NEW YORK – Long before the fans’ unfortunate behavior in the ninth inning in the outfield capped Saturday’s game, Gleyber Torres quietly and dutifully spent the opening moments of Saturday’s game swinging under the first base stand , vowing to be ready for a chance to contribute.
Torres started his afternoon as the odd man out in the crowded infield, then ended it with a gleeful roar, thumping his chest after delivering a base hit in the Yankees’ savage 5-4 victory over the Guardians in the Bronx.
“It’s amazing,” Torres said. “During the game, I was just back in the cage, trying to get ready with my swing. I did my routine to be ready for an opportunity, and I got an opportunity. For every player, it’s It’s hard – we want to play every day, but I just control what I can control.
The Yankees wouldn’t ignore the other incidents this half-inning, with manager Aaron Boone saying “there’s no room to throw stuff on the field.” But if we hit the rewind button and backtrack a few batters, those moments were put into action by an encouraging rally off Cleveland closer to Emmanuel Clase.
Trailing by one run toward ninth, courtesy of reliever Chad Green after giving up a two-run homer to light hitter Austin Hedges, the Yanks showed their mettle. Josh Donaldson worked a first step and gave in to pinch runner Tim Locastro, who stole second as Aaron Hicks punched in.
Joey Gallo sent a broken batting liner to first baseman Josh Naylor for the second out, bringing up Isiah-Kiner Falefa. After starting his career with the Yankees 1 in 17, play seems to have slowed down for Kiner-Falefa, who also hit in the first inning of New York’s game with a fifth-inning single.
“When I come into the game, I have fun,” said Kiner-Falefa, who is 13-for-30 (.433) since that slow start. “It’s something I didn’t do at the start of the year; I was a little scared, a little shy. Now I am no longer.
Clase edged Kiner-Falefa, uncorking a 100.3 mph fastball that the shortstop hit deep. Steven Kwan crashed into the electronic scoreboard along the left field wall, sending the ball back to the infield as Locastro raced home on a tying double.
“He got us a lot of big hits with runners there,” Boone said of Kiner-Falefa, “and no bigger than he was today. He’s been terrific. He’s playing at a really high level. “
As Kwan was momentarily stunned and received attention from Cleveland medical staff, a group of fans above the scoreboard mocked center fielder Myles Straw, who scaled the fence at one point to trade more of words.
As that unfolded, Boone summoned Torres to grab a bat, sending him to pinch receiver Kyle Higashioka. It’s been a disappointing season opener for Torres, who is still aiming to regain his 2018-19 All-Star form and is seven hits on his first 40 hits (.175) entering the game.
Once again Clase was one shot away, this time deciding to try a 91.6mph slider. Torres was ready, ripping the ball into right center field space as Kiner-Falefa headed home with the winning run. Boone pointed to Torres’ pregame activities with a high-speed machine as a contributing factor.
“His preparation put him in this position,” Boone said. “I’m just proud of him. Obviously, he hasn’t played in a few games lately, but his work hasn’t suffered at all. In fact, it may have been better. It was prepared, ready for the spot and delivered.
Kiner-Falefa added, “That says a lot about the character and the player he is.”
Torres didn’t see much of that scene in the outfield — he couldn’t, not with his teammates harassing him between first and second base.
Torres was rewarded with the Yankees championship belt for his efforts, awarded to the most deserving contributor after each win. In his stadium locker, Torres capped off the day with an even more meaningful gift – cradling his newborn son, Ethan, a heartwarming scene that served as a welcome palette cleanser.
“Man, I feel so happy,” Torres said, “to do my job and help my team.”