Good teams are supposed to beat bad teams, and the Yankees swept the Cincinnati Reds to climb to 29-20 on the season, putting them on pace for 95.7 wins this season. The Yankees coasted to an early morning win behind a solid first outing from Luis Severino and some timely hits. Despite resting Aaron Judge, the Yankees still broke through against the uber-talented Hunter Greene, and there were plenty of positives from this ballgame for the Bronx Bombers. From the continued heroics of Harrison Bader to the brilliance of the Yankees’ bullpen, there’s plenty to discuss following another quality win for the Yankees.
Good News: Yankees Get Huge Lift From Returning Players
This game gave Yankee fans a reminder that the reinforcements from the injured list are going to play a massive role in their success this season. Luis Severino made his first start of the year, and while he was on a pitch limit, he was still able to limit the Reds to just one run in 4.2 innings pitched, collecting five strikeouts and walking just one. Many would place an asterisk on that earned run, as a fumbled flyball in fair territory by Jake Bauers was initially ruled foul, but upon further review, it was ruled a fair ball.
This however wasn’t what got manager Aaron Boone ejected at just 11:54 PM EST, it was the ruling that the runner on first was rewarded three bases, which was absurd. In spite of that poor call, Severino wouldn’t let the Reds scratch another runner across, dialing it up to 99 MPH and posting a 30% Whiff% in just his first start of the season. The Yankees have struggled to get much production from a rotation that’s been plastered with injuries and is also short with Domingo German serving a 10-game suspension. People forget just how good Severino can be when healthy, and he mixed a healthy dose of fastballs, changeups, and sliders in during this start.
The outlier sinker seems to be a misread, but we saw Luis Severino rely heavily on his fastball to generate swings and misses and attack the strike zone. One of the biggest issues we see pitchers have after they return from injury is that they struggle with command, but Severino was aggressive all game. 53% of pitches Severino threw were in the zone, and that aggressiveness put the Reds in multiple two-strike counts, where batters expand the zone. Severino took advantage of the Reds’ aggressiveness, as they chased at 34% of pitches they saw out of the strike zone and failed to manage a single batted ball that would be registered as “hard hit” by Statcast (? 95 MPH).
Severino wasn’t the only recent addition to provide a spark for the Yankees, as Harrison Bader continued his strong start to the season, clobbering a two-run home run with the Yankees down 1-0 and looking as if they’d get shut down by Greene. At 108.4 MPH, this was his hardest hit ball of the season so far and were RBIs 14 and 15 for the 28-year-old centerfielder. He’s now slugging .523 on the season with a 126 wRC+ to go alongside his elite-level defense out in centerfield.
Other notable contributions came from Gleyber Torres, who belted a solo HR to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead, on an opposite-field shot that traveled 373 feet and clocked in at 103.9 MPH off of the bat. Anthony Volpe collected an RBI double as well to score Greg Allen, who pinch-ran for Jake Bauers and would later hit a triple down the right-field line. The offense was strong all series, but one could argue that the Yankees’ bullpen had their most impressive showing on this trip to Cincinnati. Despite being short-staffed and not a single starter recording more than five innings pitched, their bullpen was phenomenal.
Jimmy Cordero, Albert Abreu, Nick Ramirez, and Ryan Weber all contributed to getting some crucial outs for the Yankees despite being fill-ins for a severely injured unit. Jonathan Loaisiga, Tommy Kahnle, Lou Trivino, and Ian Hamilton are all currently on the IL, and the Yankees often times needed perfection from their depth to claw out these wins. This isn’t even accounting for the fact that arms like Clarke Schmidt who would be in the bullpen to help this unit out instead have to be stretched out as a starter because they opened the season with 60% of their projected rotation on the IL.
While it was dicey towards the end, Clay Holmes vanquished his demons against the Reds as he was able to fend a pesky Reds lineup off with bases loaded to get the final out. He lowers his ERA on the season to 3.26 after a tough start to his season, and of course, the ever-reliable Wandy Peralta tossed a scoreless frame of his own on just eight pitches. Today represented the Yankees’ resiliency, something that my co-host on Fireside Knicks and occasional host of Fireside Yankees Dylan Backer mentioned on last night’s live stream.
Despite injuries, despite limitations on Severino’s pitch count, and despite a tough opponent on the mound, the Yankees were still able to break through and get the job done.
Bad News: Yankees Still Remain Uncertain in Left Field
Jake Bauers again struggled to make contact going 0-2 with a walk and two strikeouts. As mentioned earlier, his misplay toward the foul line cost the Yankees a run, and his play in the outfield has been subpar. He has power, and the upside is there, but it’s a results-based business, and the numbers aren’t in Bauers’ favor. IKF also went 0-2 with a walk, and his wRC+ on the season is a measly 56, and while he’s a valuable bench piece with versatility and speed, he isn’t a full-time starter on a championship-caliber team. While Jasson Dominguez and Everson Pereira are intriguing prospects at the Double-A level, it would be irresponsible and unwise to rush them to the Bronx.
They could look to Austin Wells, but he’s yet to be promoted to Triple-A and has no professional experience in the outfield. You’d like to see him get MiLB reps in left field and right field before you decide to throw him out there, and the Yankees seem to want him to stick as a catcher. Greg Allen has speed, defense, and has always hit in a Yankee uniform, but is he a long-term solution or just a fun flash in the pan? It’s not something that has hurt the Yankees as of late with their offense remaining stellar in the month of May but is something they’ll have to think about down the road.
Left field has been a black hole for the Yankees for the better part of three seasons now, but perhaps this summer gives them the chance to finally acquire a solution or develop one. The Yankees will open up a series against Baltimore on Tuesday in the Bronx, getting an off day tomorrow that should allow them to reset their bullpen. AL Cy Young frontrunner Gerrit Cole will take the mound for a 7:05 PM start, and they’ll try to inch closer to the top of the division against an Orioles team on fire.