NEW YORK — Gleyber Torres is no stranger to walk-off hits at Yankee Stadium, having one to his name already this season with a ninth-inning single on April 23 vs. Cleveland. But he added to that lore Sunday during the Yankees’ 2-1 win in Game 1 over the Rangers, leading off the ninth with a solo home run to right field and putting a quick end to a game that seemed destined for extras.
The homer was Torres’ seventh career walk-off hit, which is the most in the Majors since 2018, when the now-25-year-old made his big league debut. That year, Torres burst onto the stage in an All-Star season, finishing third for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Sunday also marked Torres’ second career walk-off homer, which coincidentally also came against Cleveland almost four years ago to the day (May 8, 2018). Since then, Torres has continued to come up clutch for the Yankees, and everybody seems to have noticed.
“He does [have that knack]; I’m not sure why,” manager Aaron Boone said of Torres’ ability to deliver in decisive moments. “Part of it is he’s a really good player and a really good hitter. We’ve seen him time and again, whether it’s in playoff situations, big situations — it does seem like he ratchets up that concentration level a bit. …It’s great to see. I love where his mindset is right now.”
Offense was hard to come by for both teams on a cold day in New York, but especially so for the Yankees, who didn’t manage their first hit until Aaron Judge singled to lead off the sixth. He would go on to score the game’s first run on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly to left field, and at the time, it looked like that might be enough to carry the Yanks in the first half of the twin bill.
“I just wanted to help my team put the ball in play,” Torres said in his on-field interview. “All game long, we tried to get a run, but we missed opportunities. So I just put myself in the right position.”
“[It’s an] exciting moment,” he added after the Yankees’ 4-2 loss in Game 2. “… By always having those opportunities, it helps me to do little things for my team and just help my team to win.”
Gerrit Cole started for New York in Game 1 and was in top form, striking out 10 Rangers over 6 1/3 innings — his first double-digit strikeout game of the season. His only run allowed came on the last batter he faced, when Kole Calhoun took him deep on Cole’s 114th pitch of the afternoon.
Cole, who was pitching on seven days’ rest, knew he would have a chance to go deep into the game to spare the Yankees’ bullpen, especially with the club set for three contests against Texas in 24 hours — the start of a stretch of 23 games in 22 days without an off-day for New York.
Before coming back out to the mound for the seventh, Cole had a conversation with Boone and made his case to stay in.
“He was pretty adamant about, ‘No, I’m comfortable.’ And he’s usually very good at explaining where he’s at or how he’s feeling,” Boone said. “I think [the decision was] based off the way he was throwing in the sixth inning, where I thought he was in cruise control. … I thought he settled into a really good rhythm with all of his pitches, and I felt like even still at the end [he] was very sharp.”
Calhoun’s homer snapped Cole’s scoreless-innings streak at 18 2/3, which was the third-longest stretch of his career, trailing 21 1/3 innings from Aug. 16 to Sept. 1, 2021, and 19 innings from April 1-13 in ’18.
But Torres made sure the Yankees wouldn’t come to regret that decision in the end, helping them split the series-opening doubleheader and giving them a chance to secure their sixth consecutive series victory Monday.
“Gleyber’s seeing the ball really well off lefties right now. That’s a great swing,” Cole said. “We had some traffic on them…we just couldn’t push through. But I didn’t think we threw any at-bats away. We stayed locked in and obviously pushed the last one across, which got us the win.”