The Yankees were telling you that Austin Wells would hit up here. Maybe they got this one right.
Wells hit a two run home run in the top of the ninth off of Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 2-0, to hand Toronto a huge loss in their pursuit of an AL Wild Card spot.
After Gleyber Torres singled to open the inning, the left hand hitting Wells wasted no time as he drove a 95 MPH, four seam, first pitch fastball over the wall in left center field for the only scoring of the game.
“We’re facing a lot of good arms. I’m just trying to be calm up there and get a good pitch to hit. Luckily I was ready to go and got a good pitch to drive,” Wells said on the field during an interview with Meredith Marakovits of the Yes Network
It took Wells until his 43rd at bat to hit his first Major League home run but he’s hit three in his last five games, and giving the Yankees some balance in a lineup that has been predominantly right handed for too long.
“He’s been swinging really well I feel like now finally this last week. He’s started to get more and more comfortable,” Yankee Manager Aaron Boone said. “You’ve seen from jump, kinda, I like to say ‘hitterish’ in the box. Now he’s starting to get some results, really starting to drive the ball. That’s a good one the other way off Romano, he’s starting to string together a lot of good at bats.”
Wells’ heroics wasn’t the only feel good story.
Micheal King continues to make a successful transition to the starting rotation. The 28-year old right hander tossed six scoreless innings in hs 7th consecutive start but he didn’t bring his “A” game and walked five, yet he only gave up one hit.
“I know that, like they say, obviously you’re not gonna have your best stuff all the time,” King said after. The good starters are the ones that are still able to get outs and put up zeros and put the team in a good spot to win, even without everything, Proud of myself for that but I’m hoping I got some more in my next start.”
King showed that he can grind through a game when he doesn’t have his best stuff, but what made this outing even more impressive was that he was facing the hard hitting Blue Jays lineup for the second time in a week.
“What we did last time worked well so made a little bit of adjustments here and there, but his stuff’s so good and that’s a really good hitting lineup so he did an awesome job,” said Wells, who also caught King’s last outing when he went seven innings and gave up a run with 13 strikeouts against these same Blue Jays.
King set down the first six Blue Jays hitters but ran into trouble in the third. Alejandro Kirk singled and then King walked George Springer and Bo Bichette with two outs to load the bases for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
King credited his rookie catcher for “getting his mind right.” “He [Wells] came out and just had a visit and calmed me down and I was able to get out of it. I’m extremely impressed by his demeanor out there,” King said. “He gave me a breather and then just went over Vladdy and how to get him out.”
King made it even more interesting when he fell behind 3-0 to the Jays slugger,
“Honestly, it helped that I was just able to groove a fastball 3-0,” he said. “I said if he hits it, he hits it and then I felt almost mechanically better after that and then executed a 3-1 sinker away. As soon as a I felt that, I felt I was back in the groove. Unfortunately, I sat down for the next however many minutes and lost it for the next inning, but it was a good pitch there.”
King rebounded to get to a full count and then struck out Guerrero Jr on a “good pitch there,” a 94 MPH sinking fastball that caught the outside corner and was called a strike by home plate umpire Malachi Moore.
“You still got Vladimir Guerrero there, there’s three runners out there,” Boone said. “You still gotta be sharp and you gotta execute so I like the fact that he didn’t give in and was able to come back and execute that back door sinker.”
In a relatively short time, Wells has done a nice job developing relationships with the pitchers and learning how to handle them. Wells doesn’t hesitate to build up his pitchers, a good trait for a young catcher. “He’s [King] got that dog on the mound and he goes out there and he wants to win and he wants to go deep into games and set us up for a good position to score runs and get ahead,” Wells said.
Meanwhile, Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman was feasting on the Yankee lineup as he held the Yankees hitless for the first five innings before Estevan Florial singled to lead off the sixth.
It was the 9th time this season (thank you Katie Sharp) that the Yankees were no hit for the first five innings. The 2014 Boston Red Sox and the 1974 Milwaukee Brewers were the only two other teams who were no hit for the first five innings of a game, nine times in one season.
The game was still scoreless in the 7th when Giancarlo Stanton lined a double to left center field with one out. Boone, who didn’t start Anthony Volpe and had him on the bench, made a head scratching decision by failing to pinch run for Stanton.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed with a single to right but the hobbling Stanton could only take third. Oswaldo Cabrera grounded to short and Stanton tried to score but was out at home as the potential rally fizzled.
When asked why he didn’t pinch run for Stanton, Boone responded, “I really just didn’t wanna thrust Volpe in or [Aaron] Judge into the game necessarily, I coulda gone [Jake] Bowers there, but yes, definitely consideration [to pinch run].”
Clay Holmes pitched a scoreless 9th to pick up his second consecutive save as the Yankees played the spoiler role for a second consecutive day.
The games may be meaningless in the standings but could be meaningful for the Yankees in the long run if players like King and Wells continue to grow and develop into consistent big leaguers.