With Al on the family leave list (for good reasons!), I got the call-up from the minors to write today’s recap. I’m sorry that I blew the ending. The Yankees were down to their final strike, but a three-run home run by Brett Gardner in the ninth inning gave the Bronx Bombers a 3-2 win over the Cubs.
The game was dominated from the beginning not by the players, but by the howling 25 mph wind that blew from left to right. The Cubs sent Kyle Hendricks to the mound and he immediately got into trouble in the first inning when Aaron Hicks doubled and then Hendricks hit Gary Sanchez with a pitch to put two on with only one out.
That brought up Starlin Castro, and I will write more on his homecoming later on. Castro lined a shot to right field that right fielder Jason Heyward made a terrific sliding catch on, his first of two great plays on the day. Hicks and Sanchez never stopped running and Hicks was easily doubled off second to end the inning.
That “crossfire hurricane” did not stop Kris Bryant in the bottom of the first. Bryant got ahold of a curve ball from Yankees starter Michael Pineda and, like a sailor jibing with the wind, caught the breeze and let it sail into the right field bleachers. 1-0 Cubs.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks looked like, well, Kyle Hendricks. A lot has been made of his reduced velocity this year (although there is a good argument that is simply a result of a change in the way velocity is measured—Aroldis Chapman was “only” hitting 97 to 99 mph in the ninth), but he showed the same mix of location and changing speeds that made him so successful in years past. Hendricks was pitching a shutout when in the sixth inning, he gave up an infield single to Castro and then a single to left by Aaron Judge. That was it for Hendricks. He left the game after 5 1⁄3 innings, having allowed six hits, walking two and striking out five. The Yankees had not scored off of him, but he was responsible for the two runners on.
That brought up lefty Brian Duensing, who was immediately the victim of that devil wind. Didi Gregorius hit a pop fly behind the infield that the wind got ahold of and carried to an empty area of the outfield for a base hit. The only good news here was that the runners had to hold up (in fact, it looked like Judge might not make it to second base in time) and no one scored.
The wind taketh away and the wind giveth, with a huge assist from a Gold Glove outfielder. Chase Headley hit a line drive into right that but the wind held it up and carried it out to Heyward. The ball was deep enough to score Castro from third, but the wind fooled him. He didn’t tag up until late and by that time, Heyward was able to get the ball home (slightly up the line, actually) and catcher Willson Contreras was able to put the tag on Castro. There was a slight collision on this play and Contreras stayed down a while as we all held our breath. But Contreras got up and stayed in the game, so I assume he’s fine.
In the bottom of the sixth, the wind played pretty much no part of Kyle Schwarber’s leadoff home run that made it 2-0. He just got ahold of it and muscled it over the right field wall.
The game stayed that way until the ninth inning. The Cubs were working with a short bullpen, as closer Wade Davis and setup man Carl Edwards Jr. were both unavailable. So Joe Maddon brought on former closer Hector Rondon, who gave up a one-out single to Headley and then, after striking out Chris Carter, walked Jacoby Ellsbury. Then, after working a 2-2 count with six fastballs to Brett Gardner, Rondon tried to get him to chase a slider. The slider did not slide like it was supposed to and caught way too much of the plate. Gardner golfed the ball up into the wind and it carried out to right field for a three-run home run, although in all honesty, it was probably a home run no matter what the wind was doing.
Here’s the ugliness.
The Cubs got a threat going in the ninth inning off of Aroldis Chapman only because of an error by the third baseman Headley. Otherwise, the Cubs were pretty hopeless off their former closer.
So this goes down as a loss in a game the Cubs should have won. On the other hand, the Yankees had a lot of chances in this game that they failed to capitalize on until the ninth inning. New York had 11 hits to the Cubs 4, so while the Cubs probably should have won, you can’t argue that the Cubs actually outplayed the Yankees.
Old Home Week: The other story of this game was the return of Aroldis Chapman, Adam Warren and Starlin Castro. Chapman and Warren got their World Series rings, but Castro got a warm round of applause, his catchy walkup music one last time, and this video tribute.
Roster moves: The Cubs did make one roster move this morning to shore up their thin bullpen. Justin Grimm was sent down to Iowa and Felix Peña was called up.