Aaron Boone shook up the Yankees’ anemic lineup on Tuesday night. For the first seven innings, it didn’t help, as the guys he put in went a combined 0-for-8 and the Yankees were held to one run by Atlanta in a tied game.
Then the Yankees’ offense exploded in the eighth inning.
Well, "exploded" is a relative term, because the Yankees will take whatever they can get these days.
The Yankees never got "the big hit." What they got was a tiebreaking wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk. It was enough for two runs and helped the Yankees snap their five-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.
"Even though we didn’t break it open, there were a lot of really good things that happened tonight," Boone said. "There were some competitive things that happened that allowed us to win a well-played ballgame, and that’s nice."
Boone was asked if he liked ending the slide in a tight game.
"I’d take a blowout, too," he said with a rare smile. "These guys know they’re going to be a beast. They’re going to be a problem. And we’re going to get there."
Justin Wilson, who retired Freddie Freeman with the bases loaded to end the seventh, said: "I’ve never been on a team that wants to win so bad." Interesting, because Wilson was on the Yankees in 2015 and spent the last two years with the Mets.
The game was tied at 1 when Aaron Hicks – who was benched along with Clint Frazier – walked on four pitches as a pinch hitter against lefthander Tyler Matzek to lead off the eighth.
DJ LeMahieu grounded a single to left and Aaron Judge lined a single to right to load the bases. Boone sent up Frazier to hit for Brett Gardner, even though Frazier was in a 1-for-24 funk and had zero RBIs in 66 plate appearances to start the season. Atlanta called in righthander Nate Jones.
The stage was set for Frazier, but Jones took away the drama when he fired one past Travis d’Arnaud for a wild pitch to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Frazier’s futility continued as he popped out to second. After an intentional walk to Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres hit a fly ball to shallow center for the second out.
But Mike Ford – making his first appearance of the season as the roster and first base replacement for the retired Jay Bruce – took a four-pitch walk to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
Gary Sanchez ended the inning with a lineout to left, making the Yankees 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Still, Boone lauded the Yankees for "really good, kind of winning at-bats there in the eighth inning to grab the lead," and added: "It was a good effort and a good step and hopefully something that we can start to build on."
A strong performance from starter Jameson Taillon (five innings, one run) and four shutout innings combined from five relievers -- and a little eighth-inning magic -- was enough for the Yankees to improve to 6-10.
Even though Boone said repeatedly "nothing has changed," the lineup had a very different look.
Hicks took a seat, as did Frazier. Gardner (0-for-3) and Mike Tauchman (0-for-2) were in center and leftfield, respectively, with Gardner in the No. 3 spot. Three batters behind Gardner was Ford (0-for-3, walk, RBI), who was recalled from the alternate site.
The game ended when Ford made a running catch of a foul pop down the first-base line, giving Aroldis Chapman his second save. The Yankees defense was definitely improved on Tuesday after some rocky games.
Atlanta took a 1-0 lead in the third against Taillon on back-to-back doubles by Guillermo Heredia and Ehire Adrianza.
Gio Urshela tied the game against Charlie Morton in the fifth on a 437-foot home run to the netting over Monument Park.
Taillon shook off a poor second start (five runs in 3 2/3 innings vs. the Blue Jays) by allowing four hits with one walk and five strikeouts.