The Yankees did not bust out the brooms on Sunday, denied a four-game sweep at Progressive Field, but they departed Cleveland having rediscovered the "boom" in their potent lineup -- an encouraging development as they aim to fulfill expectations of a run-scoring juggernaut.
“Our at-bats are getting better,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Cleveland is a team that can really pitch. I felt like we were close today to breaking things open. As far as where we are right now as a club, I feel like we’re in a good spot to go out and continue to play well.”
Urshela and Ford slugged their deep drives in the fourth inning off Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie, who was chased after throwing 87 pitches in four innings. The power surge was a theme of the series, coming after the Yanks managed just eight homers in their previous eight games, but the Indians' bullpen denied the Yankees from there.
Cleveland scored seven unanswered runs, breaking through as Taillon wobbled during a 36-pitch fourth. Three hits, including Amed Rosario’s run-scoring single, set the table. Taillon then left a 93.8 mph fastball over the heart of the plate to Franmil Reyes, who cracked an opposite-field, three-run homer to right field that gave his club the lead.
“Those are the tough ones to swallow,” Taillon said. “I thought I threw the ball really well, but this is a results league. You get to two strikes, and you're giving up two-strike hits; that's all it takes to win a game. Today was a streak of three or four hitters that ruined our chances at a win, so it happens quick.”
Making his fourth start as a Yankee, Taillon departed on the hook for the loss, having allowed four runs and five hits over four innings. Taillon walked none and struck out six in an 82-pitch effort.
“I actually thought he finished strong today; I thought the stuff was good throughout,” Boone said. “Of the four starts, two have been really strong. Today was a little bit unfortunate, and really one mistake to Reyes that hurt.”
The Yankees' bullpen entered Sunday having permitted only two runs (one earned) over its previous 17 1/3 innings, but right-hander Nick Nelson struggled in relief, allowing three runs over a two-inning appearance.
Boone said that he saw “a number of non-competitive pitches” from Nelson, who was optioned to the alternate training site after Sunday’s game, clearing a roster spot for right-hander Deivi García, who will start on Monday at Baltimore.
José Ramírez lifted a fifth-inning sacrifice fly and Nelson allowed run-scoring hits to Jordan Luplow and Austin Hedges in the sixth. Lauded by the club this spring for his four-pitch mix, Nelson’s ERA rose to 9.72 in six appearances, spanning 8 1/3 innings.
“I think the important thing for right now is to get him back on track and make sure the strike-throwing is where it needs to be,” Boone said.
New York’s bats were limited to two hits over the final five innings, including Mike Tauchman’s sixth-inning double. They could have used more contact like the ball Giancarlo Stanton cracked in the first inning, a 120.1 mph single that was the hardest-hit ball in the Majors this season according to Statcast.
Stanton also made hard contact in the third inning (114.6 mph, groundout to first base) and the sixth (106.7 mph, comebacker to pitcher Cal Quantrill) -- numbers the Yankees will monitor as Stanton implements mechanical tweaks in hopes of barreling more pitches.