Your guess is as good as mine whether this Yankees team has something special going on or is living so close to the edge that it’ll eventually topple to its demise.
On this, though, we all can agree: These guys are one heck of a thrill ride at the moment.
The Yankees outlasted the Royals Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, 6-5, when Luke Voit’s walk-off single off the left-field wall scored pinch-runner Tyler Wade from second base, completing a two-run, come-from-behind rally that followed a two-run, come-from-behind rally in the eighth inning. In between came an Aroldis Chapman meltdown in the ninth inning that would’ve brought major heat on Aaron Boone if not for the second comeback.
Instead, Boone smiled afterward as his club picked up its sixth win in eight games and closed within 4 ½ games of the American League East-leading Red Sox, each of those victories a roller coaster. Not an easy W to be found among them.
“Those guys are resilient. They’re fighting,” Boone said. “We understand how tough this season’s been so far, and they continue to grind. They continue to fight.”
Gosh almighty did they fight for this one, their two most accomplished relievers (Chapman and Zack Britton) teaming to allow three runs in the final two innings and the Yankees still prevailing. First came a two-run, two-out, eighth-inning homer by Rougned Odor of all people, the lefty swinger going deep off Kansas City southpaw Jake Brentz to put the Yankees ahead, 4-3, after Britton served up a solo homer to Carlos Santana to start the frame.
Then, after Santana played a role in the top of the ninth’s sequence and led to two Royals run scoring — and, it can’t be stressed enough, really could’ve created a pinstriped imbroglio — Gary Sanchez tied the score on a one-out solo rope into the left-field stands off Greg Holland. And after Giancarlo Stanton singled and Wade, replacing him, advanced to second on a wild pitch, Voit, just activated from the injured list on Tuesday, ripped his game-winner, giving the Yankees the opportunity to record a third straight series victory Thursday afternoon.
“Winning it in a big way to get us back on a good hot streak and roll into the second half of the season,” said Voit, who has a single, triple and homer since returning.
Let’s call our one remaining timeout to address the key call of the ninth inning, Boone’s order for Chapman to intentionally walk Santana with two outs, Royals on first and third and rookie catcher Sebastian Rivero on deck.
In a vacuum, the maneuver made all the sense in the world, passing on the ultra-accomplished and still dangerous Santana to create a mismatch of Chapman against Rivero, who still has no career major league hits. However, as both Boone and Sanchez acknowledged, the Yankees’ closer, who has been struggling of late, did not buy into the plan. Said Sanchez, through an interpreter: “Probably not really what Chapman wanted to do in that situation.” To load the bases against Chapman’s will, well, it shouldn’t have surprised the Yankees too much that Rivero drew a four-pitch walk, nor that Chapman went ballistic in the dugout after finishing his work shift in a 5-4 hole.
The rising offense cleaned up that mess, though, and so the Yankees move forward, albeit knowing that Chapman has slipped since word emerged that Major League Baseball would crack down on foreign substances. Every game has become its own adventure.
“We know what it’s like to lose,” Yankees starting pitcher Michael King said. “We don’t want to have that feeling anymore.”
“We lost a tough one [Tuesday] night,” Boone said. “It looked like one was getting away from us tonight. They kept grinding. Hopefully we can continue to carry this and continue to get better.”
Can they pull that off? None of us know, yet one thing has changed for the Yankees in this past week-plus: They sure aren’t boring anymore.