Of course, if you’re a Yankee fan last night’s game was frustrating as heck. Eight more runners were left on base and we dropped another game to a division rival – you wouldn’t be too much of a fan if that didn’t get under your pinstripes a little bit.
Yet as the guy who’s normally the skeptic in the room, I’m here to tell you last night is no big deal, and again with the caveat that we’re only six games into the season, there are more positives than negatives about the Yankees so far.
Let’s start with Gerrit Cole. Regardless of what social media screamed last night, Cole pitched pretty well. Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit a 98 mph fastball that was out of the strike zone into the bullpen, which I think we can agree, is no fault of Cole’s. (We’ll come back to Vlad in a moment.) Other than that pitch, Cole allowed one run on three hits over 5.2 IP with six strikeouts and one walk.
The Yanks scored four runs in a game that José Berríos started. Berríos is a two-time All-Star who’s had a better-than-league average ERA in every one of his five MLB seasons. Four runs are far from an explosion of course, but it’s not a bad performance from the Yankees bats.
The Yankees lost last night because – to paraphrase Ken Singleton – the guys in the other dugout are pretty good too. Sometimes, the other team plays really well and they win and all the over-analyzation doesn’t make it any more complicated than that. And as I mentioned earlier, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is a BAD dude who did BAD dude things last night – it happens, no biggie.
That said, if you want to look for things to criticize or be down about, here’s one: With the team trailing by two runs entering the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees sent a player with a career 60 OPS+ to the plate to lead off the inning just in front of the top of the order. This, of course, is because the powers that be decided to go with a three-man bench (THREE), and the two who aren’t backup catchers had already been used. The roster construction of this team continues to make us scratch our heads.
Secondly, be careful what you wish for. When Isiah Kiner-Falefa was acquired, a good chunk of fans pointed out his ability to make contact, his running speed, and his low strikeout rate. “He’s exactly the type of ‘just put the ball in play’ this all or nothing team needs” was bandied about quite often on social media and sports radio. But as you see, just putting the ball in play is absolutely useless unless you hit it hard. Soft contact isn’t an automatic out, but it’s pretty darn close and IKF is one of the sport’s poster children for that mantra. Do I think he’ll do better than he’s done? Yes, but he’s still not scaring any opponents and he’s not going to move the needle for the team with his bat too much even when he does improve.
Before wrapping up, let’s do a big picture review: A win tonight puts the Yankees in a good spot one week into the season. They’d be 4-3 having played against two good teams within their own division, and if I told you they’d go 20-15 against Boston and Toronto this season you’d sign on for that in a heartbeat. Even a loss isn’t awful (well it’s only one week into the season, there’s that) but also their other division rival in Tampa had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the competition this week with seven games against Baltimore and Oakland. They’ve gone 4-2 so far and as I’m typing this are getting one put on them again by the As.
Regardless, Luis Severino gets the ball tonight, looking for the “W”. The Yankees batters will face another tall challenge as the Blue Jays send righty Kevin Gausman to the hill. The first pitch in the boogie down will be at 7:05 pm, you can see it on the YES Network and the MLB Network and listen to it on WFAN.
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