Michael King pitched 7 innings of brilliant baseball, allowing only 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 13, with zero walks — but left down 1-0 as the Yankee offense could do nothing against Toronto starter Kevin Gausman.
Austin Wells hit his first major league homer in the 9th to make it 6-1 Toronto, final score. On a temperate September Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
The loss pretty much ended the season for NY — they needed to sweep Toronto but instead have lost the first 2 games of the series and are now 8 games back of the Wild Card with 10 games to go.
“He was in, out, up, down, slider, changeup, both fastballs — it was a pretty special performance by him,” said manager Aaron Boone afterwards about King. “Unfortunately we couldn’t mount anything, but pretty great performance.”
Boone added, “We’ve been overmatched the last 2 nights. (Yusei) Kikuchi and Gausman the last two nights, and then their bullpen, have really overmatched us. We have to do a better job.”
NY drops to 76-76. Toronto improves to 84-67.
1. King Brilliant
The good news is that Michael King is solidifying himself into a top starter. He was an outstanding starter in the minor leagues, but couldn’t get past the 5th inning when he first came up — so was moved to the pen. As he’s said in prior post-game interviews, he’s added to his pitching repertoire and now can go thru a lineup 3 times.
This was his first start of 7 innings; he threw 103 pitches. King loses to go 4-7 2.66.
“I think we had a great game plan, Wells and I,” said King afterwards. “We had constant communication with everybody. Gerrit (Cole) was in there talking about sequences. Obviously (Matt) Blake (pitching coach) and Wells. Before the game yesterday I was talking to (Andy) Pettitte a lot. So I think we had a pretty good game plan; it was up to me to execute, and I feel like I stayed in my lanes pretty well.”
“It was actually my four-seam that set that (his 2-seamer) up a lot,” added King when asked why his 2-seamer was so special. “And that was the main point that Gerrit was talking about. Using the four seam early to get sinkers to get underneath the barrel. And then it was command of the slider away that allowed me to back door it away to righties or front it to lefties. So I think it was really the execution of my 3 other pitches that allowed me to have either ugly swings or takes on the sinker.”
King explained how much his game plan now changes as a starter:
“Very. I think my homework before was finding areas where I could get swings and misses, every time,” said King. “I never was looking for soft contact. I never was looking to get quick outs. Now I have to go deeper into games. So there are spots where I can pick and choose, where I know an area of soft contact, and I’d rather get a 1st-pitch out, or if I’m behind in the count I’d rather get the weak contact instead of a take and make it a 6- or 7-pitch at bat. So it’s been a learning curve for me, but I’ll continue to learn and continue to try and do that.”
2. Gausman Out Dueled King
But unfortunately for King, Kevin Gausman was gassing the Yanks on the other hill. A good ole fashioned pitcher’s duel.
Gausman pitched 6 innings of 3-hit, shutout ball, striking out 10.
- The Yanks got 2 walks in the 1st after 1 man out — by Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres — but Austin Wells struck out and Giancarlo Stanton grounded out.
- Oswaldo Cabrera got a 1-out single in the 2nd, but Gausman struck out the next 2 batters.
- In the 3rd, Aaron Judge was walked again with 1 out, and Gleyber Torres reached on an infield single, but Austin Wells grounded out and Giancarlo Stanton fouled out to 1st.
- Gausman retired the Yanks in order in the 4th and 5th.
- Austin Wells hit a 1-out, grounds-rule double to right in the 6th but was stranded as Gausman struck out Stanton and got Volpe to ground out.
3. Old Friend Green Pitches Shutout Inning
Old friend Chad Green came in for the 7th and pitched a 1-2-3 inning, striking out 2.
4. Yank Bullpen Walks Everyone
So it was a 1-0 game into the top of the 8th when Tommy Kahnle came in and walked the 1st batter, then got 2 outs — and then proceeded to walk 3 in a row — the last batter being Spencer Horwitz on a 3-2 pitch to force in a run. Toronto 2 NY 0.
With bases still loaded and 2 outs, Ian Hamilton came in and walked the first batter he faced — Whit Merrifield — on 5 pitches, and it was Toronto 3 NY 0.
Hamilton got the final out of the inning but was ripped in the 8th — double by Kevin Kiermaier, single by George Springer, RBI single by Bo Bichette, walk to Cavan Biggio, and 2 out single by Horwitz and it was 6-0 Toronto.
5. First MLB Homer for Wells
Finally some good news in the 9th — Austin Wells led off with a homer to the upper deck in right off Erik Swanson to cut the Toronto lead to 6-1.
Wells reminds one a little bit of… dare we say.. Thurman Munson. His upright stance, contact swing, and power to the opposite field — albiet as a lefty — seem oddly similar to Munson. You just feel he’s going to hit an opposite-field double every time up. He has the mustache like Munson, and communicates with the pitchers well — seems in complete control of the game from a tactical perspective.
Wells went 2 for 4 in the game (the grounds-rule double in the 6th and homer in the 9th) to raise his average to .163.
After the Wells homer, the next two batters made out, Oswaldo Cabrera singled, but Oswald Peraza struck out for the old ballgame.