Clarke Schmidt finally conquers ‘uncharted territory’ in longest career outing for Yankees

Yankees' Clarke Schmidt pitches eight scoreless innings against the Twins on May 16, 2024, at Target Field.
Michael Bennington
Saturday May 11, 2024

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During the Yankees’ 2024 spring training, Clarke Schmidt made it clear that he wanted to pitch deeper into games. On Friday, he accomplished just that, shutting out the Rays over 6.2 innings at Tropicana Field in a 2-0 Yankees victory. The series-opening performance equaled the longest outing of Clarke Schmidt’s career and established a new benchmark for the 28-year-old this season.

Equipped with a sharp slider-cutter combination, Clarke Schmidt navigated 6.2 innings – tying his career-best – while holding Tampa Bay (19-20) to five hits and two walks. After the game, the Yankees starting pitcher expressed his excitement, acknowledging that reaching this sixth-inning milestone was like conquering ‘uncharted territory’ for him. He recognized the significance of the achievement, noting that it has been a major topic of discussion.

“It’s uncharted territory finally to be able to get there tonight,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a big talking point. So I try to block out the noise and not worry about it, but I know what I’m capable of doing. And I know I’m very well capable of controlling my pitch count and going deeper in games. It’s a big step in the right direction.”

Despite the attention surrounding his performance, Clarke Schmidt emphasized his determination to block out external noise and focus on his own capabilities. He asserted confidence in managing his pitch count and extending his outings, which is a significant step forward in his development.

Interestingly, Clarke Schmidt’s only other 6.2-inning outing also took place in Tampa on August 26 of the previous year.

Clarke Schmidt stings the Rays

Clark Schmidt takes the mound to pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, May 10, 2024.

Clarke Schmidt delivered a career-best performance, tossing 6 ²/₃ scoreless innings to lead the Yankees to a 2-0 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field, despite working with just a one-run lead. From the outset, he was on the offensive, matching his longest career outing – both of which have come under the dome that often resembles Yankee Stadium South, as was evident on Friday.

Pitching into the seventh inning for the first time this season, Clarke Schmidt successfully navigated the third-time-through-the-order challenge that has occasionally hindered him, keeping the Rays (19-20), who had emerged victorious in five of their last six games, at bay.

Clarke Schmidt has been particularly effective against the Rays in his last three starts, boasting a 0.96 ERA over 18.2 innings, and allowing just two runs. This includes a 6.2-inning start at Tropicana Field on Aug. 26 of the previous year.

Reflecting on Friday’s outing, Clarke Schmidt remarked, “Even the hits felt like they were executed pitches,” highlighting his efficiency as he entered the seventh inning with only 74 pitches under his belt.

Clarke Schmidt shared his thoughts on his performance, noting that he had been consistently close to achieving his goals in previous outings. According to him, in each start, he felt on the cusp of success, with factors such as bloop hits or narrowly missed pitches preventing him from reaching his objectives. However, he emphasized that during the game, his primary focus was on competing and executing pitches, rather than dwelling on the milestone. While acknowledging the significance of finally accomplishing his goal, Clarke Schmidt clarified that it wasn’t a preoccupation during his time on the mound, as he remained focused on the task at hand.

Clarke Schmidt relied heavily on his sweeper and cutter, throwing a total of 87 pitches against the Rays. He allowed five hits, issued two walks, and recorded six strikeouts.

One of those strikeouts came at the beginning of the seventh inning. However, even after Clarke Schmidt issued a free pass to Isaac Paredes, Aaron Boone chose to stick with his starter. He managed to secure two more outs before departing to a warm reception from the supportive away crowd.

Despite Clarke Schmidt’s favorable pitch count, Boone revealed that he didn’t entertain the idea of allowing the pitcher to pursue the final out of the seventh inning. Although the Rays never managed to score, they did apply some pressure on Schmidt, who benefited from Jose Trevino’s assistance in eliminating baserunners throughout the game.

With Richie Palacios stepping into the batter’s box, Boone made the decision to remove Clarke Schmidt from the game. This choice was influenced by Palacios’ previous success against the pitcher, which included a home run at Yankee Stadium on April 19 and a single earlier in Friday’s contest.

Clarke Schmidt starts for the Yankees against the Rays at Tropicana Field on May 10, 2024.

Boone elaborated on his decision, noting that Palacios had demonstrated effectiveness against the pitcher, both in the current game and in prior matchups. Despite Clarke Schmidt’s favorable pitch count, the Yankees skipper characterized the game as stressful due to the consistent high-pressure situations the pitcher faced. Although the opposing team had applied pressure, they had not scored. Consequently, Boone remained firm in his decision to bring in Palacios to pitch.

As expected, when Boone visited the mound, Clarke Schmidt put up a fight to stay in the game. This is not an unusual occurrence, and the pitcher seems determined to make Boone’s decision to remove him from games increasingly difficult in the future.

Clarke Schmidt expressed his resolve to continue pushing his boundaries and earn his coach’s unwavering trust. He emphasized his commitment to proving his capability every time he took the mound, with the ultimate aim of leaving his coach with no choice but to have complete faith in him. The Yankees starter conveyed his desire for his coach to believe in his ability to handle any situation, implying that he wants to remain on the mound for as long as possible during games.

Boone wouldn’t want it any other way, and he recognizes the immense pride Clarke Schmidt takes in securing additional outs. He highlighted Clarke Schmidt’s enthusiasm for taking on pitching responsibilities, underscoring his high level of confidence, competitive nature, and love for the game. He noted Clarke Schmidt’s enjoyment of the challenges and intensity that come with pitching, describing him as an individual who excels in high-pressure situations.

While Clarke Schmidt’s performance lowered his ERA to 2.95, the Yankees’ offense did just enough to secure the victory.

Their first run came in the fourth inning when Anthony Rizzo delivered an RBI single with two outs and runners on the corners. This run-scoring hit was set up by an Aaron Judge walk and a two-out single from Giancarlo Stanton.

Rizzo added an insurance run with a solo home run in the ninth inning, while Nick Burdi, Luke Weaver, and Clay Holmes combined to keep the Rays off the scoreboard. Although Holmes encountered some trouble in the ninth inning, with the Rays loading the bases, Schmidt’s outstanding performance remained untarnished thanks to the Yankees’ bullpen.

Clarke Schmidt pitches for the Yankees with confidence

Upon arriving at Tropicana Field, Clarke Schmidt’s 2024 pitching lines primarily lasted for five innings and he was changed afterward. The Yankees’ right-hander acknowledged that “it’s a big talking point.”

Nevertheless, he remained confident, stating, “I know what I’m capable of,” and viewed Friday’s 2-0 win against the Rays as “a big step in the right direction.”

Longer outings hold great significance for Clarke Schmidt, as he has historically been less effective in the later stages of games. Before Friday, the righty had a 4.53 career ERA between the fourth and sixth innings. As a starter, opponents were batting .348 against him the third time through the order. Additionally, the opposition had a .344 average when the pitcher had thrown between 76 and 100 pitches.

Reflecting on his progress, Clarke Schmidt described the achievement as another step forward in his development as a starting pitcher. He expressed confidence in his continued improvement, emphasizing that both he and his team are constantly evolving and refining their skills. The pitcher regarded the milestone reached that night as a notable accomplishment and believed it marked the beginning of further advancements in his career.

When asked if thoughts of his late-inning struggles ever cross his mind while pitching, Schmidt responded emphatically in the negative. He stressed the importance of having a reliable bullpen, expressing confidence in his relievers to bail him out in challenging situations, thus alleviating any concerns he might have.

Following his longest start of the year, Schmidt’s ERA dropped to an impressive 2.95. The Yankees boast a 7-1 record in Schmidt’s eight starts.

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