You can’t win a World Series in June. This season’s champion will be determined like all others, by way of a small-sample October tournament. Games played today can only mean so much in determining who goes home with the trophy.
But one can demonstrate true championship-mettle on any day. That’s what the Yankees did in Minnesota, in picking up their ace on a night when he imploded, and finding a way to win a game that looked lost. No, the Yankees didn’t much increase their odds of winning the World Series. They merely looked like the best team in baseball in storming back to beat the Twins, 10-7.
For all the fireworks that would follow, though, this game started with a cute manufactured run. Aaron Judge worked a one-out walk in the first, and then played some hit-and-run, reaching third on an Anthony Rizzo single. Judge was plated when Josh Donaldson lofted a sac fly to right for a 1-0 lead.
The early lead would be short lived, as Gerrit Cole’s night quickly went to hell. Luis Arraez led off the home half with a shocking solo shot, just his second dinger of the year. Byron Buxton made it back-to-back jacks, taking a cement-mixer from Cole deep out to left. Not to be outdone, Carlos Correa followed with a screaming line drive homer. Three consecutive home runs surrendered by the Yankees’ horse to lead off the game.
There were no excuses to be made for Cole in that inning, with the three hitters taking out three different pitches, a changeup, slider, and cutter in that order, that all were dead-red middle-middle. There’s certainly some bad fortune involved here; you don’t imagine every errant pitch will be punished with a home run. But Cole’s command was clearly off right from the word Go, and the Twins hurt him immediately.
The Yankees had a counterpunch after that flurry from Minnesota, with Joey Gallo tying the game at three with a high-arching two-run homer:
Yet the Twins kept landing body shots on Cole. A single and a walk put two on for Buxton in the second, Cole left another pitch middle-middle, and the result was a crushing three-run bomb.
The story repeats once more in the third. Cole threw a four-seamer right down Broadway to Trevor Larnach, one the lefty-swinger deposited in the seats 441 feet away. Gio Urshela followed up with a double to end Cole’s miserable night after 2.1 innings, eight hits, and seven runs home.
You can tell the story of this outing from Cole with one chart:
Those are all five of the homers Cole allowed, each pitch representing a failure of execution. Each was a miss, and a bad one. But again, it’s odd for a pitcher with stuff as good as Cole to be penalized with a homer every time he errs. For example, since 2020, 97+ mph fastballs in the middle-middle section of the zone have been put in play 1727 times. Those batted balls resulted in a .337 wOBA; not a 1,000 wOBA. Here, we have an example of a great player making a chunk of ugly mistakes, and paying the maximum amount possible for every one of them.
Lucas Luetge came on for Cole and did a nice job settling things down. He recorded seven outs, allowing one hit and no runs, steadying the game and working into the fifth. Luetge gave the Yankees a chance to get back into contact with Minnesota.
They did just that thanks to a pair of back-to-back homers of their own. In the top of the fifth, Gallo roped his second of the game, and DJ LeMahieu followed with a solo shot of his own, bringing the score to 7-5.
And in the next inning, perhaps the most surprising thing on a night full of shockers came to pass:
Aaron Hicks slammed just his third extra-base hit of the year, and it was a doozy, a majestic fly down the right-field line, tying the game at seven. Playing in Minnesota just seems to bring the highlights out of Hicks.
The Yankees were dissatisfied with a tie, and surged right back in front in the seventh. Judge opened with a double off the top of the wall, and Rizzo drove him in with a single for an 8-7 advantage. Three batters later, Hicks stayed hot with an RBI single to drive in Josh Donaldson and pad the lead.
All the while, the Yankee staff continued to stand on its head in lifting up their ace. Miguel Castro came after Luetge and did his part, working 1.1 scoreless to take the Yankees through six. Wandy Peralta kept the Twins off balance in the seventh, and Michael King turned in a sharp performance in the eighth. King took the mound with a 10-7 advantage, as 2021’s MVP, wild pitch with a runner on third, appeared in the top of the frame, chasing Rizzo home.
Clay Holmes, currently the game’s premier reliever, made short work of the top of Minnesota’s lineup for his ninth save of the year, and one of the best wins of 2022 was in the books. Early on, the Yankees looked headed to a series loss, one that would have sent them home with a small losing streak and some concern about a rotation that has finally looked mortal this week. Instead, they’ll ride high, the good times still rolling in spite of a couple of rough outings from their top starters.
They’ll look to keep the momentum going tomorrow night against the Cubs with Luis Severino on the bump. That one goes off at 7:05 pm. See you then.