Schmidt the bright spot in a frustrating loss

June 1st, 2023

SEATTLE -- One after another, the Yankees made hard right turns to the dugout on Wednesday night, appearing overwhelmed by a dominant effort. As they did, the silver lining to that evening of frustration rested on the bench: George Kirby wasn’t allowing any runs, but neither was .

While the Yankees could not solve Kirby, Schmidt enjoyed his sharpest outing of the season thus far, pitching into the sixth inning in the Bombers’ 1-0, 10-inning loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.

“Early on in the season, when my back was against the wall, I never really doubted that success was coming around the corner,” Schmidt said. “I’ve always had that confidence in myself and in my abilities to continue to get guys out.”

Cal Raleigh decided the contest in the 10th inning, roping a run-scoring hit off Ron Marinaccio to chase home the game’s only run and spark a walk-off celebration.

The Yankees wasted a bases-loaded opportunity in the top half of the frame, when Anthony Volpe grounded into a fielder’s choice and -- with Anthony Rizzo unavailable due to a stiff neck -- pinch-hitter Franchy Cordero struck out.

“We scored a bunch in the first two games, but that doesn’t take away that this [Mariners] team as a whole can really pitch,” said manager Aaron Boone. “We just couldn’t mount much.”

When the Yankees next take the field on Friday in Los Angeles, the roster will have been overhauled: Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson and Tommy Kahnle will be on board, with corresponding moves to be announced. At least one is expected to involve Oswaldo Cabrera, who can be optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As that Bombers trio jetted west, it was a night on which hits were difficult to come by for both squads, zeros piling across the large center-field scoreboard in rapid succession.

Schmidt was in command early, retiring his first eight batters while facing the minimum in three of the first five innings. Seattle managed just three singles over 5 2/3 innings off Schmidt, who walked one and struck out seven, throwing 59 of 84 pitches for strikes.

“The number one thing is execution,” Schmidt said. “[I’m] getting to really good locations, I feel like. The big thing is, early on in the season, with adding the cutter, we didn’t really have too good of a feel of how to incorporate it. Now I feel like we’ve started dialing in the pitch package a little bit more, learning how to pitch with the cutter and find new ways to get lefties out.”

Said catcher Kyle Higashioka: “We, as a catching corps, are getting a little more comfortable with calling a game for him and seeing what works in certain situations.”

New York’s bullpen was also stellar. recorded six outs in relief, and  seemed to reclaim his form in a four-out appearance, striking out three.

But the standout performance belonged to Kirby, a 25-year-old righty from Rye, N.Y., who grew up cheering for the Yankees. Seattle’s second-year hurler showcased his five-pitch mix in a splendid three-hit effort, impressing his once-favorite club.

"We knew we were getting an elite arm,” said outfielder Greg Allen. “Also, we knew that the way that we put up the bats against the last two starters, they were going to come in definitely focused and poised and really wanting to execute. That's what he did.”

The M’s played terrific defense behind Kirby. In the sixth, Gleyber Torres was robbed of what could have been a run-scoring hit by a leaping grab from shortstop J.P. Crawford. Julio Rodríguez helped out in the seventh, running down Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s deep drive at the wall in left-center field.

That’s why as Schmidt walked through the third-base dugout at the end of the sixth inning, Gerrit Cole draped an arm around a teammate he calls “my dog.”

Sure, Cole quibbled with Schmidt’s pitch selection in a sixth-inning at-bat (Cole suggested another breaking ball to Rodríguez, who singled on an 0-2 fastball). But the veteran stressed that this was a game that Schmidt could build upon.

“He was giving me a lot of compliments,” Schmidt said. “It’s just another teaching moment, and that’s why it’s so great to be around so many veterans in this clubhouse. I’m constantly learning and growing, thanks to a lot of these guys.”