Bronx, N.Y., July 20, 2019; Yankees 11, Colorado 5 — Although the 11-5 Yankee victory over Colorado in steamy Yankee Stadium Sunday afternoon could be called a blowout, despite the Rockies’ spirited five-run rally in the sixth, the biggest reason the home team took this one was that they stuck to fundamentals. They cleared no fences with their 14 hits, and were charged with no errors. And for five innings, Masahiro Tanaka was as good as could be.
While he struck out but two in those five frames (and a third in the torturous sixth), he got 10 ground ball outs on just 48 pitches. The Rockies scratched out just two hits, never reaching second base, as the Yanks pounded their way to a 9-0 lead. An Aaron Judge screaming double to the left center field wall got the Bombers on the board in the first, and five hits, two walks, and an error added five more tallies in the second. With DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres leading the hit parade with three apiece, they scored three more in the fourth, for a 9-0 lead. Laugher, right?
I believe if you asked him, Masahiro Tanaka would say no. Perhaps bolstered by righty reliever Carlos Estevez having struck out the side in the home fifth (Colorado fans in the stands certainly were), the Rocks staged a one-out rally in the top of the sixth. Six straight reached on five hits and Tanaka’s lone walk of the day; five scored. But a 12th ground ball out and a strike out got the veteran Yankee righty through the frame. It had taken 48 pitches to notch 15 outs; but 39 more got his final three.
The Yanks failed to answer right away, but it was no matter. Tommy Kahnle set the visitors down in order in the seventh, and once the Yanks tacked on two runs in the bottom half, Aaron Boone took advantage of the widened lead to rest key pen guys, getting the last six outs from David Hale.
Acknowledging the most stiflingly hot day of the year thus far, the Yankees used the scoreboard to continuously alert fans to hydration and cooling stations throughout the park. And showing a sense of humor, they used their ’80s in the Eighth feature — in which they play a 1980s song in the middle of that inning — to play Glen Frey’s The Heat Is On, something no one in the ballpark could deny. And thanks to rallies from both sides, this one blew past 3:30 in time on a day an hour shorter would have been great.
Surprising moments took place throughout this one, some fun, some not. Gleyber helped break the second inning up with an aggressive dash to second that startled the Rockies, and Austin Romine did the same with a steal of second shortly afterward. On the other hand, Luke Voit left the game in the fifth after not only being hit by a pitch, but taking it in the face. Other close calls followed, with Didi Gregorius dancing out of the way of throws at his feet, and then Romine not earning first base in the eighth because the ball that hit him also hit his bat. The next one was at his head. And Kudos to Colorado third sacker Nolan Arenado for his homer into Monument Park in the sixth. Right off the bat, I knew it was at least a sac fly as Aaron Hicks tracked. It surprised both me and Hicks that it cleared both his glove, and the wall. And let’s tack on an acknowledgement of a superb diving catch in left field by Brett Gardner for the second out of the ninth.
Simple game, baseball. You throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. And as long as players are more often than not hitting said ball, preventing them from reaching first base safely is key. Tanaka, Kahnle, and Hale did that in spades, retiring 18 on ground ball outs. But on most occasions those grounders are fielded elsewhere, then thrown to first. What made this one unique is that on 12 occasions, the Rockies were retired on ground balls TO first. In several cases, the pitcher took the throw, though five of them were 3-unassisted. Third baseman LeMahieu switched to first after Voit was lifted, and four of the last six outs were snagged by him, three of them magical stabs to either side that made you wonder how he caught them.
Prevent the opponent from reaching first, a fundamental factor in the game of baseball. As famously sung in the unforgettable song from the film classic Casablanca, “the fundamental things apply,”
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