Under the radar good signs

Last night, the Yankees hit three home runs and three doubles in addition to drawing nine bases on balls. That’s going to get you a win far more often than not if you do that over nine innings regardless of just about everything else.

Yet it was other aspects of the game, such as key defensive plays and heads up base running – things the Yankees have been awful at this season – that were not only big factors in the win, but were very encouraging.

In the bottom of the second inning, with the Yankees trailing 2-1. Gio Urshela drew a one out walk, then Miguel Andujar singled to center field, with Urshela advancing to third base. Why is that a big deal? Because the Yankees have taken an extra base (two bases on a single or three on a double) only 31 percent of the time this season, dead last in the AL.

It turned out to be an important extra base taken as Gio was able to score on a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly a few moments later. The sacrifice fly was really more of a pop up, but the momentum of Angels’ left fielder Scott Schebler took him into foul territory, so the run was more due to a good read on Urshela’s part. Additionally, Andujar advanced to second on the play which also turned out to be key, as DJ LeMahieu followed with a single, scoring Andujar. They started the inning down one and were ahead 3-2 when it was over, due mostly to good base running.

In the top of the fourth inning, with the Yankees now leading 5-3, Angles right fielder Luis Rengifo led off with a line drive in the right center field gap. With Rengifo’s speed, the ball had double – maybe triple -written all over it. Except Aaron Judge had other plans, and sentenced the ball to death, making a fantastic running grab for the first out. In case you’re curious, the run expectancy for no outs and a runner on second base is 1.15 – with one out and no one on it’s .54. That’s a pretty big defensive play in what was still a close game at the time.

In the bottom of the fourth, Gardner scored all the way from first base on a Gary Sanchez double. At this rate, the Yankees will move up to 14th in extra bases taken by the weekend!

In the top of the sixth inning, and the Angels batting with two outs and Jose Iglesias on first base, Taylor Ward singled to left center field. Brett Gardner fielded the ball, and made a quick throw to second base to nab Ward who was trying to advance. What makes this important is that (as David Cone presciently noted earlier on the broadcast) it’s often a better play for the outfielder to prevent the trail runner from advancing, than the lead runner. Sometimes, it keeps a double play in order but – as was the case here – often the trail runner often just assumes the fielder will throw to the lead runner’s base and assumes he’ll advance automatically. Bad play on Ward’s part, very good one on Gardner’s.

Of course, 23 total bases in 9 innings will get you a win regardless of base running and defense on most nights – home runs and doubles have huge impacts on win expectancy. But it was just as gratifying to see the Yankees play well in aspects of the game at which they haven’t played well this season. Here’s hoping that continues.

Did I miss something? Let me know.

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