Without Aaron Judge, thriving is probably out of the question. But if the Yankees can survive until their captain returns, they would be thrilled.
In the Yankees’ first day of games since their best player was placed on the injured list, they survived by digging a hole and climbing out.
After fighting back but falling in a 6-5 matinee loss to the White Sox on Thursday, the Yankees responded by shutting down Chicago in a 3-0 victory to salvage a split of the day.
“It’s tough because I know we got a guy [on the bench], and he’s huge in the lineup,” Gleyber Torres, who drilled a go-ahead, two-run homer in the nightcap, said of Judge. “As a group, we just got to figure out a way and play really good together and hit better.”
A sparser-than-usual Bronx crowd of an announced 40,659, some wearing masks, watched the Yankees (37-27) play through an air-quality crisis that postponed Wednesday’s game.
There was less smoke from the Canadian wildfires in the area a day later, though the Air Quality Index still qualified as “unhealthy.”
The Yankees dropped a series to the meh White Sox (28-36) in part because a couple of veteran pitchers in Game 1 — Luis Severino and Michael King — allowed a combined four home runs. The final one was a two-run blast from Eloy Jimenez that gave the White Sox a seventh-inning lead they would not cough up.
The Yankees were not swept by the White Sox in part because a rookie pitcher was nearly untouchable.
“Wow,” said manager Aaron Boone of Randy Vasquez, who was spotless in his second career start.
Vasquez, serving as the 27th man in the nightcap (and immediately returned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game), allowed no runs on two hits in 5 ²/₃ innings. The 24-year-old, called up to temporarily replace the injured Nestor Cortes, struck out three and walked only one.
“It’s surprising,” Vasquez said, through interpreter Marlon Abreu of his early success. “But at the same time, a lot of work throughout my baseball career to get to this point.”
Vasquez, who led with a fastball but had six pitches at his disposal, allowed a two-out single to Jimenez in the first inning and was not dinged again until the sixth. Gavin Sheets singled in the frame with two outs before Vasquez hit Luis Robert Jr., and Boone sensed danger. Ron Marinaccio entered and escaped by striking out Jimenez.
Marinaccio was excellent in 2 ¹/₃ hitless innings, striking out four, and Clay Holmes (seventh save) finished off a two-hitter.
“With the doubleheader, obviously, you’re going to need to use a lot of bullpen,” Marinaccio said after his longest career outing. “We’re always ready down there, though, so nothing more than normal.”
The Yankees’ bullpen bounced back quickly after King, perhaps the unit’s best weapon, proved human in the day’s first game.
The Yankees’ offense in the opener was led by Willie Calhoun, who homered and had three of the five RBIs, and the attack bounced back from deficits of 2-0 and 4-2.
But a potential rally in the ninth inning fell short when, with two runners on, Torres fouled out and Anthony Rizzo hit into a double play.
Torres righted that wrong in the nightcap, when Mike Clevinger kept the Yankees hitless until the fourth inning. Calhoun doubled and Torres followed with a 402-foot homer to left to give the Yankees a lead they would only pad thanks to a new and old Yankee.
Billy McKinney — who briefly made his major league debut in 2018 with the Yankees only to hurt his shoulder after two road games and then was traded to the Blue Jays — finally played his first home game as a Yankee.
McKinney, who was called up when Judge hit the IL, tripled in the first major league game of the season and added a solo homer in the fifth inning of the nightcap.
“Opportunity knocks,” Boone said, “and he did a great job for us.”
Without Judge, who will not know about a timetable for his return until the swelling clears in and around his big toe, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu and Josh Donaldson combined to go 0-for-20 with three walks.
It was not an ideal day, but it also was not a lost one. The Yankees survived.