Didi’s huge night leads Yankees to 15-4 win over Braves

Alright alright alright. That is much more like it. The Yankees started their six-game road trip with a laugher, blowing the Braves out by the score of 15-4 on Friday night. They needed this. We needed this.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Two Outs, Nine Runs
It took the Yankees seven batters Friday night to exceed their runs total from the three-game series with the Astros. They scored just four runs against Houston earlier this week, but the bats broke out and hung a five spot on Williams Perez in the first inning of this game. The entire rally happened with two outs too. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both started the inning with outs. Let’s recap with an annotated play-by-play.

Yankees Braves annotates play-by-play

(1) Carlos Beltran had a miserable start to the season. It was very ugly. But, since the calendar flipped to May, he has hit .302/.365/.529 (145 wRC+) in just over 300 plate appearances. That’s best case scenario stuff. I never would have expected Beltran to hit that well over that long a stretch of time coming into the season. He’s been the club’s only consistent hitter the last few weeks, so it’s fitting he started the first inning rally with a not trying to do too much single back up the box.

(2) As expected, Brian McCann received a big standing ovation from the handful of fans at Turner Field in his first game back. He stepped out, tipped his helmet, the whole nine. Pretty cool moment. Perez then walked him on six pitches and it never once seemed like McCann was not going to reach base. Even when Perez had two strikes on him. The first pitch was a fastball right down the middle, and the foul ball for the second strike came on the pitch just off the plate, but the four balls were well wide. Easy takes for the walk. That’s when it became obvious Perez was in over his head.

(3) The Greg Bird at-bat was the opposite of the McCann at-bat — Perez threw five pitches just off the plate and Bird took all five of ’em. One was called a strike, the rest balls. I thought maybe Bird would look to punch something the other way after the 2-0 pitch was called a strike, but Perez kept pitching to the same spot, and Bird kept taking ’em. Impressive that a rookie took so many borderline pitches. The walk loaded the bases and now Perez was really in over his head.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

(4) Considering the offensive woes, it was easy to prepare for disappointment after Bird walked to load the bases. Nothing personal against Chase Headley — he came into the game hitting .318/.363/.536 (143 wRC+) with runners in scoring position, you know — but the Yankees have been struggling at the plate for a while, and we’ve seen them waste more than a few opportunities. You were expecting them to blow it. Admit it. I was. Instead, Headley smoked a pitch over Cameron Maybin’s head in center field for a ground-rule double. That was huge. They needed some runs there just to feel good about things early in the road trip. An out there and it would have been “here we go again.” It’s only human nature. Instead, a 2-0 lead.

(5) Needless to say, Didi Gregorius‘ three-run home run was the big blow. The inning went from good to great with that one swing. Two first inning runs is good, we all would have signed up for that coming into the game, but five is so much better. Changes the entire complexion of the game. I wouldn’t call it a no-doubter off the bat, but it was well struck and appeared to have enough to get over the head of Nick Markakis in right. It did. Way over and into the people. That gave the Yankees a quick 5-0 lead. They’ve scored 107 runs in the first inning this year, easily the most in baseball.

Not satisfied with five two-out runs in the first, the Yankees scored four more in the second. Same deal too — the first two batters made outs, then the Bombers rallied. Gardner singled, Beltran singled again, McCann walked again, then Perez was yanked from the game. Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez had seen enough. In came Ross Detwiler, who walked Bird and Headley with the bases loaded to score two runs. Man, walking in runs is the single most infuriating thing in baseball. Thankfully the Yankees were on the receiving end of those bases loaded walks.

Gregorius followed the back-to-back walks with a two-run ground ball single through the left side of the infield to really turn this one into a laugher. It was more well-placed than well-stuck, but they all count the same. The Yankees have been really struggling to score runs of late, so getting some key hits from Headley and Gregorius was very welcome. They needed someone, anyone to come through with a big hit. Those two got three big hits in the first two innings.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

A Bad Start, A Great Finish
Boy, for a while it looked like the Yankees were going need to all five of those first inning runs to support Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka looked awful in the first inning, he had less than nothing, and the result was two runs for the Braves. It would have been more — probably four runs total — if not for Ellsbury’s great catch to end the inning. I guess his hip is okay. He went a long way to grab that ball.

Tanaka threw a first pitch ball to each of the first three hitters in the first, and all three reached base. Markakis singled, Maybin walked, and Freddie Freeman singled in Markakis. Not a good start! Nick Swisher followed with a sacrifice fly, then Adonis Garcia singled. So four of the first five Braves reached base, and the one guy who didn’t hit a hard-hit sacrifice fly. It was not a good start for Tanaka. Neither the slider nor the splitter was behaving.

The start to the second inning wasn’t too much better. Tanaka fell behind the leadoff hitter, Andrelton Simmons, three balls and no strikes, so things were starting to get scary. Rather than continue to fall apart, something clicked for Tanaka. He rebounded to strike out Simmons as well as the next two hitters for a clean second inning. He retired 19 of the final 21 batters he faced — Freeman hit a solo homer and Simmons doubled after the score was out of hand — and was dominant. Tanaka found it that quick.

When it was all said and done, Tanaka allowed the three runs on five hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out seven and threw 100 pitches on the nose. Seventy of them were strikes. The first inning was ugly. Everything after that was pretty awesome. This was an ace performance — aces find ways to pitch well and win even when things aren’t working. No slider? No splitter? No problem. Tanaka figured it out. Well done.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees scored four more runs in the eighth — McCann’s three-run homer was the big blow — and then two more in the ninth against position player Jonny Gomes. He is, without a doubt, the worst position player pitcher I’ve seen. Gomes was lobbing it in there. Chris Young took him deep. The Yankees scored 15 runs Friday after scoring 16 runs in their previous six games combined.

Gregorius had the biggest day at the plate, going 4-for-5 and driving in six (!) runs. How about that? Beltran had three hits, McCann had one hit and three walks, Bird had a hit and two walks, and Headley had two hits and a walk. Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except Stephen Drew, naturally. Young and John Ryan Murphy had hits off the bench too. Even Tanaka had some nice at-bats. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and saw 24 total pitches.

Justin Wilson threw 19 pitches in two-thirds of an inning because he needed the work. He hadn’t pitched in a week. Bryan Mitchell recorded the final four outs — he allowed one run — in his first outing since being hit in the face by a line drive eleven days ago. Mitchell struck out against Gomes as well. A position player struck out a pitcher. NL baseball is the worst. Glad to see Mitchell back out there.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. Also make sure you click over to our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday night (argh) in the middle game of this three-game series. Top pitching prospects Luis Severino and Matt Wisler will be on the mound. Should be fun.

DotF: Ackley plays second rehab game; Mateo injured in Tampa’s win

No Yankees farmhands were named to the Double-A Eastern League end of season All-Star Team. All their good players were promoted to Triple-A Scranton at midseason.

Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • DH Ben Gamel: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB — had been in a 3-for-29 (.103) slump
  • LF Dustin Ackley: 2-4, 1 R, 1 SB — played five innings in the field in his second rehab game (first in the field) … the back must be feeling pretty good if he’s stealing bases
  • RF-3B Jose Pirela: 3-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • CF-LF Slade Heathcott: 1-5, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 3-5, 2 RBI, 2 K
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 10/4 GB/FB — 56 of 92 pitches were strikes (61%) … four runs allowed in his last 24 innings (1.50 ERA)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 2 IP 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 23 of 32 pitches were strikes (72%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 14 of 21 pitches were strikes (67%)

[Read more…]

Game 127: McCann Returns Home

McCann, once upon a time. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
McCann circa 2009. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

The Yankees are in Atlanta this weekend, which means Brian McCann is back home. Not just to play the team that originally drafted him and developed him into a seven-time All-Star, but back home literally. McCann grew up in the Atlanta suburbs and still lives in the area in the offseason.

“I was a big Braves fan,” said McCann to Dan Martin. “Chipper [Jones], [John Smoltz], [Tom] Glavine. I got to play with some people I looked up to and grew up watching. They all took me under their wing. Chipper taught me how to hit at this level. Smoltz taught me how to call a game. That was a big part of my career.”

McCann ranks third all-time in home runs at Turner Field and, barring a Yankees-Braves World Series matchup this year or next, this will be his last series at the ballpark. The Braves are opening a new stadium in 2017. “I was hoping to get back there. I wanted to go back and play before they knocked down Turner,” added McCann.

I’m sure this will be a special series for McCann, and I have to think the Braves fans will give him a huge ovation, but at the end of the day the Yankees really need to start winning some games. The 5-5 homestand was disappointing because it started with a sweep of the Twins. The Yankees are 11-13 in August and that’s no way to stay in the postseason race.

More than anything, the Yankees need their offense to come to life against the lowly Braves pitching staff this weekend, and that includes McCann, who has popped some homers but has otherwise done little else in the second half. The Braves are very bad. This series is an opportunity to right the ship. Here is Atlanta’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Greg Bird
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The internet tells me it is cloudy in Atlanta, but there is no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. It’s not crazy hot either. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:35pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (leg) is still unable to run with maximum effort and will go for more tests to make sure they didn’t miss a small fracture or anything … Ellsbury (hip) still has some swelling but is in the lineup tonight, obviously.

Roster Update: Chris Capuano once again accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton after being designated for assignment the other day. He’ll presumably join the team’s rotation.

Yankees activate Bryan Mitchell off 7-day concussion DL

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Earlier today, the Yankees announced they have activated right-hander Bryan Mitchell off the 7-day concussion DL. He takes the roster spot of Nick Goody, who was sent down following Wednesday’s game. The Yankees still have a normal seven-man bullpen and four-man bench.

Mitchell, 24, has been out since taking a line drive to the face eleven days ago. He escaped with only a small nasal fracture, which, in the grand scheme of things, was only minor damage. Mitchell could have suffered much more serious facial fractures or eye damage. He got lucky.

The Yankees had Mitchell throw a 30-pitch simulated game Tuesday and everything went well. He healed up so well and so quickly that the team didn’t even bother to send him on a minor league rehab assignment. Mitchell is still stretched out and able to work as a long man and/or spot starter.

The 7-day concussion DL comes with all sorts of protocol. Mitchell had to pass baseline testing and the results had to be approved by MLB before he could be activated. That all happened, obviously. Mitchell’s been pretty good for the Yankees this year (3.86 ERA and 3.26 FIP in 21 innings), so it’s good to get him back so soon after such a scary moment.

8/28 to 8/30 Series Preview: Atlanta Braves

Homecoming for McCann. (Presswire)
Homecoming for McCann. (Presswire)

Time for some more interleague play. The Yankees open a three-game series with the Braves in Atlanta tonight. This is their first visit to Turner Field since 2012, when they swept three games. The Yankees are 11-2 all-time at Turner Field, including the postseason. This is the only series of the season between these two clubs; there won’t be a return series in New York.

What Have The Braves Done Lately?

Boy do the Braves stink. They had an off-day yesterday and dropped two of three to the Rockies earlier this week. The Braves have lost 13 of their last 16 games and 48 of their last 76 games. They are not good at all. Atlanta is 54-73 with a -109 run differential overall this year, and, remarkably, they are in third place in the NL East. That’s because the Marlins and Phillies are even worse.

Offense & Defense

The Braves are the worst offensive team in baseball in terms of runs per game (3.65) and third worst by wRC+ (86 wRC+). They’ve hit 81 home runs this year, ten fewer than any other team. Atlanta has a small army of pitchers on the DL but their position players are all healthy. No one on the DL or even day-to-day.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Manager Fredi Gonzalez does have some brand names in his lineup. The team’s best player is 1B Freddie Freeman (126 wRC+), and he’s been on and off the DL all season with wrist and oblique problems. OF Nick Markakis (110 wRC+) leads off and OF Cameron Maybin (104 wRC+) typically hits second. Freeman bats third and usually C A.J. Pierzynski (108 wRC+) cleans up. Ex-Yankee OF Nick Swisher (78 wRC+ in limited time), OF Jonny Gomes (92 wRC+), and OF Michael Bourn (63 wRC+) are in a three-way left field platoon at the moment.

Former Yankees farmhand UTIL Adonis Garcia (93 wRC+) has been playing third base on an everyday basis the last few weeks. What a world. SS Andrelton Simmons (85 wRC+) and 2B Jace Peterson (82 wRC+) is the double play combination. C Christian Bethancourt (26 wRC+), C Ryan Lavarnway (83 wRC+), and IF Pedro Ciriaco (68 wRC+) round out the bench with their small sample size stats. That seems like a really weak bench by NL standards.

The Braves have tremendous defenders at short (Simmons), second (Peterson), and in center (Maybin), plus Freeman is solid at first. Simmons is in the conversation for the best defensive player in baseball, regardless of position. The rest of the team? Not so good in the field. Swisher and Gomes are a disaster in left — Swisher’s defense was always underrated during his time in pinstripes, but his knees are shot now — and Markakis isn’t as good as his reputation in right. Pierzynski has never been a good defender behind the plate and that is still true at age 38.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:30pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. ATL) vs. RHP Williams Perez (No vs. NYY)
Perez, 24, has a 4.76 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 79.1 innings spread across 13 starts and three relief appearances this year, and he does it with ground balls (49.6%). His strikeout (14.3%), walk (11.1%), and homer (0.91 HR/9) rates are really bad. Lefties (.375 wOBA) have also hit him a ton harder than righties (.309 wOBA) in his relatively brief big league career. Perez is a sinkerballer, sitting right at 90 mph with the pitch and throwing it nearly 70% of the time. He also throws an upper-70s changeup and a mid-70s curveball. When in doubt, guess sinker. That’s his bread and butter.

Saturday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (No vs. ATL) vs. RHP Matt Wisler (No vs. NYY)
Fun fact: Severino and Wisler were ranked consecutively on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list before the season. Wisler was No. 34 and Severino was No. 35. A few weeks after the list was released, the Padres shipped Wisler to Atlanta as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade. The 22-year-old northpaw has a 5.43 ERA (5.43 FIP!) in a dozen starts and 64.2 innings this year. His peripheral stats don’t jump out at you at all: 14.1 K%, 7.9 BB%, 35.3 GB%, and 1.67 HR/9. Wisler has gotten clobbered by lefties (.464 wOBA) during his short big league career. Righties (.304 wOBA) haven’t had as much success. Wisler throws two fastballs — low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers — which set up his low-80s slider. He also throws a few mid-80s changeups per start but not many.

Wisler. (Presswire)
Wisler. (Presswire)

Sunday (1:30pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. ATL) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (vs. NYY)
Teheran, 24, has taken a big step back this year. He has a 4.29 ERA (4.35 FIP) in 157.1 innings in 2015 after pitching to a 3.03 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 406.2 innings from 2013-14. His strikeout (20.5%) and grounder (40.2%) rates are in line with the last few years, but his walk rate (8.2%) has jumped and he’s more homer prone than ever (1.20 HR/9). Teheran has always given up some long balls, but not this many. Like Perez and Wisler, Teheran has been hit harder by lefties (.376 wOBA) than righties (.278 wOBA). Low-90s four-seamers and upper-80s two-seamers are Teheran’s two fastballs. A low-80s slider is his go-to breaking ball, though he also offers low-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs. When he’s on, Teheran is a borderline ace. He just hasn’t been on all that often this year.

Bullpen Status
Gonzalez has a weak bullpen overall (4.28 ERA/4.18 FIP) and it’s been even weaker these last few weeks, with Jim Johnson traded away and Jason Grilli hurt. Former Yankees farmhand Arodys Vizcaino (0.48/2.21) is closing now. He was part of the Javy Vazquez/Boone Logan trade back in the day. (Atlanta traded Vizcaino to the Cubs then re-acquired him this past offseason.)

The Braves have a few guys in the bullpen you’ll recognize: RHP Edwin Jackson (3.52/3.78), LHP Ross Detwiler (6.58/5.96), and RHP Peter Moylan (2.45/6.12 in very limited time). Moylan didn’t pitch at all year. The rest of the bullpen? You need to be the diehardest of diehards to recognize these guys: RHP Sugar Ray Marimon (6.35/4.10), LHP Matt Marksberry (5.54/4.20), and LHP Andrew McKirahan (4.35/3.32). Amazing. Atlanta had an off-day yesterday, so the bullpen is fresh. Here is our Bullpen Workload page. Check out Talking Chop for the latest on the Braves.

Friday chat reminder

Happy Friday, folks. The Yankees had an off-day yesterday after wrapping up a disappointing ten-game homestand, and tonight they start a six-game road trip through Atlanta and Boston. So I guess we have a lot to talk about. Chat starts at 2:30pm ET. See you then.