Yankees offense takes a hit as Blue Jays cruise past 6-1

Aaron Judge and Domnigo German of the Yankees during the 6-1 loss to Toronto on April 22, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

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The Yankees’ famed offense appeared particularly weak compared to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s power on a night when he boasted that he would never wear pinstripes. While his 11th homer at Yankee Stadium helped Toronto secure a 1-0 first-inning lead, Brandon Belt’s four more runs ensured the Blue Jays cruised to a 6-1 victory on Friday night. However, the New York Yankees’ offense was almost non-existent.

Yusei Kikuchi ended with a 1.91 ERA over five starts and one relief appearance in the Bronx after limiting the Yankees offense to one run on four hits in six innings. The Toronto bullpen also dominated the batting lineup of New York.

With two outs in the ninth inning, tensions between the two division rivals finally erupted when Greg Weissert hit Guerrero in the left elbow with a 93 mph sinker. As he slowly walked to first base, Guerrero appeared to get into a brief argument with both Weissert and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The benches and bullpens did not clear even as both managers made their way onto the field.

Toronto surged, but Yankees failed to fire

When George Springer doubled on the first pitch of the game for the Blue Jays, they took the lead against Domingo German. Two hitters later, Vladimir Guerrero launched a drive into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center for his fourth home run of the season. At Yankee Stadium, Guerrero has a .301 hitting average (37 for 123) in 32 games.

“Since you are a little kid, you dream of playing at Yankee Stadium,” said 24-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. “Yankee Stadium is always a stadium you want to go to, you want to perform, you want to hit. That’s the mentality all the time when I come here.”

The Yankees don’t have someone on offense, who is now on fire like Giancarlo Stanton, to match the onslaught of the Blue Jays. In the series-opening loss to the Blue Jays in front of 39,025 at The Bronx, the Yankees managed only one meaningful swing, five hits, and zero runs after the second inning.

A view of the Yankees dug out that has lost many stars to injuries, April 19, 2023.
Twitter-NYY

The Blue Jays jumped out to an early lead of two runs against the Yankees, who never recovered from that early deficit in the season’s first meeting between the AL East rivals. In the sixth inning, Belt blasted a two-run homer, then in the eighth inning, he smacked a two-run double off Albert Abreu, bouncing the ball off the outstretched arm of a diving Aaron Judge in right. Since the 17th of July, when Belt hit a home run for San Francisco against Milwaukee’s Jason Alexander, he has gone 38 games without one.

The Yankees’ offense was not very exceptional through the first 19 games of the season, scoring the 15th-most runs in all of baseball. The bats would have been happy with a .500 performance in Game 20.

Cabrera doing his best to hold the fort

On Friday, Oswaldo Cabrera drove an outside fastball over the right-field wall for the Yankees’ lone run of the game in the second inning. It was the first home run of the year for Cabrera, who was hitting.158 in his previous 10 games before this one. No other Yankees runner advanced past first.

The Yankees managed just two hits in the second — a single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the fifth and a single by Aaron Judge in the ninth. Both were caught in double plays before reaching second base.

The crowd of 39,025 was at its loudest when Cabrera hit a home run for the Yankees in the second inning, cutting their deficit to 2-1. Two of the Yankees’ hits came after the second frame.

Oswaldo Cabrera off New York Yankees
AP

In the top of the ninth, righty Greg Weissert hit Guerrero on his left elbow, causing the Toronto star to gaze at Weissert and carefully remove his equipment at the plate, provoking the fans to erupt into the second-greatest roar of the game. During his long stroll to first base, Guerrero stared at Weissert before being interrupted by Anthony Rizzo, who stepped up to him and exchanged words.

“Just walk to first base,” Rizzo said to tell Guerrero. “It wasn’t much more than that. I just took exception to that; wanted to back my teammate. Staring him down like that — it was obviously an accident.”

Weissert walked two batters in his inning while throwing for the third time this season and the second consecutive day.

“Obviously I wasn’t trying to hit him,” said Weissert, who appreciated Rizzo’s defense. “I didn’t have my best stuff.”

The situation did not worsen, although it did cause the loudest uproar in the stadium in the last minutes.

greg-weissert-new-york-yankees
Charles Wenzelberg / NYP

Yankees manager was upset

“We’re kind of grinding right now,” manager Aaron Boone said about the bats before adding, “We’re doing a lot of winning things, though, on offense.”

Since Stanton’s hamstring injury, the Yankees have scored four or fewer runs in four of five games.

“Had a couple chances in there,” said Boone. “But otherwise, couldn’t muster up [much].”

Aside from a nine-run outburst against the Angels on Thursday, the Yankees offense has been rather quiet, and Yusei Kikuchi and three relievers were able to put a stop to it. Only Anthony Rizzo in the Yankees’ lineup finished the game with a batting average higher than .272.

“He was hitting his spots,” Rizzo said of Kikuchi. “He had his slider, cutter going strong. That cutter was really biting hard.”

After winning the first two games of a series, the Yankees have now lost the first five games in a row. The Yankees came into the weekend series having won five series and splitting one.

Oswald Peraza debuted at third base for the Yankees.

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