WASHINGTON — Gleyber Torres’ quiet start to the season ended emphatically Sunday afternoon. And the timing could not have been better.
Nationals lefthander Patrick Corbin handcuffed the Yankees until Torres homered with one out in the seventh inning for only their second hit — both by Torres.
After Luke Voit’s homer off Will Harris with two outs in the seventh tied it, Torres’ single off Sean Doolittle with two outs in the eighth gave the Yankees the lead, and they held on for a 3-2 victory on a 93-degree day at Nationals Park.
It was the first three hits of the season for Torres, who was 0-for-7 after his first-inning strikeout. The Yankees managed only five.
“After the first hit, I felt a lot more confidence than in the first couple games,” he said. “I was a little too excited [the first two games]. Today I tried to do what I always do: put it in play. I got a few opportunities to help the team and I did my job.”
The victory, which wasn’t secured until Tommy Kahnle pitched out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth and Zack Britton survived some theater in the ninth, gave the Yankees (2-1) a series win against the defending champion Nationals before heading up I-95 North to Philadelphia for a two-game series against Joe Girardi’s Phillies that starts Monday night.
Up until Torres’ blast, the Yankees had been frustrated by Corbin, a Yankees target two offseasons ago who went 14-7 with a 3.25 ERA in 2019, his first season with the Nationals. He was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series.
Corbin retired the first 11 Yankees he faced before Torres singled with two outs in the fourth, and he extended the streak to 19 of the first 20 — striking out eight and walking none — before Torres destroyed a first-pitch fastball to left with one out in the seventh to cut the Yankees’ deficit to 2-1.
Kahnle came on in the eighth and struck out the first batter he faced, No. 9 hitter Michael A. Taylor. Torres, however, made an errant throw on Trea Turner’s grounder — his second error in three games after committing five in 10 exhibition games before COVID-19 forced play to be halted March 12 — and Adam Eaton’s double put runners at second and third with one out. Kahnle, however, struck out former Yankee Starlin Castro swinging at his still-nasty changeup and, after an intentional walk to Howie Kendrick loaded the bases, struck out Eric Thames with the same pitch.
“Tried to get the strikeout,” Kahnle said of the Castro at-bat. “I knew I had to get it. I knew my changeup was working well, and me and Gary [Sanchez] stuck with it and got the big out.”
Britton, the closer with Aroldis Chapman recovering from COVID-19, allowed a leadoff infield single to Asdrubal Cabrera in the ninth. A passed ball charged to Sanchez moved pinch runner Emilio Bonifacio to second, and Bonifacio then tried to steal third on a 3-and-2 pitch to Victor Robles that was out of the strike zone.
Bonifacio had the base stolen but came off the bag on his slide, and third baseman Gio Urshela held his tag for the out after taking Sanchez’s rocket throw. Britton got Yan Gomes to fly to center and Taylor to ground to short for his first save.
Jonathan Loaisiga, getting the start after the Yankees needed to use Mike King in relief on Saturday night, was mostly sharp during his three innings. With a fastball sitting consistently at 96 to 99 mph, Loaisiga allowed one run — on Turner’s third-inning home run — two hits and a walk in three innings, striking out three.
David Hale allowed a run in the fourth on Castro’s double and Thames’ RBI single to make it 2-0, and that’s the way it stayed until Torres and Voit homered in the seventh.
“Corbo [Corbin] was dealing, so it was nice to finally get that monkey off our back and get going,” Voit said of Torres’ homer. “We were waiting for Gleyber to break out and he did today in a big way.”