NEW YORK — The Yankees always like to talk about Gleyber Torres’ slow heartbeat.
Sure, he’s only 22 years old. But Torres has already shown an uncanny ability to remain calm, cool and collected in the biggest moments on the biggest stage. And that was the case again during the fifth inning of Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
The score was tied at 3-3. The bases were loaded. There were two outs. And Torres quickly fell behind 0-2.
His battle with Minnesota Twins breaking ball artist Tyler Duffey, however, had only just begun. Torres laid off a slider, then a fastball, and then another slider to make the count full. The next pitch proved to be the toughest one of all, a perfectly-executed slider that Torres was barely able to get a piece of to stay alive.
Duffey went back to the fastball again as a result, and Torres made him pay, ripping a two-run double down the left-field line, giving the Yankees a 5-3 lead en route to a 10-4 victory on Friday night in The Bronx and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
“He’s been doing that all year,” teammate DJ LeMahieu said of Torres. “He’s 22, and no situation is too big for him. He’s an impressive player.”
Duffey was able to string together 26 consecutive scoreless appearances before the Kansas City Royals produced two runs against him in his final regular-season outing on Sept. 28. But Torres, a career .357 hitter with the bases loaded, was able to get the best of the 28-year-old righty.
“I swung at the first pitch and took the second one (to fall behind 0-2), and after that I just felt relaxed,” Torres said. “I didn’t want to feel pressure in that moment. He threw me a really good slider, and I took it. I was just waiting for a fastball. He threw one, and I did damage.”
Torres’ seven-pitch at-bat was emblematic of the team’s relentless approach, a bunch of savages in the box that want to control the strike zone and making opposing pitchers miserable. The Yankees executed to perfection at the plate on Friday night, pounding out eight hits — two of them homers — and drawing eight walks while seeing a staggering 193 pitchers over eight innings.
“That's controlling the strike zone, and that's, I think, what allowed us to win the game tonight,” manager Aaron Boone said. “We won a lot of 3-2 counts tonight. I thought the guys by and large, up and down the lineup, really made it tough on their pitchers because they stayed in the strike zone. When you do that, you're able to have a night like tonight where you throw up 10 runs.”
Torres led the Yankees with 38 homers during the regular season, displaying the type of prolific power that no one expected.
But he struck out in his first at-bat of his second postseason. And he should’ve grounded into a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play that stranded the bases loaded in his second at-bat. Only C.J. Cron couldn’t handle the throw at first base, with two runs scoring as a result.
“(Jose) Berrios threw me a breaking ball, and it wasn’t really a good swing,” Torres said. “But that’s the beautiful part about baseball. It always gives you a second opportunity.”
Torres had been looking for another chance in October after making the final out of the 2018 season.
“I never forgot that moment,” Torres said of grounding out in Game 4 of the ALDS with the potential tying run at second, as the Yankees were eliminated by the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox. “I felt bad. I felt frustration. But I just took the moment personally and wanted to take advantage of that.
“During my offseason, I just really, really, really prepared to help my team this season. And in this moment, for sure, I just believed.”
On Friday night, that belief paid off big time.
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