Another day, another win for the makeshift 2019 Yankees. Saturday afternoon’s 6-4 win over the Giants was their tenth win in their last dozen games. The game was not as close as the final score would lead you to believe. It wasn’t until garbage time that the Giants made noise.
When Yankee Stadium is your home ballpark, it can be a shock to the system when you watch baseball in Oracle Park. The park is enormous — absolutely beautiful, but enormous — and it gobbles up long fly balls. Outfielders camp under balls that, off the bat, look like they have a chance to get out in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium and Oracle Park are polar opposites. I’m not saying one is better than the other. They just play very differently.
The Yankees scored their first run against Derek Holland in true National League fashion. Cameron Maybin worked a leadoff walk and two batters later J.A. Happ bunted him up to second base. The no-longer-slumping DJ LeMahieu got the run home with a hard-hit grounder to third base. Evan Longoria ranged to his left and appeared to be in position to make the play, but the ball clanked off his glove and carried on into left field. Maybin scored with ease.
It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Yankees broke the game open. The bottom of the order set the table for the order. Maybin beat out an infield leadoff single and Thairo Estrada poked a single to right. Happ attempted to bunt the runners up, but it wasn’t a good bunt, and the Giants got the force out at third. No matter, LeMahieu walked to loaded the bases with one out.
All game long — he’s been doing it to every team all season, really — Holland busted the Yankees’ right-handed hitters inside with fastballs, similar to CC Sabathia’s pitching style. He crowds them inside, and home plate umpire Jim Reynolds was giving Holland the inside corner, so he kept going there. Look at his called strike locations to righty batters:
Hey, if the ump is giving you a few inches inside, keep going there. Holland did exactly that to Luke Voit with the bases loaded and he went too far inside — Voit had to skip out of the way of one inside fastball, then took another to the knee to force in a run. He’s fine, thankfully. Shook it right off. The Voit hit-by-pitch gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Up to that point in the game, Gary Sanchez was 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts since returning from the injured list, including 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against Holland earlier in the game. Righty Trevor Gott had been warming, but because Holland handled Sanchez well in their first two at-bats, Giants manager Bruce Bochy stuck with the lefty with the bases loaded. Holland got ahead in the count 1-2. Gary then uncleared the bases.
At 467 feet, Sanchez’s grand slam is the longest grand slam since Statcast launched in 2015. It is also the fourth longest homer in baseball this year, grand slam or otherwise. And it is Sanchez’s first career grand slam too. I would’ve guessed he hit one at one point, but nope. Gary went into this game with a career .375/.361/.438 batting line with the bases loaded. I do enjoy a good AVG > OBP slash line.
Seven Innings For Happ
Everything was all set up for J.A. Happ to have success Saturday. The Giants are a terrible offensive team — they went into this game ranked 29th in AVG (.210), 30th in OBP (.273), 28th in SLG (.345), and 30th in wRC+ (64) — and Oracle Park is huge. Big ballpark, bad offense, and Happ took advantage. Five singles and no walks in seven shutout innings. Only two strikeouts, but an 85.4 mph average exit velocity allowed. Weak contact all day.
Only once in his seven innings did the Giants really threaten against Happ. Gerardo Parra led off the third inning with a single to left and Tyler Austin pulled a two-out single to left. Brandon Belt pulled a hard-hit ground ball into the shift and LeMahieu made an excellent play to end the inning. LeMahieu made an excellent play at second and Voit made an excellent scoop at first base. Check it out:
Happ’s final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K on 95 pitches. He went back to throwing more four-seamers (38) than two-seamers (seven), though he also threw a ton of changeups. Thirty-seven of them. Happ threw 39 changeups in his first five starts combined this year. Maybe it’s a classification issue and Statcast confused some two-seamers for changeups? His average changeup velocity was 86.6 mph and it topped out at 88.7 mph. That’s a little high. Well, whatever. As expected, Happ is the first Yankees starter to complete seven innings in multiple starts this season.
After a great 1-2-3 eighth inning, Luis Cessa made things unnecessarily interesting in the ninth. Two singles and a three-run homer (Yangervis Solarte) and a solo homer (Erik Kratz) turned a 6-0 lead into a 6-4 lead. Gah. Aroldis Chapman had to get the final out. Cessa allowed two earned runs in his first 12.1 innings this season before that messy ninth inning. Eventually the Yankees (or some other team) will turn Cessa into one-inning air-it-out reliever and be happy they did.
Three hits and a great defensive play up against the netting in foul territory for Gio Urshela. He is now 12-for-31 (.387) in his last eight games and he’s hitting .327/.387/.491 (133 wRC+) on the season overall. Urshela’s history suggests the other shoe is going to drop at some point, but wouldn’t it be something if keeps this up? Would be cool. LeMahieu had a single and two walks as the leadoff hitter.
And finally, Voit extended his on-base streak to 38 games with his bases loaded hit-by-pitch. It is the longest such streak by a Yankee since Mark Teixeira had a 42-gamer in 2010. Voit’s 13-game hitting streak did end though. First hitless game for him since the first game of the White Sox series.
The final game of the RAB era (!). Hard to believe. The Yankees and Giants will wrap up this three-game interleague series Sunday afternoon. That’s another 4:05pm ET start. Domingo German and Dereck Rodriguez are the scheduled starting pitchers. Dereck is the son of Hall of Famer and Yankees legend Ivan Rodriguez.