Lords of the Flies

Bronx, N.Y., August 12, 2018; Yankees 7, Texas 2 — It’s a habit I could learn to like. For the second straight day Yankee power hitter Giancarlo Stanton drilled a first-inning home run to give the Yanks an early 1-0 lead. It felt like it eased the burden on CC Sabathia, who, despite throwing six shutout innings with seven strike outs and just one hit, labored in this one early.

The first of two Miguel Andujar errors and that eventual lone safety would push the burly southpaw to 20 tosses in the second. But the biggest problem may have come when no pitch was thrown at all. As Sabathia used his big body to proprel an 0-1, one-out pitch toward Robert Chirinos, home plate ump Lance Barksdale gave the Texas DH a very late “time” call. With his left arm above and past his shoulder, CC strived to stop the motion, spinning down off the mound as he did so. He was obviously upset, and very possibly hurt, as some watching cringed at the torque his aging knees took aborting the throw. One of those watchers was Aaron Boone, who immediately berated Barksdale for the dangerously late call.

Our fears were unfounded, though, as CC managed to make another 77 throws and hold the Rangers off the scoreboard through six. And he was even able to relax in that sixth, as his teammates busted out for five big runs in the bottom of the fifth. Although Brett Gardner would key the trouble with a one-out hard double behind Austin Romine’s first-pitch infield single, and Didi Gregorius would cap the onslaught with a two-run jack, it was Aaron Hicks’s single for two runs following Gardner that made the inning. Once CC pitched the sixth (16 pitches around Du’s second miscue), Gardy added the last Yankee score with an RBI single.

CC’s line was good obviously (one infield single, which came on the batter following Chirinos and had him struggling to make the bend and throw in front of him — he did, not quickly enough) was good, but not perfect. The 12 of 21 first-pitch strikes was OK, but the second number in his 61/36 strikes/balls ratio was why it took 97 tosses to complete six. But he was throwing every pitch he has, and the constant mix had the Texas batters ill at ease.

The two Rangers runs, and the only trying rooting time, came in the seventh when Boone brought in Sonny Gray. Although it’s true Sonny pitched three scintillating innings to help New York win a big game a week ago, he didn’t do it at home. This crowd harbors bad memories and resentments against the failed starter. And his outing opened poorly. Chirinos’s leadoff single into the abandoned second base position (Torres was on the other side of the bag, in a shift) is not on Gray, but Joey Gallo’s ensuing double is. And it was unfortunate, because Sonny got the next four hitters to tap 60-foot rollers. The first two were a fielder’s grounder and an infield single, scoring two runs, and setting up the 7-2 final. Truth be told, two hits off Sonny in the eighth were harder hit, and he slunked off the field to a chorus of boos. Jonathan Holder got six outs to end the game.

One part of this game that was definitely not trying was watching Gregorius play defense at short. Darting to his right and throwing off balance back to the left, he retired both Elvis Andrus and Delino DeShields, in the first and fifth, respectively, with the latter being Top 10 Plays fodder anywhere you go. Didi made another nice play on Isaiah Kiner-Falefa in the seventh, as did Andujar to end that danger-filled Chirinos at bat in the second. Sabathia was a wise man to get 10 of 18 outs on the ground. It also needs to be said that the game was played under more than pleasant conditions. A crowd reduced in size, I’m sure, due to the omnipresent calls for rain and showers, watched under blue skies, while big, billowing, white clouds visible to the left and right all day kept their distance. And to top it off, despite some humidity, there was a pleasant breeze blowing all afternoon.

On the one hand, it is satisfying that the pinstripers won three of four from Texas, splitting the four games would have been unacceptable, and fans had a right to hope for a sweep. Similar thoughts abound in the coming series, following a tough makeup game against Jacob deGrom and the Mets Monday night. The team pitched better than it could have, for the most part, against a pretty good hitting team, but the thing that got this series win might surprise you, given the absence of big boppers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.

Giancarlo has been magnificent, and hit a third long ball in addition to the two mentioned above. Neil Walker had a two-home-run night, and Andujar virtually won the Saturday game with his first-pitch blast the other way. The correctly named Bombers outhomered the Rangers 11 to 4 in the four-game set. Which brings to mind this: On this day in 1931, Nobel Prize author William Goldman was born. What was the title of the book that got him the prize again? Oh, I remember.

Lord[s] of the Flies