Baby Bomber steals the show that two heavyweight starters duel to dominate

Anthony Volpe is running after hitting his second home run against the Blue Jays on April 22, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
John Allen
Sunday April 23, 2023

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The Yankees-Blue Jays game on Saturday began as a tussle between two starting aces on the mound. However, it soon turned into a game about a baby Bomber who stole the limelight with his breakthrough homerun.

The Cole-Manoah game at Yankee Stadium will be forever overshadowed by Anthony Volpe‘s heroics. In a contest highlighted by a battle between two heavyweight starters, it was this rookie, who ensured the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Blue Jays.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole of the Yankees pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks. He had four strikeouts and a hit batter. Alek Manoah, a right-hander for Toronto, shut out New York in seven innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out five.

“Stud. Stud,” Cole repeated about Volpe. “He’s a winning player. He’s a great complement to the clubhouse. He’s a great defensive player, and obviously put a great swing on a good pitch today and gave us a jolt that we needed.”

It turned out to be Anthony Volpe’s game

Anthony Volpe has a lot of memories from the first year when the new Yankee Stadium was opened. He went to a few Yankees games in the 200 Level down the left-field line that year. The home team was going to the World Series that year, and even though the team’s future shortstop was a fan, he doesn’t remember ever being in the stadium for a curtain call.

So, that item was nicely crossed off the list in the last few innings of Saturday’s game. Anthony Volpe got some attention when he hit a two-run homer that put the Yankees ahead, and DJ LeMahieu came off the bench to hit an RBI single in the ninth inning that helped the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 3-2.

“It was pretty crazy,” Volpe said. “I didn’t really know what was going on, I guess. I didn’t want to assume and go out or anything like that, but once I got told to, it was pretty cool.”

After Toronto ace Manoah had limited the Yankees to just two hits over seven innings, the decisive at-bat from Anthony Volpe came.

In the eighth, Oswald Peraza hit a two-out single, and then Anthony Volpe hit the first pitch he saw from reliever Yimi Garca to 364 feet over the right-field wall, according to Statcast.

“He’s a winning player,” said Gerrit Cole, who pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, lowering his ERA to 0.79. “He’s a great complement to the clubhouse. He’s a great defensive player, and obviously, he put a great swing on a good pitch today. He gave us a jolt that we needed.”

Manager Aaron Boone and bench coach Carlos Mendoza prodded the 21-year-old Volpe to the top of the dugout so he could see the chanting cheers from the crowd of 43,223. Volpe chose to clap frequently instead of doffing his cap or waving as he down the steps, and the moment passed fast.

Anthony Volpe is running after hitting his second home run against the Blue Jays on April 22, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

“I didn’t even know where to go or what side of the dugout to come out of,” Volpe said. “It’s a pretty cool tradition.”

A few minutes later, Danny Jansen hit a pinch-hit two-run bomb off Wandy Peralta to tie the game again. This took away some of the shine from Anthony Volpe’s moment. After the Yankees came back in the second half with LeMahieu’s single that proved Jansen’s home run was just a blip.

But it began as a battle of starting pitchers

Gerrit Cole and Manoah’s heavyweight pitching battle lived up to predictions, with each ace pitching a scoreless inning. This led to a memorable battle between big starters in the Bronx. Cole said that Manoah’s appearance didn’t give him any extra juice. They talked about it last August, and Manoah talked about Cole again during the offseason.

“I get all of my motivation from inside of this clubhouse,” Cole said.

Gerrit Cole got through a single and a double to start the first and a double to start the second and a hit batter. Second baseman Santiago Espinal got hit on the wrist by Cole’s 0-2 pitch. Cavan Biggio took the place of Espinal. At first, Espinal’s injury was thought to be a broken wrist. Gerrit Cole got nine outs in a row before giving up two walks in the fifth, which were wiped out when the runner was caught stealing.

He gave out four hits, walked two people, and struck out four. After five games, his ERA at 0.79 is the MLB’s third best.

“He seems to bear down and his velocity jumps in those big spots,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “He’s been doing it for a long time. You tip your cap, but you’ve got to take advantage when you have him on the ropes.”

Gerrit Cole had to work hard because of the Jays. In the sixth inning, that tiredness started to show, so Boone took Cole out of the game with two outs and two runners on base. Ron Marinaccio came back after Toronto walked to keep them from scoring, which saved the start of the starting. Gerrit Cole has now gone 20 2/3 innings without giving up a run. This is the second-longest perfect streak of his career.

“They’re tough,” Cole said. “They grind; they don’t give a pitch up. They’re shifty, and obviously Alek was on his game today. He threw tremendous. I would have liked to get deeper. … It did feel like I kind of faded a little bit, but I gave it everything I had.”

Since last season, Manoah has tried hard to get Gerrit Cole to do something, trying to make him nervous. Manoah yelled at Cole during a game at Yankee Stadium to pass the painted Audi logo in the foul area on the field. Then, during the summer, he said that Cole was the “biggest cheater” in his sport. On Friday afternoon, he said the same thing. But Cole hasn’t been scared by Manoah.

Gerrit Cole had trouble right away when George Springer and Vlad Guerrero Jr. got on base in the first inning. He then lost 3-0 to Matt Chapman, but he came back and struck him out along with Daulton Varsho to get the runners out.

Anthony Volpe’s first curtain call

Anthony Volpe didn’t know what to do when he hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning and tens of thousands of Yankees fans chanted his name for a curtain call. He said he didn’t know which side of the dugout he was supposed to leave or whether he was supposed to wave or fist bump in the air, so he worried and awkwardly clapped before running back inside.

“He was probably a little uncomfortable doing that, but he probably got permission from 99 and definitely deserved it,” Gerrit Cole said.

Aaron Judge didn’t push Anthony Volpe out of the bench for his first curtain call in a Yankees uniform. Manager Aaron Boone and bench coach Carlos Mendoza told the new player to pay attention to the crowd and enjoy the moment.

It was Anthony Volpe’s second home run of the season, but it was the most important of the two. The Yankees’ offense had been dead most of Saturday afternoon, but Anthony Volpe’s home run woke them up with a 2-0 lead over the Blue Jays. Yimi Garcia, a substitute for Toronto, threw a fastball over the middle of the plate for the first pitch. Volpe hit it into the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

“It was one of those goose bump (moments),” Boone said. “It had that pretty electric environment for an April game. You get those every now and then. A tense game like that, 0-0 the whole way. (Oswald) Peraza had a big hit to get it going and then Anthony really jumped on it. It was one of those good regular-season moments at the stadium.”

After a slow start to his career at the plate, Anthony Volpe is now starting to look more at ease. He has reached base in all 10 of his last games, giving him an on-base percentage of.405. He has been successful in all eight times he has tried to steal a base. At short, he has looked good, making several amazing plays that show off his range and arm.

“I feel like the last 10 days, you’ve really started to see consistent at-bat quality, whatever the result ends up being, it’s been that,” Boone said. “For him to jump on one there in a big spot, he’s a heavy at-bat. He’s a tough at-bat, whether you get him out or not. That consistency the last seven-to-10 days has been really good.”

Cole said that Damon Oppenheimer, who is in charge of scouting for the Yankees, was the first person to tell him that Anthony Volpe would be a good player to have behind him. Oppenheimer told him that Volpe’s team has won on every level he has played. DJ LeMahieu’s walk-off single in the ninth inning gave the Yankees a 3-2 win. LeMahieu said that Anthony Volpe’s ability to affect the game in every way has surprised him.

Putting Anthony Volpe in the leadoff spot instead of LeMahieu, who is more of a run-producer in the middle of the order, gives the Yankees a speed dynamic they haven’t had in recent years. When the Yankees are fit, Volpe may be better off hitting first instead of ninth. This is especially true if he keeps getting on base and adding value at the top of the order.

“We have such a good lineup that if I just stay within myself and take my pitches and swing at good ones and take bad ones, there’s probably more pressure to pitch (to) me knowing there’s really good hitters behind me,” Anthony Volpe said.

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