As good as Aaron Judge has been this season, he’s made this comment more than a few times regarding the Yankees’ hot start: “Our pitching has carried us.”
It did again Wednesday night.
On another busy day on the injury front — which included Giancarlo Stanton and Jonathan Loaisiga hitting the injured list — a cast of not-as-well-knowns helped pitch the Yankees past the Orioles, 2-0, in front of 39,154 at the Stadium.
It was as good a way as any to head to St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Yankees (31-13) start a four-game series against their AL East nemesis, the Rays (26-17), Thursday night.
“It’s been a tough couple of days for us, just with some people going down and things,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Really excited to see those guys step in and play key roles and help us get another series victory, and on to Tampa now. But proud of their effort.”
Leading the way Wednesday was lefthander JP Sears, who made his first career big-league start (he had two scoreless appearances out of the bullpen early in the season. The 26-year-old, 1-0 with a 0.83 ERA in six games (four starts) with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, allowed three hits and two walks over five scoreless innings in which he struck out five. He found trouble at times but ultimately held the Orioles (18-27) to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
“It was awesome,” said Sears, who was later optioned back to Triple-A.. “Not too many nerves, just a little anxious, excited to get out there. Ended up being a really good one. Got a little bit behind the ball early with my pitch count but battled back.”
Righthander Ron Marinaccio, recalled over the weekend when Chad Green went to the IL with the right elbow strain that will require Tommy John surgery, took over for Sears and pitched two perfect innings, striking out three.
Lefty Lucas Luetge departed with one on and two outs in the eighth, giving way to Miguel Castro, who struck out Austin Hays.
Clay Holmes and a bowling-ball slider rival scouts have compared to Zack Britton’s when he was at his peak, allowed two hits and struck out one in a scoreless ninth for his fifth save in five chances.
“Tonight we got to see two of those guys that got put on the 40-man roster this year and you saw for good reason,” Boone said, a reference to Sears and Marinaccio. “You know over the course of the year you’re going to need to tap into your depth and good to see those guys step up in some high-leverage situations.”
The Yankees, who had six hits, scored both of their runs in the fourth against Baltimore starter Tyler Wells, who allowed those two runs and five hits in five innings.
Judge, who flied to the track in right in the first, led off fourth with a broken-bat double to left, improving Judge to 36-for-104 (.346) in 27 games to that point. Gleyber Torres sent a one-out single to center to put runners at the corners. Miguel Andujar, who singled in his first at-bat and again looked more than comfortable in leftfield, rocketed a single into the gap in left-center to bring in Judge for a 1-0 lead. With Joey Gallo, activated earlier in the day from the COVID-19 IL, at the plate, Andujar took off for second and Adley Rutschman, the rookie catcher who is one of the game’s top prospects and who debuted last weekend, threw wildly into center, the error scoring Torres to make it 2-0.
Sears allowed the first two batters he faced to reach but got out of it. He allowed two more to reach in the second but stranded those runners, too, as the Orioles (18-27) were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position with four stranded through two innings. Sears was at 50 pitches after two but needed 13 pitches to get through the third and a remarkable four pitches in the fourth.
“I definitely felt more comfortable as I went,” he said. “It was one of those outings where I felt better each inning I was out there.”