'Complete offensive game' ends Yanks' slide

New York relies on small ball early; Sánchez, Andújar hit late homers

June 9th, 2021

The Yankees were built to bludgeon opponents with three-run homers, but those have been difficult to come by of late. A different approach delivered rewards on Tuesday night, as early small ball helped to snap the Yanks' four-game slide with an 8-4 victory over the Twins at Target Field.

Tyler Wade scored the go-ahead run on a fielder's choice in the eighth inning, forcing a throw from second baseman Jorge Polanco in a frame set up by a sacrifice bunt. Earlier, Aaron Judge worked a bases-loaded walk, while Brett Gardner dashed home on a wild pitch and lifted a timely sacrifice fly as the new-look Yanks successfully scratched together runs.

“That's the kind of offense that we've been waiting for,” said first baseman DJ LeMahieu, who stroked two hits and drove in a run. “We've shown flashes of it, but tonight was a complete offensive game for us. We’ve just got to keep it rolling.”

Gary Sánchez and Miguel Andújar flipped the script with some ninth-inning thunder, slugging homers to spoil Twins right-hander Griffin Jax’s Major League debut. Sánchez’s seventh homer of the year was a two-run shot, while Andújar launched a 449-foot solo blast, per Statcast, the longest of his career.

The embattled duo has represented a bright spot of an otherwise stagnant lineup. Sánchez is batting .353/.436/.618 with two homers and six RBIs since May 27, again solidifying his place as the Yanks’ starting catcher. Andújar has a .296/.321/.741 slash line with four homers since May 31.

“Every time you hit a homer, you feel good, because you're helping your team,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “The sensation is going to be good because you're adding to the lead. I can’t carry the team by myself; it doesn’t work like that. That’s why we’re a team.”

Having lost 10 of 13 entering Tuesday, New York broke through against former Yankees starter Michael Pineda in the fifth, loading the bases on a walk and two hits. Judge worked an eight-pitch plate appearance to force in a run, chasing Pineda, and Jorge Alcala bounced a slider that allowed Gardner to dash home to tie the game at 2.

Clint Frazier and Andújar opened the eighth with singles off Taylor Rogers, before Gardner bunted them over to second and third. LeMahieu chopped a grounder to Polanco, who fired wildly toward home as Wade slid in safely. Judge then pushed in another run with a fielder’s choice.

“That’s critical,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We haven’t been hitting homers as much as we normally do, or putting up crooked numbers as much as we do. Sometimes, it takes little things to win a ballgame. Tonight is that kind of game where everyone contributed in different ways. It was definitely good to see some situational stuff happen.”

Goin’ with Gumby
Jordan Montgomery started for New York and had trouble putting away hitters early, giving up a two-run double to Ryan Jeffers in the first after getting ahead with an 0-2 count. Bullpen activity started with two outs in the first, but Montgomery settled in and held the line until the sixth, when Boone visited the mound with two outs.

Gesturing as though he wanted Montgomery to not worry about a pitching change, Boone delivered quick advice concerning the next hitter, Rob Refsnyder.

“I was prepared to die on that mound right there,” Montgomery said. “I really wanted to get through six innings, especially that last out. I'd honestly felt so much better for the fifth and sixth innings, stuff-wise, confidence-wise. I'm happy he let me go after Ref.”

Refsnyder ripped a game-tying RBI double that pelted the top of the wall in left-center field, then hobbled off due to left hamstring tightness after chasing Montgomery.

“I just felt like he was in such a good groove,” Boone said of Montgomery. “After throwing 29 pitches in that first inning, he was dialed in, even the third time through the order. I just wanted to see if we could get him through that. It was probably not the right decision with the result there.”

Familiar feeling
This marks the Yankees’ first visit to Target Field since the 2019 American League Division Series, which they swept in three games. The Bombers have long held the upper hand in their meetings with the Twins. Since 2002, the Yanks own an 86-37 regular-season record against Minnesota.

New York’s eight runs were its most since May 15, when it beat the Orioles, 8-2, in Baltimore.

“It’s good to break out a little bit and feel good about the way we’re swinging the bat,” Gardner said. “We always feel good about our pitching, and we’ve struggled to score runs collectively – I’m at the top of the list. Hopefully, we’ll look back and tonight was the start of something special.”