Rookie’s big blast, LeMahieu’s walk-off seal 3-2 Yankees triumph over Blue Jays

The Yankees dugout broke into celebration after DJ LeMahieu's walk-off win against the Blue Jays, April 22, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
Inna Zeyger
Sunday April 23, 2023

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On a day when two starting pitchers showed off their skills, the Yankees’ 3-2 win over the Blue Jays in The Bronx was written by a kid and a machine. It came down to a spirited offense led by Anthony Volpe‘s young power and a ninth-inning comeback capped by DJ LeMahieu‘s game-winning single.

Anthony Volpe’s two-run shot in the eighth gave the Yankees the lead at Yankee Stadium. In the top of the ninth, Toronto’s pinch-hitter Danny Jansen hit a two-run homer to tie the game. Next inning, pinch-hitter LeMahieu hit a single that drove in the winning run. This helped the Yankees beat the visiting Blue Jays and level the series.

Anthony Volpe gave the Yankees the breakthrough

Gerrit Cole and Alek Manoah didn’t blink during a scoreless game. It was Anthony Volpe who was the first to hit in the bottom of the eighth and helped the Yankees take a lead.

Oswald Peraza hit a single with two outs, and then Anthony Volpe hit Yimi Garcia’s first down-the-middle fastball over the right-field wall for his second home run in the majors, the first two runs of the game, and his first curtain call. This gave the Yankees the breakthrough lead.

At least, it looked like it was his first curtain call. Anthony Volpe didn’t quite salute the 43,223 people who were standing, but he did join the crowd in cheering for the team. The 21-year-old, who grew up watching Yankees games from the stands, got to the top step of the bench, turned around, and clapped back at the crowd.

“Pretty crazy. I didn’t really know what was going on I guess,” said Anthony Volpe. “I didn’t really know where to go.”

Manager Aaron Boone and his bench coach Carlos Mendoza guided the rookie on what to do when the crowd is cheering for a player.

“It was awesome. It was one of those, you know, goosebumps,” the manager said of Volpe, who didn’t miss a base running in 10 games. “It had that pretty electric environment for an April game.”

The Yankees stalled in the ninth

During the ninth inning, however, the Yankees lost the power. Wandy Peralta entered to close out the game for the Yankees and walked Alejandro Kirk before allowing his first home run of the season to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen.

A hush fell over as the crowd in the stadium went silent. But after Jimmy Cordero escaped the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees’ middle of the order went to work.  Anthony Rizzo was replaced by Kiner-Falefa after his double off the left-field wall against Toronto reliever Jordan Romano.

This became significant when Gleyber Torres hit a left-field infield single and Kiner-Falefa advanced to third base because no one was covering the bag. Due in part to a clock violation by Romano, Willie Calhoun drew a walk, and Boone replaced Franchy Cordero with the finest pinch-hitter he could have asked for.

LeMahieu made it count in the final two innings

LeMahieu, who was given the afternoon off to recover, entered the game with all runners on base and no outs. He had been taking advantage of a day off but had also spent the previous several innings getting ready for a potential pinch-hitting assignment. His versatility came to aid the Yankees.

“The Machine” stared at a five-man Blue Jays infield and blasted a 103.9-mph rocket past a crowded, drawn-in Blue Jays infield.

“That was a good win for us,” LeMahieu said. “It’s definitely not my comfort zone, but when I saw that inning happening, I was ready. I felt like I was part of the inning already.”

“Really good off day for him,” Boone told while exhibiting a smile.

“It’s definitely not my comfort zone,” LeMahieu said of pinch-hitting. “But when I saw that inning happening, I was ready.”

Daulton Varsho, normally a center fielder, moved to the left side of the infield when Toronto opted for a five-man infield. LeMahieu hit a walk-off home run off a Jordan Romano slider, giving the Yankees their second walk-off win of the season (after beating the Angels on Wednesday).

“That was a good win for us,” LeMahieu said. “It’s definitely not my comfort zone, but when I saw that inning happening, I was ready. I felt like I was part of the inning already.”

The pitching showdown

A throwing battle that lived up to the hype was almost forgotten by the end of the game. Manoah and Cole were very good. They did it in different ways. Manoah was more efficient and got more ground balls than anyone else. Cole got into more trouble, but he mostly used flyouts to dance his way out.

Cole pitched 5 2/3 innings in which no runs were scored, and Manoah pitched seven innings in which no runs were scored. He only gave up two hits and a walk while striking out eight batters.

“Oof, it’s tough, tough. Those guys are tough, man,” Cole said of the Toronto offense. “They fought, and they grind. They don’t give us a pitchup. They’re shifty.”

“And obviously, Alek was on his game today.”

Peraza made an impact

Rookie infielder Peraza has been given a chance to see regular action as a result of Josh Donaldson’s hamstring strain keeping him out for at least a few more weeks. On Friday, he made his major league debut at third, and on Saturday, he started again, this time against Toronto. Peraza hasn’t faced many threats in his first two games at third, but he still has a shot at unseating Donaldson even when the veteran returns.

There’s no denying that the Yankees see more potential in Peraza than they do in Donaldson. Peraza has improved his on-base percentage and plate discipline in a limited sample size this season compared to his brief appearances with the team in both 2017 and 2018. He walked in the third, stole second, then singled with two outs in the eighth to set up Volpe’s two-run homer.

Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza during the Yankees 9-3 thrashing of the Angels at Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2023.

“He’s been patient,” Boone said. “That always hasn’t been his thing, necessarily. I think about a walk he had the other night where he laid off a tough 3-2 pitch. He’s been controlling the strike zone. That’s been encouraging to see. He’s come up and had a smile on his face and he’s ready. I think he’s enjoying playing the game with these guys. It’s a credit to him. It was obviously a tough situation there at the end of spring and it hasn’t changed the person he is or how he’s going about things. You can tell he’s excited for the opportunity and wants to help us win. That’s what I’ve noticed and I’ve noticed him doing a good job controlling the zone.”

If Peraza keeps getting on base and seems comfortable at third, the Yankees might have to decide if they want to let Donaldson go and pay him what he’s earned. Peraza should play every day until Donaldson is ready to come back. This will show that he belongs in the Bronx and make it hard for the front office to decide.

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