A little more than one month into the season, Domingo German unquestionably is the ace of the Yankees’ staff.
You had that in the preseason pool, right?
The injuries that have plagued the Yankees since spring training have led to some surprising performances, none more so than the ones by German. His importance to the rotation, which has been without ace Luis Severino all season, can’t be overstated.
German’s dead-on impression of a top-of-the-rotation arm continued Sunday against the Twins. The righthander threw 6 2⁄3 terrific innings in the Yankees’ rain-shortened 4-1 win on a miserable afternoon for baseball at the Stadium.
“He’s been huge,” Aaron Boone said of German, who lowered his ERA to 2.35, best among Yankees starters. “To this point, he’s been one of the better pitchers in the game.”
German improved to 6-1 and tied the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow (6-0) for the MLB lead in wins. He allowed one run, four hits and three walks. Again featuring a nasty curveball and throwing a career-high 108 pitches, he struck out seven.
“The first thing is confidence,” he said through his translator. “And then to follow that, it’s being able to execute pitches in a tough count.”
German, thrust into this position with Severino and CC Sabathia starting the year on the injured list, said he was prepared for it because of his offseason regimen. “It’s a result of hard work. In the offseason, I worked extensively with Larry [Rothschild, the team’s longtime pitching coach],” he said. “There were many things we talked about and how to get better as a pitcher.”
The game — which had its first pitch pushed to 4:05 p.m. from 1:05 p.m. a day earlier because of the expectation of heavy rain in the early afternoon — was delayed, and ultimately called, in the bottom of the eighth because of more rain.
The Yankees (19-14) — who got yet another key hit from DJ LeMahieu and a two-run homer by Mike Tauchman, another fill-in who has produced a surprise or two this season — have won five of their last six series, with Sunday completing their first series win against a team with a winning record.
The Twins (20-12) had won 11 of their last 15 games. The Yankees, who moved within two games of AL East-leading Tampa Bay, have won 13 of 18.
German departed with two on and two outs in the seventh and Tommy Kahnle struck out Max Kepler on a low 3-and-2 fastball. With the rain falling hard, Aroldis Chapman replaced Adam Ottavino with two on and two outs in the eighth and, after a wild pitch, struck out Marwin Gonzalez on a 3-and-2 slider.
Former Yankee Michael Pineda saw his struggles coming back from Tommy John surgery continue. The Twins righthander (2-3, 6.09) allowed four runs (three earned) and six hits in five innings.
In the second, Gleyber Torres extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a leadoff single and Brett Gardner worked a walk to cap a 10-pitch at-bat. After Gio Urshela struck out swinging, Cameron Maybin walked to load the bases.
Tauchman struck out on three pitches for the second out, but LeMahieu hit a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Jorge Polanco had little chance to get him at first and his wild throw went past first baseman C.J. Cron, with the infield hit and throwing error making it 2-0. LeMahieu improved to 12-for-25 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees made it 4-1 in the fourth, thanks to Tauchman, who entered the game hitting .167 with a .268 on-base percentage. He came to the plate with four hits in his previous 40 at-bats, but with two outs and a man on first, he lined a full-count fastball to right for his fourth homer.
The way German has pitched, and was pitching against a potent Twins lineup, that was more than enough.
“There’s a ton of confidence in the clubhouse,” Tauchman said, “that when he’s on the mound, we have a really good chance to win that day.”