the Yankees and Cubs renewed acquaintances, Cubs fans thanked Aroldis Chapman, Starlin Castro and Adam Warren for the memories. Yet, by the end of their 3-2 victory, it would be the Yankees giving thanks to the Cubs.
Another afternoon delight was spun by Michael Pineda. Pineda struck out six across six frames of work. The Yankees righty even busted out his best David Wells impression with a hit in the third inning. The only blemishes on his day were a pair of solo homers by Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. No shame there.
Across the past three seasons, the Cubs were 152-0 when entering the ninth inning with a two-run lead. Down to their last strike, the Bronx Bombers battled back against Hector Rondon. A single by Chase Headley and a Jacoby Ellsbury walk set the table for Brett Gardner. With two outs, Gardner walloped a three-run go-ahead shot to right.
WELCOME BACK OLD CHAP
From receiving his World Series ring to ringing up his former teammates, Chapman made quick work of the Cubbies. The Yankees closer recorded two strikeouts and registered his seventh save of the season.
SING IT KEITH!
Game 1 of the series yea I know, but how lit can 1 man be? #BabyBombers #Yankees #StartSpreadingTheNews
Right from the very start of it, the Yankees clubbed the Cubs. Their 11-6 victory moved the Bronx Bombers to 19-9, 10 games above .500.
During the first frame, the Yankees jumped all over Brett Anderson. Gardner lined a double to right. Aaron Hicks followed with a bunt and a throwing error by Anderson allowed Gardner to score. The ensuing batter Castro ripped an RBI-double to right. Gary Sanchez knocked an RBI-single to left. A Didi Gregorius single placed runners at first and second. Capping off the five-run first and chasing Anderson was Chase Headley with a two-run double to right.
We're through 2 in Chicago with a 5-0 lead!
Hicks ➡️ 2 hits and a great diving catch
Headley ➡️ 2 RBI pic.twitter.com/jbLnVGFS7n
Paying homage to Michael Jordan, Castro got some serious air and hangtime on his home run in the fourth inning. The Yankees second baseman and his nine-game hitting streak gave the team an 8-0 advantage.
HICKSY = BERNABE?
During the FOX Sports postgame show, Alex Rodriguez said he thought Hicks looked a lot like Bernie Williams. It may be a bit early for those comparisons but regular playing time has helped Hicks much like it did for Bernie Baseball in 1993.
In the eighth, the Yankees center fielder capped off a four-hit evening and the New York scoring with a three-run home run to left-center. Those four hits placed Hicks in the company of a Hall of Fame Yankee, Bill Dickey, who in Game 1 of the 1938 World Series was the only other Bronx Bomber with a four-hit game against the Cubs.
Jordan Montgomery was solid on the bump, going 6.2 innings with three strikeouts and only two earned runs allowed.
Solid start for @Gumbynation34!
6.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R (2 ER).
We're up 8-3 heading to the 8th! pic.twitter.com/PnJYQJ6Hmf
NATIONAL LEAGUE BASEBALL… KEWL
Welcome to the Northside of Chicago, where obstruction beams are quaint and not an engineering flaw. Oh and it’s also where pitchers bat and catcher’s pitch. Miguel Montero was on for mop up time in the ninth inning, issuing two walks but working out of it with a scoreless frame and not killing Chris Carter with a pitch over his head.
Miguel Montero has the best reaction after throwing behind Chris Carter.? pic.twitter.com/dQeoAUpn1T
Much like Saturday evening, the Yankees were off to a quick start against Jon Lester on Sunday Night Baseball. It could have been much more had Ellsbury not been picked off first base following his single. A Hicks walk, coupled with a Matt Holliday single to right and a steal of third by Hicks had the Yankees in business. A Castro ground out to shortstop enabled Hicks to score and give New York a 1-0 edge.
While Lester would settle down and only yield one more hit and strikeout nine through seven frames, Luis Severino equally up to the task. Severino would toss seven innings, scattering four hits and matched Lester with nine K’s. The lone hiccup was a solo home run yielded to Javier Baez in the third inning. Pitching on the road this season Severino is holding opposing batters to a .188 average. The Yankees young righty deserved a better fate than a no-decision.
Making his first start at first base in 2017 Holliday more than held his own, stretching and scooping on at least two tough plays where he looked like a natural. I know they were ahead 4-1 late and Carter has more experience at first base but had they known this one was going extras it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world to keep his bat in there.
NOW THAT’S A TRIPLE
If it’s Sunday night, Judge is hitting a triple. This time minus instant replay. During the seventh, Judge drilled his team-leading second triple to dead center off Lester, plating Castro and regaining the lead at 2-1.
In the eighth, after Gardner extended his hit streak to 10, Ellsbury made up for his base running faux pas and smoked a two-run homer to right off of Justin Grimm. This increased the New York lead to 4-1.
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
Yet, a surefire advantage in the ninth was gone following a series of misfires. Chapman could not locate. Addison Russell coaxed a walk. John Jay followed with a single to center. Then with one down, Albert Almora Jr. singled to center, scoring Russell. An RBI-single by Baez made it 4-3. After Baez stole second and Schwarber struck out swinging, Kris Bryant was intentionally walked after Chapman attempted to pitch to him and was squeezed. Needless to say, there were a lot of squeeze calls.
OH THAT SMELL
Get a whiff of this, the Yankees and Cubs combined for a major-league record 48 strikeouts. The 26 K’s by the Yankees matches an all-time, single-game MLB-high with the 2004 Anaheim Angels and the 1971 Oakland Athletics. Their staff also set a major-league record with seven pitchers garnering at least one strikeout. Also, how fun was it watching all of those pitchers strike out? Am I right? National League baseball!
During the 18th, the Yankees finally broke through against Pedro Strop. Hicks reached second on a bunt and a throwing error by Contreras. Following a sacrifice bunt by Ronald Torreyes, Hicks advanced to third. Then Castro grounded to Russell at shortstop, who couldn’t nab Hicks at the plate and the Yankees took a 5-4 lead they’d never relinquish on the fielder’s choice.
This marked the first Yankees victory in a road game lasting 18 innings or more since 1962. Their last victory in an 18 inning affair came in 1988 on a Claudell Washington walkoff home run.
At 11-games above .500, the Yankees have already matched a feat which took them until Sept. 10, 2016 last season.
At 20-9 on the campaign, the Yankees head to Cincinnati to take on the Reds in a two-game set starting Monday evening.