NEW YORK (AP) — Not until the 42nd pitch of the night was a ball put in play to a fielder.
There were five home runs, 25 strikeouts, 14 walks, 13 pitchers and just 15 hits.
The New York Yankees’ 10-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in their AL Division Series opener on Friday was the epitome of what Major League Baseball has evolved into in 2019.
A 4-hour, 15-minute meeting between power-packed offenses was dominated by the Three True Outcomes — homers, walks, strikeouts —when the defense is superfluous other than the pitcher and catcher.
“Certainly entertaining. It’s harrowing to watch but it’s also it’s very refreshing when you know your team’s up and can score in bunches and it’s not going to take five to six hits,” Twins general manager Thad Levine was saying during batting practice. “The seven, eight, nine hitters in these lineups could be hitting three, four, five for other teams. And I don’t think that’s lost on either of the teams that are playing today.”
In a season with a 6,776 home runs, 11% above the previous high, strikeouts set a record for the 12th straight season — exceeding hits for the second year in a row after never doing so before since professional big league ball was born in 1871.
“There’s a lot of big strong guys out there,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I would expect at least a few balls to be hit over the fence at some point.”
Imagine what Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson might be doing these days? It is not farfetched to imagine the Ryan Express and Big Unit fanning 500 per season.
The Steroid Era’s bulked-up boppers have been replaced by Stat Age sluggers. Their science-based swings send juiced-up balls soaring over supercomputer-developed shifts, all designed by baseball brainiacs who sift through more data nightly than the sport produced in the entirety of its first century.
“Why would I want to put the ball on the ground for the most part?” the Yankees’ Aaron Judge said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s on the ground, it’s an out.”
Swing high, swing low but swing hard.
“I’m going to get my A swing off as much as I can rather than take a B or C swing and put it on the ground,” Judge said. “I’ve got three strikes. Why not take three chances to get one out of the park?”
Hitters work counts with discipline — Minnesota needed 193 pitches to get 24 outs. There were just seven batters all night who made out on the first or second pitch of an at-bat, one each against starters José Berríos of the Twins, who got 12 outs, and James Paxton of the Yankees, who retired 14.
“Our guys did a real good job of getting Berríos out and getting in the bullpen,” said Brett Gardner, who homered off Tyler Duffey in the sixth.
Fun for batters, yes? For pitchers, not so much, especially in ballparks like new Yankee Stadium with its famous short porch in right.
When Minnesota put two runners on in the eighth inning against J.A. Happ while trailing by six runs, the Yankees had closer Aroldis Chapman start to warm up. And even though the huge lead held into the ninth, Chapman entered for the final three outs.
“Really, there’s never a settling game here,” said Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota’s Game 3 starter back at Target Field. “A team can pretty much put up runs at any point with the characteristics of the stadium, the way we’re built especially. I think we’re made for instant offense. It has the makings of some interesting games.”
Minnesota outhomered the Yankees 3-2, just like the Twins did over the regular season (307 to 306). But all long balls were with the bases empty.
By time Eddie Rosario fouled out to end the game on the 362nd pitch, the seats were more than half-empty.
Entertaining? Perhaps, perhaps not.
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