A “Du” Process Win

Bronx, N.Y., July 21, 2018; Yankees 7, NY Mets 6 — After leading the visiting Mets for much of the game in the Stadium Saturday afternoon, the Yankees held on for a white-knuckles win thanks to two ground balls served up by Chasen Shreve. The lefty saved (his first of the year) the home team once closer Aroldis Chapman could not throw strikes, missing the zone 16 of 19 times. But the team was able to hold on “du” to huge offensive games from right field and third base.

Beleaguered Yankee righty Sonny Gray was quite good in this one, outdueling Mets lefthander Steven Matz, though he also succumbed to a bout of wildness, in his case in the top of the sixth. He had struck out five and walked one through the first five frames, and two of the three hits Gray surrendered were infield rollers hit too softly to be defended. But back-to-back one-out walks got him out of the game. An Amed Rosario single and a throwing error scored both off reliever David Robertson, closing a 4-1 margin to 4-3.

As was the case in Friday night’s loss, the home team came up with plenty of hits, but Saturday they were bunched, with several going for extra bases. Mets center fielder Matt den Dekker struggled during the sudden barrage, just missing two of the harder hit balls (Didi triple, Andujar double), both of which rolled to the wall. The Yanks turned a single, triple, double, double, single outburst around two outs in the home fourth into a 4-1 lead. The earlier 1-0 deficit, which had been forged when Michael Conforto homered on Gray’s first pitch of the second inning, was all but forgotten. Sonny was dealing, as was the offense, and the 4-1 lead seemed safe.

It wasn’t. Miguel Andujar and Aaron Judge to the rescue, however, as leadoff hits by the former in the sixth and eighth and Judge’s homer in the seventh led to three individual tallies; they would all prove necessary.

Despite the rbi hit Robertson surrendered, the bullpen came though with its usual reliable work, as DRob, Jonathan Holder, and Dellin Betances retired eight of nine, five of them on strike outs. Fans of both stripes were preparing to head to the exits, as the win seemed a certainty with one of the game’s best closers coming on with a four-run lead, and just three outs to get. Chapman can be wild sometimes, and he has had an issue with a balky knee. Still, although he started catcher Kevin Plawecki with a ball, he worked the count to 2-2, but then walked him. Ball one to Rosario was followed by the Mets’ third infield hit of the day. Then Aroldis threw 11 consecutive pitches off the plate. The fourth was his second walk, the eighth drove in the Mets’ fourth run and, when Brandom Nimmo was hit by a pitch three tosses later, the Mets had run No. five, with still no one out.

A reluctant Aaron Boone called for Shreve, who ironically had warmed alongside fellow southpaw Chapman in the eighth, as the Yanks were scoring their seventh run. Had Brandon Drury, who got as far as third base, crossed as well, it’s likely Chasen would have started the ninth. Now it was up to him to finish the inning. And finish he did. Perhaps as startling in its effectiveness as Chapman’s wild-out was the opposite, the four-years-in-pinstripes veteran got it done, coaxing a sharp ground ball to Drury at second, for a 4-4-3, while run No. 6 scored. Two down, but Jose Reyes lurked 90 feet away with the run that could tie the score. On a 2-2 pitch, Wilmer Flores bounced right back to the box, and Shreve, who took a moment to right himself while spinning toward first, then delivered the throw to beat Flores by a step. Game over, 7-6.

So was Chapman just stale after 10 days off? He was probably negatively affected by the blustery breezes that dominated off and on much of the game. Gray, it seemed, struggled with the wind while issuing the two walks that got him out of the game. By denying the Flushing nine the tying run, Shreve not only earned his first save, he also got Sonny a much-needed win, evening his record at 7-7. Gray has been better, against admittedly struggling offensive opponents, but he came through well after the Conforto jolt, something that could have derailed him in earlier contests. He pitched with his head, adapting to Larry Vanover’s particular strike zone, and got almost as many called strikes as those that came in contact with bats, by a 22/23 margin.

With all respect to Shreve’s professional, hitman-style save, this game would have been lost without the clutch — and destructive — hitting from Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar, who each went 3-for-4, though a strong contribution from a resurgent Greg Bird (two hits, two rbis) merits honorable mention as well. Judge hit the first pinstriped homer of the second half (16 innings in, it felt like something was missing), five players drove in runs, but only four scored, as Andujar hogged that stat by crossing the plate after each of his three hits (doubles to right, a single up the middle). Once described as “pull happy,” is Du becoming an even better hitter?

With a Gleyber Torres return seemingly just days away, this is an offense to be dealt with. Winning despite a bullpen failure? Something fairly foreign to the ’18 team. It was good to see the offense stepping up when it was “du.”