Yanks opt for deflating 4-3 walk-off loss to Blue Jays over fourth straight shutout

Remember the seven-game win streak that brought the Yankees to within one game of a wildcard spot? It was only two weeks ago. Well, the Yankees are now 3-11 in the 14 games since, including 1-9 against teams other than the Rays. The latest loss, New York’s fourth straight, was a 4-3 walk-off loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday. Fast forward to 2017, please. Maybe 2018.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Streak Ends
At long last, the Yankees have scored a run. Multiple runs, actually. Didi Gregorius ended the team’s 33-inning scoreless streak with a leadoff home run in the seventh inning, which tied the game 1-1. It was the Yankees’ third hit of the game and ninth of the series. The first six innings were more of the same. Lots of weak contact and empty at-bats. That 33-inning scoreless streak was well-earned.

Before the Gregorius homer, New York’s best chance to break the scoreless streak came in the second inning, when they loaded the bases with one out on a double (Mark Teixeira), a walk (Brian McCann), and a single (Chase Headley). Headley’s single likely would have scored a run had pretty much anyone other than Teixeira been running. Still, bases loaded and one out is pretty good. Then Mason Williams struck out and Ronald Torreyes grounded out. Opportunity wasted.

Five-Plus & Fly
Once upon a time Michael Pineda was a ruthlessly efficient pitcher who pounded the zone with power stuff. That was two years ago now. These days Pineda can barely complete five innings, nevermind six. He lasted 5.2 innings on Sunday, which was his longest start in a month. Pineda has completed six full innings just once in his last eight starts. He’s failed to complete five innings three times in those eight games.

Overall though, Pineda was pretty good Sunday, holding the Blue Jays to just one run on a Jose Bautista solo homer in his 5.2 innings. He allowed three hits and three walks while striking out seven. His moment of truth came right in the first inning, when Josh Donaldson doubled and Bautista walked. Pineda escaped the jam on Russell Martin‘s line drive right to Williams. Adam Warren came in to record the final out of the sixth with two men on base, closing the book on Pineda’s start, which was his best (and longest) in a while now.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

(Some) Speed Kills
Props to Joe Girardi. The game was still tied 1-1 in the eighth inning, and he went to his best to face Toronto’s best. That meant Dellin Betances against Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Bautista. He didn’t save his closer for the ninth inning or a save situation. Girardi went to Betances because he was the best man for the job. It’s a shame this is so notable because it’s so rare.

Anyway, bringing in Betances was the right move. It just didn’t work out. Dellin walked Donaldson, who immediately stole second — opponents are now 20-for-20 in steal attempts against Betances — and advanced to third on Encarnacion’s ground ball. Bautista drove in the go-ahead run with a two-strike single on a breaking ball up in the zone. Sucks. Pinch-runner Dalton Pompey stole second (21-for-21) — Dellin had him picked off, but he incorrectly threw to first rather than run right at him — before Betances escaped the inning.

A Short-Lived Lead
To their credit, the Yankees did not pack it in and go quietly in the ninth. They rallied for two runs to take a 3-2 lead. Teixeira and pinch-hitter Billy ButlerEric Young Jr. pinch-ran for McCann earlier in the game, and Butler replaced EYJ — started the inning with back-to-back singles. Headley moved them up with a hard-hit grounder back to closer Roberto Osuna. The Yankees had the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second with one out.

Osuna tried to overpower Williams and nearly succeeded; Williams was late on two fastballs and fouled them off to fall behind in the count 1-2. He caught up to the next fastball and sliced it to left field for game-tying run. Pretty huge moment for the rookie. Torreyes gave the Yankees the 3-2 lead with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. He saw five pitches in that at-bat and swung at them all. The last one was finally put in play instead of fouled off.

The Seemingly Inevitable Loss
After the Yankees took the lead, Girardi sent Betances back out for the bottom of the ninth even though he’d already thrown 26 pitches, and I thought it was absolutely the right move. He’s their best reliever (by a lot), so much so that a fatigued Betances is still their best option. (He hadn’t pitched in four days anyway.) Girardi didn’t have a long leah though. After a leadoff walk, Dellin was pulled in favor of Tyler Clippard.

Clippard, who’s been throwing batting practice for about a week now, allowed a single to Kevin Pillar to put runners on the corners, then inexplicably threw away Ezequiel Carrera’s squeeze bunt. It was a great bunt, nothing the Yankees could do about it, but Clippard tried to flick it to the plate with his glove and it sailed way wide, allowing the runners to advance an extra 90 feet.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

With the tying run on third and no outs, the Yankees elected to pitch to Devon Travis, who struck out on four pitches. The Yankees then opted to walk Donaldson to load the bases and create the force at any base. That’s a no-brainer. Bautista was out of the game — he was lifted for a pinch-runner — so Toronto only had two of their three big bats in the lineup. The walk took one out of play, and set up the double play situation for a double play prone hitter.

Alas, it did not work. Encarnacion poked a ground ball to the hole in the right side of the infield, and while Torreyes was able to run it down and keep it from rolling into right field, he had no chance to make a play. Game over. Walk-off infield-ish single.

Girardi sent Betances out for the ninth, which indicates he was willing to let him throw 40+ pitches if necessary. Instead, he pulled him after the leadoff walk, which tells me he was more worried about holding the runner at first than not having the best available pitcher on the mound. Clippard has now allowed eight of the last ten batters he’s faced to reach base — to be fair, one of the eight baserunners was an intentional walk — and runs in four of his last five outings. The leadoff walk stunk and is on Betances, no doubt. But again Clippard was unable to stop the bleeding.

Leftovers
The Yankees had eight hits as a team, which feels like a minor miracle. They had six hits total in the first two games of this series. Gary Sanchez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and, for the first time, he looked like an over-anxious rookie in the eighth inning. Brett Gardner was on second with one out, and Sanchez swung at a slider way out of the zone for strike three:

Gary Sanchez Joaquin Benoit

That’s the 2016 season in one GIF. To be fair, it was a really good at-bat overall. Joaquin Benoit jumped ahead in the count 0-2, but Sanchez worked it back full and fouled off several tough two-strike pitches. The ninth pitch of that at-bat was that ugly hack off the plate. Sanchez stood hunched over at the plate for a moment, clearly miffed he expanded the zone so much in a big spot. Growing pains.

The Yankees went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and, of course, one of the two hits didn’t even score a run. That was Headley’s second inning single, which advanced Teixeira to third. The other hit was Williams’ game-tying single in the ninth, which ultimate went for naught.

The top three hitters in the lineup: 1-for-13 (.077) with two strikeouts, both by Sanchez. Jacoby Ellsbury is now 6-for-48 (.125) in his last 12 games, including 2-for-22 (.090) since returning from the bone bruise in his knee. Teixeira was the only starter with multiple hits.

Pineda’s fifth strikeout was his 200th of the season. He’s the first Yankee with a 200+ strikeouts since CC Sabathia fanned 230 batters in 2011. He’s the first right-hander with 200+ strikeouts in pinstripes since Mike Mussina (214) and Rogers Clemens (213) both did it in 2001.

And finally, the Orioles won and the Tigers lost, so Baltimore has opened a 1.5-game lead for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are 5.5 games back and their tragic number is two. On the bright side, the O’s have an off-day Monday, so the Yankees can’t eliminated until Tuesday at the earliest.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score and updated standings at ESPN, and the video highlights at MLB.com. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the stupid win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This series still isn’t over. The Yankees and Blue Jays will wrap up this four-game set Monday night, in New York’s final road game of the season. Girardi announced Luis Severino will get the start in place of the injured Masahiro Tanaka. Lefty J.A. Happ will be on the bump for Toronto.

Sunday Open Thread

It’s awful that we need days like today to remind us baseball is just a dumb game. Complaining about bullpen management and runners left in scoring position seems so silly. Jose Fernandez, one of the game’s brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident earlier today. He was only 24 and due to become a father soon. Authorities said no alcohol or drugs were involved. It was just an accident. I’m glad we got a chance to experience Jose Fernandez and his passion for the game, though he was taken from this world far too soon. This sucks.

Here is an open thread the rest of the day. The Cardinals and Cubs are the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game for like the fourth time this season, plus there’s all the day’s NFL action. Talk about any of that stuff and more right here.

Game 155: Okay, fine, how about just one run?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Twenty-seven innings without a run. Even worse, the Yankees have only had 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position in those 27 innings, so they aren’t even getting chances to score. We’ve sat through some putrid offensive slumps the last four seasons, but nothing like this. The Yankees haven’t scored a run since Wednesday. Wednesday!

In case you’re wondering — I know I was — yes, the Yankees have been shut out in four consecutive games before, back in 1932. They did that despite having six Hall of Famers in the lineup: Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Sewell, Earle Combs, and Babe Ruth. Also, the 1932 Yankees won the World Series. So yeah. The last team to be shut out in four straight games? The 2012 Giants. They won the World Series too. Freaky. 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. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Mason Williams
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s cool and cloudy in Toronto today. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:07pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Horrible news to pass along: Marlins ace Jose Fernandez and two others were killed in a boating accident earlier this morning. The team has confirmed the news. He was only 24 and Jose recently announced he was soon going to be a father. The Marlins have canceled Sunday’s game.

“On behalf of Hal Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees, we offer our deepest condolences to Jose Fernandez’s family and loved ones, and to the entire Miami Marlins organization he so joyfully and proudly represented,” said the Yankees in a statement.

Fernandez was more than just a great baseball player. He was very active in the community and an icon in the Cuban community in Miami. Fernandez defected at age 15 in 2008 — he was jailed three times for prior defection attempts — and while defecting he jumped into the Gulf of Mexico to save his mother, who’d fallen overboard.

Stuff like that makes baseball inconsequential. Fernandez was a great person who used his fame to help others. No, he had no ties to the Yankees other than trade rumors, but this is a devastating loss for the baseball world and fans in Miami. How incredibly sad. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.

Offense breaks out for three hits, Yankees lose 3-0 to Blue Jays anyway

In their last seven games at Rogers Centre, the Yankees are 0-7 and have been outscored 38-7. Total domination. They were handed a 3-0 loss by the Blue Jays on Saturday to put any postseason hopes on life support. The Yankees stink right now. Thank goodness there’s only a week left in the season.

One of the Yankees' few baserunners. (Presswire)
One of the Yankees’ few baserunners. (Presswire)

Twenty-Seven & Counting
No, not World Series titles. Innings without a run. The Yankees have not scored a run since Donovan Solano‘s two-run home run in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Rays. They’ve been shut out in back-to-back-to-back games for the first time since 1975. Basically, when Gary Sanchez doesn’t hit a home run(s), this team doesn’t score. Weak at-bats up and down the lineup.

The Yankees had three hits Saturday afternoon: Aaron Hicks poked a ground ball single through the left side of the infield in the second inning, Ronald Torreyes drove a triple into the right-center field gap in the eighth inning, and Brett Gardner sliced an opposite field single in the ninth inning. That’s it. In the biggest at-bat of the game (for the Yankees), pinch-hitter Billy Butler struck out against Jason Grilli with Torreyes at third to end the eighth.

Aside from the three hits, the only other hard-hit ball I remember was Brian McCann‘s grounder in the second inning, which of course went for a 3-6-3 double play. The Yankees drew three walks (Gardner, McCann, Solano), and of the 30 batters they sent to the plate Saturday, seven hit the ball out of the infield in the air. Give Marcus Stroman credit, he was excellent, but these last few days have been a complete and total tank job by the offense.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Carsten Charles in Charge
The Yankees need a great pitching performance to have any chance to win these days, and CC Sabathia gave them seven tremendous innings Saturday afternoon. No runs, three singles, three walks, and one double. That’s it. Sabathia didn’t strike out many, only two, but he also continued to limit hard contact and miss barrels. The cutter has been a huge addition. He’s been able to prevent hitters, especially righties, from leaning out over the plate.

Sabathia’s biggest jam came in the second inning, which Jose Bautista started with a leadoff double. A walk by Russell Martin followed, and Sabathia then fell behind in the count 3-1 to Troy Tulowitzki. Only three of his first 12 pitches that inning were strikes. Luckily Tulowitzki banged into a double play, and after a walk to Melvin Upton, Dioner Navarro popped up harmlessly to shallow center field. Disaster averted.

After that messy second inning, Sabathia retired 15 of the final 18 batters he faced, and two of the three baserunners came in the same inning. The Blue Jays had one baserunner in CC’s final four innings, and that was a one-out walk by Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth. Sabathia now has a 2.57 ERA in his last seven starts and 42 innings. The Yankees have been shut out in three of those seven starts.

Bad Matchups
The inevitable Tyler Clippard home run regression has come. He gave up the game-winning home run to Hanley Ramirez last Sunday, and on Saturday afternoon, he allowed the game-winning three-run homer to Bautista. Clippard got two quick outs to start the eighth inning, but a single by Josh Donaldson and a walk by Encarnacion brought Bautista to the plate, and you can’t throw him a 91 mph 2-0 fastball here:

Tyler Clippard Jose Bautista

Clippard’s the eighth inning guy and he’s going to pitch the eighth inning, but he’s such an extreme fly ball pitcher that using him against the middle of the lineup is always going to be a dicey proposition, especially with his stuff fading at this point of his career. Using Clippard against the middle of the order burned Joe Girardi against the Red Sox last weekend and again Saturday. Hopefully Girardi’s a little more judicious with Clippard’s usage next year and doesn’t simply assign him an inning (lol nope).

Leftovers
The Yankees have now been shut out 13 times this season, which is their most since being shut out 15 times in 1990. They’ve somehow been shut out seven times in their last 31 games despite Sanchez’s awesomeness. Three hits and three walks Saturday, and half their baserunners were erased on a caught stealing (Gardner) and two double plays (McCann, Torreyes).

And finally, the Royals mounted a miraculous five-run comeback in the ninth inning to beat the Tigers earlier Saturday, so they’re tied with the Orioles for the second wildcard spot as of this writing. The Yankees are four games back. Their tragic number is a mere five.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the all too familiar LPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Blue Jays will play the third of these four games Sunday afternoon. That’s a regular ol’ 1pm ET start. Michael Pineda and Marco Estrada are the scheduled starters. Offense optional.

Game 154: Runs, Please

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Want to hear something crazy? The Yankees are 1-9 in their last ten games against teams other than the Rays. They’re 5-2 against Tampa during that time, but yeah, 1-9 against the not-Rays is really bad.

The Yankees have looked every bit as bad as that 1-9 record too. They’re not scoring, the pitching staff is held together by duct tape, and these days the defense hasn’t looked so hot either. And yet, they’re still alive in the postseason race. Extreme long shots? Yup. But still alive. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. RF Aaron Hicks
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Ronald Torreyes
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. 2B Donovan Solano
    LHP CC Sabathia

The internet tells me it is a little on the cool side but otherwise lovely in Toronto today, which means the Rogers Centre roof should be open. This afternoon’s game will begin at 4:07pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Saturday Links: Fan Appreciation, Caps, Girardi, Refsnyder

This year's rookie hazing theme: Baby Bombers! (@Yankees)
This year’s rookie hazing theme: Baby Bombers! (@Yankees)

The Yankees and Blue Jays will continue their four-game series with the second game this afternoon. Until then, I recommend checking out Jeff Passan’s 25 things you didn’t know about baseball, plus these bits of news and notes.

Yankees holding Fan Appreciation Day

The Yankees announced they will hold a Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday, October 2nd, at Yankee Stadium. That’s the final day of the regular season, and the day of Mark Teixeira‘s farewell ceremony. Here’s the press release with all the details. In a nutshell, there are ticket discounts and seat upgrades and random prizes. All sorts of cool stuff. Best of all, everyone in attendance gets a voucher for two free tickets to a game next season. Nice work, Yankees. This is pretty great.

New Era logo coming to MLB caps

According to Chris Creamer, all MLB caps will feature the New Era logo on the left side starting this postseason. MLB’s contract with New Era was amended to include the logo recently, and this extends into the 2017 season. I’m not sure about beyond that. So yes, the iconic Yankees hat will have a New Era logo on the side next year, similar to this:

Yankees New Era hat

Hats were the last piece of the uniform that did not bear the manufacturer’s logo. In fact, Creamer says the Yankees are the only team in baseball exempt from having a Majestic logo on their jersey sleeves. I didn’t know that. The New Era logo is far more noticeable though, and frankly, it looks kinda amateurish. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now I’m not a fan. Maybe put a smaller New Era logo on the back of the hat near the MLB logo?

Girardi among best bullpen managers

Earlier this week Rob Arthur and Rian Watt put together a study that attempts to measure bullpen management, essentially by comparing reliever quality and leverage index. Which managers have their best relievers on the mound in the most important situations, basically. According to their metric, the best bullpen manager since 2000 is Joe Torre, believe it or not. He was 13% better than average. Joe Girardi and Ozzie Guillen are tied for second at 11%.

Two things I found interesting about Arthur’s and Watt’s work: One, there’s not much correlation in bullpen management from year-to-year. A manager can have a good year one year and a bad one the next. I imagine reliever quality, which is very volatile, has a lot to do with that. And two, the difference between the best and worst bullpen managers is only about a win across a full 162-game season. That seems low, but remember, ultimately it’s up to the pitcher to perform. The manager doesn’t pitch. Even great pitchers have bad outings.

Refsnyder a Marvin Miller award finalist

Through fan voting, Rob Refsnyder has been selected as the AL East finalist for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, writes Bryan Hoch. The award is given annually to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” The winner is picked through a players-only vote, and the MLBPA will donate $50,000 on behalf of the winner to the charity of his choice.

Refsnyder has been working to raise money for A Kid’s Place, which helps Tampa area children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. He designed and is selling a t-shirt through Athletes Brand, with all proceeds this month going to the charity. The other division finalists for the Man of the Year award include two ex-Yankees: Curtis Granderson, David Robertson, Anthony Rizzo, Lance McCullers Jr., and Justin Turner.