Boone’s pitching move derails Yankees in extra-inning loss to Brewers

Yankees' closer Michael Tonkin is pitching against the Brewers at American Family Field on April 26, 2024.
Michael Bennington
Saturday April 27, 2024

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The Yankees’ gamble on recently acquired pitcher Michael Tonkin didn’t bear fruit on Friday night against the Brewers. Fresh off the waiver wire, Tonkin was thrust right into the cauldron, making his debut in the 10th inning with the Yankees clinging to a slender one-run advantage. Unfortunately, the outing proved challenging for both the pitcher and the Yankees, who lost the game 7-6.

Tonkin’s debut wasn’t the fairytale beginning the Yankees had envisioned. After Giancarlo Stanton‘s clutch pinch-hit double propelled the Yankees ahead, Tonkin surrendered a run in the bottom of the 10th, allowing the Brewers to knot the score.

The contest stretched into extra innings due to the new MLB rule placing a runner on second base to start each extra frame. In the 11th, the Brewers capitalized on their scoring opportunity, efficiently advancing the runner and plating the winning run on a hard-hit ground ball by Joey Ortiz that eluded third baseman Jahmai Jones.

The Yankees’ decision to deploy Tonkin stemmed from the unavailability of closer Clay Holmes. Holmes, who had already pitched a scoreless ninth inning to force extra innings, wasn’t an option for multiple frames due to workload concerns and ongoing bullpen injuries. Manager Aaron Boone explained his reasoning, highlighting Holmes’ heavy usage early in the season, a pace that translated to roughly an 80-game workload. With the bullpen battling injuries, Boone opted to be cautious with Holmes, prioritizing long-term health and avoiding potential strain from overextending him.

The loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Yankees, but it provided valuable insight into their newest pitcher. While Tonkin’s debut wasn’t ideal, the team will look to him to contribute in the future as they navigate the season with a depleted bullpen.

Milwaukee Brewers’ Joey Ortiz hits a two-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees Friday, April 26, 2024, in Milwaukee.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Boone’s bullpen gamble doesn’t pay off, Yankees fall in extras

With the Yankees’ bullpen stretched thin due to injuries, manager Aaron Boone called upon rookie pitcher Michael Tonkin and left-handed reliever Victor Gonzalez as his last remaining options. Once Tonkin entered the game in the 10th inning, there was no time for further bullpen warm-ups. Despite pitching without proper preparation, the two runs he allowed were classified as unearned.

Facing a baptism by fire, Tonkin acknowledged the inherent challenges of baseball, emphasizing the need to perform regardless of the situation. “You still have to go out there and execute your job,” he stated.

Tonkin, known for his ability to consume innings in relief, had endured a whirlwind month. He was designated for assignment a staggering three times, twice by the Mets before the Yankees took a chance on him on Thursday. This recent designation left him in limbo until the Yankees claimed him just days before his debut.

While he allowed the potential winning run to reach scoring position in the 10th, Tonkin displayed remarkable resilience. However, the Yankees’ inability to score in the top of the 11th inning ultimately proved costly, as the Brewers capitalized on their scoring opportunity in the bottom half.

Manager Boone recognized the unenviable situation Tonkin faced. “It was definitely a tough spot,” he admitted. However, Boone was quick to praise Tonkin’s experience and composure. He highlighted that despite the pressure and lack of warm-up time, Tonkin remained unflappable and delivered a commendable performance. Boone acknowledged the difficulty of entering the game cold but commended Tonkin’s effort and intensity throughout his outing.

Yankees relinquish their lead twice

The Yankee bats were alive and kicking early on Friday night against the Brewers, but ultimately a barrage of home runs wasn’t enough to secure victory. Both teams traded thunderous blows throughout the contest, with five home runs launched in an electrifying display of power hitting.

The Yankees jumped ahead early with solo home runs in the first and second innings, courtesy of Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo, respectively. Soto unleashed a towering shot into the home bullpen in left-center field, extending his team lead with his seventh homer of the season. Verdugo followed suit, connecting on a two-strike curveball from Brewers starter Colin Rea and sending it soaring over the right-field wall.

Despite a valiant effort from Yankees starter Luis Gil, who struck out six batters and limited walks to a season-low two, the Brewers capitalized on his vulnerability to the long ball. In the third inning, with two outs, Gil surrendered a single to cleanup hitter Rhys Hoskins, paving the way for Blake Perkins’ game-tying two-run homer to right field. Perkins pounced on an elevated pitch in a hitter’s count, punishing his former Yankees’ prospect counterpart.

The Yankees weren’t deterred, however. They swiftly recaptured the lead in the fourth inning thanks to a three-run blast over the right-field wall by Trent Grisham. This marked Grisham’s first hit of the season in just his sixth start. The starting lineup saw a shakeup, with Grisham replacing Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield and Aaron Judge shifting to designated hitter duties for the night.

A scintillating display of power hitting wasn’t sufficient for the Yankees to secure victory on Friday night against the Brewers. Both teams traded thunderous home run blows throughout the contest, with a total of five launched in a back-and-forth battle.

Unfortunately, Gil’s outing came to a premature conclusion after facing only one batter in the sixth inning. A blistering 112.3-mph double off the bat of former Yankee Gary Sanchez into left field allowed the Brewers to knot the score again. While reliever Ron Marinaccio initially limited further damage, he couldn’t hold off Milwaukee completely, yielding a sacrifice fly to Ortiz in deep left field.

After Grisham’s home run, the Yankees’ offense went silent. The Brewers’ pitching staff, including starter Rea and their bullpen, silenced the Yankees’ bats for the next several innings. Milwaukee retired 13 of the next 14 batters they faced, effectively stifling any scoring opportunities. The Yankees only managed one baserunner during this stretch, a single by Soto in the eighth, which was swiftly negated by a double play. Despite drawing two walks in the ninth, the Yankees were unable to advance any runners.

A glimmer of hope emerged at the top of the 10th with Giancarlo Stanton, historically known for his struggles as a pinch-hitter, delivering a spark off the bench. He smacked a leadoff double, scoring the automatic runner and putting the Yankees back in front 6-5. However, their momentum was short-lived.

Rookie pitcher Michael Tonkin entered the game in the bottom of the 10th and allowed a game-tying single to Willy Adames, putting the winning run on third base. Despite the tense situation, Tonkin managed to escape further trouble by inducing a groundout from Sánchez to end the inning.

Unfortunately, the Yankees’ luck ran out in the top of the 11th. Their attempt to capitalize on the automatic runner failed when pinch-runner Jahmai Jones was thrown out at home on a comebacker by Verdugo. This left Tonkin facing immense pressure in the bottom half of the inning with the winning run still in scoring position and nobody out. He ultimately couldn’t hold off the Brewers, surrendering the walk-off single to Joey Ortiz, a line drive that snuck under Jones’s glove at third base, sealing the defeat for the Yankees.

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