Yankees Postgame Notebook: Bombers lose a game and a Gregorius in home finale
NEW YORK - The Yankees' regular-season home finale started off so well, but fate struck two crushing blows by the time their 6-3 loss to the Orioles ended their Bronx slate for 2018.
J.A. Happ, arguably the Yankees' best starter over the last two months, struck out the side in the first inning, and then the Bombers quickly put three on the board against a Baltimore bullpen that came in literally four pitches into the game - and then the worm turned.
Orioles starter Alex Cobb left the game after just four pitches thanks to a recurrence of a blister problem, and the Yankees ended up with three walks, two singles, a sac fly, and three runs off Mike Wright Jr. once the inning ended. The final out of the first, though, was the beginning of Wright retiring 10 of the final 11 he faced, and the rest of the 'pen allowed only two baserunners the rest of the way.
"On a day like today where we get three in the first," manager Aaron Boone trailed off, "but we just stalled out offensively. Frustrating way to end this homestand, but we have to get past it and get on."
Happ allowed just one run on five hits, but needed 107 pitches to grind through five innings, something he credited the Orioles for.
"They were tough; they were laying off some close pitches, and I wasn't ahead in the count as much as I would like, so I had to work pretty hard," Happ said. "I think today I was a day I was hoping to get deeper, but I was battling out there trying to keep the lead. I would've liked to get another inning or two, but we got some decent results while I was in there."
"I thought early on he was really sharp, but he was struggling to put guys away at times," Boone added. "I thought they did a good job of spoiling a lot of pitches with two strikes and driving his pitch count up. Not the pinpoint command we[re used to, but made big pitches when he had to, and one run in five innings isn't bad for an outing where he's not quite himself."
The Yankees likely wish Happ got another inning or two in, as the bullpen was without three big guns in the back end, and had a Green-Robertson-Britton troika for the final innings, so Boone had to mix and match in the sixth. He went to A.J. Cole to start, but three batters, a double and two homers later, Baltimore led 4-3, and they'd add a fifth run later in the inning against Tommy Kahnle.
"We had to try to piece through to the seventh as best we could, and it just didn't work out," Boone said. "They had all righties (in the lineup) there, and that's where Cole has been most successful this season, so we had him there, and then (Stephen) Tarpley up in case they hit a lefty in a spot, but Cole just hung his breaking ball today and got hurt."
Not the ideal finish for a homestand that featured two champagne celebrations (albeit in opposite clubhouses), Oh, and to add injury to insult, Boone announced after the game that Didi Gregorius tore some cartilage in his right wrist on his slide into home last night, and although Didi feels better already after an MRI and cortisone shot today, no one is sure exactly when - or if - Gregorius will return.
"I think there's a real possibility we do get him back, but a possibility we don't," Boone said. "We'll know a lot more in a few days when we see how the wrist responds to the cortisone shot."
Alas, the Yankees will now have to get on a plane to Tampa, and won't know until they land whether their lead for home field advantage in the Wild Card Game is down to a half-game, but as catcher Gary Sanchez was quick to note, tomorrow is always another day.
"You can't get too down," Sanchez said bluntly. "We lost this game, but we have another tomorrow"
A few more notes and quotes from the final regular-season home game of 2018:
-Sanchez's first-inning single was one of only four Yankees hits today, and it also snapped an 0-for-19 skid for him: "I've been working in the cage with Marcus (Thames), focusing on shortening up my swing and driving the ball to right field. We feel that I've been opening myself a little too early, so I've been focusing on that and trying to get more consistent."
-Aaron Hicks pinch-hit in the seventh and stayed in to play center field, so clearly, there's no lingering effects of the ball he fouled off his foot last night: "Yeah, I'm all good."
-The starting pitcher for tomorrow is still TBD, but Boone indicated that Sonny Gray, who did warm up on Saturday, could be in play to start sometime in the next four games: "There's a chance he'll start one of these games in Tampa if we do a bullpen day. But, we have to look and see where we are bullpen-wise, who we have available and how we'd piece something together. We would like to push our starts back an extra day, so we're going to weigh that, talk about it, and go from there. But in that area, we feel like Sonny's a guy that can give us quality middle innings if there's something we need."
-Gray being potentially unavailable limited the pen even more, but that's part of the game, says the skipper: "Yeah, but we have guys that have stepped up for us a lot this year, and that's part of a roster. You have to lean on everyone, especially on certain days like today."
-We'll give the last word back to Sanchez, this his answer when asked what the loss of Didi Gregorius will mean for the Yankees: "As you guys know, Didi is an excellent hitter and really good defender as well, so losing a player of his caliber is definitely going to affect us. But, hopefully we can get him back soon, and until then, it's upon us to pick up and try to get the job done."