Just as things were starting to turn South for the best baseball team, the Yankees turned to a young Southern man, the hitherto virtually unknown JP Sears, a fresh face from South Carolina with a 95-mph fastball max. who plays better than his weapon stats, a crazy breaking ball and a penchant for strikes.
It turns out the little left-hander was just the surprise star for a day it took the Yankees to change history and punctuate their tough, regrettable week with a string of goalless frames and a needed win.
It’s too early to know if a star was born in the Bronx or if little Sears (he’s listed at 5ft 11) can carry his glittering first major league start to a great career, but he has gave the Yankees something positive to talk about when he limited the Orioles to three hits and two walks over five shutout innings in a 2-0 Yankees win.
Sears was voted back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game. Nonetheless, after several days of injuries, illness and, of course, a memorably idiotic episode, he helped out with Josh Donaldson, who stayed home with COVID-19 symptoms four days after mocking beloved White Sox star Tim Anderson and left the line crossed and pull a well-deserved one-game MLB ban.
A lot of bad things have suddenly happened to the wannabe Juggernaut Yankees, but Sears wrote a happy chapter with a virtually seamless start, walking two, batting five and bewildering the Orioles with his 83 pitches. While the newcomer is 26 and didn’t have the kind of build to match reality (he’s less famous than the wild-haired YouTube comedian of the same name), there’s reason to believe he got more than an A’s could be -hit miracle.
While he lasted through the 11th round of the 2017 draft, he was a Golden Spikes finalist as one of The Citadel’s nation’s top collegiate players and led the nation in strikeouts despite possessing a fastball that didn’t fly the radar Lights brought weapons.
Second, he recently dominated Triple-A with a .83 ERA, 30 strikeouts on just two walks in six games prior to his last call-up.
Sears went straight on, winning the game and salvaging a week gone awry, a time marred by pesky injuries, pesky illnesses and that one absurd episode of Donaldson mocking Anderson by calling him “Jackie” what understandably angered Anderson and everyone on Chicago’s South Side (and many other places). The Yankees had also lost four of six during their great start for the first time, but it was the pain and suffering – and the absences ahead – that were perhaps most concerning.
“It’s been a rough couple of days for us just because people dropped out and stuff,” manager Aaron Boone said.
“[Sears] was huge for us.”
That was huge for her after what happened.
The list of casualties, almost universally avoided, is filling up dangerously fast. High-priced closer Aroldis Chapman, who ironically has an Achilles injury and is the Yankees’ Achilles’ heel, started the trend, and unfortunately injuries and illnesses quickly mounted.
Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton (right ankle inflammation) and key aide Jonathan Loaisiga (right shoulder) joined Chapman on the shelf, and if key table setter DJ LeMahieu (left wrist) has to join them all, exactly half of the new “big four” . (unlike the Core Four) would come out of their amazing cast. Donaldson is one of a handful of Yankees who have been suffering from COVID-19 symptoms lately, although Joey Gallo and Kyle Higashioka returned to the lineup on Wednesday.
“Misfortune is upon you. You have to be able to weather the storm…the season doesn’t stop for anyone,” Boone said before the game.
Let’s face it, a year like 1998 only comes around once every 100 years, and while there were some early hopes for knowing the calendar had turned to the 21st century, the reality is that a 162-game board with pitfalls. Unfortunately, some real problems are beginning to show themselves.
Of more interest to Yankees fans is how unsightly the team’s play has been of late, at least by the standards of the champions we crowned in mid-May. Unmistakable cracks are beginning to show.
“Every team deals with problems and injuries,” said Aaron Judge. “It matters, if you get hit you can get back up.”
Sears said he was a little worried, especially after the first two Orioles reached base. He had 50 pitches in two innings, but catcher Higashioka calmed him down and advised him to “attack the zone.” After that, you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face. “Great,” Sears called the day.
This could be the Yankees’ first real Test for the 162-game roster. That they still hold baseball’s best record at 31-13 is amazing. It may seem like they have 99 problems right now. But as long as No. 99 isn’t one of them — and Judge stays sane and staying on his 63-homer pace — they should be fine eventually.
And as long as kids’ calls like Sears – touted as a real talent by Judge before the game – create moments and deliver those moments, they have far less to worry about.