Yanks hang on for 1-0 win over Mets in Whitley’s first start

Baseball is weird, man. The Mets destroyed the Yankees and their pitching staff in the first two games of the Subway Series, scoring 21 runs in the two games at Yankee Stadium. Then, naturally, the Yankees shut their crosstown rivals out in the two games at Citi Field. Rookie starter Chase Whitley and three relievers followed Masahiro Tanaka‘s shutout with a combined shutout of their own on Thursday. The final score was 1-0.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One Run? That’s All You’ll Get And You’ll Like It
This game was a pitcher’s duel for the first 6+ innings. Whitley (more on him in a bit) and fellow rookie righty Jacob deGrom traded zeroes for a while, and it wasn’t until there were two outs in the seventh that the Yankees broke through. Mark Teixeira drew a one-out walk but was erased at second on Brian McCann‘s fielder’s choice. He beat out the would-be double play thanks to a poor relay throw from second. Alfonso Soriano made the Mets pay with a double into the left-center field gap, scoring McCann all the way from first base. He was huffing and puffing the whole way.

Aside from that rally, the only other time the Yankees put a runner at third base came in the eighth inning, when Derek Jeter grounded out weakly to short with the infield in. The runner was cut down at the plate. Kelly Johnson and Brett Gardner drew walks earlier in the inning and advanced on a wild pitch. deGrom retired eleven in a row at one point and looked very sharp in the middle innings. The Yankees had their hands full with the rookie hurler. He made basically one mistake pitch in that seventh inning and they pounced.

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

Whitley’s Debut
Based on the fact that he picked up his first career hit before allowing his first career hit, Whitley’s big league debut was a success. Throw in the fact that he held the Mets to two singles and two walks in 4.2 scoreless innings and I’d say it was a definite success. Despite his lack of experience as a starter, Whitley didn’t seem nervous on the mound and he filled the strike zone before tiring in the fifth inning. It was only the fourth scoreless MLB debut by a starter in team history and the first since Sam Militello in 1992. Yep.

I’m sure Joe Girardi was very tempted to let Whitley get the final out of that fifth inning, especially since the pitcher’s spot was due to lead off the next half-inning, but I thought he pulled him at just the right time. Whitley was starting to tire in that final inning (back-to-back walks) even though he threw only 74 pitches on the night — his season-high in Triple-A was 88 pitches two weeks ago, his only game over 78 pitches — and the most important thing is always winning the game. The bullpen bailed him out of the second-and-third jam and Whitley can spend the next few days feeling good about his debut.

All told, Whitely struck out four and got eight ground ball outs compared to only two in the air. The only hard hit ball was Lucas Duda’s fly out to the left-center field warning track to end the second inning. That’s it. The two hits were a ground ball through the right side and a bloop to center. Whitley was missing barrels, that’s for sure. Here’s hit pitch breakdown, courtesy of Brooks Baseball (PitchFX data may change overnight):

  • 37 fastballs, 26 strikes, three whiffs, averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 94.4
  • 23 changeups, 10 strikes, four whiffs, averaged 84.8 and topped out at 87.9
  • 14 sliders, seven strikes, three whiffs, averaged 86.8 and topped out at 88.8

The Yankees’ pitching staff is full of opportunity right now and I have to think Whitley will make another start in five days (six, really, because of an off-day). He’ll remain in the rotation almost by default. Whitley pitched very well though, especially considering he’s been a starting pitcher for basically two and a half months. He gave the Yankees a much needed shot in the arm — this was the first scoreless outing by one of the team’s non-Tanaka starters in four weeks, since Vidal Nuno in Tampa — and it was good to see someone come up from Triple-A and contribute right away for once.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Brilliant Bullpen
Dellin Betances came into this game with a 41.3% strikeout rate (14.85 K/9) and left it with a 44.8% strikeout rate (15.72 K/9). The big man got a ground ball to third to escape Whitley’s jam in the fifth inning, then he tacked on another two scoreless innings. He struck out the side. Both times. Seven batters faced and six strikeouts, all in a row. Betances was overpowering. The Mets had no chance. David Robertson is awesome, but I can’t remember the last time the Yankees had a pitcher this dominant on an inning-by-inning basis. Maybe Mariano Rivera in 1996? Dellin’s awesome.

Adam Warren got the ball to start the eighth inning, and he ran into a little self-inflicted pickle by walking the reanimated corpse of Bobby Abreu with one out. Following an Eric Young Jr. strikeout, Daniel Murphy put runners on the corners with two outs by slapping a soft ground ball single inside the third base foul line. Girardi did what he said he would do a few days ago and went to Robertson for a four-out save, which was absolutely the right move. One-run game, runners on the corners, David Wright at the plate? Get your best reliever in there. Robertson coaxed a ground out from Wright and then tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his seventh save. Girardi did a great job with the bullpen by going to Betances and Robertson in the biggest spots of the game.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
According to the batted ball data at FanGraphs, Jeter hasn’t hit a ball in the air since last Wednesday, the final game of the series in Anaheim. He made four outs in three plate appearances in this game (lined softly back to the pitcher for a double play) and failed to get an insurance run in from third in the seventh inning when the runner was thrown out at home. Jeter was double-switched out of the game when Robertson was brought in, a move that would not have happened had the game been played in an AL. I wouldn’t expect this to be a regular thing. Either way, the Cap’n could probably use a day or two off this weekend.

Yangervis Solarte had really rough day, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout and two double plays. He killed a potential rally in the ninth with a double play and I thought Girardi should have challenged the call at first. It was very close and replays showed he probably out, but in that situation, just use the challenge and see if you get lucky. Maybe the umpire in Midtown sees it differently. I understand wanting to save the challenge for potential call in the bottom of the ninth (you could always “encourage” the umps to review a play in the ninth, as per the rulebook), but chances are you won’t need it and the rally could have been extended. Oh well.

The Yankees only had six hits on the night, including two by Soriano. Jacoby Ellsbury doubled, Teixeira single, McCann singled, and Whitley singled. Gardner drew two walks while Teixeira and Johnson drew one apiece. Zoilo Almonte struck out in his first at-bat of the season, which wasn’t surprising considering he was facing a lefty. He is a switch-hitter, but that doesn’t mean much. He had a .946 OPS against righties in Triple-A compared to a .392 OPS against lefties. Eek.

In addition to his 44.8% strikeout rate, Betances is now down to a 0.82 FIP on the season. The three relievers combined to strike out ten batters in 4.1 innings and they did not allow a ball to leave the infield in the air. Murphy’s single that stayed just fair as it rolled by third base was the only ball they allowed to leave the infield in general.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees continue the Yankee Stadium portion of the homestand with a three-game series against the Pirates this weekend. Edinson Volquez and David Phelps kick that one off on Friday night. Worst pitching matchup of the year? Possibly. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch any of the three games.

Game 40: Two Debuts

(Presswire)
Whitley. (Presswire)

Thanks to injuries to each team’s Opening Day starter, both the Yankees and Mets will have a pitcher make his MLB debut tonight. Righty Chase Whitley is filling in for CC Sabathia (knee) while fellow righty Jacob deGrom steps in for Dillon Gee (lat). Neither Whitley nor deGrom is a top prospect, but they have the potential to be useful big league arms in some capacity. Whitley only recently converted from reliever to starter, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles turning over a big league lineup.

Via Bryan Hoch, Elias says this is the first time the Yankees have been involved in a game in which both starters were making their MLB debut since October 1908. They were still the Highlanders back then. That is kinda nuts. The Mets were involved in one of these games back in September 2010, when Gee made his debut against Yunesky Maya. That’s the last time two starters have made their debuts in the same game. It just so happened to include the Mets. Here is the Mets lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Alfonso Soriano
  7. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  8. 2B Brian Roberts
  9. RHP Chase Whitley

It is cloudy and cool in New York, and it was raining overnight and for a good chunk of the morning. There is no more rain in the forecast though, so they shouldn’t have any trouble getting this game in. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on both YES and SNY locally, as well as MLB Network nationally. Depending on where you live, of course. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, Carlos Beltran (elbow) has been placed on the 15-day DL. That cleared a 25-man roster spot for Whitley. The Yankees are back to a normal seven-man bullpen and four-man bench. Righty Bruce Billings was activated off the 15-day DL and designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Whitley, the team announced. He was out with a forearm strain.

Stopper: Tanaka snaps four-game skid with 4-0 shutout of Mets

No matter how long the losing streak gets and no matter how much the other starters get knocked around, every fifth day there is Masahiro Tanaka to make things right. The Yankees ace chucked his first career MLB shutout on Wednesday night, carrying his team to a 4-0 win over the Mets. It was their first Subway Series win since 2012. I’m taking about an individual game, not the whole season series.

"When do the Major League games start?" (Al Bello/Getty)
“When do the Major League games start?” (Al Bello/Getty)

Total Domination
The Yankees have won five games in the month of May and Tanaka has been on the mound for three of them. He was in total control on Wednesday, basically playing a game of catch with catcher Brian McCann and having his way with opposing hitters all night. Tanaka allowed three singles and one double in his nine scoreless innings, striking out eight and generating 22 swings and misses out of 114 low-stress pitches. He face the minimum three hitters in six of nine innings and only faced four batters in the other three innings.

The Mets did not have a runner reach third base against Tanaka and only two made it as far as second. Tanaka threw a first pitch strike to 21 of 30 batters and only went to three three-ball counts all night. By Game Score (87), this was the best pitched game by a Yankees starter since … Tanaka last month. He also had an 87 Game Score in that game against the Cubs (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 10 K). Tanaka is the first Yankee with two 87+ Game Scores in a single season since Mike Mussina in 2002. It’s only May.

And just because what he did on the mound wasn’t enough, Tanaka slapped a ground ball single back up the middle for his first career MLB hit in the ninth inning. You know a pitcher has done his job when he get four at-bats in a game. Tanaka was masterful, putting hitters away with every pitch in his arsenal — he got a swing-and-miss with five different pitches and at least six whiffs with three different pitches (four-seamer, splitter, slider) according to Brooks Baseball — and never once ran into trouble. This guy is in total control when he’s on the mound. It’s a blast to watch.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

One Run, Four Times
The Yankees built something of a picket fence in the middle innings, scoring one run in each of the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh innings. The first run scored because Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. made the bone-headed decision to dive for a soft line drive, only to fall short and watch the ball scoot by him for a Brian Roberts triple. Yangervis Solarte drew a walk before that and came around to score. There were two outs in the inning and Tanaka was due to hit. Why in the world is he diving? Whatever.

The second and third runs were pretty straight forward: Solarte jumped all over a 3-1 fastball for his fourth homer — if he starts regularly hitting dingers, oh boy — and Mark Teixeira yanked a 1-0 pitch out into the bullpen for his team-leading eighth homer. Solarte’s was a annihilated and he hit it with style too, dropping to one knee a la Adrian Beltre. Here is the requisite GIF:

Yangervis Solarte

Outstanding.

The Yankees scored their fourth run with two hits that traveled maybe 100 feet combined. Brett Gardner beat out an infield single to second base, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Derek Jeter‘s chopper out in front of the plate. The throw pulled first baseman Lucas Duda off the bag and Jeter was safe, which was good because they were two outs in the inning. I wonder if Joe Girardi would have gone to David Robertson in the ninth inning if the score was 3-0 instead of 4-0? I guess we’ll never know.

The Yankees had at least one man on base in seven of nine innings and really worked rookie right-hander Rafael Montero hard early on. He threw 69 pitches in the first three innings — at one point he and Tuesday’s starter Zack Wheeler had combined to throw 187 pitches to get 22 outs — and wound up throwing 108 pitches in six innings. He faced 25 hitters and had to throw at least four pitches to 14 of them. The Yankees really wore Montero down in his MLB debut. They have now scored at least four runs in each of their last eight games, their longest such streak since doing it in 12 straight back in July 2012.

Three rookies. (Getty)
Three rookies. (Getty)

Leftovers
Roberts went 2-for-4 with two triples, the first two-triple game of his career. He was pretty awesome and fast back in the day. I figured he would have had two triples in one game at some point, but I guess not. It’s the first two-triple game by a Yankee since Curtis Granderson in 2010. Gardner had two more hits and is 22-for-62 (.355) in his last 16 games. Jeter (single), Teixeira (homer), Solarte (homer), and Tanaka (single) had the other hits while Jacoby Ellsbury and Solarte drew walks.

The daily defensive miscue did not come back to bite the Yankees on Wednesday. In the bottom of the first, as he was trotting out to shallow right field for the shift, Solarte got caught with his back to infield and Daniel Murphy stole second base uncontested. The Mets tried it again in the fifth inning, but Solarte was paying attention and he got to the bag in time to receive the throw and tag out Chris Young.

And finally, Tanaka is pretty awesome. I just needed to say that again. I’m sure you understand.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some additional stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Yankees have lost nine of their last 14 games are still a half-game back of the Orioles for the division lead. The AL East sucks this year.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Mets wrap up the 2014 Subway Series on Thursday night at Citi Field. The starters — Chase Whitley and Jacob deGrom — will both be making their MLB debuts. It will be the first time two starters make their big league debut in one game since September 2010 (Dillon Gee and Yunesky Maya) according to @BRefPlayIndex. Neat. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live.

Game 39: Save Us, Masahiro

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
(Mike McGinnis/Getty)

The current rotation has a very 2008 vibe to it, with Masahiro Tanaka playing the role of Mike Mussina and Michael Pineda playing the role of Chien-Ming Wang. Once Wang went down, the rotation was Moose and pray for rain that year. It was pretty ugly, especially in the second half. Right now it’s Tanaka and no one else. He’s the only guy in the rotation who legitimately gives the club a chance to win each time out.

The Mets, meanwhile, are starting rookie righty Rafael Montero tonight. He will be the fifth pitcher to make his MLB debut during the Subway Series and the first since David Robertson in 2008. The others: Tyler Clippard, Brandon Claussen, and someone named Jaime Cerda. Baseball America ranked Montero as the 68th best prospect in the game before the season but I thought they underrated him a bit. He’s the steady, reliable one while Noah Syndergaard is more flashy and exciting. Think of Montero as Matt Cain and Syndergaard as Tim Lincecum.

Anyway, here is a breakdown of Montero courtesy of MLB Farm. The Yankees have lost each of their last four games overall and each of their last six games to the Mets, dating back to last season. That’s pretty annoying. Hopefully Tanaka takes care of business. Here is the Mets lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alfonso Soriano
  7. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  8. 2B Brian Roberts
  9. RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It has been cloudy and cool in New York all day, but there’s no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game will air on both My9 and SNY locally as well as ESPN nationally. First pitch is scheduled for 7pm ET. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Ichiro Suzuki (back) feels better but is still questionable for tonight’s game. He did some running and hit in the batting cage both today and yesterday … Carlos Beltran (elbow) received treatment and feels “a little better,” though he remains in wait-and-see mode … the Yankees still have four available bench players even with Ichiro and Beltran banged up, so they’re in decent shape for the DH-less game.

Bullpen Update: There were no roster moves made, so Alfredo Aceves and Matt Daley remain on the roster despite yesterday’s extended outings. David Phelps did not throw his usual between starts side session and can throw an inning or two tonight, if need be.

Mets Rotation Update: The Mets placed right-hander Dillon Gee on the 15-day DL with a lat strain this afternoon. Righty Jacob deGrom will start tomorrow night’s Subway Series finale in his place. It will be his MLB debut.

Game 38: Just Win

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

These last few days have been very rough on the Yankees, and not just because they’ve lost three straight. Players are getting hurt left and right. CC Sabathia is on the DL. Shawn Kelley is on the DL. Carlos Beltran has a bone spur in his elbow. Ichiro Suzuki‘s back is sore. Mark Teixeira says he feels like he has “cement blocks” for feet. That’s just the stuff we know about too. It’s ugly.

The Yankees have lost five straight games to the Mets dating back to last season, including each of the last three at home. They are 9-9 and have been outscored 87-69 (!) in the Bronx this season. That has to stop. Opposing teams are way to comfortable visiting Yankee Stadium right now. The Yankees have not yet lost four games in a row this season and it would be wonderful if they avoided that fate tonight. Here is the Mets lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. DH Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Alfonso Soriano
  7. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  8. 1B Kelly Johnson
  9. 2B Brian Roberts
    LHP Vidal Nuno

It’s a little cloudy and cool in New York right now, but there are no showers in the forecast. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little at 7pm ET, and you can watch on both My9 and WPIX locally as well as MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Try to enjoy.

Michael Pineda Update: Pineda (shoulder) played catch this afternoon and continues to progress with his throwing program. No word on when he will get back up on a mound.

Ichiro Update: Ichiro (back) feels better but will probably not be available tonight. Zoilo Almonte was called up today and is the backup outfielder.

Rotation Update: The Yankees will indeed call up Chase Whitley to start on Thursday, according to Ken Rosenthal. Al Aceves remains in the bullpen. A year go, I would have never thought Whitley would make his MLB debut as a starter.