The Yankees advanced to the ALDS with an 8-4 victory over the Twins in Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium. They did so despite getting only one-third of an inning from starter Luis Severino.
Things started poorly for Severino and never got better. He served up a leadoff home run to Brian Dozier, walked Jorge Polanco with one out, then yielded a two-run home run to Eddie Rosario, putting the Yankees in a 3-0 hole before they could blink. Severino put two more runners on base before being yanked. Chad Green came in and stranded both runners to end the first inning, allowing Yankee fans to breathe a heavy sigh of relief.
The Yankees got back all three of those runs in the bottom half of the first against Ervin Santana. Brett Gardner led off with a walk and advanced to third when Aaron Judge singled. After Gary Sanchez fouled out, Didi Gregorius scorched a three-run home run to right field to tie the game up at three apiece.
Brett Gardner broke the tie in the bottom of the second with a home run to right field of his own off of Santana. The Twins re-tied it in the top of the third when a run scored on a Byron Buxton ground out (Buxton eventually left with an injury). The Yankees un-tied it in the bottom half of the third on a Greg Bird RBI single. Aaron Judge finally provided some breathing room, drilling a two-run home run to left field off of Jose Berrios in the fourth, making it a 7-4 game. Aaron Hicks drew a bases-loaded walk in the seventh to account for the Yankees’ eighth and final run.
The unsung heroes of the game, of course, were the Yankees’ relievers. Green gave up a run, but he also got four of his six outs via strikeout, including two to help limit the damage in that sticky bottom of the first. David Robertson pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up three hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Tommy Kahnle retired all seven batters he faced. Closer Aroldis Chapman worked around a two-out single from Joe Mauer, striking out three batters in the ninth to make the win official.
The Yankees will now face the Indians in the ALDS, which begins on Thursday. Trevor Bauer will start Game 1 for the Indians.
We wrote a lot about Casey Kelly on this site circa 2010-12.
It was understandable. Kelly was a big-time draftee for the Red Sox and famously split time as a shortstop and a pitcher in the minors, with some people even wondering if he could do it full time. The Sox put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, as he became the top overall prospect in the Boston organization as a pitcher. He then made news when he was sent to San Diego — along with Anthony Rizzo — in the famous Adrian Gonzalez trade in December 2010.
He made his big league debut for the Padres in late August of 2012, holding a pretty darn good Atlanta Braves team scoreless for six innings, striking out four. He would pitch in five more games in the season’s final month to not very good results but missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 thanks to Tommy John surgery.
He wouldn’t make it back to the bigs until 2015 — pitching only three games after being converted to a reliever — before the Padres cut him loose, trading him to the Braves for Christian Bethancourt who, like a younger Kelly, the Padres thought could be a two-way player, catching and relieving. That didn’t work for him either, but I digress.
Kelly made a career-high ten appearances for a bad Braves team in 2016, was let go following the season and was out of the majors again in 2017 after the Cubs released him a couple of months after he failed to make the team out of spring training. He resurfaced with the Giants this past season for seven appearances. The Giants cut him loose last month.
Now Kelly’s journey takes him across the ocean. He announced on Instagram last night that he’s signed with the LG Twins in the Korean Baseball Organization. He seems pretty happy and eager about it in his little video there. I don’t blame him, as he’ll make $1 million for them, as opposed to staying here and almost certainly winding up in a Triple-A rotation making $60K or whatever it is veteran minor leaguers make.
This was probably way too many words to devote to a journeyman heading to play in Korea, but we so often forget top prospects once they fail to meet expectations. We also tend to forget all of the Tommy John casualties, focusing instead on the Tommy John successes. As such, I wanted to think a bit about Casey Kelly. I hope things work out well for him in the KBO and a baseball player who once seemed so promising can, after a delay, find success of his own.