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Pannone stifles Yanks with family in the stands

Lefty's 7-inning gem turns into a win after Blue Jays rally in 8th
September 16, 2018

NEW YORK -- Making your first career start at Yankee Stadium with your entire family watching from the stands would feel like a daunting task to many rookies, but Thomas Pannone didn't let the pressure get to him Sunday afternoon.In his fourth big league start, the Rhode Island native tossed

NEW YORK -- Making your first career start at Yankee Stadium with your entire family watching from the stands would feel like a daunting task to many rookies, but Thomas Pannone didn't let the pressure get to him Sunday afternoon.
In his fourth big league start, the Rhode Island native tossed seven strong innings and allowed just two runs on four hits. Pannone set the Blue Jays up for their 38th come-from-behind win of the season, as Randal Grichuk delivered a go-ahead RBI double in the eighth to defeat the Yankees, 3-2. The victory secured Toronto's first series win over New York this season.
"I don't know the exact number count. It was definitely over 50," Pannone said of the number of friends and family members he had in attendance. "A bunch of people from home came here to support me today, so it was a great feeling to have them in the stands. If I get the opportunity to pitch good in front of them, too, that makes it even better. Mom and Dad were here, everyone I know pretty much."

The 24-year-old left-hander got off to a shaky start, allowing a leadoff homer to Andrew McCutchen in the first before New York tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly later that inning.
"I just have to stay focused," Pannone said. "It's tough coming in and the first hitter of the game takes you deep, but I mean, you just have to look past that. You can't let your day be defined by that. The inning got long on me, too. I had to battle my way out of that first inning, but once I got out of it, I really settled in nice and just executed my game plan."
From there, Pannone faced the minimum over the next five innings, recording six strikeouts and permitting two walks on the afternoon.

"I had good command of the zone, good command of all my pitches and I was getting ahead of a ton of guys," Pannone said. "When I got ahead, I was in the driver's seat. When you pitch that way, I think you set yourself up for good success."
Manager John Gibbons sent Pannone back to the mound to start the seventh. With the Yanks trying to add to their one-run lead, the lefty walked Didi Gregorius and allowed a single to Gleyber Torres, but after a brief mound visit, Pannone escaped the jam by retiring Gary Sanchez on a fly ball to center and Luke Voit on a groundout.

"My thing is you're here to groom starters, not relievers," Gibbons said of his decision to stick with Pannone. "He was throwing good. I saw really no drop-off. ... The way I look at it, too -- if what you're going to bring in isn't any better than what he's doing right then, why would you even think about it sometimes? But it's all based on how he's throwing, and I thought he was throwing great. But some guys earn their right. They're pitching well, we're down anyway -- until they experience that and have some success, you're guessing unless you give them a shot."
The Toronto offense came alive in the eighth inning. Reese McGuire and Justin Smoak both singled off Dellin Betances before Rowdy Tellez tied the game with a pinch-hit RBI single to left. Grichuk quickly followed with his RBI double. The Yankees had been 69-3 when leading at the start of the eighth frame.

You look at the makeup of their team the last two or three years, whatever it is, one of the biggest strengths is their bullpen," Gibbons said. "... It's tough to string hits together against them. That's why Rowdy's at-bat was so big. So, yeah, in nine times out of 10, they win that game, but we battled them and put some good at-bats and made some things happen, and then we outpitched them in the end."
The Blue Jays scored their first run of the afternoon in the third on an RBI double by McGuire off Yankees starter Lance Lynn, who allowed one run on three hits with seven strikeouts through five innings.

Mark Leiter worked a scoreless eighth and Ken Giles -- after recording a four-out save on Saturday -- closed out the ninth to pick up his 22nd save in as many chances this season.

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Giancarlo Stanton laced a single off Leiter into left field and advanced all the way to third after an error by Teoscar Hernandez allowed the ball to roll to the wall. With the tying run 90 feet away, Leiter struck out Aaron Hicks on an 84.8-mph changeup to preserve Toronto's lead.

Grichuk's go-ahead double marked his sixth game-winning RBI of the season. He also drove in runs in back-to-back road games for the first time since doing so on June 3 at Detroit and June 11 at Tampa Bay.

"I think any time you can close an outing out -- like I hate being taken off the mound. I think any starting pitcher can attest to that. So just being able to get through the seventh, it felt amazing." -- Pannone
The Blue Jays will head to Baltimore on Monday to begin a three-game set against the Orioles. Left-hander Ryan Borucki will get the start in the opener and is looking to secure his third consecutive quality start after having solid two-run outings against Boston and Tampa Bay. In his only start against Baltimore, he allowed five runs, including two homers, through 4 2/3 frames. The Orioles have yet to announce their starter. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET at Camden Yards.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for based in New York.