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Yankees Series Recap #1: Things Almost Go As Planned

Last Thursday, the New York Yankees kicked off their 2018 season with a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Center in Toronto. The Yanks split the inaugural series with the Jays, taking the first two contests while Toronto muscled through for the pair on the back end.

Things seemed to go according to plan (and then some) for games 1 and 2 of the series. To the surprise of those living under rocks, Yankee new-comer Giancarlo Stanton immediately looked great in pinstripes as he launched two home runs and tacked on a RBI double in his New York debut on Thursday afternoon. The other Yankee juggernauts also pitched in that evening, as C Gary Sanchez, despite only going 1-5, added a RBI double in the 5th and LF Brett Gardner (who also went 1-5) tacked on a solo homer in the 7th frame. RF Aaron Judge looked sharp in the opener as well, connecting for a single and a double and drawing a walk while striking out twice. Yankee “ace-apparent” Luis Severino kicked off 2018 with a more-than-solid performance from the mound, going 5-and-2/3 innings with seven strikeouts, three walks, and no earned runs. New York took the game 6-1.

Game 2 of the series was a success for other reasons, as the other new Yankees – specifically Brandon Drury and Tyler Austin (who bounced between the bigs and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season) – showed that they, too, will have some input on the back end of New York’s line up. While Stanton followed up his monster debut with a hitless offering, Drury and Austin went a combined 3-for-7 with 4 RBIs, driving in the only runs of the Yankees’ second outing. Outside of Randal Grichuk’s solo home run in the 2nd inning, Masahiro Tanaka looked strong off the hill, logging six solid innings which included eight strikeouts and not a single walk. The Yankees won 4-2.

The backside of the four-game series, though, told a much different story – one that alarmists will certainly take running to the hater-nation bank. The weaknesses that could hamper the Yankees this season all reared their ugly heads in games 3 and 4, pointing mainly to shaky relief pitching and to the dark reality the accompanies the home run machines in the middle of the order. Relief pitchers Tommy Kahnle, David Roberston and Dellin Betances each allowed a home run in either the 7th or 8th inning of the final two contests for a combined seven runs: Jays second baseman Yangervis Solarte tacked on a solo shot in the 8th inning of Saturday’s 5-3 loss, while first baseman Justin Smoak drove in six runs via the long ball between the 7th and 8th of Sunday’s 7-4 loss, including a grand slam. Judge and Stanton, too, were stifled over the final 18 innings, going a combined 2-12 with four strikeouts.

And not to add injury to, uh, injury – but three more Yankees joined veterans Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, and Greg Bird on the DL as outfielders Aaron Hicks and Billy McKinney (who made his major league debut on Friday) and reliever Adam Warren suffered injuries in or after play. Hicks was sent to the 10-day DL after experiencing discomfort in muscles near his ribs, while McKinney and Warren are being evaluated for shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively, that occurred on the field during Saturday’s game. McKinney left the game after crashing into the outfield wall while attempting a catch in the first inning, and Warren took a comebacker off the ankle which sidelined him as well. Warren is still being evaluated and McKinney, despite negative X-rays, has been diagnosed with a left AC joint shoulder sprain.

I am decidedly of the thinking that professional baseball seasons are long, and that there is no reason whatsoever to spin into panic mode after just two lackluster performances. After all, games 1 and 2 of this series provided Yankee fans with plenty of validation for their pre-season optimism. But if we were going to freak out, it’s now clear what would cause those freak outs: pitching, strikeouts, and injuries. Now, listen, people: this is baseball. Pitchers give up home runs. Home run hitters swing and miss. Athletes get hurt. These are tales as old as time. And while it seems like the issues are piling up quickly and early, it’s most certainly better to deal with these issues during the first week of the season and not the last. As I reminded our devoted readers last week, I am a Mets fan – boy, have I seen some seasons devastated by injuries!

So here’s what we do now. We take a step back. We take a deep breath. We relax. Hicks and Bird will be back soon enough (though for how long, for Bird, we don’t know). Stanton and Judge will strike out a lot – this is a given. But they’ll also hit a lot of home runs. Pitching mistakes are common early on, and the ones committed in this inaugural series are certainly forgivable. This was a series in which Yankee fans can acknowledge the greatness-to-be, but also that it won’t come automatically. It’s hard to win in baseball. Buck up, buttercups. The Yankees are still good.

Up next: Monday’s home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays was postponed due to snow and will be played Tuesday, April 3rd at 4:05pm.

 

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