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If The Yankees Slow Down, The Bus Explodes

Jahmai Jones #14 of the New York Yankees reacts after being tagged out against the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium.
Luke Hales/Getty Images

Wednesday night, in accordance with my sibling duty, I watched Speed, a prescient documentary about our nation's deteriorating infrastructure. At the same time, in according with my blog duty, I watched the Yankees play the second game of their series against Orioles. It was my first time watching Speed, and everyone's first time watching Gerrit Cole pitch this season, as he spent the first half of the season on the IL. In Cole's absence, the Yankees starting rotation had been, by some metrics, the best in baseball. They led the league with an ERA of 2.86, just better than the Phillies and—oh, hey—the Orioles. The peripherals weren't quite so neat, which is why FanGraphs WAR is slightly down on them, but results are results, and the Yankees had resulted their way to a 51-24 record. If not for those pesky Orioles, who had just prevented an elevator filled with hostages from being blown up by beating the Phillies, the Yankees and their overflowing toolbox would be running away with the AL East.

The balancing of the MLB schedule guarantees that all American League teams will be able to see Shohei Ohtani despite his cross-town flight, but potentially deprives teams of getting real sick and tired of their accursèd divisional rivals' stupid faces. Instead of getting to watch the Angels play the A's 19 times, we only get to see it 13 times—such is the deterioration of society. The last time the Yankees played the Orioles was back in April, which isn't enough familiarity to build the sort of resentment that should exist between two rivals fighting for the division.

Thankfully, all it takes is one game. In the first game of the series on Tuesday, Aaron Judge was hit in the hand by an Albert Súarez pitch. He said he was "pissed" at the Orioles' habit of coming high and tight, and missed last night's game due to lingering soreness; in that light, the game started out shockingly normal. Cole displayed signs of back-ness in his season debut. He threw 61 pitches over his first four innings, including five strikeouts, touching 98 mph on his four-seamer. In the dugout, he was spotted asking Aaron Boone for one more inning/batter (unit unclear), gave up a one-pitch lead-off single to Cedric Mullins, and was immediately pulled for Ron Marinaccio, who allowed a home run to Ramon Urías. Cole finished with two earned runs in 4.0 innings, raising the Yankees starting ERA to 2.87.

This is where normalcy ceased. With the Yankees down three runs in the top of the seventh inning and Cole no doubt on the waiver wire, Victor González looked Gunnar Henderson in the eye, said, "If I throw this sinker at you at any less than 94 mph, a bomb will explode," and then drilled him in the shoulder. (For legal reasons, González actually said after the game that he was trying to execute an inside pitch and missed.) Neither dugout was warned. Henderson took his possible-retaliation-plunking in the best way one could: He used a Los Angeles bus and jumped across an incomplete highway project, stole second base, and scored on a Ryan Mountcastle double.

The mantra whenever a star player gets hit by a pitch is that if a pitcher doesn't have the control to pitch up and in, then they shouldn't pitch up and in. This is perhaps ethically true, but risks turning teams into hypocrites. You know where this is going: In the top of the eighth inning, after a Yankees rally that closed the lead to 5-4, Yankees reliever Caleb Ferguson hit Colton Cowser up and in, which was almost certainly an accident. Unfortunately, the pitch being an accident implicates the Yankees in the same up-and-in scheme plaguing the Orioles. I would like to suggest that pitchers should start falsely claiming unintentional hit by pitches as being targeted retaliation ordered by the team. Yes, intentional plunkings are increasingly considered pathetic, but if Keanu Reeves has taught us one thing about the unfinished freeways of moral righteousness, it is that we should just floor it. At least in that case, the pitcher proves that they can hit their spot.

Sadly, in spite of the morale-raising plunkings which got the Yankees to extra innings, Jose Trevino was beheaded by a subway signal, and the Orioles scored two to win the game, 7-6. In the rubber game this afternoon, New York will desperately try to keep the Orioles below 50 (wins).

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