Bronx, N.Y., May 21, 2021; Yankees 2, Chisox 1 — “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” The baseball headlines all across the country are sounding disturbingly similar, whether you get your news on paper, online, or by word of mouth. Today’s game is boring. With a half bushel of early no-hitters leading the way, there is no offense. The hard-throwing hurlers are too dominant. Everyone swings for the fences, and they strike out all the time. It’s no fun to watch a game anymore.
The hard-fought 2-1 Yankee win over the White Sox in the Stadium Friday night certainly did carry all the earmarks the gloom-and-doom crowd are spreading. Lefties Carlos Rodon of the White Sox and Jordan Montgomery of the Yankees struck out 24 batters between them, Monty 11 in seven scoreless frames. Rodon an amazing 13 through six. The Bombers went down one-two-three four times, the Palehose just once. Well, maybe twice? More on that later. Chicago had one double among six hits; the Yanks trailed them by one until they bunched three singles in the winning ninth-inning rally. And they had a homer, with which Gleyber Torres gave them a 1-0 lead in the seventh
The bumbling base-running Yankees had two guys thrown out at the plate, both after Miguel Andujar started an aborted rally with a single, both times when All-World situational hitter D.J. LeMahieu bounced right to a fielder. Andujar ran into Brett Gardner on what should have been an inning-ending fly in the seventh. And Chicago second sacker Nick Madrigal had a two-error play on Gardner’s hot shot to him in the third. It put Yankees on second and third with one down in an inning in which they — of course — failed to score.
Then two stars of the vaunted Yankee bullpen put their team in immediate trouble with leadoff walks, Jonathan Loaisiga in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. In the former frame, Madrigal made Loaisiga pay with a deft flick of his bat to deliver the tying run, after the Yankee righthander had made matters worse with a wild pitch. But when Yoan Moncada seemed to threaten Yankee fortunes even further with a liner in front of Aaron Judge in right, the “all rise” guy froze Madrigal by charging the ball hard, only to pull up suddenly, take the ball on its first bounce, and peg the unfortunate second baseman out at second with a powerful throw.
Chapman’s troubles bubbled up more quickly. Tied at 1-1, he started the ninth by walking DH Yerman Mercedes — yeah, that guy — who already had two hits on the night. Veteran Leury Garcia then shocked Chappy by drag bunting his way on. The Yankee closer tried to catch up to the ball and Garcia, but fumbled the ball, and threw to first late. Two go-ahead runs were on, with no outs. After a ball to Andrew Vaughn, who could (and should, as it turned out) have been bunting, Aroldis pounded a called strike. Pitch three was a quick bouncer to Urshela at third, who stepped on the bag, threw to Odor at second, who made a great turn and peg to Luke Voit at first, for the rare conventional 5-4-3 triple play. I’ve been to a lot of ball games, and have witnessed maybe a dozen triple plays. That was just the second of the 5-4-3 variety I’ve seen, in person, with my own eyes. It was a rare Chapman inning this year with no strike outs, because he got all three outs on one ground-ball pitch. And yes, the top of the ninth became the second one-two-three White Sox inning of the night.
The crowd was of course beyond excited now. We had witnessed all the ills of 2021 baseball. Thirteen consecutive scoreless half innings, 26 strike outs, three errors, batters consistently failing to come through. Not a bunch of homers, but one that could have settled the game. And two offenses working their way to the seemingly inevitable MLB answer to the problem, the dreadful man-on-second extra innings setup. But these fans were not thinking extra innings. Even if the first three Yankees due up had struck out seven times among them, we believed they could come through.
Shrugging off two swinging whiffs, Judge led off with his second sharp single to center. Recently the Yanks’ hottest hitter with the game on the line, Urshela strode to the plate having struck out three times, outdoing all his mates in a way he would not have wanted to. But he singled Judge to second. And then Torres, who went down swinging twice before his eighth-inning singleton shot, delivered Judge with a sharp single to left, 2-1 Yankees.
So, am I having trouble keeping my eyes open sharing what I witnessed in the South Bronx this night? Did the litany of scoreless frames and multiple strike outs dampen my enthusiasm for the game? Did the few errors afield, players thrown out at the plate, and relievers not living up to their reputations turn my mind elsewhere, and send me off to bed with barely a whimper?
BALDERDASH! I may not sleep all night.