Friday, June 23, 2023

First-Place Texas Takes Opener Of Weekend Series From Yankees

Dale Dunning throwing a strike past Giancarlo Stanton in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees lost a heartbreaker to the Texas Rangers, 4-2, in 10 innings, on Friday night at Yankee Stadium to open their three-game weekend series. The Yankees, who began the homestand by taking two of three from Seattle, fell to 41-35.

The Texas Rangers, who are in first place in the American League West with Manager Bruce Bochy at the helm, improved to 47-28.

Texas' lineup has put up massive numbers, led by Garcia, who now has 17 home runs and 60 RBI, with a .261 batting average. The Rangers' pair up the middle of the infield is delivering in their second season in Texas, as shortstop Corey Seager is hitting .356, with a .418 on-base percentage, with 10 home runs and 45 RBI, while second baseman Marcus Semien is batting .271 with 10 HR and 54 RBI. Ezequiel Duran is hitting .314 with 9 homers and 30 RBI, while Josh Jung is hitting .274 with 15 home runs and 44 RBI.

The Rangers have gotten great starting pitching, led by Nathan Eovaldi, who they signed as a free agent in the offseason from the Boston Red Sox, and he is 9-3 with a 2.80 ERA (earned run average), and 96 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings. The left-hander Martin Perez is 7-3 with a 4.38 ERA, Jon Gray is 6-2 with a 2.96 ERA, while their starter on Friday night, Dane Dunning, entered the game with a 6-1 record with a 2.78 ERA.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked, in his pregame press conference on Friday afternoon, if he’s surprised with how good Texas is this year, and he said, “Not really, you know, the fact that (Jacob) deGrom went down, but I think, obviously, they’ve kind of been building for this the last couple of years, obviously going through a rebuild there, and then, you know, made a couple of huge signings two offseasons ago in Seager and Semien, and then, you know, obviously, bringing in more reinforcements, but you know, going through the rebuilding, they’ve been able to make some good trades, develop a good farm system, which they’re seeing the fruits of, and when you look at their offense, it’s as good of an offense as you’re going to see, right/left balance, power, they’ve got some speed, and they pitch well. I think when you look at their roster, you know, other than deGrom going down, the fact that they have pitched as well as they have, but looking at their team, we got an up close look earlier in the season at that offense, they’re a load, they’re for real, I feel like they’re going to be there all year.

The Yankees were swept by the Rangers in a three-game series in Texas in late April, which included deGrom making the start in the first game of that series, and exiting with the injury that would eventually lead to him needing Tommy John surgery.

On Friday night, Clarke Schmidt got the start for the Yankees, and he worked out of trouble in the first inning before Texas got a leadoff double from Robbie Grossman in the second, and a one-out single from Ezequiel Duran. Schmidt then struck out Leody Taveras before getting Marcus Semien to bounce to shortstop for a force out.

Marcus Semien's groundout to shortstop to end the second inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Yankees responded in the bottom of the second against Rangers starter Dane Dunning, as the leadoff hitter, Anthony Rizzo, reached on a hit-by-pitch, and DJ LeMahieu, who entered this one with an uncharacteristic .228 average, laced a double to left field.

Billy McKinney got an RBI groundout to third base to bring in Rizzo and make it 1-0 Yankees, as they couldn't make it a bigger inning.

In the top of the fourth, after Schmidt retired the first two Texas batters, Ezequiel Duran beat out a grounder to third base after LeMahieu made a nice play on it to keep the inning alive.

That was massive, as Taveras dunked one into center field that Isiah Kiner-Falefa got a late jump on, so it bounced in front of him, and then kicked off his glove, which allowed Duran to race all the way around from first base to tie the game at 1.

Kiner-Falefa tried to make up for it with his bat, as he led off the fifth with a single, but he then attempted to steal second base, and that's when it got a little weird. He slid into second base, and it appeared he was out, as Semien swiped the tag across the front of his jersey, but there was no call. Despite that, Kiner-Falefa headed back to the dugout instantly, which forced Semien to race after him to apply the tag to confirm the out.

Boone, in his postgame remarks, said of Kiner-Falefa's two miscues, "Yeah, I think just didn't see the ball great off the bat, tough time of night sky-wise, so didn't get a good break on the ball, and that falls in, obviously, and he heard 'out,' which was probably the player calling him out. I think he was out on replay regardless, but, yeah, I mean, you got to make sure there right."

Clarke Schmidt firing one in to Mitch Garver in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Schmidt pitched into the sixth in one of his better outings of the season, as he went 5 2/3 innings, and allowed just one unearned run on six hits and a walk, with three strikeouts. He got the no-decision, so his record remains at 2-6, but his ERA was lowered from 4.65 to 4.32.

After Jimmy Cordero and Wandy Peralta got the Yankees through the sixth and seventh innings, they turned to Clay Holmes for the eighth. 

The Rangers rallied, as they got a one-out double from Josh Jung, and he came around to score on a two-out single from Mitch Garver that made it 2-1 Texas.

This lined up Dunning for the win, but Kiner-Falefa and Billy McKinney opened up the eighth inning with singles, and that was all for him. 

John King entered for the Rangers, and pinch-hitter Kyle Higashioka drove one to center field for a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2, but they couldn't get the lead, as Anthony Volpe struck out looking and Harrison Bader, who was pinch-hitting for Jake Bauers, popped out to center field.

Dunning's final line was: 7 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, and he threw 87 pitches, 58 of which were strikes.

Boone said of Dunning's outing and what he did to keep the Yankees lineup at bay, "Yeah, I mean, you know, kind of sinker and then slowed us down with the spin, looked like he had, you know, was able to get some weak contact off the bat with the spin and get some chases, probably getting good break on it late, you know, that made it a little difficult to pick up, but we got to mount more, simple as that...We got to do better to generate some offense."

Tommy Kahnle pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning for the Yankees, and Texas' Joe Barlow returned the favor in the bottom half, sending the game to extra innings.

Michael King came on for the Yankees in the tenth, and with Nathaniel Lowe out at second base as the ghost runner, Adolis Garcia took the first pitch he saw from King and buried it in the left field seats for a two-run homer that put Texas up, 4-2.

Texas turned to their closer, Will Smith, in the bottom of the tenth, and he retired the Yankees in order to earn his 14th save of the season. King took the loss for the Yankees, as he fell to 1-4 on the season.

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