Don’t Tell Gator

Bronx, N.Y., April 3, 2019; Detroit 2, Yankees 1 — Ron Guidry had a glorious day in old Yankee Stadium in 1978, the day he whiffed 18 Angels to establish the Yankee record for strike outs in a game. It was an uplifting day in the Bronx, and my recollection is that it was the day the fan practice of standing and applauding once a pitcher had two strikes on the batter originated. Louisiana Lightning has been in the Yankee pantheon for what he did that day, and that year, ever since.

The Yankees were not showered with lavish praise Wednesday afternoon, quite the opposite, although there were good signs early. Righthander Jonathan Loaisiga, added to the 25-man roster to make this start, had a 12-pitch, two-strike-out first inning. He pitched around a leadoff double — the only hit he would surrender over four frames — in the second, then had a one-two-three third with some help from a fabulous Aaron Judge retreat and catch of Tigers shortstop Jordy Mercer’s liner to the right field wall leading off.

The hard thrower harvested nine outs on just 31 pitches, but coming trouble was heralded when he walked right fielder Nick Castellanos on four throws to start the fourth. The following 25-pitch ordeal featured three free passes, two stolen bases, an errant throw, and two strike outs. And it all may have gone for naught had Judge’s perfect throw from right field arrived seconds earlier when Castellanos scored on Christian Stewart’s sac fly.

That tied the game at 1-1, but it could have been 2-1, Yanks. DJ LeMahieu smashed a one-out double off Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd in the home third, and scored when Judge singled sharply to right. A walk to Gary Sanchez moved Judge to second, and Gleyber Torres literally drilled a ball to the right of shortstop that should have scored a second run. I’ve been attending ballgames for more decades than I care to admit, but this may have been the first time I’ve witnessed two baserunners who were hit with a batted baseball in the baseline in the same series. (Baltimore’s Jonathan Villar suffered the same fate on Opening Day.) But with two outs on the board, Judge was running on contact, and it was a split second after the ball left Gleyber’s bat that it came into contact with Aaron’s leg, ending the inning and the Yankees’ last chance, as it turned out. Torres’s tracer was the fourth of five Yankee hits on the day.

Loiasiga’s ugly fourth, with a tying run scoring on no hits, followed, and the Yankee bullpen took over from there. Jonathan Holder pitched two scoreless frames, and Chad Green got through the seventh, but Gordon Beckham homered off him to start the eighth. It was game, set, and match, as the Yanks had no reply.

And “no reply” is putting it mildly. The five hits, just one of extra bases, is akin to some of the offense the “Bombers” have achieved lately. But the strike outs, up across the league, were appalling in number. Boyd posted 13 into the sixth, and Buck Farmer, Joe Jiminez, and (one-time Yankee prospect) Shane Greene kicked in five more.

And the news does not get better. When Troy Tulowitzki popped (very high, so there’s that) out to second with two on to close the second, he apparently experienced a left calf strain. Tulo’s history with this kind of injury is well known, but the litany of Yankee injuries is new. And it’s hard to take. Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade, neither of whom has any history hitting in the bigs, are now pressed into regular service, as is the case with Clint Frazier, whose Yankee time has been ruined by injury. Clint got a hit today, and had a sac fly last night, when Wade had a hit. But Wade struck out, as he did yesterday. Clint whiffed twice, Tauchman three times. (The unfortunate Torres, whose lone hit should have scored the second Yankee run, struck out thrice as well.)

Ron Guidry achieved his 18-strike-out performance on June 17, 1978. On June 7, 1991, film star Christina Applegate’s breakthrough hit, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, was released. With all the much deserved praise Guidry’s 1978 performances receive to this very day, the perhaps most depressing aspect of Wednesday’s loss, was that the Yankees struck out 18 times this day. In the Bronx. In Yankee Stadium.

Don’t Tell Gator