Sweep! Yankees take third straight from Rays with 5-3 win

So, who would have guessed the Yankees would sweep a team before they got swept this season? Not many after those first three series, I’m guessing. New York finished off their first three-game sweep of the Rays at Tropicana Field since September 2005 on Sunday afternoon with a 5-3 win.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Early Attack
The Yankees were all over Rays starter Matt Andriese. All over him. Seven of the first 12 batters he faced reached base and ten of the 18 batters he faced overall reached base. Runs scored on three of his outs (two sac flies and a ground out), another out was a sac bunt, and two other outs were line drives right at defenders. The Yankees swung and missed at one of his final 32 pitches once the lineup turned over for the third time.

The Yankees built their four runs off Andriese without the benefit of any home runs. The first was a good old manufacturin’ — Jacoby Ellsbury singled, moved to second on a balk, was bunted to third, then scored on Mark Teixeira‘s sac fly in the first inning. The second and third runs scored on a single (Brett Gardner), a double (A-Rod!), a ground ball (Teixeira), and an infield single (Chase Headley) in the third inning. It maybe could have been a bigger inning had Ellsbury not been thrown out throwing to steal second following a leadoff single.

The fourth run of the afternoon scored on John Ryan Murphy‘s sac fly following a Garrett Jones triple in the fourth inning — Desmond Jennings gets an assist for a poor attempt at a sliding catch. Brian McCann and Jones hit the Yankees’ first two triples of the season, just as we all expected. All of that adds up to four runs on eight hits and two walks with just one strikeout in 3.1 innings against Andriese. Like I said, they were all over him.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Please Return If Found: Pineda’s Slider
Although the results weren’t great (5.11 ERA), I thought Michael Pineda‘s stuff looked pretty good in his first two starts. Fifteen strikeouts and one walk in 12.1 innings kinda support that. Sunday’s game was the opposite — his stuff wasn’t as crisp, particularly his slider, but the results were good enough. He battled through 5.2 innings of three-run ball, allowing seven hits and one walk. He struck out five and threw 58 of 92 pitches for strikes (63%).

Pineda’s slider in particular didn’t seem to be cooperating against the Rays and that was evident on his 11th pitch of the game, which was a hanging slider Steven Souza Jr. skied to left for a two-run homer. Pineda missed his spot by the full width of the plate and the pitch just spun but didn’t do anything. Classic cement mixer. Tampa scored their third run on two ground balls — a single through the left side by David DeJesus and a double down the left field line by Souza. Pineda didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning but was able to limit the damage. Sometimes you don’t have your best stuff and need to battle, which is what Big Mike did Sunday. Consider this a learning experience.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Hang On!
The Yankees scored their fifth run when Headley doubled into the right field corner. Alex Rodriguez singled to start the inning and moved to second on Teixeira’s fielder’s choice. I’m guessing Alex wouldn’t have scored from first on the double, so hooray for moving the runner over. After Headley’s double, just five of the final 19 batters they sent to the plate reached base. Didi Gregorius struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh, which was their best chance to score some more insurance runs.

The bullpen was tasked with protecting an annoyingly close two-run lead for the final ten outs and it took four relievers to do it. Chris Martin faced three batters and retired one, which ended the sixth inning. Justin Wilson retired pinch-hitter Logan Forsythe for the first out of the seventh inning before Dellin Betances got the next five outs. He walked Jennings in the eighth inning but got out of it. Andrew Miller, who at this point is clearly the closer even though Joe Girardi won’t call him that, struck out three straight batters after allowing a leadoff double in the ninth. The non-closer is 4-for-4 in save chances.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Leftovers
Betances stranded one of Martin’s runners in the seventh and got five outs total. Only six of his 23 pitches were fastballs, and over his last three appearances, only 18 of his last 61 pitches have been fastballs. I’ve heard pitchers who are struggling with their mechanics will throw a lot of breaking balls because it forces them to slow their deliveries down a bit, so maybe that’s what Dellin is doing. At some point he’s going to have to throw more fastballs though.

The Yankees had the leadoff man reach base in each of the first seven innings. Through a dozen games this year, the Yankees have a .362 OBP when leading off an inning. Last year they had a .299 OBP leading off innings. Ellsbury (two), Headley (two), Jones (three), and Gregorius (two) all had multiple hits. Jones had the triple and two singles to the left side to beat the shift. A-Rod went 1-for-3 with two walks. He’s hitting .316/.447/.711. Yup.

And finally, the Rays challenged a nice play by Stephen Drew and Teixeira in the sixth inning — Drew was in the shift, ranged to his left, threw from his knees in shallow right field, and Teixeira kept his toe on the bag while stretching to catch the throw — and lost. They’re 0-for-7 on challenges this year. How does that happen? You get to watch the video before challenging!

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. For science, or something. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off to Detroit for a four-game series with the Tigers, who have been the best team in baseball in the early going. Former All-Stars CC Sabathia and Alfredo Simon will be on the mound Monday night. Yep, Simon was once an All-Star. Just last year too.

Game 12: Big Mike for the series sweep

BIG MIKE IS HERE

Thanks to yesterday’s blowout win, the Yankees have a positive run differential (+6) for the first time since April 24th of last season (+2). Almost exactly one year to the day. They have a chance to build on that run differential today and earn a sweep of the Rays, which would be their first three-game series sweep in Tropicana Field since 2005. I can’t believe it’s been that long. They were still the Devil Rays from 2005-07, remember. Here is the starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. RF Garrett Jones
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Michael Pineda

Tampa Bay will look to salvage the series behind rookie righty Matt Andriese. He’s making his second career start after allowing two runs in 3.2 innings against the Blue Jays last week. Here is their lineup.

This afternoon’s game will begin a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Weekend day game on WPIX really brings me back. Enjoy the game.

Nathan Eovaldi and the Non-Fastball

Process and results. In the past few years, those have become (sometimes annoying) buzzwords in baseball. All of us, at some point, have used the term, whether earnestly as I have when describing the second Javier Vasquez trade, or ironically in poking a bit of fun at the Astros. That doesn’t mean that we can’t find meaning in the phrase, though, like in CC Sabathia‘s two not-as-bad-as-the-box score-would-suggest starts and Nathan Eovaldi‘s start on Thursday night in Baltimore.

In terms of the process, how Eovaldi went about things against the Orioles’ lineup, things weren’t all that different from his first start of the season against the Red Sox. On that night, Eovaldi threw 44 fastballs and 50 non-fastballs, broken up between what Brooks identified as one changeup, 26 sliders, 11 curveballs, and 12 splitters. During his second start , Eovaldi threw 45 fastballs and 56 non-fastballs (37 sliders, 17 curveballs, and two splitters). But the feeling was completely different.

While watching the game on Thursday, I couldn’t help but feel that Eovaldi was much more confident in his breaking stuff, more willing to use it in big spots or just to use it overall. In that first start, the breaking stuff seemed rudimentary at best with iffy location and not the sharpest of movement. However, Thursday, it seemed much crisper to my amateur eye. This was especially evident in the bottom of the third inning when his first five pitches of the inning, to Everth Cabrera and Adam Jones, were all breaking balls. Cabrera saw only breaking pitches in his at bat and struck out swinging; Jones saw a mix, but his at bat ended on a breaking ball he grounded fairly weakly to Didi Gregorius, who booted the ball at short. I mention this inning because it specifically lent to the good feeling I got from Eovaldi’s non-fastballs. The results lived up to that promise; let’s take a look at the pitch results section for Eovaldi’s two starts to examine my claim a little bit more closely.

When we look at these sections, I want to pay attention to two columns: whiffs and balls in play (no outs). Against Boston, Eovaldi ended 13 at bats with fastballs. 12 of those were swung on, with each one being put into play, resulting in four non-outs. The other 12 at bat-ending pitches were seven sliders, two curveballs, and three splitters. They all had something in common with the fastball: no whiffs, meaning he didn’t end a single at bat with a swing-and-a-miss against the Boston batters. This is a complete contrast with Thursday’s start. In Camden, the O’s put just 14 balls into play compared to the 22 against the Red Sox. More encouraging, though, were the seven whiffs he generated, five on his slider alone to go along with one each on a fastball and a curveball. As opposed to start number one in which his lone strikeout was a backwards K in the scorebook, seven of his nine strikeouts in start number two were swinging, mostly on breaking stuff.

The Eovaldi-centered narrative coming into this season focused on his secondary pitches; the improvements he makes (or doesn’t make) on the non-fastballs will determine whether or not he takes the next step as a big time pitcher. Thursday night gave us a glimpse at what’s possible when Eovaldi has his non-fastball pitches working. Keeping this up–confidence in the breaking ball and generating whiffs–means good process. And, generally, good process leads to good results.

Tanaka returns to form, Yanks use big inning to beat Rays 9-0


Source: FanGraphs

Two wins in a row! A series win! The Yankees accomplished both for the first time this season on Saturday night, blowing out the Rays by the score of 9-0. This was actually a pitchers duel for the first six innings. Time to recap with bullet points, because it’s Saturday night:

  • #TANAK: For the first time in 2015, Masahiro Tanaka looked like the guy we saw before his injury last year. He pitched to all four quadrants with his fastball, unleashed some devastating splitters, and kept hitters off balance with an array of breaking balls. Seven innings, two hits, no walks, eight strikeouts, 85 pitches. He could have gone back out for the eighth had he not sat on the bench for 45 minutes during the team’s big seventh inning. Hooray Masahiro!
  • Seven-Run Seventh: The Yankees scored their first two runs on a Brian McCann triple, of all things. The ball hit off the very top of the right field wall and rolled away from the outfielder. First triple of the year for the Yankees. Go figure. The seven-run seventh was an old school Yankees rally — long at-bats, walks, base hits, and the big blow to cap it off. Eight of the first ten batters in the inning reached base and the two outs were sac flies. Chris Young put an exclamation point on the inning with a grand slam off Grant Balfour, who was designated for assignment after the game. Gregorio Petit made two of the three outs in the inning.
  • Leftovers: Branden Pinder loaded the bases in the ninth but escaped unscathed … Jacoby Ellsbury (two), Brett Gardner (two), and McCann (three) all had multiple hits … everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least twice other than Mark Teixeira and Petit … the Yankees scored at least five runs in an inning twice this week after doing it only nine times all of last season.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees will look to finish off the much-needed series sweep on Sunday afternoon, when Michael Pineda gets the ball against rookie righty Matt Andriese.

Minor League Update: Sorry folks, no DotF tonight, but you can find the box scores right here. Ramon Flores hit another homer, Aaron Judge had two hits, and Jorge Mateo had two hits, two walks, and three stolen bases. Also, Andrew Bailey struck out two in a perfect inning.

Game 11: A-Rod’s Encore

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night was a turn back the clock night for Alex Rodriguez, who hit two home runs and drove in the go-ahead run with a single in the eighth inning. According to ESPN, his monster solo homer in the second inning was the second longest by a Yankee in the last ten years and the longest at Tropicana Field in ten years. Alex is now just two homers shy of tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list, and hey, it could happen today. That would be some kind of follow up to yesterday’s game.

In the grand scheme of things though, Masahiro Tanaka‘s start tonight is much more important than whatever A-Rod does. Tanaka has not looked like himself in his first two starts — he’s walked five in nine innings after not walking his fifth batter until inning 32 last year — and it’s impossible to diagnose the problem. Is it the elbow acting up? Is he apprehensive? Is it just two games against very good lineups? Who knows. We’ve yet to see the Tanaka of last season in 2015 and it would be cool if he showed up soon. Here is tonight’s starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Chris Young
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Stephen Drew
  9. 2B Gregorio Petit
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The Rays are starting right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who has allowed a total of four hits in 14.2 innings in his two starts this year. Here is Tampa’s lineup.

The weather won’t be a factor once again because Tropicana Field is domed — it’s a balmy 82 degrees in St. Petersburg, if you’re curious — and tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch only on FOX Sports 1. Here’s the channel finder. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Carlos Beltran has some kind of illness and may not play tomorrow either, Joe Girardi told reporters.

Yanks outright Joel De La Cruz, lose Matt Tracy to Marlins on waivers

Tracy. (Presswire)
Tracy. (Presswire)

The Yankees have outrighted right-hander Joel De La Cruz off the 40-man roster, the team announced. He is with Triple-A Scranton. Also, the Marlins have claimed southpaw Matt Tracy, who was called up for a day and designated for assignment as part of that long man revolving door last week. Miami says they’ve optioned Tracy to Triple-A. There are now 39 players on the 40-man roster.

De La Cruz, 25, was with the Yankees for a few days last week but did not appear in a game. I don’t even think he warmed up. He had a 4.44 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 121.2 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton last season. De La Cruz was the guy the Yankees tried to trade to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano rather than Corey Black two years ago.

The 26-year-old Tracy allowed three unearned runs in two innings in his only game with New York last week. He had a 3.75 ERA (438 FIP) in 151 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last summer. Tracy was an interesting sleeper prospect a few years back but never did that next step in his development. I assume De La Cruz will step into the Triple-A rotation spot Tracy was expected to hold down this year.

Injury Updates: Gardner, Nova, Capuano, Pirela, Ryan

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Rays continue their series later tonight, so, until then, there are some updates on various injured Yankees courtesy of Chad Jennings, Bryan Hoch, and the Associated Press:

  • Brett Gardner (wrist) was going to stay in last night’s game to hit after pinch-running, if necessary. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” he said. Gardner came through several rounds of batting practice just fine and should return to the lineup today.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) threw 20 pitches in his second live batting practice session yesterday. “I’m getting closer. Feels awesome,” he said. Nova expects to throw batting practice two more times next week before getting back into games. Joe Girardi said they’re shooting for May 1st for Nova’s first minor league rehab start.
  • Chris Capuano (quad) threw live batting practice Thursday and will do so again tomorrow. Girardi said Nova and Capuano are “pretty close” with regards to their timetable, but Capuano is “slightly ahead.”
  • Jose Pirela (concussion) is going through all drills and hit against Capuano on Thursday. He’ll play in an Extended Spring Training game on Monday. Girardi was noncommittal when asked if Pirela will join the big league team once healthy.
  • Brendan Ryan (calf) “might” go to Tampa next week to begin going through baseball workouts. It depends how he feels in the coming days.