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The Weird Baseball Is Upon Us

Joey Gallo leaps over Brett Gardner
Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Olympics delayed its onset by a few weeks, but now, in the middle of August, that slow sports time known as cucumber season is in the air. NBA free agency has run its course, and the NFL is still doing its warm-up stretches, and hockey is waiting for the temperatures to drop. But weird baseball is here to sustain us, and that’s what it did during Yankees-Royals on Monday night.

Here is the first weird thing about Yankees-Royals, from the first inning. Apparently, Giancarlo Stanton tied his own record for the fastest exit velocity of the Statcast era, at 122 mph. But it was just a grounder to second for a double play that looks like nothing special whatsoever. Weird!

That’s not why people will remember this game, though. They’ll remember it because, en route to the Yankees’ eventual 8-6 win in 11 innings, the two competitors matched each other an unprecedented number of times, and Kansas City again and again and again fought back from a deficit like no other team ever has. According to Elias, this was the first game in MLB history that saw both teams score in the seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th innings. And since 1900, the Royals are the only team to ever come back from a deficit in the seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th. It wasn’t quite enough for them, though.

The line score from this game is almost frighteningly symmetrical. Neither team managed a run through the first six, but once the game broke open, they couldn’t stop mimicking each other. In the top of the seventh, Luke Voit got an RBI base hit while Ryan O’Hearn hit a sac fly in the bottom half that came into being because of a balk that got Yankees manager Aaron Boone ejected.

Pretty abnormal, already huh? Well in the eighth, catcher interference put Tyler Wade on base for the Yankees, and Aaron Judge drove him home. Then Andrew Benintendi matched the RBI single in the bottom half with one of his own.

In the top of the ninth, Voit hit a solo shot to right. But a Whit Merrifield steal of second with two outs and then another base knock from Nicky Lopez ensured the game would keep on chugging.

In the 10th, it got downright eerie, as both teams plated two runs on sac flies followed by singles. But finally, in the 11th, the Royals blinked. DJ LeMahieu hit an RBI double, and then Brett Gardner smashed a ball off the shortstop to get two more runs across. KC managed to plate their ghost runner in the bottom half, but couldn’t get one more bounce to go their way.

“That was a crazy game,” Yankees starter Jameson Taillon said afterwards. “Both sides, any time they needed a big hit, both sides got it. It was one of the weirder, wilder games I’ve ever seen.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played in one like that. It feels like forever ago that I pitched.”

The Yanks picked up this victory despite missing a bunch of key guys for one reason or another—mostly injuries but not entirely. Most frustratingly, not even in a team sense but just in a general worldly sense, Anthony Rizzo is on the COVID IL. Gary Sanchez hasn’t been playing either since he tested positive for COVID, along with a struggling Gerrit Cole. Gleyber Torres, meanwhile, just got put on the regular IL with a sprained thumb, and Gio Urshela just had a setback in his hamstring rehab.

A certain editor at this site who will not be named thought the angle of this blog should be, and I quote, “That the heroic Yankees are beset by unprecedented injuries and their resilience is an inspiration to us all.” You will be happy to know that I reacted with the “thumbs down” emoji. But, well, there was something about this game that felt kind of crucial, even though it was only a battle of teams who sit in third and fourth place in their respective divisions. The Royals are completely unable to turn their season into anything meaningful, but the Yankees, still, are just two games back of the Red Sox and the A’s in the Wild Card slot. That slim margin made all of their blown leads in this game sting a little bit more. This was a game they should have won, and should have won, and should have won again. But eventually, they did just enough to get that much-needed half-game. I don’t really think it’s inspirational in the slightest, honestly. But it was frickin’ weird.