The winning streak has hit six. Saturday afternoon the Yankees capitalized on some defensive mistakes and outlasted the Cardinals for a 3-2 win on Jackie Robinson Day. The six-game winning streak is the longest by any team in baseball so far this season. Fun!
Carsten Charles In Charge
Man oh man am I enjoying CC Sabathia’s late career renaissance. The Cardinals had seven righties and one switch-hitter in Saturday’s starting lineup — Matt Carpenter was the only lefty — and Sabathia cut through them for 7.1 innings with cutters in and everything else away. He had some help from the defense — Brett Gardner made an excellent leaping catch with two on and two outs in the second inning (video) — but hey, sometimes you need your defense. It is a team sport, after all.
Following that Gardner catch to end that second inning, Sabathia retired 13 of the next 15 batters he faced, and only five of those 15 batters managed to hit the ball out of the infield. His afternoon ended when
Randal Grichuk Jedd Gyorko lifted his 97th pitch into the short porch for a solo home run to get the Cardinals on the board. Seven innings plus one out, three hits, one walk, one run, six strikeouts. I have no idea what the future holds, but Sabathia is still a boss. Love seeing the big man thrive after all those tough seasons when he looked done. Like done done.
No Contact? No Problem
Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and eleven batters into Saturday’s game, he set a new career high with six walks. It wasn’t until Jacoby Ellsbury’s leadoff single in the third — the 13th batter Martinez faced — that the Yankees put a ball in play. Commissioner Rob Manfred must have been sobbing in his office. What an odd start to the game.
Martinez walked six batters in the first two innings (!) and the Yankees turned only one into a run because, well, they couldn’t put the ball in play. It took a passed ball by Yadier Molina and a wild pitch by Martinez for Gardner to cross the plate with two outs in the opening inning. Inevitably Martinez settled down because that’s what good pitchers do. After throwing 57 pitches in the first two innings, he needed only 49 pitches to get through the next three innings.
For reasons unbeknownst to me, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sent Martinez back out to start the sixth inning even though his pitch count was sitting at 106. They were 106 high stress pitches too. Martinez had to grind for five innings. That sixth inning started with a classic case of baseball being dumb. Ronald Torreyes lifted a pop-up to shallow left field that everyone lost in the sun. It dropped in for a hit and Torreyes used a swim move to avoid the tag at second base:
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) April 15, 2017
The Cardinals challenged the play and replay confirmed Torreyes was safe. Joe Girardi on the slide after the game: “It’s Toe being Toe.” Indeed. The Yankees were still leading 1-0 at that point and I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help but worry they would regret wasting all those walks and scoring opportunities given to them by Martinez. He was trying to give the game away. The gift leadoff double was much appreciated.
Thankfully, the Yankees made the Cardinals pay. Gardner moved Torreyes to third with a ground out, then Aaron Hicks hit a tapper back to the mound that Martinez threw away. He tried to come home to cut down the runner, and the throw sailed way wide of the plate and to the backstop. Chris Carter, who up to that point was 0-for-3 with three three-pitch strikeouts on the afternoon, pulled a single to left to score Hicks as the next batter. That stretched the lead to a much more comfortable 3-0.
Unnecessary Pitching Change Is Unnecessary
Prior to Saturday’s game Girardi said neither Aroldis Chapman nor Dellin Betances would be available due to their recent workloads, which meant the rest of the bullpen would have to pick up the slack. Adam Warren replaced Sabathia in that eight inning and recorded the final two outs without incident. He has now retired all 20 batters he’s faced this season. Not bad for the manager’s fourth most trusted option in the bullpen, huh?
For whatever reason Girardi opted to replace Warren with Tyler Clippard for the ninth inning — he said after the game it was because Clippard has more experience closing, so yeah, there’s the reason — and it did not go smoothly. Clippard allowed a solo homer to Stephen Piscotty, another opposite field shot into the short porch a la Grichuk’s against Sabathia, then he allowed an infield single and a walk with two outs. The tying run was at second base when Clippard got Grichuk to wave at a changeup out of the zone for the 27th out. Exhale.
The Yankees struck out 17 times at the plate and went 1-for-13 (.077) with runners in scoring position. They’re 1-for-30 (.033) with runners in scoring position over the last three games, yet have won all three. Dingers are cool. So is the other team making mistakes, like the wild pitch that scored Gardner in the first and the Martinez error that scored Torreyes in the sixth. They can’t bank on the other team making errors forever though.
The Yankees had five hits total: two by Ellsbury and one each by Gardner, Carter, and Torreyes. The Torreyes hit was the sun-aided double. The Yankees also drew eight walks and stole two bases (Ellsbury and Chase Headley). As of this writing they lead the league with 12 stolen bases in eleven games. It seems like the Yankees are running more often this year, so I was surprised to see they stole 13 bases in the first eleven games last year. Go figure.
And finally, another tough day for Greg Bird, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He is now 0-for-18 with two walks and eleven strikeouts in his last five games. Also, when Bird grounded out in the seventh inning, he could only jog down to first base. If he’s hobbled that much by the ankle, why in the world is he playing and not on the disabled list?
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score at ESPN and the video highlights at MLB.com. ESPN also has the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page too. That comes in handy when you’re trying to figure out who is available each day. Now here is the win probability graph:
The first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game of the season. Yuck. I hate having to wait all day to watch the Yankees on the weekend. Anyway, Michael Pineda and Adam Wainwright will be the mound as the Yankees look for their second consecutive series sweep. It’s not often Pineda matches up with a pitcher as tall as he is, but it’ll happen in the series finale. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game, or any of the other three games remaining on the homestand.