Baseball’s back and so are those random frustrating losses to bad teams. This one even had one of those ninth inning teaser rallies. The Yankees managed only three runs against the Orioles — the Orioles! — and dropped Saturday afternoon’s game 5-3. Doomed, season over, etc. etc.
One Early Run
Four batters into Nate Karns’ first big league appearance since May 2017, it looked like the Yankees were about to put another crooked first inning number on the board. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luke Voit each drew a walk to load the bases with one out — at that point, those three had reached base in 14 of 17 plate appearances on the young season — and Karns couldn’t find the plate. The Yankees were all set up.
On one hand, when a pitcher walks the bases loaded in the first inning, you want the batter to force him to throw a strike. On the other hand, if the pitcher is going to give the hitter a 93 mph fastball right out over the plate with the bases loaded, you don’t want him to not take a rip at it. Karns gave Miguel Andujar that 93 mph cookie and the result was a 105.2 mph chopper back to the mound that Karns reached out and snared like this …
… and turned into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play. Gah. I appreciate working the count as much as anyone, but I am also down with being aggressive at the plate, especially in an opener situation where the starter isn’t pitching deep into the game no matter his pitch count. Andujar got a fastball right out over the plate, took a good hack, and got a bad result. Sucks. I mean, what else would you look for with the bases loaded?
Following the walk to Voit, Karns and Jimmy Yacabonis combined to retire nine of the next eleven Yankees, and it was starting to feel like one of those “they missed their opportunity” games. You know what I mean. It wasn’t until there were two outs in the fourth inning that the Yankees broke through. Gleyber Torres beat out an infield single and Troy Tulowitzki worked a 1-2 count into a walk to give the Yankees two baserunners with two outs.
DJ LeMahieu is not a traditional exit velocity guy, but he is an exit velocity guy, and he exit-velocitied a ground ball single up the middle to bring home Torres for a 1-0 lead. Left his bat at 104.1 mph and the ball clanked off shortstop Richie Martin’s glove as he ranged behind second base. Martin has a reputation for being a great defender, and while I can’t be certain, I think he gets the out at first base if he comes up with the ball cleanly. Didn’t happen though.
Up until the BABIP gods and his defense betrayed him in the sixth inning, James Paxton was as advertised in his Yankees’ debut. He was overpowering and efficient — Paxton went 20-for-21 in his personal A3P metric — and he more or less toyed with what was an admittedly weak Orioles lineup. The O’s hit only three balls out of the infield against Paxton and they missed with eight of their 32 swings against his four-seam fastball, a well-above-average 25.0%.
In that sixth inning Paxton allowed a rocket single to Jesus Sucre, a bloop single that landed just inside the right field line, and a little ground ball single through the right side to push across a run. Meh. The Orioles didn’t exactly knock him around the park there. A double steal coaxed a throwing error from Gary Sanchez — the throw short-hopped Torres at second base — and gave the O’s their second run. A Murphy’s Law inning.
The bloop and error went against Paxton in that sixth inning, though it should be noted he did get help from his defense earlier in the game. LeMahieu made two nice plays at third base — he came in on a weak grounder to end the third inning and slid to start an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in the fourth — and Tulowitzki made a heckuva play to get the out at home on a weak grounder to end Paxton’s day.
Paxton remained a fastball heavy pitcher in his first start as a Yankee, just like J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn remained fastball heavy pitchers after joining the Yankees last year. The anti-fastball philosophy is not being treated as a one size fits all plan. Here is Paxton’s pitch breakdown:
- Four-Seamer: 53 (64.6%)
- Cutter: 14 (17.1%)
- Curveball: 15 (18.3%)
Paxton threw 78.1% fastballs last year and he was right at the same rate Saturday afternoon when you add four-seamers and cutters. We’ll see whether he keeps it up going forward. The Orioles are terrible, so pumping fastballs is a fine strategy because they’re unlikely to do anything with it. Perhaps the Yankees and Paxton will tweak things against a better lineup in the future. Overall, a strong first start for Paxton. Too bad he didn’t get much run support.
The Teaser Rally
It sure seemed like the Yankees were going to go quietly after the Orioles added some insurance runs against Chad Green and Jonathan Holder. The Yankees sent 15 men to the plate in innings five through eight and one hit the ball out of the infield. Rather than go quietly, the Yankees mounted one of those “Mike, you better stop writing the recap in case they keep scoring” ninth inning teaser rallies. It started with a Tulowitzki solo homer into the right field second deck …
Alas, Stanton struck out swinging at a 3-2 92 mph slider (?!?) in the zone, which is not something I knew Mike Wright could throw. He threw a 93 mph slider earlier in the at-bat. Huh. Voit was able to bloop a single into the triangle in right-center field — it was a classic well-placed not well-struck base hit — which put the tying run on base and brought Andujar to the plate as the winning run. Two check swing strikes and a swing-and-miss later, it was game over. Not Miggy’s finest at-bat.
It was a great day for LeMahieu at third base up until his two-base throwing error in the ninth. Nice stab on a hard-hit grounder with a poor throw. LeMahieu came in nicely on two weak ground balls and made a sliding stop to start a 5-4-3 double play earlier in the game. At the plate, he went 2-for-4 with three ground balls. That is the LeMahieu story right there. Great defense and ground balls aplenty.
Another fireman-ish assignment for Adam Ottavino. He replaced Paxton with a runner on first and two outs in the sixth. Not a dire situation, but Ottavino got the out and that was that. Green was tagged for an insurance run in the seventh inning. Rio Ruiz doubled to left and Sucre singled to right. Holder allowed two runs in the ninth, his second inning of work, thanks in part to LeMahieu’s error. Sucre doubled in both runs. Revenge for the “That’s for you, bitch” game, I guess.
Everyone reached base except Brett Gardner, who really has no business hitting leadoff. Gleyber should hit leadoff while Aaron Hicks is sidelined. Even against righties. Stack the best hitters atop the lineup and enjoy. Stanton (single, two walks) and Tulowitzki (homer, two walks) reached base three times each. Judge (single, walk), Voit (single, walk), Torres (two singles), and LeMahieu (single, double) all reached base multiple times.
And finally, Mike Tauchman made his Yankees debut as a pinch-runner for Voit in the ninth inning. Two games into the season, the only players on the active roster who’ve yet to get into a game are Austin Romine, Tommy Kahnle, Stephen Tarpley, Luis Cessa, and upcoming starters J.A. Happ and Domingo German.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to MLB.com for the box score and video highlights and ESPN for the updated standings. I finally have our Bullpen Workload page up and running, so check that out too. Here’s the loss probability graph:
The Yankees and Orioles will wrap up this season-opening three-game series Sunday afternoon. Lefty J.A. Happ and righty Dylan Bundy will both make their first starts of the 2019 season in that one.