Bronx, N.Y., May 27, 2019; Yankees 5, San Diego 2 — Chad Green looked quite the opener in the Yankees’ 5-2 win over San Diego on a gorgeous Memorial Day in the Bronx Monday afternoon. And after a shaky second inning, David Hale carried the action exactly as long as was needed. Once Green struck out the side in the first, San Diego lefty Matt Strahm almost matched him, whiffing two once third baseman Greg Garcia made a fine play on DJ LeMahieu’s base hit bid leading off. The next inning would be starkly different.
Hale took the mound in the second, following Chad in fine form with a strike out, but once left fielder Hunter Renfroe rolled a single through the vacated second base hole against an overshifted infield, it got ugly. A six-pitch walk to Wil Myers set it up. A double to right plated one run and, once Austin Romine speared Luke Voit’s somewhat high throw to nail Myers at the plate for the second out, fans breathed a sigh of relief. We shouldn’t have, because ninth place hitter and catcher Austin Hedges doubled to left for a second run. A bouncer to the box ended the brief carnage, but it took Hale 29 pitches to navigate the mess. But he got himself a win because his next 32 throws retired nine straight, getting the game to the sixth inning, and the superb Yankee bullpen.
The other reason Hale wears the winner’s mantle is that the home team struck back immediately. Strahm needed just 18 throws to pitch his half of the second, but the sixth became a Clint Frazier homer to left and, following a Gio Urshela walk and pop out, Brett Gardner lined toss No. 14 into the second deck in right, just a few feet inside the foul pole, 3-2 Yankees. And that’s the way it stayed, as Strahm easily matched Hale, striking out 10 while allowing just two homer-less hits through the sixth.
If you’re a Yankee fan, you know they have a good bullpen, but that alone doesn’t explain the palpable sense of calm and pleasure wafting through the 46,000-plus once Adam Ottavino began the parade of one-inning pros who held the Padres at bay the rest of the game. I’ll give Mother Nature the nod, as the mostly anything-but-Spring weather we’ve had in New York took a break and treated us to the best baseball weather we’ve had this year. A moving 3:00 pm Memorial Day moment of silence for all our lost heroes may have played a part as well. And that calm was immediately tested, because even though “Otto’s” first pitch became a single to left and pitch two a 4-4-3 double play, Eric Hosmer then reached on an infield single. Ottavino restored order with a six-pitch strike out of Renfroe, but by then we had been reminded of what can happen to a one-run lead achieved as early as the second inning.
We could have stayed calm, as Tommy Kahnle (throwing 98-mph cheese, yikes!) and Chris Britton retired six straight, but further reason to chill was upon us. When veteran righthander Craig Stammen took the San Diego mound in the eighth, Gary Sanchez took a three-strike-out day and wiped the slate clean with a homer to right. Gleyber Torres, also at 0-for-3 with a strike out (every Yankee player would strike out except for Cameron Maybin, who came in for defense in the seventh) doubled to left center, and when right fielder Franmil Reyes allowed Maybin’s single to evade him briefly, Torres closed the scoring, 5-2 Yanks.
The timing was excellent, because Manny Machado, who was lustily booed all game, doubled against Aroldis Chapman to start the ninth. Many fans wanted the Yanks to sign Machado in the offseason, but given all the stellar players in the Yankee infield despite the loss of Miguel Andujar, a better nonsigning is hard to imagine. Why Manny would be more hated now than he was as a member of a Division rival in Baltimore, it’s hard to say. Perhaps fans are embarrassed at the way they railed at the Yankee front office over the nonmove all winter.
Following Machado, Chapman retired the next three on eight pitches for a 5-2 final, in a nifty 2:40 no less. Even though the run that ensured the win was Gardner crossing the plate in the second inning, the eighth-inning tack-on runs were good to see. The Yankees had a truly special eighth-inning rally on May 27, 1933, when Legends ruled the baseball world. Down to the visiting White Sox 11-3, the Bombers scored 12 in the eighth for a 15-11 win. Lou Gehrig knocked in three on the day, but he was forced to settle for second star, as backstop Bill Dickey drove in five.
Revisiting the Machado nonsigning, many a disgusted Yankee fan was known to mutter something akin to, “Enjoy life in San Diego where they never win!” But the 2019 Padres are a feel-good story, and they are pitching — and playing — well, and have a legitimate shot at a playoff spot. So I extend a tip of my Yankee cap to them as we hope they leave town in two days with no New York wins to their credit. Kudos, it’s a lovely town, enjoying a resurgent baseball year. On May 27, 1968, the National League awarded franchises to Montreal, and to San Diego. So it’s a golden anniversary, plus one, for the Pads.
Happy 51st Annuversary!