Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Torres 5, Toronto 3 As Yankees Sweep


Gleyber Torres crosses the plate after rounding the bases on his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-3, on Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium to sweep their brief two-game series, with Gleyber Torres knocking in all five runs.

The Yankees run their Major League-best record to 22-8, winners of 15 of their last 17 games. This is just the ninth time in their history, and third time since 1959, that they have won at least 22 of their first 30 games to open a season. The other teams that achieved the feat are (record, then years): 24-6 in 1928, '39, '58; 23-7 in 1998 and 2003; 22-8 in 1923, '32, and '50. All of those teams made the World Series, and eight of them won it, with the one exception being 2003.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked if he can sense something special with this team, if there's an "it" factor, before Wednesday’s game, and he said, "Look, we're not even 30 games into this, so I'd say the same thing to you if we were off to a tough start: we've got a long way to go.

“I will say, and I've said it to you guys from Day One in spring training, I do feel like there is something special amongst those players, just another level of commitment, focus, preparation, kind of obsessed with little things on the margins, little parts of the game that have shown up from Day One in spring training, and that's really encouraging to see, but I think theyall understand we've got a long way to go, too."

Jameson Taillon got the start for the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon, and just as Luis Severino did on Tuesday night, he ran into trouble early.

George Springer walked to lead off, followed by a Bo Bichette single and a Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. hit-batsmen to load the bases with nobody out.

Taillon then got Teoscar Hernandez to ground to DJ LeMahieu at third base for what looked like a double play ball, but they could only retire Guerrero, Jr., at second.

Springer scored to make it 1-0, and Taillon kept it right there, as he struck out Lourdes, Gurriel, Jr., and got Alejandro Kirk to pop out to first base. That started a streak in which the Yankees right-hander retired eight in a row.

Jose Berrios got the start for Toronto, and he shut the Yankees down for the first three innings, save for a Joey Gallo single in the second, while also notching four strikeouts.

After Aaron Judge grounded out to open the fourth, Anthony Rizzo provided a spark. The Yankees first baseman grounded one into the shift in shallow right field, and Bichette ran to get it, taking his time, fired from just behind his normal shortstop position, and Rizzo, not known for his speed, beat it out.

LeMahieu followed with a single, and up came Gleyber Torres, who has been on a tear, and opened the homestand by hitting a game-winning homerun against Texas in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader.

Torres took it the other way and hit it into the same spot in right field, into the second row, for a three-run home run to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

Where Rizzo hustled on the basepaths in the fourth, Toronto had the exact opposite in the fifth.

Bichette got a two-out double to keep the inning alive, and Taillon threw a passed ball while Guerrero was up. As the ball trickled past Yankees catcher Jose Trevino, Guerrero, Jr., is waving for Bichette to go to third. Instead, the vaunted prodigy was walking BACK to the bag, as he was obviously paying zero attention to the plate. Guerrero, Jr., struck out, to end the inning.

In the top of the sixth, Taillon stayed in, and gave up a single to Hernandez, followed by induing a pop-up to second from Gurriel, Jr., followed by a single to Alejandro Kirk, and that was all for Taillon.

In came Michael King, and he got Matt Chapman to hit a sactrifice fly to bring in Hernandez and make it 3-2 Yankees.

Santiago Espinal then hit a grounder to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who had a tough day in the field, and he bobbled a possible double play ball, but he recovered enough to try to get the lumbering Kirk at second. Kirk beat the throw, but overran the base, so Torres kept the tag on and got the out to end the inning. That's right, the Jays were victims of horrendous baserunning two straight innings.

As if on cue, in the bottom of the sixth, after Judge grounded out to third, Rizzo drew a walk, showing patience at the plate (another thing foreign to Toronto) and LeMahieu doubled.

That was all for Berrios, and they brought in Trevor Richards to face Torres. 

New pitcher, similar result, as Torres laced a single to center to score two runs and make it 5-2 Yankees.

King stayed on and gave up a couple singles, with a strikeout of Springer in between, and yielded to Clay Holmes for Gurrero, Jr., and he got him to hit into a double play. 

Holmes, who notched two wins on this homestand, continued his superb pitching, as he pitched a clean eighth, working around a Kiner-Falefa throwing error. Holmes' ERA is now 0.55 on the season.

The Yankees turned to closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, and he gave up a double to Espinal and walked Vinny Capra, who pinch-hit for Raimel Tapia. The big lefty then got Springer to fly to right for a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3.

Bichette was up next, and he laced a moonshot down the left field line, but it was just foul, and he went on to whiff at the next couple of pitches and strike out. Chapman then got Hernandez to pop to short to end it.

This was another choppy outing for Chapman, but Boone said he "was encoraged, actually, today, you know. Falls behind, I think, Espinal got a hit on a slider there, 2-1, and then he walks the pinch-hitter there, but I like that he went and really got after it with his fastball again, and when he did, his fastball got better, and he's obviously going against tough guys there. You know, dodged it there, fortunately didn't have a good view, so it didn't give me too much of a heart attack with Bichette's ball. I kind of felt like it was hooking all the way, but I thought he did a good job of getting after it with his fastball when the first two guys got on base."

Taillon got the win to improve to 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA, as he went 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits, with a walk and four strikeouts.

Boone said of his performance after a tough first inning, "He just found a zone, he's usually such a good strike thrower, you know, that's never an issue for him, and the first few hitters, just took him a while to kind of lock in the zone, and get locked in from a command standpoint, and once he did that, he was fine. I thought his stuff was, again, good today, and yeah, I thought he was solid, you know, especially, that first inning gets dicey, once you get into that 30 pitches, and I don't think he had an out up around 20 pitches, but you never really worry about him too much in the strike-throwing department, you know, once he settles in, and he did a really good job of that."

The story after the game was, of course, the five RBI for Torres, giving him 18 on the season, and Boone said of his second baseman, "I feel like those at-bats have been there. You know, didn't get any results the last, well, yesterday, but I feel like he's right there, he's on time. He kind of grabbed me before his first at-bat trying to get some hit because he knows he feels good at the plate. Smoked the ball up the middle the first time, lined out right into the shift there up the middle, and then got enough of one, and a big hit to get us some tack-on runs there, staying through the middle against Richards, who's tough with that change-up, high fastball, but just more good at-bats by him in some big situations.

When asked what he thinks of their start, after reaching 22-8 through 30 games, Boone, proving to be very consistent, said, "Early, awfully early. I'm excited we're racking up wins, but we'll enjoy this one, makes the plane ride a little nicer, and on to the next one."

That will be a four-game set starting Thursday night in Chicago against the White Sox, with Luis Gil making his season debut in a spot start precipitated by the rain outs last weekend.

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