Win On, Win Off

Bronx, N.Y., June 26, 2019; Yankees 8, Toronto 7 — Two things were revealed during a gorgeous afternoon in Yankee Stadium Wednesday. First, the hawk is apparently not a fan of day games, or maybe just not of the sun. And second, the Yankees can score runs with base hits, along with bashes, even if DJ LeMahieu is not the guy at the plate.

The Bombers scored runs today on singles by Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, and Gleyber Torres, and another on a sac fly off the bat of Aaron Hicks. They didn’t eschew the use of the home run altogether, of course, extending their new all-time record for consecutive games in which they hit at least one home run to 29, when Didi Gregorius sent a liner into the Yankee bullpen in right in the second inning. This was the first crack in the big 5-0 lead the Blue Jays had taken on homers of their own in both the first and second innings. LeMahieu also cleared the fence in right for two runs in the fourth that got the game tied, 5-5.

That homer drove Toronto starter Trent Thornton from the mound, something that was bound to happen soon regardless; he had thrown 90 pitches to get 10 outs. And he didn’t have to wait long before being joined by home team starter James Paxton, who kept his team tied for all of three following pitches when Lourdes Gurriel hit his second home run for a 6-5 Jays lead. It needs to be admitted that Paxton was a hot mess all day. Unable to find the zone, he walked the first two leading off the game, then allowed Gurriel’s first blast on the next pitch, for a quick 3-0 lead. We got an immediate respite and hope for the rest of the game when James struck out the next three. But no, as he surrendered a one-out single in the second, then catcher Danny Jansen’s third home run of the year. Double-play ground balls got him through the third and fourth, but by the time he was pulled in the fifth, he had allowed eight hits and three walks on 91 pitches; he had not struck out anyone after the first.

As has been the case for much of the season, Yankee relief was stellar, with David Hale, Adam Ottavino, and Stephen Tarpley holding the visitors at bay through the eighth. Edwin Encarnacion ran out a hustle double in the fifth, and scored on Hicks’s sac fly, and consecutive two-out singles by Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Voit gave the Yanks a 7-6 lead after six. Ottavino struck out the side around a bloop single in the seventh, and Tarpley pitched a one-two-three eighth with help from Sanchez gunning down Freddy Galvis trying to advance on what would have been ruled a short wild pitch. Not another catcher could have made this throw. On the other hand, the Yanks would rue that they failed to add an insurance run in the bottom half once Judge’s third hit in a 10-pitch at bat advanced Brett Gardner to third with one down.

Hard-pitched outings from Aroldis Chapman to save two straight nights made him unavailable, so Zack Britton came on to close it out. It would not come to pass in a sloppy frame. Jansen floated a base hit into short right, and, with Davan Biggio showing a willingness to sacrifice him to second, Sanchez had a rare 2019 passed ball. Biggio delivered the tying run with a single toward left, batting against an infield shift. Despite a flubbed ground ball, Didi turned in a 6-6-3 dp, and Gleyber a 4-3 to get us to the bottom of the ninth tied.

Didi’s swinging bunt got the home team a baserunner with one down, then Aaron Hicks moved him to second with a five-pitch walk. And Gleyber Torres, one of several Yankees one hopes will be playing in the All Star game, battled Mike Kingham to 2-2, then singled to right for his third hit. Didi scored easily, and the Yankees had closed out a 9-1 homestand. With a two-week performance like that, it’s no surprise that fans, including the hawk apparently, are loving the games in the Bronx. But much of the second half of this campaign will be spent away from Yankee Stadium, so it’s time to focus on that. Larry Taylor, former bass player for iconic rock band Canned Heat, was born on this day in 1942. After two days off, the team takes that a step beyond, because the next time they are On the Road Again, they’ll not only be in a different country, but a different continent as well.

With the opportunity to send traditional rival Boston double-digit games back, and second place Tampa perhaps six games behind, however, this team not only needs to win, both home and away, but to prepare for a postseason against teams better than those we’ve played much of the time. We’ve got two stellar starters on the mend. Are they back soon? Will they be great? And can we count on a rebound from James Paxton, whose performance so disappointed today?

But I would urge Yankee fans to enjoy the ride we are on. You’re rooting for a monster team, assembled by a wily front office and ownership, and managed by a lifetime baseball guy, from a baseball family. Relax, there will be moves made, some you’ll love, some you won’t. Moves not made may drive you crazy. Step back a bit. This team is doing great. Enjoy the ride. Pat Morita, star of the film The Karate Kid, was born this day in 1942. His character could advise you on rooting in games, both at home, and away: “Wax on, Wax Off.” Or,

Win on, Win Off