Yankees “Hammer” Jays

Bronx, N.Y., August 18, 2018; Yankees 11, Toronto 6 — Following two straight games where the Yanks fell behind by multiple runs in the first inning (one loss, one win), Luis Severino and his mates took no prisoners Saturday afternoon in sweltering Yankee Stadium, pounding their way to an 8-0 lead by scoring in each of the first five innings. Didi Gregorius got the place rocking with a two-run first-inning jolt, and the rout was on.

The large crowd was already happy, if sweaty, following pregame ceremonies acknowledging the 20th anniversary of the 1998 World Championship, an honor earned by the team that in its 125 victories won the most games in a season in major league baseball history. Plenty of beloved players and personnel were driven in golf carts before adoring fans to the pitching mound area, where they smiled, waved, embraced, and felt the love, while also taking group pictures and selfies with ’98 Championship trophy. The Yankee organization is old hands at this sort of thing, and they did not disappoint.

But there was an important game —: they all are — to be played and all eyes were on ace Severino, who despite having struggled for weeks, retook the American League in wins with his 16th in this one. Despite a sixth-inning scare, Sevy was better than he needed to be, though a mounting pitch count, largely accumulated during his eight strike outs, got him out of the game after two hits opening the sixth. That they both would score (followed by three more) ended his day with two runs on six hits while executing 99 pitches. Of that count, 68 were strikes, and 14 of those on swings and misses.

Along with the huge sigh of relief that Luis pitched effectively was the fact that he had a relatively stress-free first inning, a recent concern. And joining him on the stars of the day dais were Gregorius, who would drive in a third run with a sac fly in the eighth, and third baseman Miguel Andujar, who crushed starter Sean Reid-Foley pitches for a two-run double in the third and a homer in the fifth. A single in the seventh lifted his season average to .300, though it dipped below when he lined out hard in the eighth. There was some sloppy play on both sides. Toronto made called errors in both the second and the third, and right fielder Teoscar Hernandez’s circular route to Giancarlo Stanton’s fly ball to short right in that latter frame handed the Yankee DH a single neither he nor his team needed. But it did get the Yankee three-run third started.

Stanton did not need the help, by the way, because he continued his recent at least one extra base hit a day routine with a long home run to left in the fourth. With Andujar’s jolt the next frame, all was joy and dancing in the Bronx, with the 8-0 lead. But Aaron Boone sent Sevy out for the sixth with a pitch count of 95, and two hits got an ugly frame started. In a scene you’re not likely to see ever again, the superb left fielder Brett Gardner bobbled the leadoff double by Kendrys Morales four times, though it gave him just one base, so just one error. Once Morales scored on a Justin Smoak single, Tommy Kahnle came on to get two outs, though they were mixed in with two singles and a walk. Jonathan Holder replaced him, but one-time Yankee (three weeks ago) Billy McKinney singled sharply to right, and Neil Walker, not really an outfielder, let the ball get by him. By the time the dust cleared, the Jays had scored three more, even if McKinney was out oversliding third base.

It was an ugly, five-run, two-error frame, 25 minutes that the representative Jays fan grouping in the Stadium enjoyed to the hilt. But that was it, and this one was essentially over. Zach Britton pitched around an infield single in the sixth, a ball on which Didi Gregorius almost made a play that would compete for a top-ten plays of the year contest. And after allowing a leadoff walk, Dellin Betances struck out two with a popup on a nice Andujar play in the eighth. Once the Bombers plated three more that frame, A.J. Cole survived a mess of a ninth inning, allowing three hits and a run, by striking out two, for the 11-6 final.

On this day in 1962, legendary folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary released what would be their first hit, If I Had a Hammer. In the aforementioned three-run, eighth-inning Yankee uprising, struggling first baseman Greg Bird got off the schneid and blasted a home run. Joining Gregorius, Stanton, and Andujar, that makes four “hammers” the Yanks unleashed this day.