How I Love the Park

Bronx, N.Y., April 26, 2018; Yankees 4, Minnesota 3 — It was a day of retribution for several Yankee players in their walkoff 4-3 win over the visiting Twins under gorgeous skies Thursday afternoon. Dellin Betances threw a dominant three-strike-out top of the ninth for the win; Giancarlo Stanton had two of the six Yankee hits and scored two runs; and Gary Sanchez, catching this game, had no issues with balls in the dirt — despite being assessed an error for failing to corral a short fly popup — and followed a two-run double Monday and two homers Tuesday with Thursday’s decision maker, a no-doubt-about-it blast to left off Minnesota closer Fernando Rodney.

The Yankees found themselves in dire straits in this one at the hands of Twins starter Kyle Gibson, who didn’t allow a baserunner before he issued two walks in the fourth, and a hit until Brett Gardner reached him for a two-out clean single in the sixth. Aaron Judge followed with his second walk, but the mini-threat died when Didi Gregrius flied out to medium center. Having struck out 10 on 94 pitches, Gibson handed a 3-0 lead to his bullpen to start the seventh, only to see his fine work wasted.

Righty Addison Reed was reached for Stanton’s leadoff double to the wall in left center to start that inning, and one out later Aaron Hicks delivered the first hometeam run with a sac fly to deep center. Southpaw Zach Duke subdued the Yanks around a Gleyber Torres infield single in the eighth, which brought the Yanks face to face with Rodney in the bottom of the ninth at 4:08, exactly three hours after Bombers starter Jordan Montgomery got things started with an 88-mph fastball to Brian Dozier, a pitch that missed the zone, and led to a walk.

Montgomery, a feel-good story for much of the ’18 season, would struggle with his control this day, surrendering one free pass in each of the first three frames. The third would score in front of third baseman Eduardo Escobar’s homer to right, 2-0 Twins. Surviving the frame on his fifth (of six) strike outs, Monty strode to the dugout having thrown 76 pitches to get just nine outs. To his credit, he got through two more innings on 22 more throws, and Domingo German, perhaps being stretched out for a future spot start (?), used 56 pitches to pitch it to the ninth. But Minnesota left fielder Robbie Grossman stroked German’s 15th pitch for a homer to right, a ball on which Giancarlo Stanton threw his body into the wall, attempting to reach for the catch, and breaking pieces off the auxiliary scoreboard in the process. Stanton also made a fine play charging Grossman’s sinking liner to right in the fourth. The primary Yankee DH made it clear: He is an outfielder, who hits.

Betances came out for the top of the ninth, and promptly struck out one-two-three in the Minnesota order on an economical 13 pitches. No “boo’s” greeted him this day; one assumes some in the crowd figured this was as good a time as any to get him into a game to “fix” his problems. “Marshall” Dellin was in command, pounding first-pitch strikes to all three batting pretenders, and his teammates no doubt were buoyed by it.

So Gregorius, having homered in five straight games but 0-for-3 with a strike out today, got the bottom half started, reaching on an infield single and taking second when Escobar hurried his throw past first base. With the infield set for a potential double play, Stanton topped a ball toward third, and beat out a single, with the wise Didi holding his ground at second. Sanchez came next, staging a mini silent protest to D.J. Reyburn’s strike one call. And four minutes after Rodney’s bottom-of-the-ninth strike that started the frame, Gary hit his next pitch out of the park.

So the Yankees complete an 8-2 homestand with a four-game sweep of Minnesota, a team that has to hate coming here (but whose fans, always in attendance, are as class a group of visiting lovers of the game as I’ve ever witnessed). The Bombers completed this devastation by hitting 11 bombs, even if they were out homered 2-to-1 in this game. What baseball aficionados predicted coming into this season is taking place. The Yanks, with outsize players, can pound the ball.

April 26, 2018, is the (almost 200th) anniversary of the birth of architect Frederick Law Olmsted, an outsize character who is credited with designing the vast expanse that is New York City’s Central Park. Having delighted to seven of these eight wins in the Yankees’ home office for baseball, I think of one of my favorite lines from the madcap Dudley Moore comedy film, “Arthur,” …

You know how I love the park!