It took 29 games, but I finally watched what I thought would be the 2021 Yankees.
After wasting all of April and a golden opportunity to separate themselves from the Blue Jays and Rays, who also slogged their way through the season’s opening month, the Yankees looked like the preseason heavy favorites in the American League on Tuesday night in their 7-3 win over the hated Astros.
Even at only 20 percent capacity, the Stadium sounded alive and gave the Astros the kind of attention they have long deserved for their 2017 actions, which went undisciplined and unpunished. The atmosphere in the series opener made me wish the next time the Astros play in the Stadium, whether it’s this October or sometime in 2022 that there will be a capacity crowd and that there will be as many holdovers from the 2017 Astros as possible. That means I need the Astros to re-sign impending free agent Carlos Correa.
The Yankees’ offense finally looked fearful in a first inning, taking a 2-1 lead after two batters (on a DJ LeMahieu single and Giancarlo Stanton home run) with the first five batters of the game reaching base safely against Zack Greinke. But with a one-run lead and the bases loaded and no outs, the Yankees’ offense did what it does best, scoring only one more run in the inning, completely letting Greinke off the hook and allowing him to settle down to pitch three more scoreless innings.
A first-inning home run given up to the weaselly Alex Bregman to ruin the moment for Yankees fans in attendance letting the Astros have it wasn’t enough for Scumbag Domingo German. Scumbag German allowed a moon shot to Michael Brantley in the fourth and a wall-scraping double to Yuli Gurriel in that same inning. Scumbag German was bad yet again (5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR), but will be given the ball five days from now because why wouldn’t he be? All I can do is continue to root for him to pitch poorly and for the offense to do enough to overcome him pitching poorly, like they did on Tuesday, and eventually, hopefully, he will pitch himself off the team and out of the organization. That’s the goal. My goal, anyway.
The Yankees broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth, when with the bases loaded (again), LeMahieu hit a slow roller up the third-base line that Bregman barehanded and threw away down the first-base line. All three runners came around to score, including Rougned Odor who collided with Martin Maldonado at home plate. The infield single and throwing error gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead and yet another Stanton single (he had four hits in the game and his average is now up to .297 after going 22-for-his-last-53) made it 7-3, which it would stay.
The top of the order finally did its job as a collective group, going 8-for-19 with six walks, five runs, a double, a home run and four RBIs. Tonight the top of the order was LeMahieu followed by Stanton then Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres. (I don’t know why Odor was knocked out of his new home in the 3- and 4-spots in the order and demoted to ninth. It’s almost like Aaron Boone finally figured out Odor isn’t any good.) The bottom of the order had a forgettable night as Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner (who entered the game for Frazier and got a plate appearance), Aaron Hicks, Kyle Higashioka, Odor and Tyler Wade (who entered the game for Odor after the collision at home) went a combined 1-for-13 with three walks, two runs and five strikeouts. (Those hitters are a story for another day.)
The bullpen continued to do its job. Lucas Luetge, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta and Chad Green pitched to this line: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. I don’t know that I have ever been as comfortable with a Yankees bullpen as a whole than I am right now. (Don’t worry, I knocked on wood after saying that. No, really, I did.) Now that Nick Nelson is in the minors and Boone has finally figured out in his fourth season that Luis Cessa is only to be used when the result of a game has been determined, I feel confident with anyone who comes in out of the bullpen. (OK, maybe I don’t feel confident when Justin Wilson comes into a game, but I’m trying to be positive here after a big win.)
The Yankees embarrassed themselves in April. They crawled their way back to .500 by (barely) beating up on the offensively-inept Indians, early-rebuild-stage Orioles and forever-rebuilding Tigers. They were given a gift by the Rays and Blue Jays who failed to run away with the division, while the Yankees were scoring two runs a game, booting ground balls, dropping fly balls, running into outs on the bases and when only one of their starters could get through five innings. They went into Tuesday’s game riding a three-game winning streak fresh off a scheduled day off (not a Boone-scheduled day off) with a .500 record for the first time since April 12. They ended play on Tuesday with their fourth straight win and moved above .500 for the first time since April 6.
After nearly five weeks and 18 percent of the season being completed the 2021 Yankees I expected to see finally showed up to play. They better not disappear again.
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