On a bright side, the Yankees won’t face the Blue Jays for rest of the regular season and, well, that’s pretty much it. Ivan Nova pitched 5.2 solid innings but the offense came up empty handed against Marcus Stroman and Jays bullpen to drop the series finale 4-0. Joe Girardi’s gamble on inexperienced relievers didn’t work to New York’s favor either.
Nova, not terrible this time
Nova didn’t look awful. In fact, this was his best outing since August 2 when he held the White Sox to two runs in six innings. His line tonight: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB and 6 strikeouts. That’s good – especially against the lineup the Jays have.
His stuff looked good. At least to my naked eye, it seemed like his fastball and curve had more North-South depth to them, leading to a lot of chopped fouls, grounders and overall more weak contact. I don’t think he’ll be in line for the postseason rotation (if they were to go as far as ALDS and more) but tonight’s start, at least, gave some hope.
The Yankee bullpen gave first. After Nova departed in the sixth following Russell Martin’s walk, Girardi brought in lefty James Pazos to face lefty-hitting Ryan Goins. After getting ahead 0-2, Pazos allowed a single to center to make it two outs and runners on first and third. You might think, with division race at stake, Girardi would bring in someone like Justin Wilson to shut the inning down. Instead, he brought in Caleb Cotham – who, in my opinion, has fine stuff to be a future ML reliever but would I trust him wholeheartedly to hold the 0-0 tie? I’m not sure.
On Cotham’s first pitch, Kevin Pillar lined a single up the middle to give Jays a 1-0 lead. Pillar tormented the Yanks all series and this was just a slice from the highlight reel. Cotham issued a walk to PH Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases but induced a long fly out to Ben Revere to barely limit the damage to a run. Damage done, nonetheless.
So these bullpen guys are talented but not a lot of them have been ML-tested – especially in a high-stress situation against the best lineup in the league. Girardi put on a heck of a gamble by putting the names James Pazos, Caleb Cotham and Andrew Bailey to protect the pitching side of things of the game and it clearly didn’t work out that way.
To be fair, a lot of the main guys – Wilson, Betances, Miller, etc. – have been worked a lot and it’s important to keep them fresh for longer run for late in the season and, possibly, postseason. This could have been a different outcome had Masahiro Tanaka not tweaked his hamstring and be able to go deeper into the game. All I can say at this point is – it is what it is.
Stroman was no straw man. He was quite nasty and did a lot to miss the Yankee bats – throwing different kinds of fastballs (cutting, sinking, straight, etc.), locating them very well, changing speeds, uncorking that nasty hard slider down and in against lefties, etc. – he had a lot going on. With his return, the Jays postseason rotation is suddenly looking formidable.
New York definitely had few shares of scoring chances. Greg Bird led off with a single in the fifth. Two pitches later, Chase Headley, in a bit of a cold streak, grounded into a double play to immediately kill the rally. Considering that Dustin Ackley followed that up with a deep double to right-center, that GIDP represented some big missed opportunity to get edge or New York.
The Yankees had another chance to rally in the top of seventh. Carlos Beltran walked with one out against Stroman but Bird flew out. Headley, who killed a potential rally earlier, singled to center to make it two outs and runners on first and second. Up came one of the hottest hitters in the lineup: Dustin Ackley.
Ackley had already doubled in the game and it wasn’t out of question he would do more damage against a tiring Stroman. He hit an offspeed offering from Stroman quite hard – maybe too hard as it went right into CF Kevin Pillar’s glove in no time. It was that kind of night for Yankee offense.
Andrew Bailey relieved Cotham to start the bottom seventh. He promptly allowed a leadoff double to Josh Donaldson on a hanging curve. Jose Bautista grounded out to advance Donaldson to third. The Yankees followed it up by intentionally walking Edwin Encarnacion. With one out, runners on corners, Bailey struck out Justin Smoak with a nasty curveball – a display reminiscent of his All-Star days.
Bailey almost got out of the inning scoreless – with two outs, on a 1-2 count against Martin, the righty threw a 95 mph fastball just off the corner, maybe an inch away from a called strike. However, the ump called it a ball and Martin drilled the next pitch – a 93-mph fastball right down the middle – for a three-run homer. 4-0 Jays.
The Yankees had another shot at rallying in top ninth against the Jays closer Roberto Osuna. A-Rod led off with a laser double. Brian McCann hit a grounder up the middle that almost nicked the base but that didn’t happen – Goins threw him out for the first out while A-Rod advanced to third. Osuna overpowered Slade Heathcott for a strikeout and Bird flew out to finish the shutout. The AL East deficit grew to 3.5 games again.
Box score, standings, highlights and WPA
The Yankees return home to the Bronx to face the White Sox for a four-game series (it’s really four games this time, I checked). Chicago’s South Siders have not been a good team this season and the Yanks need to capitalize on this opportunity – they’ll need to tackle the White Sox staff ace Chris Sale tomorrow as Yankees turn to Michael Pineda.