Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: Tanaka bests Sale in battle of the aces

Oh baby! Was that a fun game or what? Rain turned this three-game series into a two-game series, and the Yankees won both games while holding the Red Sox to one run total. Thursday night’s win saw Masahiro Tanaka outpitch Chris Sale, which is a very fun thing I hope to see many more times. The final score was 3-0 good guys.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Masterful Masahiro
All the talk coming into this game was about the great Chris Sale. And he is great! He was great again Thursday night too. But Masahiro Tanaka was better. He mowed through the Red Sox to finish the complete game shutout on a mere 97 pitches. He’s the first pitcher to shut out the Red Sox on fewer than 100 pitches since James Shields in 2008, and he’s the first Yankee to throw a complete game shutout at Fenway Park since Mike Mussina in 2002.

Weirdly enough, Tanaka started Thursday’s game by failing behind in the count to Dustin Pedroia, the leadoff hitter, 3-0. Tanaka hadn’t looked quite like himself in his first four starts, mostly because he was missing location and falling behind in the count a bunch, and three pitches into the game, it looked like we were in for more of the same. Instead, Tanaka got Pedroia to ground out, and only twice the rest of the game did he go to a three-ball count. He walked no one. Only three hits allowed two.

The key to Tanaka’s success? Pitching at the knees. Look at this pitch location chart, via Baseball Savant:

masahiro-tanaka-pitch-location

Tanaka lived in the bottom third of the strike zone pretty much all night. He was throwing fastballs, both straight four-seamers and running sinkers, for strikes at the bottom corner of the zone, then getting the Red Sox to swing over top of the splitter. The result: three strikeouts and 16 ground ball outs, including a pair of double play balls.

All told Tanaka faced 29 batters and only nine hit the ball out of the infield. He retired the final 14 batters he faced (on 39 pitches!), and the Red Sox had only one runner make it as far as second base. That’s all. Hanley Ramirez singled in the second inning and moved to second on Mitch Moreland’s ground ball. He was stranded there. The Red Sox never had a runner make it to third base. Incredible.

Tanaka is the first Yankee to throw a Maddux — that’s what the cool kids call a complete game shutout on fewer than 100 pitches — since David Wells back in 2003. Can’t say enough about the job Tanaka did Thursday. He completely stole the spotlight from Sale. Glad to see you back, Masahiro. We missed you during those first four starts.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Building A Run
The final score was 3-0, but that was only because the Yankees tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning. The score was 1-0 for most of the game, making Tanaka’s night more impressive. He didn’t have much margin for error at all.

The Yankees scored their first run in the fourth inning and they built it the old fashioned way. Aaron Hicks started the inning with a single to right, then moved to second on Chase Headley‘s soft ground ball. A passed ball — catcher Sandy Leon was clearly crossed up behind the plate — allowed Hicks to move to third with one out. The BoSox brought the infield in, so Matt Holliday had to get the ball airborne. A ground ball wasn’t going to cut it.

Holliday came into the game in a 2-for-27 (.074) slump and Rick Porcello threw fastballs by him all night Wednesday, so I don’t blame you if you weren’t confident he’d get the run in. I’ll admit I wasn’t. Rather than strand Hicks at third, Holliday put together New York’s best at-bat of the young season, a ten-pitch battle that saw him foul off four two-strike pitches before lifting a sacrifice fly to left field. Here’s the strike zone plot for the at-bat, via Brooks Baseball:

matt-holliday-chris-sale

What a battle. Sale had nasty stuff early in the game — he struck out seven of the first ten Yankees he faced — so it’s not like Holliday was out there fouling off 89 mph waste pitches. Sale was pumping mid-90s heaters and nasty backdoor sliders. Holliday was able to stay alive long enough until Sale hung one of those sliders out over the plate. Great at-bat. Great at-bat. (Oh, and by the way, the Yankees capitalized on another mistake, the passed ball. Yup.)

The Holliday sac fly gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead and they nursed that lead until the ninth inning, when the first four men they sent to the plate had singles. Hicks got it started with a single back up the middle, his second hit of the game. His batting line is currently sitting at .324/.458/.703 (218 wRC+) through 48 plate appearances. Amazing. Holliday drove in the first insurance run with a single to left and Starlin Castro plated the second, also with a single to left. Tanaka was dealing, but those two insurance runs were much appreciated.

Love this team, you guys. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Love this team, you guys. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Leftovers
More on Holliday: he went 2-for-3 with two singles and the sac fly, making this his best game in a couple weeks now. Both singles and the sac fly were hard hit too. The first single, in the seventh inning, smashed off the Green Monster and Holliday was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Not his best decision, especially leading off the inning. He was out by a mile. Still, good to see him swing the bat well, especially against such a great pitcher.

The Yankees had nine hits total, all singles, including two each by Hicks, Holliday, Castro, and Ronald Torreyes. Torreyes is definitely the player who annoys the crap out of fans of the other team, right? Right. The 2-3-4-5 hitters went a combined 7-for-15 (.467) while the rest of the lineup went 2-for-16 (.125), and both hits were by Torreyes. Sometimes you mash dingers, sometimes you have to string together singles.

Know who had a nice game defensively? Tanaka. He made a nice play fielding Pedroia’s comebacker to start the game, and he also did a nice job hustling over to cover first base several times on ground balls to the right side of the infield. That is an underappreciated part of Tanaka’s game. The man can really field his position.

And finally, although the bullpen wasn’t used, it is worth noting Aroldis Chapman did warm up in the ninth. He was getting ready in case Tanaka ran into trouble. So, even after throwing 33 high-stress pitches Wednesday, Chapman was available Thursday. If he’s hurt, this is a funny way of showing it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Now here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are heading back home for a six-game homestand. The first place Orioles will be in town for a three-game weekend series. Would be cool to go into Monday in first place, wouldn’t it? CC Sabathia and Kevin Gausman are the scheduled starters for Friday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any other game on the homestand.

DotF: Culver homers twice in Scranton’s win

A couple notes before we get to tonight’s games:

  • IF Donovan Solano was placed on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list with a calf injury, reports Shane Hennigan. IF Billy Fleming is up from Double-A Trenton to fill the roster spot. That’s notable because the Thunder now have an open infield roster spot, which figures to go to a certain top prospect expected to come off the disabled list any day now.
  • RHP Luis Cessa has been dealing with lower back tightness the last few days, according to Hennigan. It can’t be that bad because Cessa threw 88 pitches in 6.2 reasonably effective innings last night. The Yankees are usually cautious to the extreme with their pitchers. This really must be something minor for Cessa to pitch through it.
  • OF Jeff Hendrix has been activated off the High-A Tampa disabled list, according to Nick Flammia. I’m not sure what was wrong with him, but Hendrix has not played at all this season. Must have gotten hurt during Spring Training. OF Austin Aune was sent to Extended Spring Training to open a roster spot.
  • Matt Eddy has an interesting post looking at park factors using the 20-80 scouting scale. Aside from High-A Tampa, the Yankees have pitcher’s parks in the farm system. It’s important to keep that in mind when looking over the stat lines.

Triple-A Scranton (10-5 win over Louisville)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 SB
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 K — threw a runner out at third … two homers, seven doubles, six singles
  • RF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 HBP
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-3, 1 K — threw a runner out at third
  • 3B Cito Culver: 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 E (both throwing) — fourth career two-homer game, if you can believe that … this is his first multi-homer game since 2013
  • RHP Chad Green: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 5/1 GB/FB — 51 of 79 pitches were strikes (65%) … in our poll the other day the majority of voters said they would keep Green in Triple-A for the time being
  • LHP Joe Mantiply: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 30 of 45 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, zeroes, 3 K — eleven of 16 pitches were strikes … 10/0 K/BB in 5.1 innings down here
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — eleven of 14 pitches were strikes … nice rebound from his disaster outing the other day

[Read more…]

Game 20: Sale vs. Tanaka

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses since the eight-game winning streak was snapped last week, and if they’re going to put together their first set of back-to-back wins since the streak, they’ll need to beat the best tonight. Chris Sale, Boston’s prized offseason pickup, will face the Yankees for the first time as a Red Sox this evening. He’s been phenomenal in the early going, as usual. This’ll be tough.

On the bright side, the Yankees will counter Boston’s ace with their ace tonight, at least in theory. Masahiro Tanaka has gotten progressively better each time out this season, though he doesn’t seem to be all the way back to his 2016 form just yet. The Yankees will need Tanaka to be on top of his game tonight against Sale. It’s the old Pedro Martinez approach. Match zeroes with Sale then beat the bullpen. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Chris Carter
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Better weather tonight than last night in Boston. It’s still cold and cloudy, but it shouldn’t be foggy or wet. Tonight’s game will begin shortly after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) will be activated off the disabled list tomorrow. Hooray for that … Gary Sanchez (biceps) will begin a minor league rehab assignment next week, likely with Triple-A Scranton next Tuesday, Brian Cashman said. Hooray for that too. Hoorays all around.

How to handle Chris Sale’s dominance of the Yankees

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Yankees get their first crack at Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale. However, there’s a fair amount of familiarity between Sale and the Yankees.

If you’re not familiar with the numbers, they’re gaudy, to say the least. In 53 1/3 innings against the Yankees, Sale has surrendered just 32 hits, 12 walks and 4 HBPs while striking out 61 batters and allowing just 13 runs (seven earned). That’s good for a 1.17 ERA and a WHIP of .820. Sale has the lowest ERA of any pitcher in MLB history with at least 50 innings against the Yankees (h/t to Katie).

Unfortunately for the Yankees and their fans, Sale is going to be tacking on a lot more innings to that total over the next three years. With team options, the Red Sox have Sale under contract through 2019 and there’s nothing saying they couldn’t bring him back on a longer contract when that’s up. We’re talking about a pitcher with five All-Star appearances in the five seasons he’s been a starter, and he hasn’t finished lower than sixth in the Cy Young voting. That’s a keeper.

So what does this mean for the Yankees? What can the Bombers do to counteract the way-too-early favorite for AL Cy Young? Here are a few things to know about facing Sale.

1. Lefties are practically useless against him: Sale is a beast but especially vs. lefties. He’s given up 114 home runs in his career and just eight were hit by left-handed batters. While RHBs have a .228/.283/.370 line against him, lefties are far worse at .202/.258/.268. No power and no average.

In his seven starts against the Yankees, Sale has faced few lefties. The Yankees started three against him in 2012 and in the six starts since, haven’t started more than two. Typically, it’s been the lefties you don’t take out of the lineup, the Robinson Canos of the world. You have to try and load up on the platoon advantage to neutralize Sale because his size and motion are so difficult to pick up for a LHB.

This is why you acquire Chris Carter and Matt Holliday. Not just for Sale of course. For any tough lefty. Sale, David Price, etc. Having a veteran with some savvy in the middle of the order can counteract Sale … as much as you truly can counteract Sale. When Sale took the mound vs. NYY last May, it led to a distinctive lineup with Aaron Hicks leading off, Brett Gardner batting seventh and no Jacoby Ellsbury. Sale threw a complete game, but the point still stands. Maximize your potential by platooning like crazy. You may see a lineup that goes something like this.

1. Aaron Hicks, CF
2. Chase Headley, 3B
3. Matt Holliday, DH
4. Starlin Castro, 2B
5. Aaron Judge, RF
6. Chris Carter, 1B
7. Brett Gardner, LF
8. Austin Romine, C
9. Ronald Torreyes, SS

You have to sit one of Gardner or Ellsbury for Hicks here and moving the one lefty outfielder down the card makes sense, too. Last season’s lineup shows Joe Girardi is willing to do just that. He’s done some interesting things like put Yangervis Solarte in the five-hole as well. The lineups this season with Ellsbury batting fourth and so on have looked pretty peculiar, so Thursday’s lineup may just blend in.

2. Headley is key to hitting Sale: Headley has been much maligned at times during his stint in pinstripes, but boy can he hit Sale. He has the third highest OPS off Sale of any batter with at least 10 plate appearances. In 14 PAs vs. the 6-foot-5 southpaw, Headley is 5-for-13 with two home runs, a double and a walk.

Sale even helped Headley get back to being himself last season. After a horrible April and early May, Headley got his second extra-base hit of 2016 off Sale with this home run.

Girardi has put Headley near the top of the lineup card with Sale on the mound, both in 2015 and 2016. His first homer off Sale came back in 2014 during an interleague series between the White Sox and Padres.

The point being, Headley is really important here. I’m not sure I expected to be saying that, but here we are. Headley has similar numbers off the person I would say is Sale’s most logical current comparable, Madison Bumgarner. He has three home runs and 10 hits in 36 at-bats off Mad Bum. Go figure.

Only three other Yankees have multiple hits off Sale: Carter, Castro and Hicks. Hicks is 4-for-12 with a double, Carter is 2-for-13 with a double and a homer, and Castro is 2-for-11. Unsurprisingly, Carter has struck out seven times vs. Sale. Ellsbury and Gardner are a combined 1-for-16 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and nine strikeouts. Welp.

3. Time for the Baby Bombers: I’m unsure if the Yankees were trying to be cruel last May, but they had Gary Sanchez make his first MLB start as the DH facing Sale. You will no doubt be shocked to learn he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

However, this is where having a few young, dynamic, right-handed bats comes in handy. Sanchez may be hurt right now, but he’ll get more opportunities off Sale during the next few seasons. Sanchez, Judge and even Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres can give the Yankees an element few teams have vs. Sale: An all-righty top of the lineup that can withstand him. They’ll surely have some troubles off him like Sanchez last May, but they’re NYY’s best shot. These guys will get plenty familiar with Sale over the next few years.

As for Greg Bird, it makes sense to bench him for Carter in terms of trying to win that day’s game. However, starting Bird vs. Sale would be interesting for the long-term. Giving him some at-bats against him now could give Bird a chance against him in future meetings, plus Bird has hit lefties well in his early MLB career.

4. If he wasn’t on the Red Sox/facing the Yankees, Sale would be a lot of fun to watch: Sale’s mesmerizing. His herky-jerky motion is not something you’d teach any kid and that may be part of what makes it so effective. It’s different and it’s been nearly impossible to hit. He’s a consistent Cy Young contender for a reason and despite a motion many in baseball would label a concern, he’s remained pretty healthy, making at least 29 starts in four of the last five seasons.

And he’s quite simply fun to watch. He strikes out guys with ease, averaging 227 strikeouts a year since he moved into the rotation. How many pitchers do you see make hitters look like this?

sale-strikeout-gif

Or make Sanchez look like this?

sale-strikeout-sanchez

The Yankees are going to have to contend with Sale for a while and we may as well enjoy the ride. Pedro Martinez had some dazzling performances against the Yankees in the late 90s/early 2000s and beating him was a joyous occasion. It’d be nice to have a pitcher-against-the-Yankees rivalry like that going again and Sale is a prime candidate to make that happen. And even when he inevitably adds a win or two to his record vs. the Bombers, you’ll still be able to see one of the best of this generation take the mound.

About last night: Aroldis Chapman’s tough ninth inning

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Last night’s win over the Red Sox, as satisfying as it was, did not come easily in the ninth inning. Aroldis Chapman needed 33 pitches to get the final three outs and gosh, did he labor. Two walks, one booming double, one long foul ball, one run, and only two swings and misses. It was hardly vintage Chapman, but it was enough to close out the win.

Here, via Brooks Baseball, is Chapman’s velocity graph for the game. This is the velocity of each pitch as the outing progressed:

aroldis-chapman-velocity

For the first 25 pitches or so, Chapman’s fastball was consistently 98-100 mph. It wasn’t until the very end of the outing, as his pitch count approached 30 — his previous season high was 22 pitches — that his fastball dipped all the way down to 96. Trackman clocked his average fastball — he threw 25 of them — at 98.9 mph for the night.

“I feel fine. Thank God, I feel fine,” said Chapman through Marlon Abreu, the Yankees’ interpreter, to Brendan Kuty following the game. “I would not blame not throwing for a couple of days, or blame the weather at all. It’s just sometimes you’re not as sharp. That’s it.”

Given who he is (a closer in year one of a five-year, $86M contract) and what he’s known for (historic fastball velocity), seeing Chapman finish the outing at 96-98 mph rather than his usual 100-102 mph was at best unnerving and at worst panic-inducing. The fact it was the Red Sox and Fenway Park and the tying run was on base didn’t help matters.

That all said, Chapman’s outing to me looked more like a guy who simply didn’t have it and was struggling with the weather than someone who was hurt. I’ve seen plenty of pitchers pitch hurt over the years, and they didn’t look like that. I know Aroldis said not to blame the weather, but that strikes me more as a closer not making excuses than anything. It was cold and it was wet, and we’ve seen Chapman struggle in those conditions before. He did last year in Game Seven of the World Series. Remember the rain game against the Rangers last year?

Here is another velocity graph, again via Brooks Baseball. This is Chapman’s average velocity by month throughout his MLB career. Like most pitchers, Chapman doesn’t really hit his stride and start airing it out until the weather heats up:

aroldis-chapman-velocity-by-month

Keep in mind Chapman did not pitch for the Yankees last April due to his suspension. That first dot last season, the low one, that’s his final Spring Training outing against the Marlins at Marlins Park. Chapman spent April pitching in Extended Spring Training games before rejoining the Yankees in May, when he was essentially in midseason form.

Anyway, as you can see in the graph, April is traditionally Chapman’s worst month in terms of velocity. And again, that applies to nearly every pitcher. It applies to Dellin Betances. His average 98.9 mph fastball last night was down for midseason Chapman. It was right in line with his past Aprils, if not better, however.

This is what I saw last night. One, a pitcher who came out of the bullpen without good command. It happens. Two, a pitcher who had a hard time with the less than ideal weather conditions. And three, a pitcher who was running out of gas by the end of his outing. Chapman’s usual April velocity was there for the first 25 pitches or so. It wasn’t until later in the outing, after 30-ish high-stress pitches, that he dipped down to 96-98 mph.

Because he’s an important part of the team and because he’s very early in his massive contract, of course we’re all going to keep an key on Chapman in his next few outings, including the Yankees. Every pitcher loses velocity as their career progresses and Chapman will be no different. At some point sitting 100-102 mph will become sitting 98-100 mph, then sitting 95-97 mph. It’ll happen at some point. Father Time remains undefeated.

I think last night’s outing was just one of those games, however. One of those games where Chapman didn’t have it and needed to grind. Those outings happen to everyone, even pitchers as good as him. It was his first game like that this year. If this becomes a pattern, it’ll be a red flag. For now, I consider it to be just one of those days.

The Yankees are doing more of the “little things” offensively this season

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

It’s not often three runs are enough to beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park, but the Yankees managed to pull it off last night, thanks largely to Luis Severino‘s brilliance. He tossed seven shutout innings and got enough offensive support from Aaron Judge (two-run homer) and Greg Bird (run-scoring single). The kids. They’re all right. Glad to see Bird contribute a bit. He needed that hit.

The three-run effort dropped New York’s season average to a still healthy 5.00 runs scored per game. Their team 119 wRC+ remains the best in baseball. This is after averaging 4.20 runs per game with a team 92 wRC+ in 2016. The offense has been so much better early on and Judge has played a big role in that. So too have veterans like Starlin Castro and Chase Headley. They’re off to monster starts.

The Yankees have only played 19 games, so there’s plenty of season remaining, but already we’ve seen this year’s offense do some things we didn’t see much of last summer. And I’m not just talking about Judge’s massive home runs either. Consider:

2016 Walk Rate: 7.8%
2017 Walk Rate: 10.9%

2016 Infield Hits: 5.5%
2017 Infield Hits: 10.1%

Through 19 games we’ve seen a much more patient team, and I don’t think anyone will disagree. It’s not just the walks either. Last season the Yankees averaged 3.83 pitches per plate appearance. This year that number is 3.97 pitches per plate appearance. I know that doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but it is on a team-wide level, so it adds up. The Yankees are grinding out longer at-bats.

The infield hit rate thing is a bit of an anomaly — the highest single-season infield hit rate since batted ball data started being recorded in 2002 is 8.7% by the 2007 Mariners — and it will come down as the season progresses, though I also think it’s reasonable to believe the 2017 Yankees are better equipped to beat out those infield  hits than the 2016 Yankees. Why? Because there’s no more Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran. Love those guys! But they were slow. So, so slow.

So far we’ve seen the Yankees be more patient at the plate and grind out at-bats, and also beat out some more infield hits. They also seem to be better at capitalizing on their opponent’s mistakes. Just last night Xander Bogaerts made a throwing error on a routine ground ball, allowing Castro to reach base. Judge, the next batter, sent a ball into the bullpen for a two-run homer. Perfect. Just perfect. That’s how you want to follow up a botched play.

“Capitalizing on your opponent’s mistakes” is not really something we can quantify. At least not fully. The Yankees have already scored eleven unearned runs this season — including one last night thanks to the Bogaerts error — after scoring only 33 last season, 17th most in MLB, so they’re well ahead of last year’s pace. Not all mistakes are errors, however. Sometimes it’s throwing to the wrong base, or not paying attention to a runner, that sort of thing.

We saw an example of this in addition to the Bogaerts error last night. Judge turned an 0-2 count into a walk in the sixth inning — yay plate discipline! — then was able to advance to second base on Rick Porcello’s wild pitch. That extra 90 feet allowed Judge to score on Bird’s single to left field. Bogaerts gave the Yankees a baserunner with an error and Porcello gave them an extra base with a wild pitch. The Yankees took advantage both times.

I have no idea whether any of this will last. The infield singles almost certainly won’t, but tough at-bats and capitalizing on mistakes? That’s something we’d all love to see continue. Good offenses typically do those things. The Yankees have some power on the way in Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, plus hopefully a rebounding Bird (and Matt Holliday), so maybe they won’t need all these little things to succeed. Either way, it’s happened already, and it has helped the Yankees get off to this nice 12-7 start.

Youngsters make their presence felt in 3-1 Yankees win over the Red Sox

(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Maybe it was the young guys were thriving, maybe it was because the Yankees were playing the Red Sox, but man, that was the most satisfying victory of the season so far. Aaron Judge hit a homer to put the Yankees on the board, Luis Severino threw seven impressive innings, and heck, Greg Bird pitched in an RBI! Aroldis Chapman made it a bit scary in the ninth inning but eventually got out of it for a 3-1 Yankees victory in the Fenway Park.

The Judge and the Bird

In the second inning, Aaron Judge hit a birthday celebration home run off Rick Porcello. Starlin Castro reached on a Xander Bogaerts throwing error to begin the frame. Looked like a routine play, then the throw fell short and Mitchell Moreland couldn’t save the shortstop from an error. With a runner on first, Judge squared up an 88 mph fastball from Rick Porcello and sent it into the right field bullpen to give New York a 2-0 lead. I thought, if Judge were to hit a home run in Fenway, it would be a majestic shot going over the Green Monster, but this is good too. Drove it the opposite field (385 feet) and gave Yankees a two-run advantage. Judge also drew a walk later on in the sixth on a very, very close pitch off the outside corner. Last year’s Aaron Judge probably flailed at it haplessly but he showed some exceptional plate discipline to let it go and take a walk.

After tonight, Judge is hitting .281/.352/.672 with 7 home runs in 71 PAs. That is pretty good. He also gave Yankee fans a little scare by jumping into the stands to make a catch. It was initially ruled a foul ball but upon further review, they reversed the call. I’m just glad that his legs are okay after this:

1aj1

The other Yankee run was driven in by none other than Greg Bird. Judge advanced to second on a wild pitch after said walk in the sixth inning. Bird got a fastball on the outside and drilled it towards the Green Monster to score Judge. Prior to that at-bat, Bird was hopelessly whiffing at fastball offerings from Porcello. Pretty encouraging to see him do anything positive right now. I believe he will be alright though. Players do go through tough patches at times. Meanwhile, there was another young Yankee thriving on the other side of the ball.

Severino good

(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

This is what we all waited for from Luis Severino. The young righty, who has been teasing the Yankee fans with potential and enigmatic performances the last few years, made a very strong case to be a not only a long-term starting pitcher but also maybe the best in the rotation. Well, he has a lot of things to take care of — especially lowering the home run rate — in order to be excellent for years, but he showed tonight what he can do when everything clicks.

Per Brooks Baseball, Severino was throwing some serious heat tonight, as usual. He clocked at 99.8 mph with his fastball, which is pretty impressive given that Brooks Baseball doesn’t really go with the new velocity measuring system by MLBAM (measuring at 50 ft from home plate as opposed to 55 ft). He also generated 13 total whiffs — seven from fastball, five from slider and hey, one from changeup! I’d like to see more from his third pitch from here on.

When it comes to an eye test, Severino looked a thousand times better than he did last year. He seemed to hit the spots better, deliver them with much less doubt, went after hitters with tons of confidence in his pitches, etc. He’s had great stuff for a long time. Whatever Pedro Martinez taught him and/or he adjusted in the Spring Training has paid dividends so far. After tonight, he has a 33 strikeouts-to-4 walks ratio in 27.0 IP, which is excellent. His ERA is down to 3.00 and FIP is at 2.87.

Lastly, here’s that nasty slider…

1sev

Hold unto your butts

After Dellin Betances took care of the Red Sox hitters in order in the eighth, it was up to Chapman to get a save and finish the win for the Yankees. Something seemed a bit off with him tonight. Maybe it’s the cold weather or the four-day rest he got (or both), but he had trouble commanding his pitches from the get-go, walking Andrew Benintendi and allowing a deep double to Mookie Betts to start the frame. Uh-oh. With that, the tying run was already on the plate. Chris Young, pinch-hitting for Moreland, hit an RBI grounder to get a run in for Boston but also an out count for New York.

With a runner on third, it was Hanley Ramirez up for the Sox. Ramirez isn’t off to a good start but you always worry about him because he has good pop in the bat, especially with the Green Monster favoring his HR chances. Chapman, again, ended up walking him to make it runners on corners. Thankfully, Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging on a bad slider way over the strike zone and Josh Rutledge struck out on a fastball located well (possibly the best one Chapman threw all night) to end the ballgame. 3-1 Yankees. I needed a cigarette after that frame.

Box score, WPA graph and updated standings

Here’s tonight’s box score and standings thanks to ESPN and WPA graph from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are back at it again at Fenway tomorrow. Masahiro Tanaka is up on the hill against the noted Yankee killer Chris Sale.