Thoughts during the homestretch of the regular season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees, as we all know, are chasing the AL East division title and, as much as they’d hate to admit it, solidifying their status as the top AL Wild Card team. The Red Sox look like clear AL East winners and the Yankees seem to be gearing up for the AL Wild Card game (most likely at home). Anyways, here are some thoughts I’ve got.

1. The Dellin BetancesAroldis Chapman duo was ballyhooed all offseason to be a cream of the crop eighth-ninth inning bullpen duo. Both of them are not having bad seasons, but the performance has not reached the expectations. As of now, Dellin Betances has a 3.02 ERA in 56.2 IP. While he’s still striking out hitters at an exorbitant rate (15.53 K/9 IP), his walk rate has almost doubled from last year (3.45 to 6.83 BB/9 IP, yeesh). Chapman? This is his worst season as a big leaguer since 2012. He has a 3.50 ERA and a 2.68 FIP – both of them higher than marks from 2012-16 seasons. Both relievers have been inconsistent all season, Jekyll and Hyde-mode. What is interesting, however, is the pattern of how they did it. Take a look at their monthly stats:

April
Betances: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, 1.13 ERA
Chapman: 9.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 15 K,  0.96 ERA

May
Betances: 9.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 18 K, 0.00 ERA
Chapman: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 10.80 ERA

June
Betances: 8.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 9 BB, 15 K, 4.50 ERA
Chapman: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1.93 ERA

July
Betances: 12.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 13 BB, 21 K, 4.26 ERA
Chapman: 13.0 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 16 K, 2.77 ERA

August
Betances: 12.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 17 K, 1.50 ERA
Chapman: 8.0 IP, 8 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 8 K, 9.00 ERA

September
Betances: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, 14 K, 7.04 ERA
Chapman: 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 0.00 ERA

As you see, they’ve been pretty much see-sawing it after April. If the Yankees want to go deep into the postseason, they can’t afford to have one of them be off again. Imagine if they were dominant together for one or two more months of the season. Given that the Yankees have lost a lot of one-run games this season, we could be talking about the AL East division-leading team. What’s giving me hope for Chapman is that he seems to have found the root of his problems and fixed it. Betances? It’ll take a few good outings in a row for Yankee fans to feel comfortable seeing him on mound in cutthroat October situations.

2. The last time the Yankees made the postseason was 2015. It’s kind of staggering to think how different the team was only two seasons ago. For instance, they had guys like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira playing vital roles most of the season. We had no idea what was coming with guys like Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Also unlike that top AL Wild Card team, this likely-top AL Wild Card team seems to have a much brighter forecast in October. While momentum in September does not necessarily correlate with how the team fares in playoffs, the 2015 team did not have a lot of good things going for them towards the AL Wild Card game. Teixeira was declared out for rest of the season after a painful bone bruise. In September/October 2015, the Yankees were 14-17 and got swept by the Orioles in a three-game series to end the regular season. Two years later, at this moment of the season, the Yankees are on upswing of things. They are 16-6 so far in September and, barring a late-season losing streak at home, they’ll head to the AL Wild Card (assuming that’s what they’ll end up doing) in quite a positive vibe.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

3. I’m wondering if Todd Frazier‘s in the Yankees’ plans for 2018. Dude’s had a fine September (went into yesterday’s hitting .207/.390/.569 for a .959 OPS) and has commented that he wants to be back. He’s certainly a productive player. He gets on base, can hit for power and displays really nice third base defense. Those aspects alone should give the team some thoughts on offering him a contract before free agency season hits. However, I don’t know if they would offer him anything more than a one or two-year deal. Maybe Frazier could take a one-year deal and try to re-build his value to what it was back when he was a Home Run Derby-winning, top-tier slugger. *If* he can do that, that would be a win-win for both the player and the team – Yankees would get solid production before letting Gleyber Torres take over full-time and Frazier could make a good amount of money from some other team after 2018. However, it’s too bold to assume that kind of theory to come to life. Him, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius, etc. could very well play the role of mentor to Torres when the top prospect comes up to the bigs next season. Another aspect that he could be valuable is what him and Headley have been able to do in 2017 – alternating positions and filling in hole at the first base if (or when) Greg Bird becomes unavailable. I would personally very much welcome it if Frazier were to sign a short-term contract. If it will be something like three years, hopefully it won’t be backloaded. There’s always risks and careful calculations when making decisions like this. Whatever the Yankees decide to do with Frazier, they will give it some deep thought looking at a big picture, I’m sure.

For what it’s worth, Frazier has provided above-average run production with a good glove for the past few seasons. He’s also walked quite more this season than he had in his entire career. Next year will be his age-32 season so he’s presumably got few more years of keeping up current level of performance. So far with the Yankees, Frazier’s had a .803 OPS. That figure would be the highest by a non-A-Rod Yankee third baseman since… 2002 Robin Ventura (.826 OPS). Boy, that’s awhile ago.

4. Joe Girardi was recently asked about kneeling during the national anthem, Donald Trump’s comments on the NFL players, and whether he would visit the White House if the Yankees were to win the World Series. If you don’t live under the rock, you know the deal. Randy Miller of NJ.com wrote an article about it and Girardi, I think, played it as safe as he can.

“It’s not something that I would choose to do,” Girardi said Sunday before the Yankees’ game with the Toronto Blue Jays. “It’s my opinion. I’m entitled to my opinion and others are entitled to their own opinion. There’s going to be a lot of things in this world that you may not agree with. I think it’s a player’s right. That’s the country we live in. It’s a player’s right. You don’t necessarily have to agree with it, but it’s what people do.”

Girardi never really struck me as a hugely political guy and he probably was instructed by the front office to “say the right things.” That could mean a lot of different things. But from what I can decipher, it seems like he worded his statement in a way that would not incite loud reactions from the both sides. It just sounded like a “let’s get this question over with and talk about baseball” kind of thing. This quote, in particular, really struck me as one that reflected his tone: “Those are my personal reflections and I’m not going to necessarily dive into it because that just opens up a huge can of worms and allows you to write stories for weeks.”

I personally stand on the side of the players protesting. That being said, I would be disappointed if the Yankees choose to visit the White House if they win the 2017 World Series. I know CC Sabathia himself has said that he won’t go at all and it’s possible that he’s not alone in the Yankees on that side. However, it is easy to assume that the baseball locker room culture is not as racially diverse as the NFL teams, where team-wide protests took place Sunday. Chris Archer of the Rays has spoken out that he would not be comfortable voicing his opinion within his own clubhouse, which is a damn shame. Only 7.7 percent of all MLB players are African-Americans and, the odds are that they share the locker room with many players with conservative backgrounds. Gotta understand where Archer is coming from. That makes what Bruce Maxwell did much more gutsy and impressive.

Anyways, didn’t mean to get too political here. Politics have been a big part of my life since I first moved to U.S. so it’s hard not to think about societal + sports concerns. And, as you could tell from this past NFL Sunday, these two subjects really do go hand-on-hand, whether you like it or not.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

5. Alright, something lighter here. You can make a case for AL MVP for any of these five guys right now: Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, Chris Sale, Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez. Besides Trout, all of them play for a playoff-bound team and have been playing some of the best baseball of their lives. From what I can gather though, it looks like it could come down to a Altuve-Judge match. Trout, the best player of this generation, is posting career-high peripherals but that missed time from thumb injury is really going to hurt his case. Ramirez is putting up stupendous numbers but his basic stats aren’t strong as Judge or Altuve’s. Chris Sale is the current fWAR leader in all of the baseball but his hype train has slowed down a bit in the second half and it became unclear if he would even win the AL Cy Young Award. (Corey Kluber really, really stepped it up as of late, didn’t he? You could also make an MVP case for the Indians righty as well.) Altuve and Judge both get love for their basic and sabermetric stats and seem like the two strongest candidates for the 2017 AL MVP award. Depends on what metric you look at, they’ve both been productive in almost equal way – just in different manners. Judge, as you know, hits for massive power, a decent average, strikes out a lot, etc., and Altuve is a Swiss Army knife kind of guy who hits for high average, plays scrappy defense, steals bases, etc. Unfortunately for Judge, his two-month cold streak will seem to work against him. He went from a clear MVP favorite hitting .330/.440/.700~ish in early-July to .270/.410/.570 by early-September. That’s still a great line! But during that period, from July 8 to September 9 (53 games), Judge hit for a .186 average, 9 HRs and struck out 84 times. And you know some writer are going to reference that when they write to explain their MVP votes.

As you know, however, from September 10 on, Judge has been on fire and could be making a case for some MVP votes. In those 14 games, he’s hit eleven home runs with a 1.678 OPS. I assume he could be extra-wired for the last home stretch with a lot of fun things in stake – the rookie home run record, the Yankees AL East run (if not, clinching the top AL Wild Card spot) and, of course, making the last push for his MVP case. He may not talk about it, but I bet it is in his head somewhere. He’s been a better home hitter (1.150 OPS) than road (.910 OPS) so get excited for the next six games! My question is, how much of a push push would he need to make the last six games to earn some votes? I think, unless Judge goes absolutely ballistic (something like, reaching 55 home runs), Altuve will still be the favorite. Getting to 50 home runs (because what a nice, round number that is for a Major League rookie!) could help, but Altuve is leading the league in hits, batting average, and has arguably been the best member of the top 2 team of the league. Also, for someone his size, boy he’s getting every bit and inch out of the talent that’s given. Judge has a clear flaw in his game (strikeouts) but Altuve is almost flawless. Besides that he’s really, really undersized among his MLB peers. I know there are many ways to spin to argue that Judge has been more valuable than Altuve but, at least for this moment, the consensus seems to point to the latter. Obviously it would be really cool to see Judge be the first AL player to win both ROY and MVP since Ichiro Suzuki. We’ll see how it goes though.

Monday Night Open Thread

The internet tells me 18,852 men have played Major League Baseball. Aaron Judge has now hit more home runs as a rookie than the other 18,851. Judge swatted his 49th and 50th home runs of the season this afternoon — would’ve been his 50th and 51st if not for that stupid triple! — breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record. Big Mac hit 49 with the A’s in 1987. What an unbelievable season for Aaron. This is so damn fun.

Here is an open thread for the rest of the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network is showing two regional games. The Cowboys and Cardinals are the Monday Night Football Game, plus all three local hockey teams are playing preseason games, if that’s your thing. It’s my thing. Sometimes, anyway. Talk about anything here that isn’t politics or religion. Thanks in advance.

Judge hits 49th and 50th home runs, breaks McGwire’s rookie record in 11-3 win over Royals

Is baseball fun? Yes, baseball is extremely fun. The Yankees had to play a makeup game with the Royals on Monday, and they turned that makeup game into an 11-3 win. Aaron Judge made rookie history along the way. The Yankees will clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game with one more win or one more Twins loss. Whatever comes first.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Move Over, Big Mac
Holy crap Aaron Judge has hit more home runs than any other rookie in baseball history. That is insane. What would you have been happy with from him this season? I’d have signed up for .250/.340/.450 with 25 dingers in a heartbeat going into Spring Training. Instead, Judge is hitting .283/.414/.620 (169 wRC+) overall this year, and on Monday afternoon he smacked his 49th and 50th — 49th and 50th! — home runs of the season, tying then breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record.

The record tying blast was a classic Judge at-bat. He worked a full count — going into the game, his 167 plate appearances with a full count were far and away the most in baseball (Edwin Encarnacion was second with 145) — against Royals rookie Jake Junis, then drove a fastball at the top of the zone the other way into the right field seats for a two-run home run. Perfect. The dinger gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the inning.

Four innings later, after the Yankees increased their lead to 6-3, Judge went deep again, this time to break McGwire’s record. Trevor Cahill started Judge with two curveballs, one for a ball and one for a swinging strike. He set up a changeup with a high fastball for ball two, but the changeup was a little too up in the zone, and Judge roped it out to left field. One dinger to right, one dinger to left.

That is now seven home runs in the last seven games for Judge, and 13 home runs in 22 games in September. Remember his post-All-Star Game slump? I do. It was ugly for a while there. Safe to say Judge has snapped out of it though. He’s crushing the ball to all fields and he looks confident at the plate. He looks like First Half Aaron Judge, and it is beautiful to see. With the Yankees at home the rest of the regular season, Aaron needs to hear M! V! P! chants every at-bat. Make it happen.

Six Good Innings, One Bad Inning
CC Sabathia went from six shutout innings to a bare minimum quality start real quick Monday. It took eight pitches, in fact. Sabathia cruised through the first six innings, holding the Royals scoreless on three hits and a walk. Kansas City had just one runner make it to third base and only three get as far as second base in those six innings. CC was on cruise control.

The wheels came off a bit in the seventh inning. Joe Girardi sent Sabathia out for the seventh with a 6-0 lead and his pitch count at 72, and hey, that’s what I wouldn’t done. Eric Hosmer started that seventh inning with a single, then Salvador Perez got the Royals on the board with a high and far two-run home run to left field. Sabathia caught a little too much of the plate with a high changeup. Blah. Mike Moustakas then followed with a solo homer deep to right field. That ended Sabathia’s afternoon and cut the lead to 6-3.

Sabathia’s final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K on 80 pitches. He was better than that line indicates though. Sabathia faced 24 batters and it wasn’t until batters 22, 23, and 24 that the Royals really started to square him up. Next time Girardi should look into his managerial crystal ball so he knows to pull his not at all struggling starter before things start to fall apart. What are they paying this guy for? Geez. (I kid, I kid.)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tack-On Runs
Fortunately, the Yankees had built up plenty of breathing room before Sabathia’s little seventh inning implosion. They scored their first run of the afternoon in the very first inning. Brett Gardner dunked a leadoff single to right-center, Judge flew out to deep center field (even his outs are hard-hit these days), Gary Sanchez poked a double into the right field corner, and Didi Gregorius got the run home with a grounder to first base. The Yankees were up 1-0 only 12 pitches into the bottom of the first. Judge then made it 3-0 in the third.

The sixth inning is when the Yankees really broke things open. Gregorius stroked a one-out single to left then, while at first, he tripped on the base and fell down when he stepped back on a pickoff throw. It looked kinda bad at first, but Didi was laughing at himself the entire time and stayed in the game with no problem. I know this because he scored all the way from first base on Matt Holliday‘s double to left field to stretch the lead to 4-0. Losing Gregorius to an injury on a stupid pickoff throw would be awful. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.

Know who else is red hot aside from Judge? Greg Bird. He followed Holliday’s double with a two-run home run into the second deck in right field to give the Yankees a 6-0 lead and officially blow this one open. Bird is now 6-for-14 (.429) with three doubles and two homers in his last four games, and, most importantly, he looks more comfortable at the plate than he has all season. Took a while to get over last year’s shoulder surgery and this year’s ankle surgery, but it appears Bird is now over them, and not a moment too soon.

Two home runs for Judge and one home run for Bird must’ve had Sanchez feeling a little left out, so he added a home run as well. The crowd was still giving Judge a standing ovation following his 50th home run curtain call — that was the loudest I’ve heard Yankee Stadium since Alex Rodriguez‘s farewell game last year — when Sanchez lined a dinger into the left field seats for an 8-3 lead. Third time this month Judge and Sanchez have gone back-to-back, I do believe. Once against the Rangers, once against the Orioles, and once against the Royals (I think).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

But wait! There’s more. The Yankees added a three more runs in the eighth inning thanks to a silly Torreyes hit — a bloop dunked in along the right field line, then the ball got away from Alcides Escobar when he tried to apply the tag at second base, allowing Toe to get to third — and a Gardner double into the corner. Gregorius then singled in another run and Holliday plated another with a sac fly. Judge had a chance to hit his third homer of the game that inning, but alas, he was walked for the 120th time this season. L-O-L. Love this team, guys. Love them with all of your baseball heart.

Leftovers
Judge, Bird, and Sanchez combined to go 6-for-13 (.462) with four home runs, one double, and two walks. First time — and hopefully not the last time — those three have gone deep in the same game. Three hits for Sanchez, Gregorius, and Torreyes. Two hits for Gardner and Judge. The wraparound 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup went a combined 13-for-22 (.591) with three doubles and four homers. That’ll do.

Chad Green replaced Sabathia after the seventh inning mini-meltdown and pitched around a walk. He struck out one and now has 102 strikeouts in 67.1 innings this season. Remember, he started the season in minors. Green didn’t play his first MLB game until May 9th this year. David Robertson, who was already warmed up before Judge and Sanchez provided insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, threw a clean eighth and Tommy Kahnle handled the ninth. Nice and easy.

And finally, thanks to today’s game, Judge has now homered against every single AL team this season. Well, except the Yankees. The Royals completed the set. I have no idea how to look this up, but hitting a home run against every other team in the league — again: against every other team in the league! — sounds incredibly hard to do. At least in the expansion era.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score — their redesigned box scores suck so much and I haven’t yet found an alternative to my liking — and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Royals are heading out now that the makeup game is over, and the Rays are coming to town for a three-game series. One Yankees win will eliminate Tampa Bay from postseason contention. Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are the scheduled starting pitchers for Tuesday night’s opener.

McKinney and Carroll added to Arizona Fall League roster

The Yankees have assigned outfielder Billy McKinney and right-hander Cody Carroll to the Arizona Fall League, the league announced last week. They’ll join fellow Yankees prospects infielder Thairo Estrada, outfielder Estevan Florial, first baseman Chris Gittens, infielder Kyle Holder, lefty Justus Sheffield, and righty Dillon Tate in the desert this year.

Back when the AzFL rosters were announced, the Yankees had two pitching spots left open, and it appears they managed to swap one of those pitching spots for another outfield spot for McKinney. That’s not too uncommon. Teams will barter roster spots. I need an extra outfield spot and you need an extra pitching spot, so let’s trade. That kinda thing.

McKinney, who came over in the Aroldis Chapman trade last year, will reportedly begin working out at first base in Instructional League, and I assume he’ll continue working there in the AzFL. The Yankees are planning to add him to the 40-man roster after the season. As a bat-first corner outfielder, adding the ability to play first base to his skill set will only help.

As for Carroll, the 24-year-old threw 67.1 relief innings with a 2.54 ERA (3.04 FIP) to go with 32.1% strikeouts and 10.8% walks for High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year. He was the team’s 22nd round pick in the 2015 draft and really broke out this year. MLB.com ranks him as the 26th best prospect in the system right now. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

Carroll worked in the low 90s as a college starter but now operates at 96-98 mph and reaches triple digits with his fastball. Hitters can’t afford to sit on his heater because he also has a hard breaking ball that can reach the upper 80s, pairing slider velocity with curveball depth … Despite a relatively easy delivery, he didn’t throw a lot of strikes in college and hasn’t as a pro.

The Yankees are sending a really strong crop of prospects to the AzFL this year. Of course, Sheffield and Tate are going to make up for innings lost to injuries, and that’s never great. Still, Florial and McKinney makes for a pair of interesting position player prospects, and Holder tore the cover off the ball in the second half. Would be cool to see him continue it out in the desert.

The 2017 AzFL season begins Tuesday, October 10th and will end with the Championship Game on Saturday, November 18th. Yankees prospects will be on the Scottsdale Scorpions with players from the Angels, Giants, Mets, and Reds organizations.

Game 156: The Final Week

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

Welcome to the final week of the 2017 regular season. The Yankees have already clinched a postseason spot, so they know they’ll be playing beyond this coming Sunday. Will they win the AL East (nope) or host the Wild Card Game (yup)? The next few days will decide that.

Today was supposed to be an off-day, but instead, the Yankees will host the Royals for a quick makeup game. The two teams were rained out on May 25th and, technically, today is a chance to win the series. That was a four-game set and the Yankees won two of the first three games. I remember that series as the series it became clear Luis Severino was in for a special season. Anyway, here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Matt Holliday
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is a hot and sunny day in the Bronx. Pretty much mid-summer weather for the matinee. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: There are no injuries. No new ones, anyway. Just a day off for Starlin Castro. Gregorius will probably get tomorrow off, Joe Girardi said. The regular outfielders, who have played a ton the last few weeks, are going to get some time off their feet as well this week. No surprise there.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome to October (Sept. 22-24)

(AP)
(AP)

Bad News Yankees
Instead of building on the positive momentum from their sweep of the Twins early in the week, the Yankees opened their weekend series in Toronto with a mistake-filled blowout loss, 8-1, to the Blue Jays.

This road trip north of the border has been a nightmare for the Bombers in recent years. Following Friday’s defeat, they guaranteed themselves yet another season-series loss in Canada. The last time the Yankees had a winning record at the Rogers Centre was 2009.

Much of the blame for this embarrassing loss falls on the brutal performance by Masahiro Tanaka. Terrible Tanaka was in peak form as he coughed up eight runs (seven earned) on six hits, three of which cleared the fences. Here’s a quickish recap of the ugly numbers after his latest disaster outing:

  • 35 homers allowed are tied with Phil Hughes (2012) for the second-most in Yankees history, behind Ralph Terry’s 40 in 1962. Oh, how times have changed: Terry was an All-Star, started 39 games, threw 298 2/3 innings and even got a few MVP votes that season, while Tanaka is at 29 starts and 177 1/3 innings.
  • Five games with three or more homers allowed leads MLB this season, and is tied with Catfish Hunter (1977) for the most in a season in Yankees history.
  • Five games with at least seven earned runs matches the most in a season by any Yankee pitcher, a mark he shares with A.J. Burnett (2010) and Red Ruffing (1934). Remember, folks, Tanaka had never given up more than six earned runs in any of his 75 career starts entering this year.

The final pitch he threw was a hanging 0-2 slider with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, that Ryan Goins drilled into the seats in right-center. It was the second grand slam he’s surrendered this year, and – you guessed it – he had never given one up prior to 2017. Even worse is the fact that Goins was 0-for-22 against Tanaka entering that at-bat, and had never even hit a flyball or line drive in his career against him!

Finally, there’s this stat that sums up Tanaka’s Jekyll-and-Hyde 2017 campaign: Through Friday, he was the only pitcher in MLB this season that had five games with at least three homers allowed. He was also the only pitcher in the majors that had thrown multiple games with at least 13 strikeouts and no walks.

Aaron Judge was a one-man offensive machine, producing the team’s only run and two of their three hits. His 469-foot booming shot into the second deck in the first inning was the longest homer at the Rogers Centre this season, and tied for his second-longest of the season. Through Friday, he was the only player in baseball to hit three homers of 469-plus feet this year.

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

The clinching
It’s official. The Yankees punched their ticket to the postseason party with a comeback win, 5-1, on Saturday afternoon.

It was fitting that the clinching victory came in a game where the Yankees had to rally, after the Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. This was the Yankees 34th win when their opponent scored first, tied for the most in the majors through Saturday.

Sonny Gray tossed six strong innings and limited Toronto to one run on four hits, as he continued his six-week stretch of gutty performances on the road. It was his ninth road start in a row with two earned runs or fewer allowed, the longest streak among AL pitchers this season.

Greg Bird earned the hero’s cape when he golfed a 91-mph cutter into the right-field seats in the fifth inning, putting the Yankees ahead 3-1. Bird is no stranger to delivering big hits: eight of his 17 career homers have given the Yankees the lead. Among Yankees with at least 10 home runs since Bird’s debut in 2015, his “go-ahead homer percentage” of 47.1% is the second-best, trailing only … Jacoby Ellsbury (47.8%)!

We’ll also give Bird our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: This was the second time he’s hit a clutch homer on the road against the Blue Jays; the only other Yankee first basemen with multiple go-ahead homers in Toronto are Jason Giambi and Don Mattingly.

[Because this is a stats post, I’ll note that Aaron Judge reached the 200-strikeout mark in the first inning, breaking the rookie record set by Kris Bryant in 2015. I’ll also mention that Bryant won the Rookie of the Year Award that season.]

(Getty)
(Getty)

The post-clinching
Less than 24 hours after a rousing playoff-clinching victory, the Yankees played like they were still hung over from the late-night celebration. Not only did they lose the rubber game of the series, but the loss also gave them a disappointing 40-41 record on the road this season as they head home for the final week of games.

This is the second year in a row they’ve been below .500 away from the Bronx, the first time in more than two decades they’ve done that. The last time it happened came during the dark ages, a seven-season stretch of road mediocrity from 1987-93.

Jaime Garcia put the Yankees in an early hole, giving up a home run to Teoscar Hernandez on the second pitch he threw. It was the 10th lead-off bomb the Yankees have surrendered this season, the most they’ve ever allowed in a single season in franchise history.

Garcia remains winless in eight starts as a Yankee, tied for the second-longest such streak by any pitcher to begin his pinstriped career over the last 100 seasons. The only longer streak belongs to Steve Trout, who failed to get a win in his first nine starts after a mid-season trade in 1987.

To say that Garcia lacked command would be an understatement. Not only did he throw a wild pitch and walk three of the 14 batters he faced, but more than half (33 of 60) of his pitches were called balls. His strike percentage of 45 percent is the lowest by any Yankee starter that threw 60-plus pitches in an outing since at least 2000 (as far back as we have complete pitch-by-pitch data).

Once again Aaron Judge was the lone shining star in the lineup, belting his 47th and 48th homers this season. He’s now one shy of the major-league home run rookie record set by Mark McGwire in 1987, and also continued his climb up some impressive franchise leaderboards:

  • The only Yankee right-handed batter to hit more longballs in a season is A-Rod, who hit 54 during his 2007 MVP campaign.
  • The 48 homers are the third-most by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger, trailing Babe Ruth (54 in 1920) and Mickey Mantle (52 in 1956).
  • At the age of 25 years and 151 days, he is the second-youngest Yankee to reach six multi-homer games in a season, behind a 24-year-old Mickey Mantle in 1956.
  • He now has 11 homers in September, the third time this season he’s hit double-digit longballs in a calendar month. The last Yankee to match that feat was Roger Maris in 1961, who had four months with at least 10 homers during his record-setting 61-homer campaign.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 25th, 2017

Record Last Week: 4-2 (29 RS, 24 RA)
Season Record: 86-69 (822 RS, 643 RA, 95-60 pythag. record) 5.0 GB in ALE
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (one game, Mon.), vs. Rays (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Blue Jays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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