Yankees survive Gleyber Torres' attempt to give game away in nailbiter vs. Guardians

Miami Marlins v New York Yankees
Miami Marlins v New York Yankees / New York Yankees/GettyImages

Tired: Aaron Judge needs an off day to reset himself a bit.

Wired: Gleyber Torres needs an off day to clear his head.

Entering his walk year, the Yankees' incumbent starting second baseman was coming off an underrated season that was somewhat buried by the team's overall offensive incompetence. Torres' 118 OPS+ year had no business being the 2023 Yankees' second-best offensive season, but in a vacuum, he was well above average.

Defensively? Well, that was a different story. Every so often, a Torres brain fart would rear its ugly head, often resulting in a deceased team roaring back to life (think the Cubs-Yankees game that sort of extinguished the 2023 team's chances before the All-Star break). With less than one year to go before the head-spinning reality of free agency, there was certainly a chance Torres would enter 2024 in a less-than-proper headspace, and fans would probably know fairly quickly how he was feeling, considering he wears his heart on his sleeve.

The early returns? He's got a budding friendship with Juan Soto, but ... he's been moved out of the leadoff spot, has an OPS in the .500s, and dusted off his defensive miscues on Sunday, reopening the door for a frisky Guardians team in the opener of a doubleheader. With the bases loaded, one out, and the Yankees nursing a 3-0 lead, Caleb Ferguson induced a double play ball with an excellent running fastball to righty Tyler Freeman. Unfortunately, Torres had other plans.

Two runs scored.

Yankees survive 3-2 thriller in Cleveland after Gleyber Torres error almost opened the floodgates

From this point forward, the Yankees were forced to use their premium back-end arms instead of coasting to a win up 3-0 (and looking to add). That made it nearly a must-win, given the night game still to come. Using Ian Hamilton for 30+ pitches, Clay Holmes for the ninth, and you lose with another game on the horizon? That wouldn't have gone over well.

Luckily, the Yankees' poor luck on barreled balls didn't translate to the final outcome. After Alex Verdugo made a slick catch down the line to end the eighth and ate a baseball, the ninth looked a lot like Holmes' final stand in Houston.

Ramon Laureano ripped a 1-2 pitch that appeared to be gone to left, but was somehow kept in the ballpark and clanged off the wall. With one on and one out after a Bo Naylor K, Estevan Florial took a 3-2 slider in two pitches after he'd successfully taken a 1-2 slider in for a ball. This time, he was flabbergasted by the outcome.

A grounder to -- who else? -- Torres ended it one pitch later.

The Yankees got the game they had to have, but this team's infield defense remains a larger problem than any high-variance RISP fail or bullpen usage. Torres and Anthony Rizzo have been equal parts devastating this April, and neither has much more wiggle room. If the Yankees hit a cold spot, they'll both be deemed responsible once the blanket of an early hot start has been removed.