The Yankees, of course, didn’t let the Pirates sweep them.
A frustrating 5-2 loss was followed by 16 runs and 22 hits on Wednesday, with all the scoring coming from the fifth inning and on. It served as a reminder that Pittsburgh has a long way to go despite having a strong young core with Oneil Cruz, Bryan Reynolds, and Jack Suwinski.
Next for New York is four games at Fenway Park against the rival Boston Red Sox. Both teams haven’t faced each other since the start of the season. A quick two-game pitstop in Pittsburgh later, and the Yankees have a 14-game lead over third-place Boston in the AL East.
Some takeaways from the Steel City:
What’s tying up Jameson Taillon? After posting a 2.30 ERA in his first ten starts, Taillon’s mark over his next six is an abysmal 6.16 despite a 4-1 record. Looking at each of those starts, a common thread is the veteran righty leaving balls up in the zone and hitters making hard contact. This is because instead of letting his sinker lead, Taillon has recently relied more on his four-seam fastball. Just ask his .303 BABIP.
The good news is this is an easy fix, even if he’s only thrown the sinker 10.7% of the time in 2022. Taillon relied on the heater last year and saw a 4.90 in the first half. After reincorporating his sinker in the second half, he posted a 3.50 ERA after the All-Star Break. He has nothing to lose by throwing it more often, especially since hitters now know his main fastball well.
Chap is back? Aroldis Chapman once again proves to be an enigma. Mere days after his lack of control in the Guardians series, the Cuban Missile of old appears to be back. Chapman pitched in both games of the Pirates series and notched two 1-2-3 innings. What’s more, he looked like his vintage self in how he controlled the strike zone.
But let’s slow our roll. On Tuesday, Chapman worked a scoreless eighth as the Yankees trailed 5-2. Wednesday was no different when he did the same, but with a 10-0 lead. Last I checked, tuneup appearances where almost nothing is at stake aren’t a sign a pitcher is back. Until Chapman holds a lead in, for example, the seventh or eighth inning, Clay Holmes will and should remain closer.
Boom or bust bats. We just discussed how the Yankees scored 16 runs on 22 hits in Wednesday’s win. It’s even more important to point out that on Tuesday, they scored two runs on 10 hits in a loss. New York’s troubles with runners in scoring position haven’t left despite having the best record in baseball.
A blowout win where everyone who played got a hit helps, but it’s hard to ignore the struggles throughout the lineup. Aaron Judge hit his MLB-best 30th home run, but his batting average is down to .287 after being at .304 on June 23. Josh Donaldson hit .205 in June, and Giancarlo Stanton isn’t quite his old self yet either. Against Boston, and for the rest of the season, consistency is key.