Bronx, N.Y., July 14, 2019; Yankees 4, Toronto 2 — Restoring a little order to their season, the Yankees not only took a three-gamer from Toronto with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon, they finally hit their first home run of the season’s second half, via Mike Tauchman’s towering blast to right in the home seventh inning. Continuing a solid sophomore season piloting the pinstripers, Aaron Boone gets credit for his choice of Tauchman to play left. Through the first six innings, Mike had gone down swinging and popped a stunningly inept bunt to third baseman Vlad Guerrero, Jr. But his long ball late in this game provided a huge insurance run.
The Yanks had taken a 2-0 lead in the second, set up by a Luke Voit infield single and Torres’s sharp double down the left field line. Gio Urshela, who would provide his usual stellar defense and stand out otherwise later, singled both guys in one out later. The offense hit the brakes at that point, with just three more singles through the sixth.
Despite an infield hit in the first, Dan Jansen’s opposite-field single against the shift, and two Gleyber Torres errors, starter (and All Star game winner) Masahiro Tanaka looked not to need any help early, as he retired seven on four strike outs and three ground balls, but suddenly in the third he began to give up fly balls. He had coaxed six swings and misses (of 10 on the day) by the time he retired four straight Blue Jays on fly balls spanning the third and fourth. They were routine flies, to be sure, but when they hit balls “up in the air, where they land you [may] not know where.”
We found out quickly, as Randall Grichuk homered deep into the Yankee bullpen leading off the fifth, and following Masahiro’s fifth strike out and yet another fly out, Eric Sogard planted one in the third row in right, for a 2-2 tie. It “felt” like the home team was winning, but it no longer was.
But here’s where Urshela found yet another way to contribute to the cause. He beat out an infield single leading off the bottom of the fifth, and moved to second on Austin Romine’s six-pitch walk. Tauchman’s “how not to” bunt lowered expectations, and DJ LeMahieu beat the double-play throw attempt to first on a grounder to second, setting up first and third, two down. The third pitch to Aaron Judge from Marcus Stroman — who, if he was auditioning to wear pinstripes did not hurt himself, in my opinion — sailed past the catcher, only to carom off the back wall and right back to the plate. Poor Gio broke for home, only to find the ball waiting for him some 85 feet later. He lowered his body in a way a champion limbo dancer would be proud of and slid across the plate. Home plate ump Ryan Blakney punched him out, but a [relatively, ugh] quick replay restored the truth: Urshela was safe, 3-2 Yankees.
Even though Tanaka coasted through a one-two-three, eight-pitch sixth (with Tauchman running forever to make a sprawling catch in short left to start it off), Boone went to his pen in the seventh. Whether it was Aaron’s faith in Tommy Kahnle against lefties or something in Adam Ottavino’s approach, Boone pulled the latter after a pop out and single, and Kahnle struck out two around a four-pitch walk. By the time Zack Britton took the mound for the eighth he was up two on the Tauchman homer, but he had to pitch around a leadoff single, doing so on two strike outs and a grounder to Didi at short. Aroldis Chapman avoided most of the drama, earning his 25th save on a six-pitch strike out and a grounder and fly out, with Didi making a fine play on out No. two.
It was an ultra-pleasant Sunday afternoon in the Bronx. As opposed to the sky under which they played Saturday — a heck of a day, with nary a cloud to be seen — this one was played under blue skies dominated by big puffy clouds. I strained to locate a shape mimicking something earthly, to no avail. Seated behind two Toronto fans wearing No. 6 Stroman jerseys, I presume to say everyone in attendance enjoyed this game. As mentioned, Boone and Tauchman had good days, and Aaron Judge had another two hits with a walk, after stroking four safeties Saturday. Masahiro Tanaka was the worthy winner on 56/23 strikes/balls pitching, with 19 of 24 first pitches finding the zone.
But on this, the 109th anniversary of the birth of William Hanna, animator of the Hanna Barbera cartoon franchise, it was most fitting that the star of this game was that “most happy fella,” third baseman Gio Urshela. How to express the way this one made most feel?
Yabba Dabba Doo!