It’s just one game, but last night the New York Yankees returned to their winning ways, giving glimpses of the 13 game winning streak. From July 4th to the end of August, the Yankees won more games than any baseball team. But then, unexplainably, they just as quickly returned to the team that played the first half of the season, losing 8 games and playing and pitching poorly. But last night, with new urgency, the team rose to the occasion and started what may be another winning streak. It wasn’t easy, but the Yankees pulled out an 8-7 win over their crosstown rival New York Mets.
It was a bit of a roller coaster event in a day and night that baseball, particularly in New York, remembering those lost in the 9/11 attacks on our country. There were ceremonies at Citi Field, and the players of both teams wore FDNY ball caps. In the second inning, the Yankees burst out of the doldrums scoring five runs and looking like they were going to have a laugher. But the Mets clawed back to lead at one point, but the Yankees answered with 3 runs in the eighth for a lead that would hold.
Corey Kluber continues to build for the postseason
Corey Kluber, who had been on the IL for three months, had his third start since his return. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was one more step to him returning to form that saw him pitch the Yankee’s only no-hitter this season.
Kluber went four innings striking out six Mets hitters but giving up four earned runs. However, he showed signs of better control and poise on the mound. Kluber pitched a scoreless first. After the Yankees put five runs on the board in the second. At the bottom, Kluber issued a walk to Javier Baez walked. Jeff McNeil struck out, but Baez stole second. Kevin Pillar got an RBI double driving in the lead-off walk. James McCann tripled driving in Pillar. Taijuan Walker singled, driving Pillar. Villar struck out swinging. Lindor ground out to second. New York Yankees 5 New York Mets 3. Kluber gave up another run in the third inning, a Baez homer.
Lucas Luetge, Chad Green, and Clay Holmes in relief of Kluber, all gave up a run in their inning. Albert Abreu although waking two, didn’t give up a run in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman walked one, gave up a hit, but preserved the Yankee win, getting his 26th save of the season.
The home run is again king
It is often said that when the New York Yankees homer, they win games. It certainly was true last night. Of the 8 runs scored, 7 were scored off the home run. Kyle Higashioka homered driving in two. Brett Gardner homered driving in two. Aaron Judge hit two homers in the game, scoring three.
A tail of two catchers
There are glaring differences in the Yankees’ two catchers. Last night Kyle Higashioka made some excellent plays and called a good game. He also hit a 2 run homer in the second inning. Unfortunately, this was in comparison to Gary Sanchez’s passed balls and boneheaded play at home plate. In the first game that the Yankees lost Sanchez backed off the home plate to allow a run scored instead of blocking the plate.
Higashioka often doesn’t get the praise he deserves. “Higgy” is a professional behind the plate that calls great games and seldom makes errors. He, for the most part, is Gerrit Cole and Cory Kluber’s personal catcher. But still, he doesn’t get a lot of playing time.
Those who support the idea that Sanchez is the Yankees’ catcher of the future always say that, yes, Higashioka is a good catcher, but he is not the power hitter that Sanchez is. If you look a little deeper, that is not true; the fact is that Higashioka is right up there with the best Yankee home run hitters considering at-bats this season. He has 10 long balls in 58 games. Sanchez has 21 in 101 games. Kyle’s drive-in rate is almost identical to Sanchez. Higgy leads the AL in range factor (putouts + assist per games played).
Except for a few, catchers are notoriously poor hitters with low batting averages and don’t run the bases well. The whole point of this conversation is that Kyle Higasioka is well-focused and is a much better player than many fans would think. He could be even better if he had more playing time.