Yankees come from behind for 5-3 win over Twins in series opener

There’s nothing quite like a game against the Twins to make you feel good about the Yankees, is there? The Yankees rallied from behind to beat Minnesota in game one of their three-game series Friday night. The final score was 5-3. New York is, once again, a .500 ballclub. They’re 36-36. It would be cool if they got over .500 and stayed over this time.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

A Shaky Tanaka Start Is Still A Quality Start
For only the fifth time in his 15 starts this season, Masahiro Tanaka allowed more than two runs Friday night. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings and it definitely could have been worse; Tanaka stranded a leadoff double in the second inning and runners on first and second in the third inning. The first inning was his only 1-2-3 inning.

There has been plenty of talk this season about Tanaka’s performance on normal rest versus his performance with an extra day of rest, and for good reason. He’s pitched way better with an extra day (like most pitchers). Tanaka was making this start with two extra days of rest thanks to the off-days Monday and Thursday, and I wonder if he was a little too strong because of it. He was up in the zone a lot and wasn’t commanding his fastball as well as he usually does.

Either way, Tanaka struck out a season high tying seven batters. He generated 14 swings and misses as well, though that’s nothing special by his standards. He’s had 14+ whiffs in eight of his 15 starts. This was one of those “he’s not at his best but he’s still good enough to win” games for Tanaka. He bent a little but did not break. Tanaka’s one of those guys who doesn’t have disaster games. Even when he’s bad, he’s still pretty good.

Come From Behind
The Twins took a 2-0 lead on Eduardo Nunez‘s third inning single, and the Yankees answered right back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Austin Romine reached on error before being erased on Brett Gardner‘s fielder’s choice. Carlos Beltran doubled into the left field corner to score Gardner, then Alex Rodriguez pulled a ground ball single through the left side of the infield to score Beltran.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Watching the play live, I thought Beltran was going to be out at the plate. Luckily Robbie Grossman’s throw was well off-line, allowing Carlos to score and A-Rod to take second base. This was just the Twins being the Twins. Lefty Tommy Milone faced six hitters that inning and four of the first five saw a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count. Beltran was the lone exception, and that was only because he doubled on the first pitch. Bad teams find a way to lose, and the Twins and Milone found a way to let the Yankees back into the game that inning.

Minnesota took a 3-2 lead in the fourth thanks to a walk (Byung-Ho Park), a double (Kurt Suzuki), and a ground out (Byron Buxton). The Yankees again answered right back, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth. They loaded the bases with no outs on a walk (Chase Headley), a bunt single (Didi Gregorius), and a Joe Mauer error (Aaron Hicks). Romine plated the first run with a sac fly, then Rob Refsnyder came through with two-out single to score the second run, giving New York a 4-3 lead.

Game Over
Once Tanaka got through six innings, it was time to turn things over to the big three relievers. They retired all nine batters they faced. Dellin Betances struck out one and threw an 88.7 mph curveball, which is a) nuts, and b) not even his fastball curveball of the year. He threw an 89.4 mph bender in his last appearance. Andrew Miller fanned one in the eighth.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth and holy crap, that was easily his most dominant outing of the season. He threw eleven pitches, all of them for strikes, and ten of the eleven clocked in at 101.3 mph or above. The one “slow” pitch was the 91.1 mph changeup he threw to end the game. Here’s his pitch-by-pitch velocity, via Brooks Baseball:

Arodlis Chapman velocity

That changeup looks like he dropped the mic and walked off the stage. It was a ridiculous inning. Chapman’s fastball averaged 103.2 mph and topped out at 104.3 mph on the night. It was the first time he hit 104+ since last August. The weather is starting to warm up and it looks like Aroldis is really starting to cut it loose. That was a fun inning.

Gardner and Gregorius went 1-for-9 combined — the one was Didi’s bunt single — but man, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Gardner nearly beat out an infield single in the first and later hit two line drives right at infielders for outs. Gregorius sent a ball to the right field warning track and pulled a would-be double just a few inches foul. Those two had way better swings than the 1-for-9 would lead you to believe.

Every starter had a hit except Gardner and Romine, though Romine had the sac fly, which was well struck to deep left field. It looked like it had a chance to go out off the bat, but alas. A-Rod was the only player with two hits. Hicks swatted a solo homer in the bottom of the eight for a much appreciated insurance run. I’m sure that felt good against his former team. It was Hicks’ third homer of the season overall and his first against a lefty.

And finally, the Yankees struck out only six times as a team. It was their 31st game with six or fewer strikeouts this season. Only the Angels (38), Giants (36), and Athletics (33) have more. The offense hasn’t been great this year, but the Yankees don’t get enough credit for putting the ball in play as much as they do. Their team 18.5% strikeout rate is fifth lowest in MLB this season.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, you want to go over to ESPN. MLB.com is the place to go for the various video highlights. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Twins will continue this three-game series Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular 1:05pm ET start. Hooray for that. Michael Pineda and Ervin Santana are the scheduled starters. This is the last homestand before the All-Star break, so if you want to catch tomorrow’s game or any of the other five games on the homestand, head over to RAB Tickets.

DotF: Judge, Sanchez, and Austin combine for five homers in Scranton’s win

Both OF Aaron Judge (No. 3) and RHP Vicente Campos (No. 14) landed on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, so check that out.

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 win over Pawtucket in ten innings)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 CS — he’s easily been the best of the various scrap heap infielders the Yankees signed for Triple-A depth (Pete Kozma, Jonathan Diaz, etc.)
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — fifth homer in his last six games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — hit back-to-back-to-back homers with Solano and Judge in the tenth inning
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — all three homers came against on-and-off big leaguer Roenis Elias … second three-homer game in the farm system this year … Chris Gittens did it last week
  • CF Jake Cave: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Luis Severino: 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HB, 7/2 GB/FB — 70 of 97 pitches were strikes (72%) … easily his worst Triple-A outing of the year
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 22 of 45 pitches were strikes (49%)
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — nine pitches, seven strikes

[Read more…]

Game 72: The Twins, Again


Is there ever a bad time to play the Twins? Not for the Yankees, who have dominated this rivalry for more than a decade now. They took three of four from Minnesota last week, and while that can be considered a success, it’s always disappointing when you have a chance to sweep and fall short. The Yankees need all the wins they can get right now, so go take care of business this weekend. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. CF Aaron Hicks
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It has been nice and sunny all day in New York, so we’re in for a clear night tonight. The game will begin shortly after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: CC Sabathia (ankle) feels better and is expected to make his next start. He rolled the ankle throwing a pitch Wednesday afternoon.

6/24 to 6/26 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

The Rockies and the Twins and the Rockies and the … Twins. This eleven-game stretch against the Rockies and Twins ends this weekend with three games against Minnesota. The Yankees have gone 4-4 in the first eight games, which isn’t good. They did take three of four in Target Field last weekend though. Now these two teams will play three in Yankee Stadium this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?

After the Yankees left town last weekend, the Twinkies played three games against the Phillies at home, and they took two of three. They dropped the finale yesterday. Minnesota is 23-49 with a -115 run differential overall. That is the worst record and run differential in all of baseball. Yes, even worse than the Braves (25-47 and -97).

Offense & Defense

When you’re as bad as the Twins, you do everything poorly. That includes scoring runs. They average only 4.04 runs per game with a team 90 wRC+. Bad. Bad bad bad. The Twins are without OF Miguel Sano (115 wRC+), who is due to begin a minor league rehab assignment sometime this weekend. He won’t return this series. Also, 3B Trevor Plouffe (71 wRC+) is day-to-day with a groin strain. Word is he won’t go on the DL but may have to sit out this weekend.

Nunie & Mauer. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Nunie & Mauer. (Getty)

Manager Paul Molitor’s best hitter so far this season has been ex-Yankee IF Eduardo Nunez (121 wRC+), who has started to slow down the last two weeks or so. Now that I said that he’s going to hit about .800 this weekend. Way to go, me. 1B Joe Mauer (107 wRC+) is the big name and 2B Brian Dozier (101 wRC+) has been one of their better players over the years as well. RF Max Kepler (99 wRC+) torched the Yankees last weekend. CF Byron Buxton (46 wRC+) looked lost though. The Yankees picked him apart at the plate.

LF Robbie Grossman (160 wRC+) has been excellent since being recalled about a month ago. High-priced Korean import DH Byung-Ho Park (89 wRC+) isn’t working out too well, though he does mash taters (12 HR). C Kurt Suzuki (91 wRC+) always crushes the Yankees for some reason. SS Eduardo Escobar (84 wRC+) is probably going to play short with Nunez at third while Plouffe is out. C Juan Centeno (47 wRC+) and UTIL Danny Santana (63 wRC+) are the other bench players.

Defensively, the Twins have a very good outfield and one really good infielder in Dozier. Escobar can pick it too. Nunez still makes his hilarious errors from time to time. You know what I mean. Good old Eduardo Scissorhands. Mauer is okay at first base and Suzuki was never quite as good defensively as his reputation. He’s a classic Nichols Law catcher.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. LHP Tommy Milone (vs. NYY)
Remember Pat Dean, the generic lefty the Yankees hammered for seven runs in 2.1 innings in Minnesota last week? The Twins sent him down to Triple-A after that game and replaced him with the even generic lefty-ier Milone. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 5.79 ERA (5.18 FIP) in four starts and one relief appearance so far this season, and as always, he’s kinda limited walks (7.1%) while giving up a ton of homers (1.93 HR/9). His grounder rate (48.6%) is good and his strikeout rate (19.4%) is better than it’s ever been before, though I think that’s a sample size thing and not a change in skills thing. Righties have historically punished Milone, who sits 87-89 mph with his four-seamer and sinker. Low-80s changeups and sliders are his two primary offspeed pitches. The Yankees didn’t see Milone during the series in Minnesota last weekend.

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
Santana, 33, has been a rock solid starter throughout his career, but he’s having a miserable 2016 season, pitching to a 4.83 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 13 starts and 72.2 innings. His strikeout (17.7%), walk (6.8%), and grounder (43.8%) numbers are in line with his career norms, but he’s been much more homer prone (1.36 HR/9) than usual, and for some reason righties are hitting him much harder than lefties. That’s the opposite of the rest of his career. Santana still sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he still throws a ton of mid-80s sliders. He’ll also throw a few mid-80s changeups per start to keep hitters honest. Santana held the Yankees to three runs (two earned) in 7.1 innings last week.

Duffey. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Duffey. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Sunday (1:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Tyler Duffey (No vs. NYY)
The 25-year-old Duffey had an excellent rookie half-season in 2015 (3.10 ERA and 3.24 FIP), but he’s been unable to carry that success over into 2016. Through eleven starts and 59.2 innings he owns a 6.18 ERA (4.68 FIP) because he gives up a ton of homers (1.68 HR/9). Yikes. His strikeout (18.0%), walk (5.1%), and grounder (45.6%) rates are solid yet unspectacular. Both lefties and righties have given Duffey problems this year. Low-90 four-seamers and sinkers set up a hard low-80s curve and a low-80s changeup. The Yankees didn’t face Duffey when these two clubs met a week ago.

Bullpen Status

Poor Paul Molitor. This bullpen is a disaster. The Twins have one good reliever and he’s a lefty specialist. They’ve had to cycle through several closers too. Not great, Bob. Here is their relief crew.

Closer: RHP Brandon Kintzler (2.75 ERA/4.80 FIP)
Setup: LHP Fernando Abad (2.16/2.76), RHP Michael Tonkin (3.82/3.71)
Middle: RHP Kevin Jepsen (6.08/6.29), LHP Buddy Boshers (0.90/1.52), RHP Ryan Pressly (3.99/4.14), LHP Taylor Rogers (3.98/4.79)
Long: RHP Neil Ramirez (5.14/6.55)

Closer Glen Perkins is done for the year with a shoulder injury, and Jepsen replaced him earlier in the season. He kept getting lit up though, so now Kintzler is seeing ninth inning time. Abad, who has been far and away Minnesota’s top reliever (Boshers has thrown ten innings), is his primary setup man. Everyone else is there because, well, someone has to pitch, you know?

Jepsen, Rogers, and Tonkin all threw an innings’ worth of pitches yesterday. Rogers has pitched on back-to-back days. You can head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen. They had an off-day yesterday, so everyone is pretty fresh.

Heyman: Yankees have not ruled out re-signing Chapman

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have not ruled out re-signing impending free agent Aroldis Chapman after the season. He’s said to have enjoyed his time in New York. My guess is he’ll enjoy the city of the highest bidder too, whatever it may be. It doesn’t sound as though the two sides have had any contracts talks yet.

Chapman, 28, has a 3.00 ERA (2.07 FIP) with 27 strikeouts and somehow only three walks in 18 innings this year. Doesn’t it seem like it should be more than three walks? It feels like he goes to a three-ball count on everyone. Anyway, Chapman returned from his suspension in early May, and if the Yankees continue to slip out of the postseason race, he’ll be a prime piece of trade bait. I have some thoughts on this.

1. So what’s it going to take to re-sign him? Reliever salaries have exploded so much that non-closers like Darren O’Day are now getting $8M a year. Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50M contract with the Phillies is the reliever record and I’m sure Chapman is aiming to break that. It’s not unrealistic. Chapman is outstanding and there’s been five years worth of inflation since Papelbon signed his deal.

Five relievers have had contracts worth $12M+ per season: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Brad Lidge, Francisco Rodriguez, and Papelbon. Chapman’s going to look to join that group and understandably so. Between his age, his historically great dominance, and his unprecedented velocity, he’s very much in position to command that sort of salary. Could four years and $56M be in the cards? David Robertson got four years and $46M two years ago, remember. An extra $2.5M per year seems reasonable.

2. Are the Yankees willing to carry two high-priced relievers? The Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold in the near future and it looks very doable. Most of the big contracts will be off the books within two years, and the threshold figures to rise with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I have to think it’ll climb over $200M. How could it not with the way payrolls are growing these days?

The Yankees already have one expensive reliever in Andrew Miller, who is making $9M a year. Conservatively assuming Chapman gets $12M a year, that’s going to be $21M tied up in two relievers, who might combine to throw 130 innings. Granted, it’ll be 130 high-leverage innings, but still. If they’re trying to get under the luxury tax threshold, spending big on relievers isn’t the smartest idea, not when there are so many other holes on the roster.

I think the only way the Yankees will re-sign Chapman is if they trade Miller first, which is certainly very possible. They were willing to move him this past winter, so even if they don’t trade him at the deadline, they could look to deal him in the offseason. Trading Miller and re-signing Chapman is a perfectly sensible baseball move, especially since Miller has greater trade value than Chapman thanks to the two extra years of team control.

3. What about a trade-and-sign? This gets talked about every year but very rarely happens. Trade away your big name impending free agent, then re-sign him after the season. It’s simple! Except the player has a say in things, and as soon as you trade him away, your odds of re-signing him go down because he gets a taste of life elsewhere. That’s what happened with the Red Sox and Jon Lester. Loyalty is for suckers.

The Yankees certainly could look to trade Chapman then re-sign him. The Orioles did that with Sidney Ponson a few years back, and the Braves do it with Kelly Johnson seemingly every year, so it happens. I don’t think Chapman would come back on any sort of discount though. Once he hits free agency, the Yankees will have to outbid everyone else to get him. A trade-and-sign is possible. It’s just a very tough maneuver to plan and execute. Everything changes once you trade a guy away.

Friday chat reminder

Happy Friday and Happy Chatday, everyone. Today’s chat is tentatively scheduled to begin at 2:30pm ET, the usual time. I may have to push it back slightly though. I’ll let you know if anything changes.