Well that was … interesting. Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Red Sox featured a starting pitcher ejection, sloppy defense, and a disappearing offense. The trifecta of bad.
WTF Big Mike?!
Yeah, so Michael Pineda made a really dumb decision. Less than two weeks after getting caught with pine tar on his hand — caught by television and the internet and everyone but the umpires and Red Sox — he was caught with pine tar on his neck in the second inning of this game. Unlike the last time, the Red Sox brought it to the ump’s attention, they went out and looked at Pineda, and he was immediately ejected as per the rules. He’s also facing a suspension. He deserves whatever he gets for being dumb enough to use it so blatantly a second time. Spoiler: More on this coming Thursday morning.
Defense? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Defense
Holy moly what a bad game in the field. Derek Jeter committed two errors — he was only charged with one, the other was ruled a hit for reasons unbeknownst to me — and they led to three runs total. The first went right through his legs and the other was a poor throw that short-hopped Mark Teixeira at first. Brett Gardner looked awkward in his first game in right field, most notably failing to catch a blooper near the wall. I thought it was clear he was uncomfortable running towards the wall from that direction.
Later on, Kelly Johnson threw away a barehander that led to an insurance run in the eighth. Adam Warren chucked a potential 1-6-3 double play ball into the dirt and it short-hopped Jeter, so no outs were recorded. The Yankees were charged with three errors but it could have been about five or six. This was as bad as they’ve looked in the field in a while. The shaky defense contributed to four of Boston’s five runs.
Runs Are Overrated Anyway
Despite the rough start, this game was very winnable. The bullpen did a fine job of keeping it close but the offense never managed to scratch anything together. The Yankees actually had a runner on base in every inning but the second and eighth, yet their only run came when Carlos Beltran (double) and Alfonso Soriano (sac fly) teamed up in the sixth. Otherwise the Yankees stranded runners at second and third in the fifth and a runner at first in the first, third, fourth, seventh, and ninth.
Beltran and Brian Roberts both went 2-for-4 while Brian McCann, Soriano, Gardner, and Johnson had one hit apiece. The Yankees didn’t draw a walk and they struck out a season-high 14 times. Teixeira took a big fat 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and Jeter saw his 11-game hitting streak come to end. This was also the first time he failed to reach base in a game this season. Worst game for the Cap’n this year by far. This looked nothing like the team that scored nine runs and pounded the ball all night on Tuesday.
Parade of Relievers
Because Pineda was ejected so early, Joe Girardi had to run through his bullpen thoroughly. David Phelps threw two innings and 57 pitches (!), Matt Thornton threw 1.1 innings and 25 pitches, Preston Claiborne threw two innings and 32 pitches, and Warren got three outs on ten pitches. They combined to allow three runs (one earned) on six hits and four walks. Phelps was easily the worst of the bunch, walking three and having a hard time putting guys away in general. He has Phil Hughes Disease. Get ahead of everyone 0-2 but struggle to put them away. Shawn Kelley, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Warren, and probably Thornton are in good shape for tomorrow’s game. Phelps and Claiborne … probably not.
Pineda wasn’t very good before the ejection and he looked very uncomfortable on the mound. He was taking lots of time between pitches and making lots of throws to first. Very fidgety. His body language made it clear he wasn’t comfortable. Pineda allowed two runs on one well-struck ball and a bunch of bloops and bleeders (and a Jeter error) in the first before getting two quick outs in the second. Then he was ejected. Because he was cheating. With pine tar. On his neck.
I was watching on YES, but apparently the ESPN camera caught some members of the coaching staff talking to Pineda in the tunnel at some point. I don’t know if it was before the ejection or after. Either way, Girardi pushed the camera so it couldn’t see down the tunnel. Not a big deal but he’ll probably catch a fine for that. Can’t mess with the networks.
I know it was a weird game because of the ejection and all that, but I thought the YES booth was pretty terrible in this game. Lots of nonsense talk that had nothing to do with the game and more jibber jabber about infield shifts. They were treating it like a blowout even though it was only a four (and temporarily three) run game. Not a good night for the broadcasters.
The Yankees and Red Sox will play the rubber game of this three-game series on Thursday night, when lefties Felix Doubront and CC Sabathia square off. Win that game and tonight will be forgiven.
C Luis Torrens is currently out with some kind of shoulder injury, according to Josh Norris. He is currently catching bullpens but not throwing the ball back to the pitcher, and is expected back in a week or so.
Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Buffalo) the win makes Dave Miley the winningest manager in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise history (575), so congrats to him
- RF Ramon Flores: 2-4, 1 CS — eleven hits in his last 35 at-bats (.314)
- CF Antoan Richardson: 0-1, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 3 SB — stole second, third, and home
- DH Russ Canzler & 3B Adonis Garcia: both 1-4, 1 R, 1 K — Canzler stole a base
- 1B Corban Joseph: 0-2, 1 RBI, 1 BB
- LF Ronnie Mustelier: 2-3, 1 R, 1 BB — eight hits in his last 19 at-bats (.421), though the only extra-base hit is a double
- RHP Chase Whitley: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 7/0 GB/FB — 42 of 67 pitches were strikes (63%), plus he picked a runner off first
- RHP Al Aceves: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 36 of 52 pitches were strikes (70%) … in the bullpen, huh?
Michael Pineda was ejected from tonight’s game for having a foreign substance (pine tar) on his neck. Red Sox manager John Farrell brought it to the home plate umpire’s attention, they checked him out, and he was ejected. Pineda is facing an automatic
ten-game suspension now, per the rulebook. (Ten games is for the minors, MLB can suspend whatever they want.)
As you know, Pineda was seen with a substance on his hand against the Red Sox two weeks ago. It was played off as “everyone does it, just be more discrete about it,” but apparently Pineda never got the message. The ejection is well deserved. I mean, seriously. Couldn’t hide it better than that? Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb.
Masahiro Tanaka and the offense set the tone last night. Tonight, Michael Pineda is charged with keeping it going and helping the Yankees to a third straight win. He is facing the Red Sox for the second time in less than two weeks, the first time a team will get a second look at him this year. How much will that matter? The element of surprise is a very real thing, but it’s not like Pineda relies on tricking hitters to succeed. The element of surprise means a little less to him, I think.
Anyway, Brett Gardner returns to the starting lineup tonight at a new position: right field. He has never played the position in his career (minors or Majors) aside from a handful of innings in Spring Training. This allows the Yankees to play their weakest outfield defender in tiny left field while their two strongest cover the bigger parts of the park. I like it. Given all the shifts the Yankees have employed this year, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised the team is thinking outside the box defensively. Here is the Red Sox lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- RF Brett Gardner
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Kelly Johnson
RHP Michael Pineda
Remember all that talk about rain last night? Forget it. It’s not raining in Boston but it is chilly and very windy. The balls might be flying out of the park tonight. Either that or being held in. We’ll find out soon enough. Tonight’s game will start at 7pm ET and will be broadcast on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.
Ivan Nova has requested another opinion on the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, according to Chad Jennings. The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows plays to get another opinion from the doctor of their choice. The test results are being sent to Dr. James Andrews and it is unclear if he will look at Nova himself. Yankees team doctor Dr. Ahmad confirmed the original diagnosis during yesterday’s exam, but I guess Ivan wants to make sure he can not avoid Tommy John surgery before going under the knife. No big deal. Few days won’t make a difference.
The Yankees dismantled the Red Sox last night, and you could argue their two most exciting pitchers were on the mound for the win. Masahiro Tanaka navigated the first 7.1 innings before Dellin Betances mopped things up and recorded the final five outs. The duo combined for nine strikeouts and no walks, improving the team’s league-leading K/BB ratio to 3.44. The Red Sox are a distance second at 3.12.
Tanaka has been everything we could have possibly expected (and more!) this season while Betances is … still a middle reliever despite only allowing one run on three hits in 9.2 innings of work. He’s also struck out 16 of 38 batters faced and 56.3% of his balls in play are on the ground. Plus he can do this (via Pitcher GIFs):
That’s a pretty neat trick.
And yet, despite all of his early season success, Betances is no higher than sixth on Joe Girardi‘s bullpen pecking order. There are two reasons for that. One, he’s walked six guys in those 9.2 innings. Betances has a history of control problems and we’ve seen him come completely unhinged once or two already this season. He just loses the ability to throw strikes — I’m not even talking about painting the corners here, just basic strike-throwing ability — without warning and that can be scary.
Two, Betances is just a kid, at least in terms of experience. He did turn 26 a few weeks ago after spending eight years in the minors, but he has still only thrown 17.1 innings in the big leagues. That’s nothing. Girardi has used him as a low-leverage reliever and his 0.43 gmLI (Leverage Index when entering the game) bears that out. Only eleven out of 177 qualified relievers have a lower gmLI right now and they’re last guy out of the ‘pen types. There’s no doubt Girardi has been keeping Betances away from important situations if at all possible.
Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Not at all. There’s a level of trust that has to be built and it hasn’t yet. There hasn’t been enough time. David Robertson went through a similar situation early in his career — remember he had walk problems early on — sporting a 0.66 gmLI in his rookie year in 2008. Heck, it was a 0.77 gmLI in 2009. Robertson didn’t graduate from exciting young arm to bonafide high-leverage reliever until 2011, his fourth year in the show. Shawn Kelley went through the same thing last year (0.69 gmLI in April and May). So did Boone Logan a few years ago and Phil Hughes when he first moved into the bullpen in 2009.
As good as he was last year and in Spring Training and during these first few weeks, Betances still has a lot to learn about being a reliever in the Major Leagues. Girardi is very good with his bullpen and he’s shown he will be patient and not unnecessarily push new faces into primo bullpen roles (veteran free agents like Matt Thornton and Rafael Soriano are the obvious exceptions). With more experienced guys like Robertson, Kelley, Adam Warren, and David Phelps around to handle the important innings, the Yankees and Girardi have the luxury of breaking Betances in slowly. His opportunity for high-leverage work will come, but he has to put in some time in a lesser role first.
Through the first three weeks of the season, the starting rotation has been the clear strength of the Yankees’ roster. The lineup and bullpen have been solid overall too, don’t get me wrong, but the starting staff has really stood out to me. That rotation took a hit yesterday when it became all but official that Ivan Nova will have Tommy John surgery, ending his season. He was not particularly good before getting hurt but those are still some big shoes to fill. Nova has shown he can be excellent for weeks at a time.
The first opportunity to fill those shoes is going to Vidal Nuno, almost by default. The southpaw made a rainout/doubleheader necessitated spot start on Sunday and he lines up perfectly to fill Nova’s spot thanks to Monday’s off-day. Nuno pitched well on Sunday (five shutout innings against the Rays) and I’m sure the rotation outlook would look much different if he got bombed. It might be David Phelps or heck, even Al Aceves making the start if Sunday didn’t go well.
Nuno was part of the four-headed fifth starter competition in Spring Training but I felt he was the long shot. That he pitched so well in camp and was still the first one eliminated from the competition makes me think I wasn’t wrong. And yet, he somehow he is the first loser of that competition to land in the rotation during the regular season. Things just fell into place for him. Adam Warren has taken over as a key setup man and Phelps was needed in middle relief, leaving Nuno for the spot start. He took advantage on Sunday.
Joe Girardi didn’t mince words when announcing the 26-year-old Nuno would remain in the rotation — “He is our fifth starter now,” he said to reporters prior to last night’s game — and we all know Nova isn’t coming back anytime soon. That rotation spot is wide open and it’ll go to whoever performs the best. Nuno gets a head start on the in-house competition and that’s big. He has a chance to not give the other guys chances. If he pitches well, he’ll keep the job no questions asked. It’s the opportunity of a baseball lifetime.
Remember, Nuno is a former 48th round pick who was toiling away in an independent league before hooking on with New York a few years ago. He’s had to overcome some seriously long odds to get where he is — starting pitcher for the New York frickin’ Yankees! — and I doubt the magnitude of this opportunity is lost on him. Can his soft-ish tossing ways allow him to turn over a lineup multiple times every fifth day in the AL East? Maybe, maybe not. He’s going to get a chance to show everyone if it does despite looking like little more than the team’s eighth starter just three weeks ago.
That win was much easier than the last one. The Yankees jumped out to early lead against the Red Sox on Tuesday night before piling on in the middle innings and walking away with a 9-3 win in the series opener.
This game started almost exactly like I hoped it would: with a Jacoby Ellsbury ground-rule triple. Well, kinda. He ripped a two-strike pitch from Jon Lester to dead center field that some idiot reached over the wall and tried the grab. The guy almost fell onto the field. He was reaching out pretty far. Anyway, the ball hit the guy’s hands and Ellsbury ran all the way around the bases, but the umpires sent him back to third on the interference. They could have sent him to second but determined he would have been at third on the play. Short of a leadoff homer, I’m not sure Ellsbury could have started his first game back at Fenway Park any better.
Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran followed the triple with well-struck singles to plate two quick runs. (Jeter moved to second on a passed ball before scoring on Beltran’s single.) It was clear early on that Lester was not as sharp as he’s been the last few weeks, struggling to locate to the corners of the plate in particular. When he missed, he missed way off the plate. Nine pitches into the game, the Yankees had three hits and two runs. Boston was playing catch-up before the anthem ended.
Tanaka You Out
I thought this was Masahiro Tanaka‘s worst start so far, which tells you how good he’s been. He held the Red Sox to two run on seven hits in 7.1 innings of work — the two runs came on back-to-back homers and the first was a monster blast from David Ortiz over the bullpen in center-ish field. I remember seeing Alex Rodriguez hit a ball there once, but can’t remember any others — throwing 73 of his 105 pitches for strikes. Tanaka generated a season-low 12 swings and misses, which is still pretty good. Here is the PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball. Remember, the data may change overnight.
Obviously he was effective, but I didn’t think Tanaka was as sharp in this game as he was in his last three. It seemed like his splitter was too far down for a lot of easy takes, and Brian McCann sure had to move his glove a lot. Lots of missed locations. It wasn’t a disaster outing but Tanaka wasn’t fully on either. It’s okay, it happens. That it happened and he still put together a pretty great start shows you just how special Tanaka is. Nothing seems to bother the guy — it was raining for most of the game — and he found a way to succeed even when he didn’t have it all working. It’s pretty clear Tanaka is the staff ace right now. What a stud.
All With Two Outs
For a little while it looked like the Yankees would regret failing to score after having the bases loaded with one out in both the second and third innings. (Ellsbury and Beltran grounded into double plays.) They were nursing a 4-2 lead when Mark Teixeira (walk) and McCann (single) reached base to lead off the top of the fifth. Yangervis Solarte and Ichiro Suzuki followed with strikeouts, and it looked like another rally was about to die far too young.
Instead, the Yankees put on a situational hitting clinic. And they got lucky too — Brian Roberts laced a line drive off Mike Napoli’s glove to score a run and extend the inning. It should have been the third out. A big league first baseman’s gotta make that play. Ellsbury ended Lester’s night with an eight-pitch at-bat, lining a single to left-center to score two runs. Derek Jeter capped the rally off with a single back up the middle to score the fourth and final run of the inning. Both Roberts and Ellsbury reached base in two-strike counts and, as you can tell, all four runs scored with two outs. Two-out runs are backbreakers.
Beltran tacked on a garbage time solo homer in the eighth to give the Yankees their ninth run. The wrap-around 8-9-1-2-3 portion of the lineup went a combined 10-for-23 with two doubles, one triple, and one homer. All five guys had exactly two hits. McCann went 3-for-4 with a walk and three singles, and all three hits were to the opposite field. He even hit some foul balls the other way. What’s that about?
Solarte went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and is now in an 0-for-15 slump. Anecdotally, it seems like he’s seeing way more breaking balls than he did earlier in the season. Solarte did make two excellent barehand plays, one to get Jackie Bradley Jr. on a bunt and another to get Napoli on a slow tapper. Teixeira came off the bag to snap the throw and tag Bradley.
Dellin Betances was the only reliever used and he allowed his first run of the season. It was bound to happen at some point. Otherwise he retired five of seven batters faced, including two via strikeout. He now has 16 strikeouts in 9.2 innings this year. Is that good? That seems good.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when Michael Pineda is scheduled to start against John Lackey. The forecast isn’t looking so good right now, but that can change over the next 20 hours or so. Hopefully it does. Big Mike day is one of my favorite days of the week.
Got some notes to pass along:
- RHP Ty Hensley threw a bullpen session today, according to his Twitter feed. He missed all of last year after having surgery on both hips, and he’s been slowed by a hernia early this year. Not sure how long he’s been throwing off a mound.
- RHP Shane Greene will make his first start of the season with Triple-A Scranton on Thursday. He’s been up and down a few times and hasn’t pitched much. Also, IF Zelous Wheeler (back) is close to returning. [Donnie Collins]
- And finally, here is Keith Law’s write-up on last night’s Low-A Charleston game. It’s behind the Insider paywall, but here’s the short version: RHP Luis Severino and OF Aaron Judge were very impressive, SS Abi Avelino and 2B Gosuke Katoh not so much.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Buffalo, walk-off style)
- LF Ramon Flores: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 2-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — walk-off double
- CF Adonis Garcia: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 15 hits in his last 41 at-bats (.366)
- DH Ronnie Mustelier: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K
- C Francisco Arcia: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — C Austin Romine was supposed to start but did not play according to Donnie Collins … he was not on the bench or lined up for the anthem either … not sure what’s up there, but he could be sick or something
- RHP Brian Gordon: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 4/8 GB/FB — 59 of 94 pitches were strikes (63%)
This game is a Very Big Deal. Or at least that’s what we’ll hear all night (and all series, really) because it is Masahiro Tanaka‘s first career start in Fenway Park. Everything is bigger when it comes to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry and acting like mid-April games are more meaningful than they really are is part of it. It’s kind of annoying but whatever. Annoying if the Yankees lose, anyway.
David Robertson is back off the 15-day DL and he will be a huge boost to a bullpen that was started to get a little exposed late last week. Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren did fine jobs as the interim closer and setup man, respectively, but now they’ll be pitching one inning earlier. It’s not necessarily the ninth inning that improves with Robertson back, it’s the middle innings, the sixth and seventh. Re-adding an elite reliever the roster has a trickle-down effect. Here is the Red Sox lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Carlos Beltran
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It is cloudy and warm in Boston, plus it’s supposed to start raining later tonight and continue right through to tomorrow night. Doesn’t looking like it will be a problem for tonight’s game unless it goes to extra innings. Tomorrow is another matter, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET, and you can watch the game on My9 and MLB Network. Enjoy.