NEW YORK -- Aiming to end a 15-game stretch of forgettable baseball, the Yankees expressed belief that their fortunes were about to turn. They preached patience and promised not to quarrel with the form of slump-breaker. Whatever it took to put another decision in the win column would be fine.
In this case, a couple of gifts got them back to shaking hands on the infield grass -- not the prettiest display, but it was a start. Aaron Hicks scored on Nate Jones’ eighth-inning wild pitch and Mike Ford worked a bases-loaded walk as the Yankees snapped their five-game skid, celebrating a 3-1 victory over the Braves on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.
"It was important," said Gio Urshela, who belted a solo homer earlier in the contest. "I really think it's important to get the confidence back and try to keep that good for the rest of the season."
Hicks sparked the station-to-station rally, coming off the bench to work a pinch-hit walk. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge stroked singles to chase Tyler Matzek, loading the bases with no outs. Clint Frazier strode to the plate as a pinch-hitter for Brett Gardner, and Jones uncorked an 0-1 slider that darted low and away, skipping to the backstop.
Two batters later, Ford -- recalled earlier in the day from the alternate training site -- saw four pitches out of the strike zone, providing an insurance run for closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. Chapman logged his second save in as many opportunities, preserving a victory for Jonathan Loaisiga, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
"Even though we didn't break it open, there were a lot of really good things that happened tonight," said manager Aaron Boone. "We had some winning at-bats there in the eighth inning to grab the lead. It was a good effort and a good step. Hopefully it's something that we can start to build on."
Kick it up a notch
Bouncing back from a non-competitive 3 2/3-inning effort against the Blue Jays, Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon turned in his sharpest outing of the young season, limiting Atlanta to one run on four hits over five innings.
His pitch count monitored closely in his third start since returning from a second Tommy John procedure, Taillon permitted third-inning doubles to Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza that opened the scoring in the contest.
Taillon wasn't fazed; he rebounded to strike out Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, escaping the frame. The pitch to Ozuna was a tempting 94.5 mph fastball that sailed high, an offering Taillon has been working to incorporate, drawing inspiration from friend and teammate Gerrit Cole.
"I thought the stuff was really good tonight," said Taillon, who walked one and struck out five in the 80-pitch effort. "I thought it was crisp. What I was most excited about was that the stuff I worked on between outings showed up today. We had a good idea of where the top of the zone was and I threw way more curveballs ; we got that pitch really involved in the game plan."
Urshela tied the game in the fifth, slugging a solo home run over the center-field wall and onto the netting that covers Monument Park. The homer was Urshela's second of the season, producing all the Yankees mustered against Charlie Morton.
"We've been facing Morton a lot the last two or three years," Urshela said. "He's got pretty good stuff. He's a veteran pitcher. He knows how to pitch. I'm just trying to make good contact with a ball in the strike zone. That's all I'm trying to do."
The right-hander, who joined Atlanta this past offseason after two seasons with the Rays, limited New York to one run on three hits and two walks over six innings. Morton complimented Urshela in his postgame remarks, calling him “a really good hitter.”
“I really love his approach at the plate,” Morton said. “He's able to use all of the field, and for a guy like me that throws a lot of two-seamers, his swing and his approach is a threat to me, because normally I can get in on guys with two-seamers.”
With four scoreless frames, the Bombers' bullpen ensured that Urshela's drive was enough for a while. Lucas Luetge, Chad Green and Justin Wilson served as the bridge to the late innings, with Green and Wilson recording key outs to escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh.
"I've never been on a team that wants to win so bad," Wilson said. "I’m so excited for what we’ve got going on. I really think it was just an eye-opener last week. We’ve got a lot of great arms down there, a lot of different weapons. Take it one game at a time and give it what you got.”