By Joe Pantorno
Gleyber Torres doesn’t need to just play the Baltimore Orioles to dominate a game — he can play their geographical rivals located just 44 minutes south.
The 23-year-old phenom helped lift the Yankees (2-1) to a 3-2 victory on Sunday afternoon over the Washington Nationals (1-2) in D.C., going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, including a go-ahead single late in the game.
His efforts helped the Yankees overturn a two-run deficit created after a Trea due to their inability to touch Nationals starter Patrick Corbin — a southpaw who spurned the Yankees in free agency two years ago to join the Nationals.
In his first start of the season, Corbin made mincemeat of a powerful Yankees lineup for most of his day, retiring 18 of the 19 batters he faced while striking out seven. The lone blemish over those first six frames was a single by none other than Torres in the fourth inning.
The Nationals jumped on the board in the third inning when Trea Turner took Yankees’ starter Jonathan Loaisiga out before Eric Thames doubled the advantage in the fourth with an RBI single off David Hale.
New York finally got to Corbin in the seventh to drive him from the game. After getting Aaron Judge for the first out of the seventh inning and his eighth strikeout of the day, Corbin served up a juicy 90 mph four-seam fastball middle-in to Torres, who rocketed the offering into the left-field seats to put the Yankees on the board.
That was all for the southpaw, who was immediately pulled by manager Davy Martinez, but the decision to bring in Will Harris didn’t stop the Nationals’ bleeding.
Harris got Giancarlo Stanton to strike out but got behind Luke Voit 2-0. His decision just to try and get one over the plate was a foolish one as a lazy 90 mpg cutter was jettisoned near where Torres just struck in the left-field stands just moments earlier.
The following inning, after a Yankees rally that put runners on second and third, Torres came through again with two outs in the frame, lining a single to score DJ LeMahieu and put the Yankees in front.
Washington looked poised to strike right back, getting runners on second and third with one out following a throwing error by Torres to allow Turner on base before an Adam Eaton double. But Tommy Kahnle found a way to work out of the jam, striking out Starlin Castro and Eric Thames.
The Yankees had to pull the rabbit out of the hat again in the ninth to avoid the Nationals from tying things up, or worse.
A lead-off single by Asdrubal Cabrera off Zack Britton prompted Washington to pinch-run with the speedy Emilio Bonafacio, who advanced to second when Gary Sanchez allowed a passed ball.
While Victor Robles drew a walk in the at-bat, Bonafacio was thrown out trying to steal third when he overslid the bag, crippling the Nationals’ rally.
With such a reprieve, Britton didn’t give the defending champions a second chance, getting Yan Gomes to fly out before inducing a Michael Taylor groundball.