Jordan Montgomery worked his alchemy all afternoon, but his teammates couldn’t score any runs for him. At least this time the Yankees still won the game.
Led by newcomer Anthony Rizzo, the Bombers won 3-1 in Miami, sweeping a team that was sitting in front of them like bread crumbs. The Yankees looked completely over-matched for seven innings against Sandy Alcantara, but capitalized on the Marlins’ permeable defense to get their game-changing runs in the eighth.
The inning should have come to an end at Giancarlo Stanton’s pinch-hit at-bat. He grounded sharply to third base, but apparently too sharply for the Marlins’ Brian Anderson to handle. Instead of turning the tailor-made double play, Anderson booted the ball badly, adding to his team’s league-leading error total.
It was yet another inkling that a change in fortune is coming for this team, who previously hit into double plays like they were going out of style. Rizzo made Anderson pay by smacking an opposite field single to tie things up against lefty killer Richard Bleier. Aaron Judge followed with a well-placed single of his own to take the lead. Another comedy of errors in the top of the ninth gave the Yankees an insurance run.
The win put a brief stop to a disturbing trend, as the Yankees were just 4-10 in their previous 14 chances for a sweep.
“Any time you come out and get a sweep, that’s huge,” Aaron Boone said after the win. “We’ve been playing better baseball now for a while. I think everyone knows the tough road that’s ahead of us but I feel like we’re ready to embrace it.”
Alcantara made a valiant effort to ruin the good feelings of the Yankees’ trade deadline and subsequent weekend. When he was on the mound, the team in gray and navy was completely subdued. The Marlins’ loss had nothing to do with their starting pitcher, who held the Yankees to seven innings of sleepwalking Sunday.
The 25-year-old righty — who’s had a 119 ERA+ since 2019, meaning he’s been 19% better than the average pitcher — made the Yankees look absolutely helpless on Sunday. Strikeouts aren’t typically a part of Alcantara’s bag. He’s a worm burning specialist that entered the game with a 53.6% ground ball rate, best among all NL starters. His 21.3% strikeout percentage is lower than the 2021 league average of 23.6%.
You wouldn’t know it from watching him on Sunday though, when he turned the Yankees into mincemeat with ten strikeouts in seven innings. A 101-mile per hour fastball and 93-mph changeup jump off the screen when watching Alcantara. He seemed to save his best stuff specifically for these Yankees, who only got four balls into the outfield against him.
A golden opportunity presented itself in the top of the seventh when, still losing 1-0, Joey Gallo checked in with his first Yankee hit. His searing double into right field ended up being just that, as the guys behind him failed to turn the hit into a run. Alcantara did what he did best, getting Gary Sanchez, Rougned Odor and Gleyber Torres to ground out on three balls that could be best described as deficiently struck. None of the groundouts had any juice on them, and apart from Odor’s that ended up being a tricky play between first baseman Jesus Aguilar and Alcantara at the bag, they were routine for even the Marlins’ defense. Stranding Gallo should have been the death knell, but Alcantara’s bullpen and defense betrayed him.
Montgomery gave the Yankees five innings of three-hit ball. He retired five Marlins via the strikeout and capped them at three hits. The Marlins’ only run came in their first ups, when Miguel Rojas and Jazz Chisholm Jr. led off with a double and infield single, respectively. Anderson then plated Rojas on an RBI groundout. Montgomery hunkered down after that, and unlike his Miami counterpart, his bullpen had his back.
“He’s done a really, really good job this year and taken a big step forward,” Brett Gardner said of Montgomery. “With the guys that we have in the back end of the bullpen, that’s all we can really ask for out of our starters.”
A rested Aroldis Chapman cleaned up the final three outs and sent the Yankees back home to face another club in last place. If the same team from Miami shows up in the Bronx, the Yankees will be primed for another sweep against the awful Baltimore Orioles.
Clay Holmes, in his third game since being traded from Pittsburgh, looked dominant in his 1.2 innings. Joely Rodriguez, another recent addition, made his Yankee debut with all of one pitch. He got the final out of the seventh by breaking Magneuris Sierra’s bat on the first pitch of the battle. Sierra’s soft grounder to second was the Marlins’ last plate appearance with the lead, as the Yankees’ comeback happened in the next inning. That made Rodriguez the winning pitcher and first Yankee to record a win while throwing only one pitch since David Robertson did it in 2011.
“For Clay to come back out after yesterday’s outing and be really pitch efficient was big,” Boone crowed. “Joely comes in and blows up a bat on the first pitch. We feel like those two guys are going to be important pieces of our bullpen. It worked out perfect.”