The Yankees affectionately call him “Toe” and despite being just 5’8” tall, Ronald Torreyes has been a valuable contributor to the team’s unexpected success this season. He was particularly valuable last night.
With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the tenth of a tie game, “Toe” nailed a fastball from Texas Rangers’ reliever Matt Bush and lined it up the middle for a game winning, RBI single that gave the Yankees an important 2-1 win.
What made Torreyes’ hit even more impressive is that it came after the struggling Chris Carter struck out for the second out of the inning in what turned out to be his final at-bat as a Yankee. (Carter was designated for assignment after the game, Tyler Austin was recalled)
It was Torreyes’ first career walk off hit. His approach in that final at-bat was a clinic in discipline, he didn’t try to do too much. “I was just looking to hit something hard,” said Torreyes through a translator, “and make good contact because the previous at-bat I hit a ground ball right back at him. So I was looking for something that I could drive and drive it up the middle.”
Torreyes has been starting at third in place of the injured Chase Headley but the Yankees don’t skip a beat when he’s in there. “He filled in extremely well for Didi (Gregorius) when Didi was out. He’s a guy that you know he’s always ready, prepared to play,” Yankee Manager Joe Girardi said after the game.
Six organizations gave up on the Venezuelan native. After the Yankees acquired him in a trade with the Dodgers in January 2016, they placed him on waivers and he was claimed by the Los Angeles Angels. Less than a week later, the Yankees claimed him off the waiver wire and they may have struck gold in doing so.
Torreyes was not the only international hero. Masa-HIRO Tanaka was brilliant as he tossed eight shutout innings and matched his rival, Texas starter Yu Darvish. A large contingent of Japanese media was on hand to watch this classic match up of Japanese starting pitchers.
The Texas right hander tossed seven scoreless innings; gave up two hits and struck out ten but his Yankee counterpart was a little better on this night. Tanaka gave up three hits and two walks in eight shutout innings. He struck out nine and was absolutely phenomenal with his command as he was 25 for 27 in “first pitch strikes.” (Tanaka actually had another first pitch strike on Adrian Beltre in the first but his at-bat was negated when Elvus Andrus was caught stealing second to end the inning. Mike Napoli in the second and Jonathan Lucroy in the fifth were the only two hitters to have a 1-0 count)
After the game the Yankee right hander downplayed his success on the first pitch. “It actually turned out that way. It’s always important but I wasn’t really conscious of it,” Tanaka said through a translator.
His teammates certainly took notice. “Without Tanaka, there’s no chance, we don’t have a chance. He was excellent tonight,” Torreyes said. “He held the game zero-zero, it’s an amazing job for Tanaka.”
The Yankees badly needed this win and you could feel the urgency by Girardi’s post game comments. “We’ve been scuffling,” Girardi said. “You get a brilliant performance by Tanaka, his best performance of the year. He had everything going tonight and “toe” made some really good plays tonight. It was really a complete game.”
Girardi made all the right moves in this one but the Yankees trailed 1-0 when Texas broke the scoreless tie with an unearned run in the top of the ninth. On consecutive pitches from Yankee reliever Aroldis Chapman, Andrus stole third and scored on a passed ball by Gary Sanchez, who had a rough night defensively.
Brett Gardner came up huge with a game tying homer in the bottom of the ninth and winning pitcher Chasen Shreve wiggled out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the tenth to set up Torreyes’ heroics.
The 24-year old Torreyes is a story of persistence. He was passed over by six organizations previous and the Yankees actually had acquired him from the Dodgers last year but lost him to the Angels on waivers. A week later, the Yankees re-claimed him off the waiver wire.
“He’s gonna play good defense, give you good at-bats, you can move him around the infield,” Girardi said. “You could put him in the outfield in an emergency. He’s very, very valuable because he can do so many things.”