The four-game losing streak is over and hey, the Yankees didn’t get swept. They escaped the series against the Athletics (and the homestand in general) with a tight 2-1 win on Thursday afternoon.
A Bloop And A Blast
The Yankees kinda sorta got screwed out of a run in the first inning when Jacoby Ellsbury’s double hit off the very tippy top of the wall in right field. I’m not joking at all when I say it was three inches from being the cheapest homer in Yankee Stadium history. The umpires called it a homer on the field, but A’s manager Bob Melvin challenged the play and the it was rightfully overturned. Ellsbury was dangerously close to hitting his second homer in two days.
Derek Jeter was running on the play and it appeared he would have scored on the double, but the umpires send him back to third base. After looking at the replays, I don’t think he would have scored. Right fielder Stephen Vogt got the ball into the infield in a hurry, and Derek was basically right at third base when the throw got to the cutoff man. Still, second and third with one out isn’t bad. Then Mark Teixeira lined out to third and Carlos Beltran struck out, so no runs. Three inches from a two-run homer to no runs. Sigh.
Thankfully, the luck broke their way in the second inning. Brian McCann dunked a single into left that became a double when Brandon Moss misplayed the hop and let the ball get by him. It was McCann’s 12th hit to the opposite field this season. He had between 14-19 hits to the opposite field every year from 2011-13. The mega-slumping Alfonso Soriano managed to get wood on a hanging curveball as the next batter and blooped a single into shallow center to score McCann. Soriano had been hitless in his last previous 16 at-bats with nine strikeouts.
The bloop single knotted the game up at one, then Brett Gardner blasted a solo homer into the second deck leading off the third inning to give the Yankees the lead. It was one of his classic ambush homers. Every once in a while he loads up and guesses first pitch fastball, and when he guesses right, the ball tends to leave the park. Five of his 12 homers since the start of last year have come on the first pitch for that very reason. One almost homer, one actual homer. Progress!
Grind It Out
There’s a pretty good chance Masahiro Tanaka faced the best lineup he’s ever faced on Thursday afternoon. The Athletics came into the game leading baseball with 308 runs and ranking second with a 116 wRC+. They don’t make offenses like that in Japan, and John Jaso let Tanaka know what’s up when he hit his seventh pitch of the game out to right for a solo homer. Tanaka had not allowed a dinger in his previous five starts after giving up seven in his first six starts.
Ten straight Athletics made outs following Jaso’s homer, but in the fourth and fifth inning, they worked Tanaka very hard. Oakland didn’t score, but they forced him to throw 53 pitches in those two innings, ten of which were fouled off with two strikes. McCann and Tanaka had more than a few chats on the mound those two innings as they tried to figure out a plan of attack. Tanaka’s pitch count sat at 93 after five innings and he ended the afternoon at 104 pitches in six innings. He held the A’s to just the one run on five hits and a walk, but man, it was a grind. Those six innings tied a season-low for Tanaka, and he set a new season-low with four strikeouts. Even when he’s bad, he’s still pretty good.
Hold On To Your Butts
The bullpen has been pretty shaky of late, so, naturally, the Yankees never bothered to score any insurance runs. They stranded runners at second base in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Dellin Betances got the call in the seventh and struck out one in a perfect inning, so he’s clearly been rattled by his weak outing the other day. I mean, only one strikeout? What else could it be? His strikeout rate is down to 15.17 K/9 and 45.7 K%. Slacker.
Adam Warren got the ball in the eighth and he immediately made things interesting by allowing back-to-back singles to start things off. Then he retired Josh Donaldson (strikeout), Brandon Moss (line out to right), and Yoenis Cespedes (strikeout). Defensive replacement Ichiro Suzuki made a great sliding catch to save the lead and take a base hit away from Moss. I thought it was ticketed for the gap off the bat. Warren hit 97 mph several times according to PitchFX as he cut through the 3-4-5 hitters of the highest scoring lineup in baseball in the eighth inning of a one-run game. Hell yeah.
The ninth inning went to David Robertson, of course, and he put a runner on base, of course. That was Stephen Vogt’s one-out single to center. Craig Gentry pinch-ran and stole second base — the throw was right on the money, he just out-ran the damn thing — then moved to third on Alberto Callaspo’s ground ball. That’s what the game log will say. In reality, it was a hard-hit grounder that Robertson luckily deflected to Teixeira at first with his foot. Robertson hustled over to cover first base, then he struck out Derek Norris to seal the win. He’s 13 for 15 in save chances so far.
Beltran went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the plate in his return to the lineup after missing close to a month with a bone spur in his elbow. He picked up right where he left off before the injury. (I kid, I kid.). Soriano went 2-for-3 with the bloop single and a sun-aided double. It was a routine fly ball that Coco Crisp lost in the sun and was unable to reel in. Soriano needs all the help he can get these days.
Following Gardner’s leadoff homer in the third inning, the Yankees had just three base-runners: Ellsbury walked in the sixth and singled in the eighth (stole second both times), and Soriano sun-doubled in the seventh. That’s all. Eighteen of the final 21 Yankees made outs and only five hit the ball out of the infield. Gardner, Jeter, Ellsbury (two), McCann, and Soriano (two) had the seven hits and Ellsbury the only walk.
Six of the Yankees’ last eight wins have come by two runs or less. When they lose, they tend to lose big. When they win, they hang on for dear life. That is … ominous. Two runs a game just isn’t going to cut it. The offense needs to wake the frig up already.
And finally, it’s pretty funny neither the YES nor MLB.com people get the YEAH JEETS! joke on the guy’s shirt in the video above.
The Yankees are off to Middle America for a wrap-around four-game weekend series with the Royals. Chase Whitley and Jeremy Guthrie will start the series opener on Friday night.