ARLINGTON, Texas – Injuries ravaged the 2019 Yankees almost from the start of spring training, and that continued pretty much unabated throughout the regular season.
Including game No. 162, though they seemed to have caught a break on this one.
In what essentially was a meaningless game against the Rangers – and the Yankees played like it in a 6-1 loss – third baseman Gio Urshela left with what the team categorized as “a mild left ankle sprain” after making a play in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Afterward, however, Aaron Boone said, “He checked out all right, no real swelling in there.” Urshela wouldn’t even entertain the possibility that he might not be available for Friday and Game 1 of the ALDS against Minnesota.
“For sure, I’ll be ready,” he said.
The Yankees finished the season 103-59 and will start their American League Division Series Friday at the Stadium against the Twins. Urshela arguably was the team MVP if not for DJ LeMahieu, and this is one more potential injury challenge to overcome.
Nick Solak led off the fourth against Masahiro Tanaka with a grounder to third, and Urshela ranged into foul ground near the bag and made an accurate jump throw to first to get the runner. He then came up gimpy, clearly favoring his left leg.
Boone and trainer Steve Donohue came out to check on Urshela and, after a brief discussion, Tyler Wade replaced him.
Urshela entered the season with eight homers and 39 RBIs in 167 career games, but despite being in a 3-for-27 slump entering Sunday, he began the day hitting .315 with a career-best 21 homers and an .891 OPS. His steady performance at the plate and at times Gold Glove-caliber defense at third helped the Yankees survive their season-long injury plague.
Talking before the game how his team thrived with a next-man-up mentality despite the slew of injuries — the Yankees put a record 30 players on the injured list — general manager Brian Cashman tagged Urshela as “the biggest example of them all.”
“It feels like he's been a starter all year long, but he wasn't,” Cashman said. “He had to fill in for the injured Miguel Andujar. And man, he became an integral part of this entire journey.”
Tanaka from the pen
Tanaka was just OK in his first regular season bullpen appearance after 163 career starts, allowing two runs (one earned), five hits and a walk in three innings. Tanaka, 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA in five career postseason starts, is expected to start in these playoffs, but the Yankees wanted to give him a taste of the bullpen because, as Boone has said, “Everything’s on the table.”
“Yes, absolutely confident going into a game like that [as a reliever],” Tanaka said through his interpreter.
Caution with Encarnacion
Cashman, though not putting a damper on Edwin Encarnacion (left oblique) being available for the ALDS, didn’t make it sound like a sure thing, either.
“We’re responding to him feeling just a tick just the other day, so we backed off and just going to give him till Tuesday to make sure,” Cashman said. “So, we expect him to be available Friday, but until we get him through some at-bats Tuesday and Wednesday, that’ll be the final determination.”
Yankees lose finale
As for the game, Chad Green opened and allowed one run (unearned) and one hit, striking out two. Aaron Judge hit his 27th homer, a solo shot off Lance Lynn in the third, to give the Yankees their 306th of the season. The Twins wound up with 307 home runs, which represents the MLB record. Lynn struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings in which he allowed one run and two hits.