You’re going to hear plenty about how, well, actually all the Yankees did was beat the back end of Chicago’s rotation. Actually, two walk-offs in three days is luck, not design; we’d be more impressed if the Yanks had methodically beaten down the AL Central’s best rather than trip into victories.
Actually, it’s mid-May, not mid-October, we’ll be told, as if that’s some sort of revelation. Aw, man, really? Thought this was the playoffs. My world is rocked.
A closer look at the accomplishment, though, reveals the Yankees’ weekend performance was actually more impressive than what they’re getting credit for, not less.
The White Sox rotation, stacked one-through-five and leaning on veteran Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel to hold down its final spot, performed to its capabilities. Keuchel’s start was short, but acceptable, Dylan Cease had some learning to do, and Carlos Rodon might’ve uncorked the nastiest opponent start of the season.
The Yankees’ rotation, however — also relying on their fourth and fifth starters in Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon — was much better, and decided en masse they were simply not going to let the highest scoring offense in MLB score … at all. That’s the memorable takeaway from this three-game set.
The Yankees rotation stopped the White Sox, who score constantly, from scoring.
If this White Sox offense is known for any one thing (other than … being excellent?), it’s mashing lefties. In 2020, Chicago was undefeated (15-0, including the WC series) against lefty starters. This season has been no different; the South Siders are sporting upper-echelon marks against southpaws (which makes the use of Wandy Peralta in a 3-0 game Sunday all the more curious … we digress).
That might make Jordan Montgomery’s Friday start the most impressive accomplishment of the season to date. He didn’t simply match zeroes with a flame-throwing lefty in Rodon with a no-hitter to his credit already in 2021; he did so against the literal worst possible matchup. The story of this series wasn’t just the Yankees rotation holding down the most potent offense in baseball. The series began with the most lopsided pitching matchup of the year, all things considered, which the Yankees weathered and used as a springboard to a sweep.
Five runs in the series, four of which came against the Yanks’ bullpen in the third game of the set, while Chicago was desperately attempting to claw back and steal one.
Give them credit: they nearly did. Give us credit: we also learned Tony La Russa’s tendencies change for no man, which should be comforting if these two teams lock horns in October (unless he’s fired in July for, like, stealing his pitchers’ water to toughen them up).
La Russa has been unwilling to learn from his mistakes for years because he doesn’t believe them to be mistakes. Twice in this series, he made the same fatal miscalculation, leaving his closer Liam Hendriks in the bullpen rather than employ him in a tie game on the road.
By the time he appeared on the mound, the bases were loaded for Aaron Judge with just one out in the final inning of play Sunday. An ill-advised intentional walk to the slumping DJ LeMahieu all but assured Judge would appear, and when he did, he executed La Russa’s club for the third time in as many days.
When it was over, La Russa blinked and forgot it.
Failing now doesn’t make him any less likely to fail in similar fashion under the bright lights in the future. He will remain steadfast in his conviction, and the Yankees took advantage twice in three games after learning just how rigid La Russa can be with his closer usage.
Entering this series, the only question surrounding the White Sox was, “Did they win by too much earlier this week, and should they make their manager happy by being less dominant?”
Now, the world is left wondering whether they let the Yankees get off the mat, and whether there’s any offense in the league that can solve their rotation more than once in a series. That’s a better place to be.