Game 157: The Final Homestand

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees have six games remaining this season, all at home. Three with the Red Sox, then three with the Orioles. They are mathematically still alive in the postseason race, and for those final three games with the O’s to mean anything, they need some combination of Yankees wins and Orioles losses totaling at least five these next three days. If that happens, New York could sweep that final series and force a Game 163 tiebreaker. (Well, the Tigers and Astros and Mariners could throw a big wrench into this, but humor me.)

Of course, that means having to root for the small time Blue Jays these next few days since the Orioles are in Toronto. The Yankees’ tragic numbers is two, so even if they miraculously sweep the BoSox this week, they could be knocked out should the O’s win two of three from the Jays. One thing at a time though. Get a win over the Red Sox tonight and hope the stupid Blue Jays beat the stupid Orioles in stupid Rogers Centre. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Luis Cessa

It’s cloudy and cool and weirdly humid in New York today. There is no rain in the forecast tonight and that’s most important. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN2 nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) played catch today and “felt nothing at all.” He’s going to long toss tomorrow, and he wants to make his start Saturday regardless of whether the Yankees are in the race or not.

Red Sox Rotation Update: Drew Pomeranz has forearm soreness and won’t make his schedule start Thursday. Lefty Henry Owens will go instead. He hasn’t pitched in a game since September 5th.

9/27 to 9/29 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Matt Hazlett/Getty)
(Matt Hazlett/Getty)

I think we’ve all been waiting about 14 seasons for this: David Ortiz’s final series against the Yankees. The Yankees are planning a ceremony to honor Ortiz prior to Thursday’s game, and I can’t imagine anyone is seriously upset by that. If you are, maybe take a step back and take a deep breath or something. Anyway, the Red Sox are in the Bronx for a three-game set. The Yankees are 5-11 against the BoSox this season, though most of the damage has come in Fenway Park. The two clubs have split the six previous games in Yankee Stadium this year.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox are molten hot right now. They come into this series riding an eleven-game win streak, the first four of which were those four awful games in Fenway last week. The Yankees did hold the lead in three of those four games though, so … yay? Anyway, Boston swept the Orioles and Rays last week to open up a comfortable six-game lead in the AL East. They’re 92-64 with a +192 run differential overall, and their magic number to clinch the division is one. New York’s tragic number is two. Pretty good chance the Red Sox will clinch the division and the Yankees will be eliminated this series.

Offense & Defense

No team has had a more dominant offense the last few years than the 2016 Red Sox. They’re averaging 5.51 runs per game, the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees scored 5.65 runs per game. Boston needs to score 39 runs in their final six games to become the first team to score 900+ runs since those 2009 Yankees scored 915, so it’s within reach, but not a lock to happen. They have a team 114 wRC+ and are without 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder), C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle), and IF Josh Rutledge (knee), all of whom had season-ending surgery.

Betts. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Betts. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The top of manager John Farrell’s lineup is set: 2B Dustin Pedroia (121 wRC+), SS Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+), DH David Ortiz (167 wRC+), RF Mookie Betts (137 wRC+), and 1B Hanley Ramirez (127 wRC+) bat 1-5 every game. That’s one of the best lineup top fives we’ve seen in quite some time. Lately 3B Travis Shaw (89 wRC+) has been hitting sixth and it seems like the Red Sox want him to take hold of the third base job heading into the postseason, but he hasn’t obliged. He owns a 61 wRC+ in September.

OF Andrew Benintendi (134 wRC+) and OF Chris Young (125 wRC+) are platooning in left field while CF Jackie Bradley (121 wRC+) and C Sandy Leon (128 wRC+) play everyday. Leon has cooled down big time these last few weeks, which was entirely expected. IF Aaron Hill (88 wRC+) and UTIL Brock Holt (90 wRC+) are the frequently used bench players. C Ryan Hanigan, C Christian Vazquez, C Bryan Holaday, IF Deven Marrero, IF Marco Hernandez, and IF Yoan Moncada are the extra players.

The Red Sox are a good defensive team, especially up the middle with Leon, Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Bradley. Betts is very good in right as well, and both Benintendi and Young get the job done in left. The corner infield spots can be a problem. Shaw is a first baseman playing third and Hanley is a DH playing first. Generally speaking though, the Red Sox are a sound club in the field.

Pitching Probables

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Oh wow, look at that, the Yankees are going to face David Price. Weird. You never see that. Price, 31, as a 3.91 ERA (3.38 FIP) in 218.2 and 32 starts in his first season with the Red Sox. Great strikeout (24.6%) and walk (5.1%) numbers, as usual, and middling home run (1.07 HR/9) and grounder (44.1%) rates, also as usual He makes up for that with a lot of weak pop-ups and fly balls. Price’s platoon split is small and his fastball still lives in the mid-90s. His cutter checks in at a tick below that and it’s an extremely effective pitch he likes to backdoor to righties. A mid-80s changeup in his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s curves per start as well. Four times the Yankees have faced Price this season. Four. He has a 7.71 ERA in those four starts and the Yankees are hitting .350/.387/.540 against him, so they have that going for them.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
The overall numbers are ugly — Buchholz has a 5.00 ERA (5.18 FIP) in 133.1 innings in 2016 — but they don’t tell the whole story because he’s been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. The 32-year-old has a 5.29 ERA (5.48 FIP) in 110.2 innings as a starter this year, though that includes a 3.97 ERA (4.72 FIP) in September. So, long story short, Buchholz has been a bit more effective recently than he has been for much of the season. His peripherals are mediocre at best (15.3 K%, 9.3 BB%, 40.7 GB%, 1.42 HR/9) and lefties have had much more success against him than righties. These days Buchholz sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two non-fastballs. He’s faced the Yankees twice this year, once out of the bullpen (two-thirds of an inning) and once as a starter (two runs in six innings).

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Thursday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
For a guy who started the season in the NL West, the Yankees sure have seen a lot of Pomeranz this year. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 3.35 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 30 starts and 169.2 innings overall, though he had much more success with the Padres (2.47 ERA and 3.14 FIP) than he has with the Red Sox (4.68 ERA and 4.86 FIP). His overall strikeout (26.4%) and ground ball (46.4%) rates are good, though his walk (9.3%) and homer (1.17 HR/9) numbers are not good. He has a 1.87 HR/9 with Boston. Yikes. Pomeranz has a negligible platoon split thanks mostly to his big upper-70s curveball and mid-80s cutter. He throws the curve about as often as he throws his low-90s four-seam fastball, so he uses it a lot. For whatever reason he’s more or less abandoned his changeup since the trade to Boston. The Yankees have faced Pomeranz three times and have had more more success each time: one run in seven inning in July (with the Padres), one run in 5.2 innings in August (with the Red Sox), and four runs in 3.2 innings (with the Red Sox).

Bullpen Status

The bullpen was a big weakness for the Red Sox for much of the season, but things are starting to fall into place now, right before the postseason. They still lack a shutdown lefty. That’s about the only glaring need. Anyway, here is the bullpen Farrell is working with these days.

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.65 ERA/2.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Koji Uehara (3.60/3.43), RHP Brad Ziegler (2.24/3.00)
Middle: LHP Fernando Abad (3.66/3.97), RHP Matt Barnes (4.13/3.67), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.21/3.14), RHP Junichi Tazawa (4.25/4.29)
Extra: RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Heath Hembree, LHP Henry Owens, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robby Scott

With the Red Sox set to clinch the AL East title very soon, don’t be surprised if the take it easy on Kimbrel and Uehara this week and give high-leverage work to some of the kids. Their focus will shift from trying to win games to preparing for the postseason very soon.

The Red Sox had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get this late in the season. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, of which only about five guys are used regularly.

Yankeemetrics: Fighting ’til the end [Sept. 23-26]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Zeroes
The Yankees late September collapse reached full throttle on Friday night with an ugly defeat, 9-0, to the Blue Jays in the series opener. It was their second-worst shutout loss ever in Toronto, behind only a 14-0 whitewashing on Sept. 4, 2001.

The loss also officially eliminated the Yankees from contention for the division crown, their fourth straight season without a title. Before this streak, they had never gone more than two seasons without winning the division since the leagues were split into three divisions in 1994.

Even more depressing is that they never spent a single day in first place in the AL East. The last season the Yankees failed to get to the top of the division standings was 1997, when the Orioles dominated from start-to-finish, spending a whopping 181 days as the front-runner (including off-days).

(AP)
(AP)

Zeroes again
The Yankees offensive slump reached near-historic proportions with another demoralizing loss on Saturday — their third scoreless game in a row dating back to the series finale in Tampa. Let’s recap the gory details of this awfulness with bullet points:

  • It’s the first time the Yankees have been shut out three games in a row since 1975 and just the sixth time in franchise history (also in 1968, 1960, 1929 and 1908).
  • They’ve been shut out 13 times overall this season, their most since 1990 (15).
  • 11 of those shutouts have come away from the Bronx, the second-most road shutout losses the Yankees have suffered in a season in the Live Ball Era (since 1920), behind only the 12 in 1973.
  • This was their sixth time being shut out in September, their most shutout losses in a single month since they were blanked seven times in July 1975. Last year the Yankees were shut out six times the entire season! And the clincher …

Five of those seven shutouts in September have come on the road. The last time the Yankees were shut out on the road five times in a single month was August 1905. Welp.

(AP)
(AP)

Runs? Yes. Win? No.
At least they finally made the scoreboard operator do some work, right? That’s pretty much the only positive to come out of another heart-breaking loss on Sunday. The Yankees snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, rallying in the top of the ninth to take the lead before coughing it up in the bottom of the inning, and ultimately walking off the turf as losers yet again.

Thanks to Didi Gregorius’ seventh inning homer, the Yankees avoided the ignominy of being shut out in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history, and becoming the first AL team to do it since the 1964 Washington Senators. The home run ended our long national nightmare, a 33-inning scoreless streak that was the longest by any Yankee team since August 27-30, 1968.

Sure, the Yankees might have avoided one historical footnote by finally scoring some runs, but the loss still made headlines, statistically speaking. It was their eighth straight defeat in Toronto, their longest road losing streak ever against the Blue Jays.

They fell to 1-8 at the Rogers Centre in 2016, which is horrible, but it’s not even their most losses at one ballpark this season — they went 2-8 at Fenway Park. This is the third time in the last 75 years the Yankees have lost at least eight games at two different road stadiums: it also happened in 1959 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park, and in 1944 at Fenway and Detroit’s Briggs Stadium.

Michael Pineda turned in another solid performance, holding the Blue Jays to one run in 5 2/3 innings while lowering his September ERA to 2.66 in five starts. And with seven strikeouts, the 27-year-old right-hander surpassed the 200-strikeout mark this season, becoming the youngest Yankee to strike out at least 200 batters since a 26-year-old Melido Perez in 1992.

fight
(Getty)

End of the road
The Yankees escaped Toronto — and punctuated their final road trip of the season — with an emotional win in the series finale, surviving a roller coaster ninth inning to temporarily halt their free fall and postpone their inevitable march towards playoff elimination.

The math says the Yankees are still alive in the Hunt for October, and their hearts are telling them to keep fighting … literally.

Luis Severino started the game but barely had a chance to make an impact, facing just eight batters before getting ejected after the second benches-clearing brawl of the game in the second inning. He allowed an earned run in the first inning, bringing his total to 42 earned runs in 43 innings as a starter this season, an unsightly 8.79 ERA.

That is on pace to be the highest ERA as a starter for any Yankee pitcher that made at least 10 starts in a season. The current franchise-worst mark is 7.89, set by Staten Island native Karl Drews in 1947.

Mark Teixeira kicked off the ninth inning comeback with a 416-foot solo homer — plus an epic bat flip — that tied the game at 3-3. It was his 205th longball as a Yankee, matching Dave Winfield for 13th place on the franchise list, and the 408th of his career, moving past Duke Snider for sole possession of 54th place on the MLB all-time list.

Aaron Hicks then delivered the game-winning shot, a two-run blast to put the Yankees ahead 5-3, which earned him our obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: Hicks is the second Yankee right-fielder to hit a go-ahead homer in the ninth inning or later against the Blue Jays in Toronto; the other was some guy named Paul O’Neill, who had a similar clutch homer on Sept. 14, 1999.

A fearless and gutsy performance by Tommy Layne, who came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation and somehow got the final three outs, sealed the win for the never-say-die Yankees. It was his first save in pinstripes, making him the ninth different Yankee to record a save this season — a new single-season franchise record (since saves became official in 1969). The previous high was eight pitchers with at least one save, done by the 1979 and 1980 teams.

This Yankee team certainly has a flair for the dramatic, eh? It was the second game this season they hit game-tying and go-ahead homers in the ninth inning (also on June 29 versus the Rangers). You have to go back more than six decades — to August 24 and September 16, 1955 — to find the last time the Yankees had two such games like this in a single season.

Thoughts prior to the final homestand of the 2016 season

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

At some point soon, very possibly tonight, the Yankees will be officially eliminated from postseason contention. Their tragic number is a mere two. Last night’s dramatic win notwithstanding, the Yankees have tanked hard these last two weeks, ever since winning seven straight to climb to within one game of the second wildcard spot. I have some thoughts.

1. It’s pretty telling that as the Yankees were desperate for offense the last week or so, they were more willing to play Billy Butler at first base than Rob Refsnyder at second base, isn’t it? Starlin Castro has been out with his hamstring injury, so the playing time was available, yet those at-bats have gone to Ronald Torreyes and Donovan Solano. (Solano and Torreyes each started four of the last eight games at second.) Butler has started three games at first and already his defense has hurt the Yankees on two occasions. He wasn’t able to reel in CC Sabathia‘s wild throw in Boston on that would-be inning-ending double play, and he botched that routine ground ball last Friday in Toronto. Refsnyder hasn’t hit much lately, and we know he’s not good in the field, but it sure seems like the Yankees will go to great lengths to not give him extended playing time. His only real opportunities to play regularly were at second last year after Stephen Drew got hurt, at first this June after Mark Teixeira got hurt, and in right this month after Aaron Judge got hurt. Each time it was out of necessity, and both times this year the Yankees quickly turned to someone else. Perhaps the whole power-hitting thing will work out. Otherwise I don’t see how Refsnyder fits with the Yankees going forward.

2. I don’t understand playing Butler at first base over Tyler Austin either. I mean, yes, the Yankees were kinda sorta in the race a week ago, and Butler was hitting and Austin wasn’t hitting, but still. As soon as Butler, who should have zero future with the Yankees beyond this week, proved somewhat useful, the struggling young player went to the bench. Would something similar have happened if Gary Sanchez didn’t get off to such a hot start? Don’t get me wrong, I understand sitting a struggling player now and then, but Austin has been outright benched. He’s started one of the last ten games, during which the Yankees faced six left-handed starters. (Hilariously, Austin’s one start was against a righty.) Things very quickly went from “hey look, the young players are helping the Yankees get back into the race” in August to “ewww, Butler and Solano are trying to keep them alive” in September. For a team that is supposedly committed to a youth movement, the Yankees don’t seem very committed to it.

3. The last two points speak to the challenge the Yankees will face going forward: developing young players while trying to win. Those two things don’t always go hand in hand, and yes, the Yankees are absolutely going to try to win next season. There’s no reason to think Hal Steinbrenner won’t make the rounds this offseason talking about championship caliber rosters and expectations and all that. The odds are strongly in favor of the Yankees trying to win while they rebuild transition, and that can get messy if the kids don’t produce right away, which is often the case. Butler is playing over Austin and the young relievers have been pushed aside. Stuff like that can’t happen next year. The young players have to be the priority, even if it they don’t give the team the best chance to win in the short-term.

4. I noticed Luis Severino has started to vary the timing of his delivery slightly in his last two games. He’s added a little pause at the top of his left lift. To the RAB action news footage:

Luis Severino delivery

Severino hasn’t done that every pitch. It’s only been a handful of times in his last two games. Fewer than five. And as far as I can tell, there’s no real pattern. He doesn’t do it only in two-strike counts, or only when ahead in the count, or only when throwing fastballs, nothing like that. Pitchers changing the timing of their delivery seems to be a new fad around baseball. Johnny Cueto and his four deliveries get the most attention, though I’ve noticed a pretty drastic increase in quick pitches around the league the last year or two. Pitching is all about disrupting timing, and in this age with super advanced scouting reports, varying the timing of the delivery is a possible way for pitchers to gain an advantage. It adds an element of unpredictability. Severino is going to be suspended following last night’s ejection, it’s a certainty, so we might not see him again this season. This is something we’ll have to file away for next year to see if it continues.

5. With six days left in the regular season, my feeling right now is Michael Fulmer will be named AL Rookie of the Year and Sanchez will finish second. I also think the chances of Sanchez winning right now are the best they’ve been since he was called up. That’s even after going 2-for-16 (.125) in Toronto over the weekend. Nineteen homers in 48 games is ridiculous. He could have hit 19 homers across a full season as a starting catcher and been the Rookie of the Year favorite. Only ten other rookie catchers in history have hit 19 homers in a season, and they all had at least 400 plate appearances. Sanchez has 209. At the same time, Fulmer currently leads the AL with a 2.95 ERA, and he’ll need to throw at least 6.1 innings in his final start of the season tomorrow night to qualify for the ERA title. I don’t think that’ll matter though. You can’t support Sanchez for Rookie of the Year and discredit Fulmer for not having enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. They’ve both had tremendous rookie seasons and would be very deserving of the award. My guess right now is Fulmer’s sustained excellence over close to a full season will trump Sanchez’s historically great two months, but it’ll be close.

6. For whatever reason I’ve been thinking about right-handed hitters with opposite field power a lot lately. I guess because Sanchez and Austin have poked a few into the short porch. Anyway, via Baseball Savant, here are the right-handed hitters — including switch-hitters hitting righty — with the most opposite field home runs at Yankee Stadium since Opening Day 2013, when the Yankees stopped having a good offense:

  1. Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano: 6
  2. Starlin Castro, Wil Myers, Mike Napoli, Mike Trout: 4
  3. Tyler Austin, Carlos Beltran, Evan Longoria: 3

Eleven other righties have hit multiple opposite field home runs at Yankee Stadium over the last four seasons and only one of those eleven was a Yankee: Sanchez. Others include guys like Logan Forsythe, Desmond Jennings, and Yasiel Puig, who doesn’t even play in the same division or league. I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. I just wanted to see the leaderboard. The Yankees haven’t had many good righty hitters in recent years. A-Rod and Soriano were by far the best power hitters, and now Castro is in that mix. Otherwise we’re talking about Derek Jeter, Vernon Wells, Francisco Cervelli, guys like that. Not exactly power hitters. Twenty different right-handed hitters have hit multiple opposite field home runs at Yankee Stadium since 2013, and only six actually played for the Yankees. That isn’t necessarily bad — there are a lot more non-Yankees than Yankees, after all — but some more righties with right field pop would be a welcome addition to the lineup going forward. Hopefully Sanchez, Austin, Aaron Judge, and Clint Frazier can provide that.

7. As poorly as these last two weeks have gone, that run in August and early-September was a lot of fun, and they Yankees won’t be mathematically eliminated from the postseason race until the final week of the regular season. That’s way better than I expected back in April and May. The Yankees were bad in the first half and they reacted appropriately by selling at the deadline and calling up MLB ready young players in the second half. That it led to a little run was gravy. This team still has a lot of problems to address going forward, especially on the pitching side, and there’s no guarantee things will be better next season. At least now it appears the Yankees have a plan and are executing it. For a few years the plan seemed to be hang on for dear life and hope to luck into a postseason spot. We can see the future of the lineup taking shape (Sanchez, Judge, Castro, Frazier, Greg Bird, etc.) and almost all of the big money contracts coming off the books. If things go according to plan, the Yankees will soon have a lot of young players in the lineup with their best years ahead of them, and an awful lot of money to spend. That’s pretty exciting.

Yankees rally late, hang on for 7-5 win over Blue Jays after benches clear

This team still has a little magic left, huh? The Yankees brawled and bat-flipped their way to a dramatic 7-5 win over the Blue Jays in their final road game of the season Monday night. That was satisfying win. Very, very satisfying.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Too Big For Their Britches
The Blue Jays tried to play schoolyard bully Monday night. It all started in the second inning, after J.A. Happ threw at Chase Headley not once, but twice. That was in retaliation for Luis Severino, who has had crummy control pretty much all season, hitting Josh Donaldson in his elbow guard with a pitch. Severino walked two later in the inning, including Russell Martin with the bases loaded.

Happ threw at Headley twice. The first pitch missed behind his legs, and the second got him right in the hip. Home plate umpire Todd Tichenor finally realized what was happening and warned both benches. Joe Girardi came out of the dugout and argued Happ should have been ejected because hey, he threw at Headley twice, but no luck. Tichenor ejected Girardi and the benches cleared, albeit briefly. Even by baseball standards, that brawl was nothing.

That wasn’t the end of it. In the top of the second, Severino came out and stood up for his teammate. His first pitch of the inning was behind Justin Smoak’s legs, and his second was in Smoak’s calf. Tichenor ejected Severino after the second pitch, but by then all hell was breaking loose. Smoak started to walk about towards the mound and Severino basically told him to bring it on. Here’s the video:

CC Sabathia stormed out of his dugout on his one good knee and was right in the middle of the fracas locking up with Donaldson. You can’t see it in that clip, but YES showed another replay angle later in the game where Sabathia was basically laughing in Donaldson’s face. Possibly at his stupid haircut. Martin tried to get at Gary Sanchez, but other folks intervened.

So, after all of that, the Yankees were down their manager, their starter, their bench coach, and their pitching coaching. Robbie Thomson and Larry Rothschild were ejected in addition to Severino. Girardi had been tossed an inning earlier. No one on the Blue Jays was ejected, hilariously. With the manager, bench coach, and pitching coach all ejected, third base coach Joe Espada took over as acting manager. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey came in to act as pitching coach. And the game was still tied 1-1.

Bleier. (Presswire)
Bleier. (Presswire)

Bullpen on Parade
The Yankees scored a quick first inning run when Sanchez drove in Brett Gardner on a ground ball. Happ threw Gardner’s leadoff chopper away and the ball sailed down the line and into foul territory, allowing Gardner to get all the way to third. The Blue Jays tied the game in the bottom of the first when Severino walked Martin with the bases loaded. Groan.

Once Severino was ejected, Espada turned the game over to all the extra arms in the bullpen, and you know what? They did pretty damn good. Jonathan Holder, James Pazos, Kirby Yates, Richard Bleier, and Adam Warren held the Blue Jays to two runs in seven innings. Both runs were charged to Holder. What more could you want from those guys? Yates, Bleier, and Warren in particular were the game’s unsung heroes. They combined for five scoreless frames.

The bullpen gave the offense a chance to get back into the game. The Blue Jays held a 3-1 after seven innings, and the Yankees were able to get a run back in the top of the eighth. Gardner doubled and Jacoby Ellsbury drove him in with a single to cut the deficit to 3-2. The middle innings were not good. We all love the idea of a benches clearing brawl firing up the offense, but lol nope. The Yankees did a bunch of nothing against Happ until that eighth inning.

“I was just letting him know that he blew the save”
With his team leading by one run, Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons turned to setup man Jason Grilli in the ninth inning because closer Roberto Osuna was unavailable due to his recent workload. Headley, the first batter Grilli faced, hit a rocket down the first base line that Edwin Encarnacion went to his knees to play. They were playing no doubles defense and they took a double away from Headley. For shame.

The hard contact was a good sign though. On the very next pitch, Mark Teixeira hammered a get-me-over fastball out to right field for a game-tying solo home run. Teixeira enjoyed the hell out of that homer. Check out the stare down and the bat flip:

Mark Teixeira bat flip

“I was just letting him know that he blew the save,” said Teixeira after the game when asked about the bat flip. Awesome. Just awesome. Teixeira can be pretty bad ass when he wants too.

That home run only tied the game, however. The Yankees were going to have to muster another run if they wanted to win, and with the way things have been going of late, scoring another run was going to be a tall order. Luckily Grilli was still throwing batting practice. He gave up a single to Didi Gregorius, then hung the hell out of a breaking ball to Aaron Hicks, who hit the team’s second no-doubt homer of the inning. The two-run shot gave the Yankees a 5-3 lead.

Unlike Teixeira, who’s earned the right do pretty much whatever the hell he wants in this league, Hicks did not admire his homer or flip his bat. He simply dropped the bat to the ground, clapped loudly, and started his trot. To the action footage:

Aaron Hicks clap

Love it. The Yankees need a little more swagger. The Blue Jays got tough earlier in the game and tried to push the Yankees around, and although it took a few innings, the Yankees pushed right back with some demoralizing ninth inning home runs. They homered and they pimped the hell out of ’em too. I want more of this.

Another Eventful Ninth Inning
Dellin Betances is officially broken. Probably not permanently, but Betances has a history of letting his mechanics fall out of whack, and that’s happening right now. He took over in the ninth inning with a four-run lead — the Yankees tacked on two more runs after the Hicks homer on a double (Donovan Solano), a walk (Gardner), a single (Ellsbury), and a sac fly (Sanchez) — and immediately loaded the bases with no outs.

That rally was built like most rallies against Betances. He walked the leadoff man, made an error on a push bunt, and walked another batter. Nothing hard hit and a bunch of uncomfortable batters keeping the bat on their shoulders. Ineffectively wild, I’d say. Betances threw eleven pitches and only three were strikes. That is: bad. Dellin has to go back to lab and get his delivery back in sync. As long as he’s healthy, I think he’ll be just fine.

Well anyway, the bases weren’t just loaded with no outs, they were loaded for Donaldson and Encarnacion. Who do you call on in that situation? The lefty specialist, of course. Tommy Layne came in and had to get three outs before allowing four runs. Sounds easy, except the tying run was already at the plate and two right-handed hitters with 78 homers between then were due up. No problem, right?

Layne first got Donaldson to fly out harmlessly to right field — the runner on third, Smoak, never even thought about going home on Hicks’ arm — but he walked Encarnacion to force in a run. Now the tying run was on base. You know what? Getting through those two guys allowing just one run seems like a good outcome in that situation. Both of those dudes could have tied the game with one swing.

Pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro was up next — Jose Bautista was lifted for a defensive replacement earlier — and he lifted a weak fly ball to right that dropped just in front of a sliding Hicks to score a run. Should have been caught. I’m not sure what happened there. Either way, the score was now 7-5 and the bases were still loaded with one out. And, naturally, Layne fell behind Martin in the count 3-1. That’s when he made this heroic play:

Tommy Layne

What an unbelievable play. Layne scooped the weak tapper back in front of the plate, got around Sanchez, then dove to get the force out at home, all in one motion. That little weak tapper had trouble written all over it. Visions of Layne and Sanchez colliding, or a throw to first sailing into right field flashed before my eyes. It looked bad. Instead, Layne got the out, incredibly.

That left the bases loaded with two outs, and it brought Troy Tulowitzki to the plate. Last year we watched Tulo and Andrew Miller lock up in an epic 12-pitch battle with the game on the line. Layne is no Andrew Miller, but it was the same situation. Game on the line and Tulo at the plate. Layne jumped ahead in the count 0-2, then got Tulowitzki to swing at a pitch down here (via Brooks Baseball) …

Tommy Layne Troy Tulowitzki

… and lift a fly ball into foul territory down the left field line. Gardner hustled over — I mean really hustled, he was running full speed — and made a great sliding catch to end the game near the wall. Second time this year Gardner made a great game-ending catch to avoid disaster against the Blue Jays while a generic white guy reliever was on the mound trying to bail out Betances. Thank goodness they don’t play Toronto anymore. What a hectic ninth inning, both the top and bottom.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees somehow had eleven hits, which seems wrong. Gardner had three while Ellsbury and Teixeira had two each. Headley, Gregorius, Hicks, and Solano had one each. The Yankees drew only two walks (Gardner and Ellsbury) but they also struck out only two three times (Sanchez, Brian McCann, Teixeira). They sent 40 batters to the plate and 35 put the ball in the play. That’s pretty good.

Welcome back, Starlin Castro. He returned from his hamstring injury to pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes in the eighth. Castro hit a long fly ball to right field that would have been a home run in Yankee Stadium. Solano then took over at second base in the next inning. Castro has only been cleared to hit so far. No fielding.

After all the ejections, Harkey went to the dugout to serve as the pitching coach, and Tyler Clippard took over as bullpen coach. I guess because he’s the most veteran player out there? All he had to do was pick up the phone and wave his hat when the reliever was ready. Pretty funny.

Speaking of the ejections, Severino is definitely getting suspended. Throwing at a guy (twice) after benches have been warned doesn’t go unpunished. MLB could hand down a quick six-game suspension tomorrow and end his season. We’ll see. A suspension is definitely coming though.

And finally, the Orioles had an off-day and the Tigers lost, so the O’s have a two-game lead over Detroit for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are five games back with six to play. Their tragic number is two. Ain’t dead yet!

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s a win probability graph that finally craters in the Yankees’ favor for once:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
No more road games this season. They’re all done. The Yankees are heading back to the Bronx for a season-ending six-game homestand. First up: the Red Sox. Luis Cessa and David Price are the scheduled starters for Tuesday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game, or any of the other five games left this season.

Game 156: The Final Road Game

(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty)

After six months of red-eye flights and swanky hotels, the Yankees are playing their final road game of the 2016 season tonight. They’re an awful 35-45 on the road, which is their worst record away from Yankee Stadium since going 35-46 in 1992. Things aren’t so bad at home. The Yankees are 44-31 with a +21 run differential in the Bronx.

Anyway, Luis Severino returns to the rotation tonight because someone had to replace the injured Masahiro Tanaka, and the Yankees consider him the best man for the job. Severino hasn’t thrown more than 52 pitches in a game in a month now, and his changeup remains non-existent, so we’ll see how this goes. Good thing there are 13 pitchers in the bullpen tonight. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. DH Billy Butler
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Mark Teixeira
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

I have been informed by the internet that it is a cold and rainy day in Toronto, so chances are the Rogers’ Centre roof will be closed. Tonight’s road schedule finale will begin at 7:07pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Roster Move: The Yankees have outrighted J.R. Graham off the 40-man roster, the team announced. He is still with the organization, and I’m pretty sure Graham isn’t eligible for minor league free agency this offseason, so he’ll be back next year too.

Yanks add James Kaprielian to Arizona Fall League roster

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Right-hander James Kaprielian has been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the Arizona Fall League transactions page. The Yankees had one open pitching spot and were reportedly hoping to use it on Kaprielian, who has missed almost the entire season with an flexor tendon strain.

“I’m pretty happy and excited with the progression we’ve made,” he said to Brendan Kuty last week. “We’ve obviously taken our time with this and tried to deal with it smart. The Yankees have done a really good job with handling me and the process and I feel good with where I’m at.”

Kaprielian, 22, threw a two-inning simulated game last Tuesday and was scheduled throw again yesterday, according to Erik Boland. The plan was to have him make an Instructional League start this week if yesterday’s throwing session went as planned. The fact Kaprielian has been added to the AzFL roster indicates everything is going well. The Yankees wouldn’t add him to the roster if there any doubt about his health.

The Yankees selected Kaprielian with their first round pick (16th overall) in last year’s draft. He experienced a pretty significant velocity spike last year, going from 88-91 mph as a sophomore at UCLA to 92-93 mph by the end of his junior year, then 94-96 mph by the end of his first pro season. Kaprielian was reportedly up to 97-99 mph this spring. Unfortunately, big velocity spikes are followed by elbow woes more often than not, it seems.

In three starts with High-A Tampa this season Kaprielian had a 1.50 ERA (2.03 FIP) in 18 innings. He was dominant, as expected. Coming into the season the hope was Kaprielian would tear through High-A and Double-A, reach Triple-A in the second half, and possibly make his MLB debut in September. Obviously those plans had to be put on hold by the injury. The good news is he’s healthy now and going to the AzFL.

Kaprielian will join Greg Bird (shoulder surgery) as rehabbing Yankees in the AzFL. Tyler Wade, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Josh Roeder, J.P. Feyereisen, and Dillon Tate are going as well. Yankees’ prospects will be on a team with Angels, Giants, Phillies, and Mets prospects. The AzFL season begins October 11th.