Isiah Kiner-Falefa belts key three-run double in Yankees’ win

BALTIMORE — It took 29 pitches for Isiah Kiner-Falefa to find the one he liked, and his well-executed, relentless approach, which manager Aaron Boone called “one of the best at-bats of the season,” was rewarded.

The Yankees utility man first wore out and then wounded Orioles pitching, using a barrage of good at-bats and finally a three-run double to break open an eventual 8-3 win at Camden Yards on Saturday night.

The double Kiner-Falefa ball splintered fair to left field was significant, but so were the 12 balls he fouled off on the night.

“I haven’t been playing much, so I was just trying to see as many pitches as I can,” said Kiner-Falefa, who ended up seeing 36 pitches in five plate appearances. “And after the first at-bat, I felt pretty locked in for the whole day.”

In his first plate appearance, he drained opposing starter Tyler Wells during a 10-pitch at-bat that ended in a walk.

In the back-and-forth fight, Kiner-Falefa got two strikes against him and proceeded to foul off four pitches before he earned his way to first base.

After a second-pitch ground out against reliever Mike Baumann — who replaced Wells after just 2 ²/₃ innings largely thanks to the Yankees’ plate discipline — Kiner-Falefa saw seven pitches during a fifth-inning walk.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa belts a key three-run double in the sixth inning of the Yankees' 8-3 win over the Orioles.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa belts a key three-run double in the sixth inning of the Yankees’ 8-3 win over the Orioles.
Jason Szenes/New York Post

In the sixth, with the bases loaded, two out and the Yankees up two runs, Kiner-Falefa stepped up against Bryan Baker.

Manager Aaron Boone could have turned to Jake Bauers or Billy McKinney, lefty bats to counter the righty reliever, but he stuck with a contact hitter who clearly was seeing the ball well.

Boone gave Kiner-Falefa a chance, and he stayed in the at-bat long enough to take advantage.

He fell behind 0-2.

After Baker threw a ball, Kiner-Falefa fouled off four straight pitches to stay alive.

Two more balls brought the count full, and Baker couldn’t leave the strike zone again.

Finally, Kiner-Falefa got a four-seamer in the middle of the plate and turned on it, smacking the bases-clearing double to left field and punctuating it with a shout from second base.

Kiner-Falefa could yell, and the Yankees could exhale.

“Awesome,” Boone said.

“That was a big-time moment for me,” said Kiner-Falefa, who started just his second game of the past eight, and is now primarily used against opposing lefties and as a late-game sub.

“That’s what it’s about,” Aaron Judge, who scored from third base on the double, said of the at-bat. “That’s why I want him in there every single day. He competes. He’s the type of guy you want up in that situation.”

New Yankees hitting coach Sean Casey has instructed Kiner-Falefa and the rest of the club to see the ball deeper, providing as much time to decide whether to swing.

The tweaked approach — as well as Kiner-Falefa continuing to focus on doing damage rather than strictly making contact — has appeared to work thus far.

In his past seven games, Kiner-Falefa is 4-for-11 with six walks and a .579 on-base percentage.

He finished 1-for-3 with the pair of walks on the night, striking out in the ninth inning for his final try.

Of course, the strikeout came on a full count.

Even when Kiner-Falefa’s approach did not technically work, the opposing pitcher was worked.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁

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