NEW YORK -- Anthony Volpe did not hang his head in the first inning on Tuesday evening, when his line drive unexpectedly found the soft leather pocket of a glove in right field. Nor did he pout when the Yankees’ scuffling lineup was silenced through five frames, a far-too-common occurrence these days.
The rookie shortstop sensed that his teammates were grinding at the plate and that better results would follow. They did: Volpe broke up a shutout bid by reaching the short porch in right field and Willie Calhoun slugged his first long ball in pinstripes, powering the Yankees to a 4-2 victory over the Guardians at Yankee Stadium.
“We’ve definitely been struggling, results-wise,” Volpe said. “But I thought we had really good at-bats and were putting it together by hitting the ball hard. As an offense, as long as we’re doing those types of things, we’re able to show that we can fight and come back.”
Volpe’s third home run of the season sparked a comeback, interrupting a sterling effort by Tanner Bibee, a fellow big league neophyte making his second Major League start. Gleyber Torres followed with a sharp double, and Anthony Rizzo greeted hard-throwing reliever James Karinchak with an opposite-field RBI single that tied the game.
“We had some good, winning at-bats there when we needed them,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Calhoun put the Yanks in front with a Statcast-projected 370-foot poke to the right-field seats, providing the necessary ammunition to snap New York’s season-high four-game skid. Calhoun has hit safely in five of his last six starts, batting .318 (7-for-22) over that span.
“It was an all-around team win,” Calhoun said. “I feel like everyone contributed in some type of way. Especially in a stretch that we’re going through right now, to be able to come out and get a win right there, it was cool.”
What we should begin referring to as a “Volpe triple” helped generate an insurance run in the eighth; the 22-year-old singled, stole second and third bases, then scored on a DJ LeMahieu hit.
Volpe finished the game with two hits, two runs scored and two stolen bases, having improved to a perfect 10-for-10 in steal attempts. He joined Brett Gardner (2008) as the only Yankees in the past 100 years to tally at least 10 steals through their first 31 career games.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Volpe said. “It’s a super important part of my game, and a super important part of the team. We have great coaches that stress the importance. The little details we’re working on show up in the games.”
Said Boone: “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen; that’s how I feel about him on the bases. And I think he’s probably a better defender than I would have even thought. He’s so aware out there, uses his athleticism. He doesn’t have a great arm, but he makes it play. He uses his feet really well. He plays really fast. He’s very much in control.”
Until Volpe connected with a 93.5 mph fastball in the sixth, Bibee had cruised, with the highly touted prospect (rated No. 57 overall in the Majors, per MLB Pipeline) seemingly on his game. He would have to be, given that he was matched against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, who has been nearly automatic through seven starts.
Tuesday’s outing was perhaps Cole’s most vulnerable, and he acknowledged that Cleveland’s lineup made him work. Still, Cole held the Guardians to five hits over six innings of two-run ball, with Josh Naylor and Andrés Giménez driving in a run apiece. Cole struck out eight against three walks in a 108-pitch effort.
“Their approach tonight was really solid,” Cole said. “They were really laying off close pitches, which was uncharacteristic of them.”
Volpe’s homer helped inch Cole closer to removing the hook, and a sharp defensive play saved reliever Wandy Peralta from committing a throwing error in the eighth. Also thanks to the relief efforts of Ron Marinaccio, Peralta and Michael King, Cole is the only pitcher in the Majors to make at least seven starts and have his team win each of those games.
As Volpe rested on the dugout railing while watching his teammates bat during the rest of the sixth, Cole came up behind him, offering this comment: “Thank you.”
“He’s now tied me for career homers; that lasted about a month,” Cole said. “But he’s a good player. It was a good jolt for us.”