DENVER — When Clarke Schmidt walked off the field after completing the sixth inning Saturday night, he did his best to avoid Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
The right-hander was cruising and wanted to get a shot at pitching in the seventh inning.
“I know how that conversation typically goes,” Schmidt later said with a grin after the Yankees’ 6-3 win over the Rockies at Coors Field. “So I didn’t want to leave any room for him to say, ‘Thank you for your work.’ So I tried to make my way around him as much as I possibly could.”
Schmidt’s moves worked, and although he only faced one batter in the seventh inning — and gave up a home run to C.J. Cron that ended his night on a sour note — it still marked another step for him in his development as a starter.
For the first time in his career, Schmidt worked into the seventh inning.
He turned in another strong start while giving up two runs on three hits, one walk and one hit batter across six-plus innings while striking out eight.
“That’s something I’ve been working towards for a while now,” Schmidt said of working into the seventh. “To be able to accomplish that — obviously you don’t want to go up there and give up the home run. It’s probably the worst-case scenario. But it’s baby steps, and it’s a step forward being able to go deeper in games, so I’m happy for that.”
Schmidt has now posted a 2.86 ERA over his last 10 starts, providing the Yankees some much-needed consistency.
“He continues to make huge strides,” Boone said. “He’s been really good now going on a couple months probably.”
Boone credited Schmidt for navigating his way through the outing.
With the Yankees up 1-0, his night began when he hit Jurickson Profar with a pitch. Profar later came in to score from third on a balk to tie the score. The Yankees now lead the majors with 11 balks on the season.
But beginning with the final out of the first inning, Schmidt retired 16 of 18 hitters before Cron’s home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh.
Schmidt said he didn’t expect his first time pitching into the seventh inning to come at Coors Field, a hitter-friendly park.
The high altitude affected Schmidt’s pitch shapes, he said, which provided another twist for him to work through.
“There were a little bit of adjustments as far as where I wanted to start my pitches and set my sights,” Schmidt said. “The breaking balls aren’t as big here and your fastballs don’t move as much. Everything’s just a little bit shorter, so I wanted to make a little more emphasis on trying to pitch to the corners and get to the edges a little more tonight. Thankfully we were able to do that.”