This was the fifth time the Yanks had played the White Sox in the last nine days, a scheduling quirk that means both teams must know an awful lot about each other. I’m not sure a rivalry will ever really exist between the two clubs, but today was the kind of game that could spark one, as the Yankees won a chippy, confrontational series opener 7-5.
Familiarity may breed contempt, but in baseball it appears to breed offense as well, with both starters facing their opponents for the second time in a week. The Yankees looked to have strong control over the outside edge of the strike zone, where Dallas Keuchel lives and breathes. Several players had great takes on sinkers and cutters just off the black, so good in fact that the bases were loaded in the second inning:
Yes, that would only have been a home run at Yankee Stadium, and yes, that’s awesome. It put the Yankees up 5-0 at the time, although Nestor Cortes would run into some trouble of his own a half-inning later.
Tim Anderson technically singled on a play that Cortes had trouble cutting off at first. He fell off to the third base side and didn’t quite get back to the first base bag in time, then missed the bag with his foot, putting the speedy Anderson on. Andrew Vaughn followed that with a single, before Jose Abreu put a great swing on a cutter:
This isn’t a bad pitch, although it didn’t quite break in as much as Cortes usually manages — just four inches of break compared to six plus on average — but more than that I think it’s the kind of pitch that hitters can learn to recognize when you face the same guy so often. You can pick up the spin that easier, you’re ready to start the swing a little early because you’d already seen eight or nine cutters, that’s exactly what Abreu did and it was 5-3.
And really that was Nestor’s start in a nutshell. There wasn’t anything wrong with his line today — 5 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 7:0 K:BB — but he was just a bit off. He couldn’t quite find the cutter at the top of the zone, and the White Sox definitely knew what they were looking for, fouling off 27 of Nestor’s offerings and driving his pitch count up. Still, he left after five with a 6-3 lead, and if that’s the floor for his 2022, that’s pretty darn good.
Or at least it would be normally, with the amount of firepower the Yankees can summon from the bullpen. Mike King, maybe the best reliever in the game this season, didn’t hold up his end of the bargain, giving up three doubles and a pair of runs in the sixth inning. Rizzo clawed a run back in the home half on a sac fly, but the normally airtight bullpen had a few leaks.
Jonathan Loáisiga also didn’t quite have it in the seventh, allowing a pair of baserunners. To be fair, one came on a bad decision by Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a slow-rolling groundball. Fortunately, Lo managed to work out of it with no trouble, fanning the next three hitters and keeping it 7-5. Miguel Castro and Clay Holmes combined to close out the rest of the game, Yankees win.
We had some nonsense in the fourth and fifth innings. Apparently Anderson is still bothered by Josh Donaldson, after they exchanged words following a chesty day last week in Chicago. The two engaged again in the fourth before Yasmani Grandal inserted himself into the drama in the fifth, and the benches cleared:
As we heard later on the broadcast, all of this is a slow burn from comments Donaldson made to the White Sox’s Lucas Giolito following a home run last year. One would think the team would be more focused on losing less, but hey, we all have a right to think about what we want.
The Yankees have only lost one series this year, more than a month ago against the Orioles. They can win yet another one tomorrow, with two kicks at the can in a traditional doubleheader. Game one will be on Amazon Prime Video tomorrow, with Jameson Taillon taking on Johnny Cueto at 3:05pm Eastern.