NEW YORK — How bad has Chris Sale looked through the early part of this season?
Even Mike Tauchman, who you almost certainly have never heard of before today, is getting greedy with his hits off the seven-time All-Star and erstwhile ace of the reigning champions.
The hit in question came in the fourth inning, knocking in Austin Romine for the fourth and final earned run of Sale’s fourth loss in as many starts this season. Tauchman went to third on the throw home and was unaware it was scored a measly double — one of seven hits Sale allowed in five innings.
“No, it’s great,” he said more seriously. “You know the pedigree of a pitcher like that, so to scratch some runs across, that’s great.”
Two innings later, the 28-year-old did a lot more than just scratch one across. For his first career home run, coming in his 62nd game and third partial season, Tauchman launched a three-run shot off Erasmo Ramírez into the second deck in right field.
Tauchman seems quick to quip in general. Asked if it was special to experience his first home run as part of the storied rivalry between New York and Boston, he countered, “I’d have loved it in the first at-bat I ever had.” But the backup left fielder, pressed into duty by injuries to Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and 10 Yankees whose jerseys you might actually have at home, was rendered not-quite speechless but certainly less than eloquent by the experience.
Did he know it was gone right off the bat? “Yes.”
What did that feel like? “Nothing.”
What was he thinking as he’s rounding the bases in front of 45,008 fans who came to see the Yankees, off to a slow start of their own at 6-9 coming into Tuesday, right the ship in a grudge match of sorts against not only their historic rival, but the club that knocked a 100-win Yankee team into second place and out of the playoffs last year? “Nothing.”
“I wish I could tell you but my mind was blank.”
He attributed his success — the Yankees didn’t need ‘em considering James Paxton’s lights-out performance, but Tauchman had four RBIs, his first multi-RBI game — to finally getting a little bit of consistency.
With the stipulation that he understands his role and is ready to contribute however he can, Tauchman said, “It’s obviously sometimes difficult to have really quality rhythm and timing when the at-bats are a little sporadic … coming up through the minor leagues, we all play every day, so it’s definitely a little bit different when you’re coming off the bench. But when the at-bats are a little bit more frequent, you can find the rhythm a little bit easier, and I think this was just a byproduct of that.”
His manager agrees. “He’s a talented player, we’ve known that. I’ve heard his name talked about for the better part of the last year,” Aaron Boone said. “I hope he can get a little more settled in, as he goes, as he gets more opportunities, back-to-back starts now.”
It makes sense that Tauchman, who was traded to the Yankees from the Colorado Rockies just before opening day and missed all of spring training with his new star-studded team would still be finding his place in the clubhouse. In the postgame media frenzy, he was set to talk to reporters right after Aaron Judge. But even though the PR person told him it was time to take his place in front of the logoed backdrop, in the center of the scrum, Tauchman hung back.
“I’m not pushing Judge aside,” he said. “I’ll wait.”
With so many Yankees on the IL, Tauchman is likely facing more playing time in the weeks to come. And with that, the chance to make himself known in the clubhouse and around the city. After all, winning is the best icebreaker.
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