After the Yankees dropped the third game of this series, there were some concerns that with piling injuries and a struggling Nestor Cortes on the mound, the Yankees might have to settle for a series split.
Instead, the Yankees got some key pitching performances, with Nestor Cortes finally putting a strong outing together and being backed up by some unlikely heroes. Aaron Judge sets a historic mark in today’s game, and the Yankees walk away with their first series win over the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023, and hold the season advantage 4-3 in their first two matchups.
Good News: Timely Hits and Timely Pitches
All rise, here comes the Judge. The Yankees once again turn to Aaron Judge to set the tone, as he hits his fourth home run of the series, crushing a ball into deep center field with a 430-foot bomb that left the bat at 109.6 MPH. Re-inserting Judge back into the lineup after his IL stint has rejuvenated this ballclub and lineup, as the Yankees are now 8-3 in their last 11 games and pushed themselves to 26-20 on the season.
The barrel machine, the Yankee captain added two more barrels to his season total, and his extremely high quality of contact is finally paying its dividends.
So far this season, Aaron Judge has a 164 wRC+, slugging well over .600 on the season. Despite the missed time, Judge has placed himself right back into the AL MVP mix, posting the 4th best wRC+ and best SLG% in the American League. His 1st inning HR was historic, as this time, instead of clinching the AL East in or hitting #61 in Toronto, Judge broke Jorge Posada’s record for longballs against the Blue Jays with his 32nd career bomb in just over 100 games. It took Judge roughly 80 fewer games to accomplish the feat, and based on his HR and 110.3 MPH double in the 6th, Judge can look wherever he wants and still crush the Blue Jays.
Anthony Volpe had a rough series with the glove, but he made up for said errors with a 9th-inning homer of his own that helped the Yankees add another insurance run and give Ron Marinaccio breathing room.
After that longball, Volpe’s now 7th in all of baseball in fWAR (1.1), which places him on a 3.7 fWAR pace per 600 Plate Appearances. This 108.7 MPH rocket was significant because that became Anthony Volpe’s new Max Exit Velocity at the Major League level.
Slowly but surely, Volpe’s starting to find consistent power at the Major League level, and it feels as if it’s only a matter of time before he finally goes on a tear.
Just as we all expected, the leader for the Yankees in hits today was…Aaron Hicks! With three hits in four trips, including a clutch RBI single to score Oswaldo Cabrera and knock out a cruising Jose Berrios, Hicks was crucial for the Yankees in this 4-2 contest. He’s now 6 for his last 15, and while I don’t anticipate that Hicks will get everyday reps or find consistency at the plate, it’s certainly nice to see the team getting contributions from their bench. It wasn’t too long ago that they saw a negative wRC+ from Hicks, and hopefully, he can come up with more clutch hits while he’s still rostered.
Following a rough outing against the Rays that unraveled in a brutal 5th inning, Nasty Nestor turned things around in one of his biggest starts of the season.
Tossing six innings of two-run ball against a touted Toronto lineup, Nestor Cortes was in complete control until the 7th inning, but he still recorded six strikeouts to just one walk. The Blue Jays only managed to put up an 84 MPH average exit velocity, giving up just one barrel, which came at the hands of Bo Bichette, who hit a towering shot in the bottom of the 1st.
This is an extremely encouraging outing for Cortes, and if he can continue to give the Yankees these types of performances, they’ll find themselves in the win column more frequently.
Nestor was still on the hook in the 7th, and Ryan Weber, out of all people, stepped in to get three big outs and escape a bases-loaded, no-one-out jam against both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer. He wasn’t the only unlikely hero, as Albert Abreu stepped in to start the 8th and swiftly settled down the Blue Jays, collecting two strikeouts in the perfect frame.
An excellent bullpen performance was capped off by Ron Marinaccio, who was able to get three outs to collect the save and avoid another disastrous outing after a rough week.
Yankees Seeing Injuries Pile On
While the Yankees did walk away from today’s contest with a win, they’re starting to see the effects of their severely injured roster.
The Yankees had to turn to really unreliable options in order to collect those final outs, and it’s not the first time they’ve had to get unconventional with their bullpen. Just as the Rays-Yankees series finale last weekend was lost on a grand slam served up by Albert Abreu, the same could have happened to Ryan Weber in the 7th. In fact, Albert Abreu came a few inches shy of giving up a game-tying HR to Matt Chapman, who pulled it just foul.
This isn’t to take away from what Weber or Abreu did, as they were about as perfect as you could be, but rather that they weren’t put in situations that you’d feel comfortable using them in. Also not blaming Aaron Boone, who realistically had nothing to work with in those final three frames. It’ll be curious to see how the Yankees manage and navigate their roster, as they have some interesting arms stashed in Triple-A, but with the lack of depth already on the MLB roster, is it really the time to start DFA’ing arms?
Thankfully for the Yankees, Luis Severino is slated to start on Sunday against the Reds, and Tommy Kahnle finished his first rehab assignment in Tampa tonight. Hitting north of 96 MPH on the radar gun, he tossed a scoreless frame with a strikeout, showing off his brand-new sinker that he hopes will help alleviate his home run issues. Jose Trevino is currently dealing with a hamstring injury, and Aaron Boone said it’ll be a four-week timeline for Ian Hamilton with his injured groin. The Yankees are hoping to also start Giancarlo Stanton on a rehab assignment, so hopefully, their battered roster won’t stay that way for very long.
The Yankees begin a series in Cincinnati tomorrow, where Clarke Schmidt will try to rebound after a shaky outing against the Tampa Bay Rays.