The Yankees have suddenly become interesting again.
20-year old phenom Jasson Dominguez snapped a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with a two run home run, his second in his first three career games as the Yankees stunned the Astros with a resounding 6-1 victory for their first three game sweep in Houston since 2013.
Dominguez probably has no idea of the Astros vs. Yankees rivalry that’s developed in recent years. He’s just trying to show he belongs in the Major Leagues but the fact that he’s made quite an impression this weekend against a team that’s had the Yankees’ number is a bonus.
Yankee Manager Aaron Boone has been impressed with the youngster’s demeanor. He’s comfortable. When he goes up the plate, there’s not a lot of anxiety. He plays the game with ease. Obviously the skill set jumps off the page at ‘ya,” Boone said.
The Yankees trailed 1-0 entering the fateful sixth inning as their nemesis, Astros’ starter Cristian Javier was dominating them again. Javier came into the game with a 1-0 record and 1.83 ERA in four games, three starts against the Yankees, but they were able to get some good swings in the first five innings and then broke out in the sixth with three runs to grab the lead.
With one out, Oswaldo Cabrera began the rally with a hard single to right. D.J. LeMahieu, who just missed hitting home runs to left and right in his previous two at bats, hit a long double to left center field to score Cabrera to tie the game at one.
On the play, Astros LF Yordan Alvarez took an awkward fall when he was chasing the ball. It appeared Alvarez may have injured his knee or ankle but, after a few minutes, he stayed in the game.
Aaron Judge was called out on strikes for the second out and then Dominguez stepped in for his moment.
On the 1-0 pitch, Dominguez slammed a slider up in the zone and hit a towering shot that landed about 10-15 rows deep in the lower right field stands to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. The ball was tracked at 358 feet, but the height of the blast is what was impressive.
The home run put the youngster on a couple of impressive lists of Yankee accomplishments. Dominguez became only the fourth Yankee to homer in two of his first three games, joining Yogi Berra in 1946, Joe Lefevbre in 1980 and Judge in 2016. (Thanks Sarah Langs)
The switch-hitter also became the 1st Yankee with 2+ HRS and 2+ RBI in at least 2 of their first three career games. (Thanks Katie Sharp)
“He’s [Dominguez] lived up to every ounce of hype that I’ve heard,” winning pitcher Micheal King said.
It’s way, way, way too early to make any conclusions, positive or negative, but, if you’re a Yankee fan, you have to like what you’ve seen so far. The young lineup has provided a jolt for a Yankee team that was being labeled, “boring.”
There was more good news on the pitching front.
The transition from reliever to starter seems to be progressing nicely for King. The right hander tossed a season high five innings pn a season high 69 pitches and allowed one run on five hits with no walks and four strikeouts as he earned his first win since he was entered into the rotation.
The Astros scored their lone run against King in the first on a sacrifice fly by Kyle Tucker, but the Yankee right hander limited the damage by getting Jose Abreu on a line out to left field.
“I thought his [King] stuff was really good tonight too,” Boone said. The sinker and the four seamer are both really good weapons for him to go along with his slider, change up. Another strong outing against a good offense.”
The 28-year old has wanted to be a starter and is getting more confidence with every outing. “Being able to do it the last few times out has definitely giving me the confidence to feel like I’m a starter,” King said.
Tommy Kahnle tossed two scoreless innings and has rebounded nicely from a couple of poor outings to post his third consecutive outing without giving up a run, while Jonathan Loaisiga and Clay Holmes finished it off with two more shutout innings.
The Yankees sealed the deal in the 9th with three more runs.
With one out, Gleyber Torres, who returned after being out two games with a back issue, hit a mammoth 435 foot home run off of Astros’ reliever Jose Urquidy that slammed off the train in center field at Minute Maid park. It was Torres’ 24th home run as he continued to rake in the second half of the season. Torres slashed .327/.410/.598 with a 1.008 OPS with 7 home runs and 13 RBIs in August.
The other rookies in the lineup beside Dominguez, strutted their stuff in the 9th.
The veteran rookie, Anthony Volpe followed the home run with a line single to right center. Austin Wells ripped a double to right center to score Volpe to make it a 5-1 game. After Everson Pereira struck out, Oswald Pereza lined a run scoring single to left to give the Yankees some breathing room with a 6-1 lead.
Volpe continues to grow before our eyes and has been stellar in the field. The knock on Wells was his throwing arm and he silenced his critics in the sixth inning when he threw out Mauricio Dubon trying to steal second. “It was in a big spot so it was really cool for me,” Wells said. “Getting that first one under my belt on the first steal, so that was really awesome.”
The sixth inning ended in an unusual manner. Alvarez lifted a deep fly ball towards the left field line. Pereira went towards the wall to try and make the catch in foul territory, but a fan leaned over the stands and clearly interfered. Umps on the field ruled fan interference and the call was confirmed after the Astros asked for a review.
The Yankees are mathematically alive, but realistically speaking, out of the playoffs so Dominguez and the other rooks have provided a renewed interest while gaining valuable experience at the Major League level.
“We’re playing for a lot there,” said Boone whose future may be more in question than ever before. “Never know what could happen and we just wanna go out and play our best baseball and hopefully make some noise this month and who knows.”