On Saturday morning, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said he was excited to see what Domingo German would do in his second major league start, six days after he had held the Cleveland Indians hitless for six innings in his first.
By the time the game against the Oakland Athletics ended at Yankee Stadium, on the cusp of Saturday evening, German was a footnote to a game that lasted 4 hours 15 minutes, finally ending on Neil Walker’s run-scoring single, which gave the Yankees a 7-6 victory in 11 innings.
“Obviously, he’s really gotten it going for us lately,” Boone said. “He’s played a big role for us lately.”
Walker’s single to center drove in Gary Sanchez, who had reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to second after a walk to Aaron Hicks, the 17th free pass of the game.
And that’s the kind of game it was — a walk-filled, strikeout-filled (there were 21 of those) slog — until the ninth inning, when Brett Gardner, Sanchez and replay review erased an A’s runner at home to preserve a 6-6 tie.
Then came the wow finish from Walker, who over the last nine games has looked like a different player from the one who struggled through his first 21 as a Yankee.
“He’s just a professional, the definition of it,” Aaron Judge said of Walker, who is 9 for 25 with eight walks in his last nine games after starting the season with a .163 batting average.
“It’s easy to get caught up in numbers and how things are going, but the fact of the matter is that I’ve been playing this game for a long time, so I know good things are on the horizon for me,” Walker said. “I try not to put too much pressure on myself, and when I get opportunities like today, I try to do what I can to put together a good at-bat.”
Walker had two runs batted in on Saturday, and his game-winner was the third clutch hit he has delivered in the past week. On Tuesday, his pinch-hit double set up a victory over the Boston Red Sox, and last Sunday he tied the score with a ninth-inning double against the Cleveland Indians in another game the Yankees went on to win.
The Yankees’ latest comeback win negated a disappointing outing from German, a rookie who came to the majors as a reliever. In retrospect, there was probably little he could have done in his second start that would not be viewed as a letdown.
Still, German held the Athletics hitless for two and a third innings, and when Mark Canha’s third-inning flare dropped in front of Gardner in left field, there was an audible groan from the crowd. German, a 25-year-old right-hander, had not allowed a hit since May 1, a stretch of eight and two-thirds innings over three appearances.
The groans turned to boos when German put the Yankees in a 5-2 hole in the fourth inning. He gave up a three-run home run to Khris Davis with one out, and allowed two more runs on a pair of walks and Canha’s two-run single. The A’s added a sixth run on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.
German’s early exit forced Boone to use five Yankees relievers. Jonathan Holder, Chad Green and Dellin Betances pitched well, holding the A’s hitless for three innings. But Aroldis Chapman struggled, walking the bases loaded in the ninth before Gardner’s throw bailed him out.
That left just A.J. Cole, who had not pitched since April 28. Cole had a rough start, walking the first two batters he faced in the 10th, but then struck out four of the next six batters he faced to earn the win.