As opening acts go, Chad Green’s Thursday night was about as bad as it gets.
Successful in the opener role all season, the righthander imploded against the Indians, allowing two home runs, including a grand slam by Jose Ramirez, in a seven-run first inning in the Yankees’ 19-5 loss at the Stadium.
“Didn’t have command of really anything,” said Green, who allowed five runs and four hits in one-third of an inning after coming into the night with a 1.80 ERA in 11 opener assignments this season. (The Yankees were 10-1 in those games.) “And when you get into bad counts against hitters like this, they do damage.”
The AL East-leading Yankees (81-42), who have still won 14 of their last 17, saw their five-game winning streak snapped. The hard-charging Indians banged out 24 hits, including seven homers, in improving to 44-18 since June 4. They are in a virtual tie atop the AL Central with the Twins.
“We know they’re a really good team and we have to play our best to beat them,” Aaron Boone said.
The Yankees got three homers – one each from Gary Sanchez (No. 27), Didi Gregorius (No. 10) and Gleyber Torres (No. 27) – but the focus of the night offensively was on Aaron Judge’s continued struggles.
The rightfielder went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts, extending his slump to 12-for-81 with 31 strikeouts. Judge also gave a scare to the Yankees when he laid out in the sixth trying to catch a Jason Kipnis liner. He crashed to the ground on his left wrist, which bent awkwardly, causing his glove to come off. After being looked at by trainer Steve Donohue on the bench, Judge stayed in the game.
“No issues,” Judge said.
Of his skid, Judge said it’s mostly a matter of missing his pitch.
“I very rarely get one over the middle, and when I do I have to make sure I do damage on it,” Judge said. “When your mechanics or timing’s a little off, it makes it a tough battle. Have to just keep grinding. It sucks right now but we’ll get through it.”
In the first, Ramirez’s grand slam off Green made it 4-0. Kipnis went back-to-back to make it 5-0 and, after Jonathan Loaisiga relieved, Roberto Perez produced the third homer of the inning, a two-run blast that made it 7-0.
“I was in bad counts [right away],” said Green, whose fastball was tattooed repeatedly. “Didn’t really have a great feel for anything and, especially against a team like this, it’s tough to rely on one pitch unless you’re commanding it really well.”
Green (2-4, 5.59) retired 37 of 46 batters faced in his previous nine opening appearances, but he was in trouble from the start Thursday as Francisco Lindor singled on the night’s second pitch.
The Yankees trailed 9-1 after two, 11-1 after four and 12-1 after five as the Indians totaled five homers — two by Ramirez and one by Kipnis, Perez and Carlos Santana — in that stretch. It got so bad that designated hitter Mike Ford pitched the eighth and ninth innings, in which he gave up five runs, including homers by Greg Allen and Santana, who also hit two in the game.
Green wasn’t alone in his struggles. Loaisiga allowed four runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings and Chance Adams allowed five runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3.
Before the game, general manager Brian Cashman did not dismiss the possibility of the Yankees using an opener in a playoff series.
“We haven’t had those discussions yet,” Cashman said. “It’s certainly something that’s going to be a possibility if we’re in that position, but we have to put ourselves there first.”