The New York Yankees have made a habit of either winning or losing extremely uncomfortable baseball games lately.
You know. You’ve watched. The type of games you need a cold shower to fix, no matter the end result. The type of games that have you toggling “Best World Series Parade Viewing Spots” and “Closest Holes to Live In” tabs on your computer through the wee hours of the night.
The Yankees haven’t been “inconsistent”; they’ve been consistently maddening, no matter the end result.
That was exemplified yet again on Wednesday night, a victory over a stuck-in-the-middle Kansas City Royals team that featured an Aroldis Chapman blown save with brutal optics, a thrilling walk-off victory and 11 Yankees walks alongside nine stranded runners. They snuck by at the nose in a game they should’ve won by four or five.
Coming off that narrow victory and near-disaster, many of us expected the Yankees’ repeated issues to raise their ugly heads again in the matinee. After all, Jameson Taillon, who’s struggled to get through five innings all year and recently lasted just 0.2 against the Phillies, was set to take the mound. Brad Keller, the Royals’ starter, had an ERA approaching 7.00, which is typically no obstacle to the Yankees’ struggles.
On Thursday, though, we were treated to something approaching the best-case scenario for both the offense in that situation and Taillon on the mound. For the first time in what felt like forever, the Yanks put traffic on the bases against a bad pitcher and (largely) made him pay.
Taillon, too, bent a few times but never broke and lasted 6.1 innings when it didn’t look like he’d push through the fifth, even after an excellent first three frames.
Even hardened whiners like us can’t help but be encouraged by the progress.
Yankees fans have to be encouraged by Jameson Taillon and the offense vs. Brad Keller.
Given a prime target in Keller who’s struggled to command his trademark sinker all year long, the Yankees feasted instead of wilting. Aaron Judge went 2-2 with a RBI single, rocket home run and walk against Keller en route to reaching base three times, sufficiently ending his struggles for now. Luke Voit homered. Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Rougned Odor all pummeled the shift in the first, adding a bizarre bit of insurance.
Outside of the fifth, when Brett Gardner and Tyler Wade let Keller escape a bases-loaded scenario, this looked like the Yankees offense we envisioned.
Of course, Sanchez hitting a towering home run against Anthony Swarzak didn’t hurt, either.
As for Taillon? He narrowly escaped the fifth after looking crisper than ever in the first three or so innings, putting runners at first and second with no outs and a run already in for Salvador Perez. Beating all the odds in the book, he got a pop fly to Clint Frazier and a liner double play to Rougned Odor before pitching a 1-2-3 sixth and getting one out into the seventh.
He was tested and he punched back. Did it come against the Royals on getaway day? Sure. But wouldn’t you rather watch 6+ great innings from Taillon than watch the anger-inducing alternative, which we’ve seen against teams across the league all year long?
There was still reason to turn red in this one on occasion. Wade’s at-bat with the bases loaded and Clint Frazier’s pair of defensive miscues stood out.
Perhaps, though, the offense really can be different with Prime Voit and Red-Hot Sanchez in the middle of the lineup. Maybe they might be able to punish poor pitching with that group of bats. Maybe they can keep the light on in the later innings with this newfound power.
Yes, it was “just the Royals” … who just took a series from the Red Sox and rallied to win the Gerrit Cole opener of this series. The Yankees stared down losing control of their season in the ninth inning Wednesday and got their easiest win in months on Thursday. Color us encouraged.