Deuces Were Wild

Bronx, N.Y., April 4, 2018; Yankees 7, Tampa Bay 2 — The Yankees played their strongest hand in a rainy, then blustery Stadium Wednesday afternoon, with “grounded” ace Luis Severino dealing into the eighth and their monster troika of power hitters each homering for two runs. Tampa southpaw Blake Snell was driven from the mound with one down in the fourth one out before Aaron Judge added an exclamation point to a Bronx bombardment that featured Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez jolts before his.

Following a 90-minute rain delay during which the precip more threatened than fell, the afternoon eventually morphed into a pleasant one with an inning or two of dazzling sunshine, before changing again into a windblown torrent. Although Severino pounded 97-mph cheese from the outset, striking out two in the first, the visitors did score on DH D.J. Cron’s double over left fielder Stanton. And they would have plated a second tally if Ronald Torreyes, getting the start at second base, hadn’t made the first of two consecutive stellar defensive plays. With Cron off from second with two down, Toe robbed catcher Wilson Ramos by spearing his soft liner to short right with a headlong dive that looked like a wide receiver scoring on a post pattern.

Not satisfied with that, on the fourth pitch of the second Torreyes nabbed a bouncer up the middle from his counterpart at second Joey Wendle and made a perfect throw across his body, one that brought images of Robbie Cano to mind. He thus cashed in the first of Severino’s 13 ground ball outs. Luis didn’t need any further help, though double plays turned behind him in the fifth and seventh contributed to a pitch count that allowed him to start the eighth inning with a number just south of 90.

The hard-throwing righty featured the heat, but largely toyed with the Rays lineup with a dazzling slider, and killer change. He coaxed seven punch outs, but did so while producing just eight swings and misses on the day. His 62/30 strikes/balls ratio was textbook, and he threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 26 batters. But perhaps most noteworthy was how he kept himself in the game with all the grounders. Following the two-hit first and a leadoff walk (his only one) in the third, his count stood at 50. But he threw just seven, eight, 10, and nine pitches over the next four frames.

His offense, meanwhile, destroyed southpaw Blake Snell, both with a barrage of long balls to left, and by driving him to make 77 tosses through three. After the Stanton bomb in the first, Sanchez lofted a high drive for two in the third. Tyler Austin started the fourth with a walk, and surprised both Rays and fans alike by stealing second. An out later he scored on Torreyes’s bounced single up the middle against a drawn-in infield. Then Judge, who had walked and scored in the second, drilled a no-doubt missile over Denard Span in left, adding his name to the ’18 homer list and giving the home team more runs than they would need, and the last of seven they would get.

Fans and some “experts” have been giving Aaron Boone some criticism of his managing decisions early, and some, I assume, looked askance when he moved Didi Gregorius out of the cleanup spot following his epic two-home-run, eight-rbi game Tuesday. But the wisdom of his Judge-Stanton-Sanchez configuration in the order was starkly illustrated by the early fireworks. There was late fire as well, as Aroldis Chapman used his 100-mph+ heat to close out the Rays after they scratched out a second run in the eighth, and also with the gusting winds, wildly threatening to tear the 30 team pennants above the Stadium from their poles. And then, of course, as exhibited three times, on this day …

Deuces Were Wild