Moving Gleyber Torres to second base for what is likely to be the rest of this season and however long he remains in pinstripes didn’t make any immediate impact on the Yankees during Monday’s matinee in the Bronx.
But putting Torres directly on the bag for the start of the 10th inning ultimately made the difference, as Gary Sanchez’s one-out single in the 10th inning drove him in for the 6-5 walk-off victory. The fact that they were playing the Twins, the Wile E. Coyote to the Yankees’ Road Runner, also helped, of course.
At this point, Aaron Boone & Co. need all the help they can get, by whatever means possible. Seismic lineup shifts, ghost runners, the perpetual patsy Twins flying in for 12 hours, blowing a 5-0 lead, then heading right back home to Minneapolis.
"We’ve been a little bit of everything this year, so it’s going to take our best," Boone said. "But if we do that, we’ve got a chance."
Before the game, the Yankees finally acknowledged — through Boone as proxy — that playing Torres at shortstop no longer is their best option for the position. The decision had been a long time coming, as Torres’ defense seemed to be a liability on almost a nightly basis. And it was an especially bad weekend for him during the Subway Series, with two more miscues, one a booted grounder that teed up three unearned runs in Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Mets.
The timing was curious, however. Not only did the Yankees fall out of a wild-card spot by dropping two of three to their Queens rival, but they also found themselves in the middle of vague cheating allegations when Francisco Lindor taunted their dugout with a whistling gesture during his three-homer barrage Sunday night at Citi Field.
Was abruptly sliding Torres over to second base partly meant to be a conversation-changer? Two days earlier, the Yankees had demoted Andrew Velazquez, a full-time shortstop, so there weren’t many hints that Torres was on the move. Tyler Wade started there Monday, but Boone’s floated strategy of using this lesser version of Gio Urshela in that spot doesn’t seem to be a great idea. Urshela hasn’t looked like himself since coming off the IL in late August, either defensively or at the plate, and his complete inability to get a bunt down Monday in the 10th inning was a red flag.
What Boone made clear, however, is that they wanted Torres to stop being a trending topic for the wrong reasons ASAP. For his benefit and the team’s.
"I think it sometimes becomes such a story, one play becomes a story line, a narrative that lasts a long time, which at times has been really unfair because I think there’s been large chunks of really steady play out there," Boone said. "My sense is that I feel like the last week has weighed on him . . . Obviously, we’re at a critical point in the year and I don’t want that to snowball."
That tables the Torres-shortstop discussion for now and paves the way for the Yankees to sign one from a deep talent pool at the position this winter. But they also have a playoff spot to nail down, and that hasn’t looked very encouraging as of late, especially after needing to work so hard to dispatch the Twins, a traditional pushover for them.
The Yankees trailed 5-0 after three innings, with Luis Gil serving up a trio of homers, and they didn’t get their first hit until Joey Gallo’s drag-bunt single to open the fifth. Gallo homered in the seventh, cutting the deficit to 5-2, but the Yankees required a gift call in the eighth to set up Aaron Judge’s tying three-run homer.
Twins reliever Tyler Duffey had Brett Gardner struck out on a 3-and-2 knuckle curve that clearly was inside the top corner of the Statcast strike zone for what should have been the third out. Instead it was ball four, and Judge — back after leaving Sunday’s game with dizziness — hammered his 33rd homer into the right-centerfield seats.
"It’s been a roller coaster," Judge said. "But you’ve got to enjoy the ride. It’s not over yet. This is a fun time of the year. Just keep riding it right through the playoffs."
On Monday, the Yankees won for the first time this season when trailing by four or more runs, snapping an 0-for-35 streak. That’s something. But it’s no coincidence that happened with the Twins in town. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it was a one-game series.