You know, I had a pretty crummy day on Tuesday. Not a bad day, I didn’t get bad news or anything, I just felt out of sorts. I hit off instead of snooze and overslept by like three hours, which is probably why. I was hoping the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka would make everything feel better in the series opener against the Cubs, but nope. They lost 6-1.
For the first time in his big league career, Tanaka allowed four runs in a start on Tuesday night. Only three of them were earned because, well, the Yankees have a terrible team defense, but runs are runs and they all count. The first two runs scored on base hits through the drawn in infield, the next two on sacrifice flies. It could have been worse had the Cubs not bunted into two (!) outs at the plate in the fourth inning. Cubs gonna Cubs.
Tanaka was facing a team for the second time for his first time as a big leaguer, and while that may have contributed to his worst start of the season, I thought he just made a lot of bad pitches. Lots of hanging offspeed pitches. It’s not like they were laying off the splitter — seven strikeouts including nine misses on 18 swings against the splitter, identical to his 50.0% whiff rate for the season — or hitting pitchers’ pitches. Tanaka just made a bunch of mistakes and he paid for them. That’s life. Chances are the steady rain had more of an effect than the lack of a surprise attack. Oh well. Tanaka lost a regular season game for the first time since August 2012, which is very clearly not what the Yankees paid for.
Remember when A.J. Burnett dominated the Yankees like five times in 2008? Then the Yankees went out and signed him as a free agent after the season in part due to that dominance? This feels like the kind of game that could lead the Yankees going out and trading a bunch of prospects for Jason Hammel. The ex-Devil Ray held New York to one run on four hits and a walk in 5.2 innings, though he was in total control for most of the game. Things went off the rails a bit in the sixth after Brett Gardner doubled and Mark Teixeira came through with a two-out hit to score the team’s only run.
The Yankees put two men on in the first inning without the ball leaving the infield — Gardner infield singled literally off Hammel and Teixeira was hit by a pitch — but then Hammel settled down to retire the next six and 13 of the next 14 men he faced. It looked like he would be forced to leave the game after Gardner hit him with a comebacker leading off the game, but the Yankees weren’t that lucky. Outside of Gardner and Teixeira, the lineup mustered nothing all night. (The Yankees did load the bases on an infield single and two walks in the ninth, but that went nowhere.) Gardner and Teixeira went 3-for-6 with a double, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch while the rest of the lineup went 3-for-26 with two walks. Two-man army.
The Preston Claiborne/Matt Thornton/Matt Daley portion of the bullpen let things get out of hand in the late innings because that’s what the Claiborne/Thornton/Daley portion of the bullpen does. They combined to allow two runs on five base-runners in the seventh inning and it would have been a lot worse had Daley not stranded the bases loaded. David Robertson, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and healthy Shawn Kelley are pretty awesome. Every other reliever? Hide the women and children.
Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 and has one hit in his last 27 at-bats. He’s mired in a 5-for-49 (.102) slump and is down to .269/.347/.391 (102 wRC+) on the season. Gardner, on the other hand, is up to .303/.376/.428 (125 wRC+) on the year. The Yankees have committed $231.7M to five veteran outfielders since the start of last season and the homegrown guy is better than all of ’em right now. By a mile too.
The umpires reviewed — at the urging of Joe Girardi (it wasn’t an official challenge, the umps reviewed it on their own) — a potential strikeout/foul ball by Anthony Rizzo in the fifth inning. The umps got on the horn with the Midtown office and were told that play wasn’t reviewable, so it was a big waste of time.
The Yankees seem to be getting burned by the infield shift more and more often these days. It happened twice in this game — the first time leading off the two-run sixth — and hopefully it’s just part of the randomness of baseball. Regardless, it’s annoying.
This quick little two-game series ends with a classic Wrigley Field day game on Wednesday afternoon, when Chase Whitley makes his second career big league start. He’ll be charged with stopping a two-game losing streak. Trade bait Jeff Samardzija will be on the bump for the Cubbies.