No reasonable fan would take anything but good vibes from an 11-3 win but there were some matters (good and not so good) that may have gone unnoticed if you didn’t see yesterday’s game (or, if like Michael Kay and John Flaherty, saw it but weren’t really watching).
The Yanks got a gift from a fan who did a damn good impersonation of Jeffrey Maier by reaching over the right field wall to catch Harrison Bader’s fly ball, turning it into a three-run home run, and sending the Yanks win probability from 64% to 85% with it. DJ LeMahieu looked at strike three in the 5th inning – which was remarkably called a ball – then followed that with a bomb. Kyle Higashioka also looked at a third strike later that inning that also wasn’t called a strike and two batters later Anthony Volpe hit a grand slam.
I say that without judgment. Teams are presented with opportunities all the time – yesterday the Yankees took advantage of them. Hitting eight balls at 102 mph or more, as Yankees’ batters did yesterday, isn’t luck.
But here are two plays that the Yanks broadcast booth missed that perhaps you may have missed too, * that caught my attention:
(*It’s OK if you did, you’re not getting paid to observe and comment like the folks at simpleton summer camp are.)
Oakland was threatening in the top of the first inning with runners on first and second and one out. The Athletics’ JJ Bleday smoked a line drive to medium-deep right center field at 101.7 off the bat. Yanks center fielder Harrison Bader got a good jump and sprinted just past where he knew the ball would come down. He then turned to face third base as the ball hit his glove chest high and he made a strong throw to third base to prevent the runner on second from advancing to third.
This may not seem like a big deal, but I’d wager many (most?) centerfielders would have caught the ball over their left shoulder as they were still moving back toward deep right center which may have given the runner on second a chance to advance – as the throw then becomes a difficult one due to momentum and angle the centerfielder must deal with.
Yet unlike an average or below average fielder, Bader read the ball perfectly off the bat, got to the spot very quickly, and positioned himself to make a strong throw to third (which he did). We don’t need to do a deep dive to explain that the difference between a runner staying at second base instead of advancing to third is not an insignificant one. (And yes, for the advanced stats skeptics among you, that play does show up in Bader’s WAR if you’re curious.)
Later, in the bottom half of the first inning, the Yanks had the bases loaded with one out and Gleyber Torres at the plate. Gleyber lofted a fly ball to deep center field, with more than enough distance to score Aaron Judge from third base easily for a sacrifice fly. Yet despite the time he had, and knowing there would be no play on him at the plate, Judge hustled from third right through home plate as if a throw would be coming home.
Because if the runners on first and/or second base tried to advance and were tagged out before Judge crossed home plate, his run wouldn’t have counted. Judge knew this, but again, I’ve seen too many players in that situation not be cognizant of that fact and jog home creating a very unfortunate situation for the team when a teammate gets thrown out behind him on the bases. Perhaps it was Judge on his own or perhaps he got a reminder from third base coach Luis Rojas – either way it was a heads up play.
In an eventual 11-3 win neither Bader’s nor Judge’s play made a big difference in the result of the game. But those are the types of plays that loom very large in one run games but are largely ignored by the media and fans because they occurred in the first inning and don’t make highlight reels. Trust me, if Bader allowed that runner to advance and the runner eventually scored on a passed ball, and if Judge jogged and DJ LeMahieu was thrown out at second base negating Judge’s run and the Yankees lost late, people would notice and Bader, Judge, (and Aaron Boone) would hear it. Well done all around.
Reminder: Small things often count as much as highlight reel plays and the early innings count as much as the later innings.
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