No Longer Petrified Offense

Bronx, N.Y., April 3, 2021; Yankees 5, Toronto 3 — Two teams showed some early-season struggles in the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays this afternoon. The Yankees gifted the visitors with single runs in the top of the third and seventh innings that each felt much longer than they were (16 and 11 minutes, respectively), while Toronto’s Marcus Semien ended Corey Kluber’s day with a fifth-inning blast to left less than a minute after that frame had begun. But although 11 hometown hits produced less than they should have, they were a welcome sight for Yankee fans more concerned with their offense than they have any right to be on April 3.

Corey Kluber got off to a promising start in this, his first start in Pinstripes, setting down the visitors on 25 throws through two, despite allowing two weak singles and a hit by pitch. Mixing cutters and sinkers and barely touching 90 mph, if that, he would notch five punch-outs through three, but that third frame would cost him 25 more pitches, and a run. Striking out Randal Grichuk to start the frame, Kluber walked the next two, then uncorked a wild pitch on his first offering to Cavan Biggio. He would whiff Biggio for out No. two, but Gary Sanchez bounced the throw trying to catch trail runner Semien stealing his second base on the day. Danny Jansen scored as the throw bounced into short center. That tally equaled matters, as Gio Urshela, on with a single, had crossed in the second following a Clint Frazier double and DJ LeMahieu’s infield single.

Despite the miscue, Sanchez had another good day. His first throw trying to nab the Toronto second baseman in the first had been true, but a hair late. Then Gary quickly restored the Bombers’ lead with his second home run of the year in the fourth. A Frazier walk and three singles upped the lead to 3-1, but Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres failed to drive in another, so Semien’s instantaneous blast starting the fifth ended Kluber’s day. Corey was good, not great, with the five whiffs, but three walks stretching him to 45 pitches in the third and fourth. Not only the growing pitch count, but also two tough innings, had Aaron Boone ready to pounce, which he did after Semien closed the lead to one run. Kluber threw 45 of 74 pitches for strikes, and he got six of 10 swings and misses in the three-strike-out third, even if two of the punch-outs were on called strikes.

Jonathan Loaisiga relieved Corey, fabulously, recording six straight outs to earn the well-deserved win. He struck out three, and got the game to the seventh, by which time the Yankees were up 5-2. Jays righty Rafael Dolis, pitching the Toronto sixth, walked the bases loaded with two down. Early on, the Bombers have struggled with the sacks filled, and Toronto brought in southpaw Tim Mayza to face lefty swinger Jay Bruce. But on a day when bloop hits ruled the roost on both sides, Bruce got the biggest, a floater the other way into short left center for two scores. It was the second two-out hit with runners in scoring position the Pinstripers achieved on the day.

Lefty Lucas Luetge, the second hurler to make his Yankee debut in this game, had a sloppy seventh. He promptly gave up (you guessed it) a bloop hit to start, and then promptly wild pitched Grichuk to second, and then to third. Semien (him again) delivered the Toronto center fielder on a ground out. Not giving up, the Jays bunched two more floaters to short outfield, putting two on against Darren O’Day in the eighth. Sinkerballer O’Day used 19 pitches to get two outs on fly balls, and a masterful Chad Green came in for a two-strike-out, four-out save, for the 5-3 final.

The pitching honors go to Loaisiga and Green; Sanchez cleared a fence; and LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Gio Urshela had two hits apiece. Clint Frazier continued to rake, with a hard double that set up the first run. But the honors go to Bruce. Exit velocity is nice, but “hit ’em where they ain’t” continues to play in this game.

English actor and writer Leslie Howard was born on April 3, back in 1893. One of his great roles in the movies was alongside Humphey Bogart in The Petrified Forest. In this second game of the 2021 season, the Yankees rolled out a …

No Longer Petrified Offense