Yankees 5, Indians 2: Didi & CC send the Yankees to the ALCS

Guys. GUYS. The Yankees are going to the ALCS. For real. They are going to the damn ALCS. After dropping Games One and Two of the ALDS, the Yankees officially completed the comeback to beat the best team in the AL in five games. Talk about Fighting Spirit, eh? The final score in Game Five was 5-2 on Wednesday night. Smell ya later, Indians.

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

Sir October
I’ve said this more times than I care to count over the years: I love first inning runs on the road. Score nice and early, force the other team to play catch-up right from the get-go. It’s great. In a game of this magnitude, scoring first felt that much more imperative. You don’t want to fall behind on the scoreboard against a guy like Corey Kluber.

Wednesday, the Yankees did score in the top of the first, and it was Sir Didi Gregorius who came through. Kluber missed badly with a fastball — catcher Roberto Perez was set up outside and Kluber missed way inside — and Gregorius hooked it into the right field seats for a solo home run and a quick 1-0 lead. Scoring first in this game felt so good. So good. Took the crowd right out of it.

Two innings later, Didi did it again. Brett Gardner started the inning with a leadoff single, then Kluber missed his location again badly, this time with a breaking ball. It hung up out over the plate and Gregorius again hammered it to right field, this time for a two-run home run. Through three innings, the Yankees led 3-0. Couldn’t have asked for a better start.

The Yankees chased Kluber in the fourth inning, which is ridiculous. That’s after chasing him in the third inning in Game Two. Kluber’s line for the series: 6.1 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, 4 HR. Four homers in 6.1 innings! You’ll never hit home runs against great pitchers in the postseason, they said. If you’d have told me Kluber would throw 6.1 innings in the series, I would’ve guessed the Indians won in three or four games. Instead, the Yankees knocked him around twice, and Gregorius gave his team a 3-0 lead.

Carsten Charles In Charge
As soon as Gregorius hit that first inning home run, we were all thinking the same thing. Shut it down, CC Sabathia. Have a quick first inning and get the offense right back on the field. Sabathia did that and more. He retired the side in order in the first on 14 pitches, and went on to retire the first nine batters he faced, and 13 of the first 14 batters he faced. Nine of those 13 batters struck out. Nine!

I get the sense Joe Girardi was ready to pull Sabathia at the first sign of trouble Wednesday night. It just so happens the first sign of trouble did not come until the fifth inning. Go figure. Austin Jackson, Jay Bruce, Roberto Perez, and Giovanny Urshela strung together four straight singles to put two quick runs on the board. Just like that it was 3-2. We’ve seen that a few times this year. Sabathia cruises for a few innings, then hits a wall and it unravels.

As I sat at home watching on television, I thought Sabathia should’ve been out after the Perez single. The Yankees had a 3-1 lead at the time, but the Indians had the tying run on base, and the bullpen was locked and loaded. Girardi decided to stick with Sabathia against Urshela, the No. 9 hitter, and it came back to bite him. The four straight singles ended Sabathia’s evening. His line: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Go CC. He’s still the man. The Man.

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

Hold On Tight
I love that Girardi went to David Robertson as the first guy out of the bullpen. He didn’t try to mess around with Chad Green or Tommy Kahnle because Robertson usually pitches late in the game. Girardi went to his best reliever right away, and Robertson replaced Sabathia with two runners on base and one out in that fifth inning. Two pitches later, Francisco Lindor banged into an inning-ending double play. Didi turned it beautifully.

Those two fifth inning runs got the Indians to within 3-2, which was uncomfortably close. Especially with four innings still to go. Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw were keeping the bats quiet, and it wasn’t all that clear the Yankees would score again. They were going to have to make that one-run lead stand up. Robertson once again went multiple innings, tossing scoreless sixth and seventh innings following that fifth inning escape.

The 2.2 inning outing was made possible by a very low pitch count. Robertson got the inning-ending double play on his second pitch in the fifth, and he needed only seven pitches to cut through the 2-3-4 hitters in the sixth. He finished the outing having thrown only 29 pitches in those 2.2 innings. That was huge. Had the Indians run up Robertson pitch count, the Yankees might’ve had some trouble in the sixth or seventh inning.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

That 3-2 lead was still intact in the eighth inning. I thought maybe Girardi would send Robertson back out and have him go batter-to-batter, but no, he went right to Aroldis Chapman for the six-out save. And I thought it was absolutely the right move. It was a one-run game and the top of the order was due up. That’s when you use your best reliever. The Yankees gave Chapman that $86M contract for that exact situation. One-run lead, meat of the order coming up in an elimination game. Those are the outs he was signed to get.

Fortunately, Chapman was able to keep his pitch count down like Robertson. He needed only 13 pitches in the 1-2-3 eighth inning. Three outs to go! Chapman would have to sit in the dugout for a while between the top and bottom of the ninth, however. The offense went out and scored him some insurance runs. Hooray for that. Aaron Hicks started the rally with a single to left, a single Jackson bobbled and turned into a double.

With Hicks on second and two outs, Todd Frazier worked a monster — and yet completely forgotten, it seems — at-bat against Cody Allen for a walk. He fouled away three two-strike pitches as part of a nine-inning at-bat to reach base and put two men on. Frazier’s at-bat was child’s play compared to what Gardner did next. Gardner, who was 2-for-4 up to that point, battled Allen for 12 pitches. 12 pitches! Look at this damn at-bat:

Best at-bat of the season? Best at-bat of the season. Best at-bat of Brett’s career, maybe. Gardner isn’t the greatest hitter, but that dude never gives an at-bat away, and with two outs in the ninth inning of Game Five in the AL-freaking-DS, Brett ground Allen into a pump. The single scored two runs — shout out to Lindor’s defense — and broke Allen’s spirit. “Every team in baseball could use a Brett Gardner,” Allen told David Waldstein after the game. Too bad. Gardner is ours and you can’t have him.

The two-run single gave the Yankees a more comfortable — but hardly safe, I’d say — 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. Chapman sat in the dugout a long time and coming out of that ninth inning with zero runs would’ve stunk. Thankful Gardner cashed in two. Chapman did walk the leadoff hitter in the ninth — that’s why sitting so long between innings was such a big deal — but otherwise got the final three outs without incident. Six-inning save to clinch the ALDS. Go Chappy.

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

Leftovers
Gregorius joined Yogi Berra (Game Seven of 1956 World Series) and Jason Giambi (Game Seven of 2003 ALCS) as the only Yankees to hit two home runs in an elimination game, if you can believe that. It was Didi’s third home run of the postseason too. Don’t forget that big three-run home run in the Wild Card Game either. I gotta say, I never expected Didi to develop into a legitimate middle of the order hitter on an ALCS bound team. What a trade.

More history: the Yankees are the first team in history to win a postseason game while striking out 16 times. Aaron Judge had four of those 16 strikeouts. He went 1-for-20 with 16 strikeouts in the ALDS. Yikes! Those are the most strikeouts in a postseason series in history, including seven-game series. Also, he’s the only player in history with three four-strikeout games in the postseason in his career. I still love ya, Aaron. He’ll snap out of it.

The Yankees had eight hits total. Three by Gardner, three by Gregorius, and one each by Starlin Castro and Hicks. Hicks, Frazier, and Jacoby Ellsbury drew walks. And! And Ellsbury reached on a catcher interference. How about that? Ellsbury is now the all-time leader with two career postseason catcher interferences. He holds the regular season and postseason records. Hey, the Yankees signed him to break records.

And finally, Gardner saw 34 pitches in his five plate appearances, and that includes a one-pitch at-bat in the first inning. So that’s 33 pitches in his final four plate appearances, or 8.25 pitcher per plate appearances. What a beast.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here’s out Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
What’s next? An ALCS date with the high-flying Astros. That series begins Friday night in Houston. Dallas Keuchel is starting Game One for the Astros. No word on who will start for the Yankees yet. I imagine it’ll be Sonny Gray. We’ll see. Thursday is an off-day, thankfully. I want to enjoy the hell out of this game and series for little while, and also maybe see my cardiologist.

Yankees 7, Indians 3: Severino sends ALDS back to Cleveland for Game Five

The season no one wants to end still ain’t over. After going down 0-2 in the ALDS, the Yankees have battled back to force a Game Five. Four Indians errors and five unearned runs (!) helped the Yankees to a 7-3 win in Game Four on Monday night. The Fighting Spirit. It is strong with this team.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Taking Advantage Of Mistakes
Shout to the Indians for starting Trevor Bauer on short rest in Game Four. I am forever cool with the idea of using starters on short rest in the postseason, but only frontline aces. Not guys like, well, Trevor Bauer. The decision to start Bauer really backfired Monday. He didn’t make it out of the second inning and the Yankees forced him to throw 55 pitches to get five outs. Bauer wasn’t nearly as crisp as he was in Game One.

To make matters worse for Bauer, third baseman Giovanny Urshela gave the Yankees a free out. He booted Starlin Castro’s hard-hit ground ball to put a man on first with one out in the second. It wasn’t a routine play because it was hit hard, but I think it was a play a Major League third baseman should make. Let’s recap that inning with an annotated play-by-play, because a lot happened.

yankees-vs-indians-play-by-play

(1) Over the weekend, Sunny wrote the Yankees would need some plain ol’ good luck to come back in this series, and they got it in Game Four. First the usually sure-handed Urshela made the error, then Todd Frazier jumped all over a hanging 3-1 curveball for a run-scoring double into the left field corner. The ball was a line drive that landed on the foul line. Look:

todd-frazier-double

When you’re going bad, that ball hooks just foul. When you’re going good, that ball stays fair. The ball stayed fair and Castro scored the game’s first run. Nice job by Frazier to hammer the hanging curveball.

(2) Bauer was clearly having trouble with the Yankees at this point, so during that Aaron Hicks at-bat, he broke out his changeup. Threw two of them back-to-back to get ahead in the count 1-2. Hicks was able to foul off a two-strike pitch to stay alive, take a curveball down below the zone, then hammer another hanging curveball into center field to score Frazier. Love that two-strike hitting.

(3) Once again, Bauer jumped ahead in the count 1-2, this time to Brett Gardner. And once again, the Yankees hitter spoiled a two-strike pitch, took a ball, then laced a single back up the middle. Gardner’s was a ground ball though. Hicks hit it in the air. That was two straight two-strike hits with two outs, the second of which scored a run to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. Then to really rub it in, Gardner stole second base uncontested. Bauer was running out of ideas. He couldn’t put the Yankees away and get that third out of the second inning.

(4) Aaron Judge has not had a good ALDS. It’s no secret. He was 0-for-11 with nine strikeouts (!) in the series going into Game Four, and of course Bauer quickly got ahead of Judge with two quick strikes. Back-to-back curveballs in the zone for an 0-2 count. Judge went into battle mode after that. He spit on two curveballs out of the one to even things up 2-2, fouled off two straight two-strike pitches, took another curveball for a ball, then crushed a high fastball for a two-run double. Look at this thing:

aaron-judge-double

Good gravy. We’ve seen the Indians — and several other teams this season — beat Judge upstairs with high fastballs. It works … as long as you get it high enough. Bauer, apparently, did not. Judge ripped it to left field to score two runs and give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. That was huge. Scoring just the two runs that inning would’ve been nice. Getting those last two felt huge. It turned a good inning into a great inning. Three straight two-out hits with two strikes. Love it.

(5) Didi Gregorius? More like BB Gregorius! Because he’s drawn a lot of walks this series, you see. That second inning walk was not only Didi’s second walk of the game. It was his fifth walk of the series and his fourth walk in four plate appearances dating back to Game Three. And! And he drew a walk next time up. Five walks in five plate appearances for Gregorius spanning Games Three and Four. Can you imagine? He drew 25 walks during the entire regular season. Now he has six in four ALDS games. Huh.

Anyway, in the third inning, the Yankees benefited from another Urshela error. They loaded the bases with one out against Mike Clevinger on a walk (Greg Bird), a double (Castro), and another walk (Frazier). Hicks followed with a ground ball to first base — Carlos Santana threw home for the force out — for the second out of the inning. Suddenly the rally was on life support. That’s when Gardner hit a routine grounder to Urshela, who unnecessarily looked at second, then airmailed the throw to first. Santana had to jump to make the catch, which kept him off the base long enough for Gardner to beat out the play and a run to cross the plate. Is it better to be lucky or good? How about both. The Yankees were both in Game Four.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Lucky Number Sevy
After the Wild Card Game, I don’t think it was unreasonable to be worried Luis Severino might again be a little too amped up in Game Four on Monday night. He was all over the place in the Wild Card Game and the Twins made him pay for his mistakes. The Indians are a lot better than the Twins, so if Severino was overthrowing again, things could’ve gotten out of hand in a hurry.

Sure enough, Severino came out and was missing up and away with his fastball in the first inning. It looked like he was overthrowing again. His first inning fastball locations:

luis-severino-fastballsHmmm. The good news is Severino retired the side in order in that first inning, so if he was overthrowing, it didn’t come back to bite him. Severino really settled in after that, retiring eight of the next nine men he faced following the first inning. Things did speed up on him a bit in the fourth, after the Yankees scored their fifth run. Severino walked Jay Bruce with two outs, then left a slider a little too up in the zone to Santana, who parked it beyond the center field wall for a two-run homer. Suddenly 5-0 became 5-2.

Then, one inning later, Roberto Perez reached out and poked a fastball into the short porch for another home run, this one a solo shot to further trim New York’s lead to 5-3. Bad things were happening. Severino allowed two homers in the span of four batters, and his final out of the fifth inning was a line drive Castro caught at the apex of his leap at second base. The Indians were starting to make hard contact, and with the lead down to 5-3, I thought maybe it was time to get the bullpen involved.

Instead, Joe Girardi stuck with Severino, and he rewarded him with quick sixth and seventh innings. His final pitch, No. 113 on the night, was a 99.1 mph fastball. Ridiculous. Severino’s final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. The two homers stunk, sure, but that is a Grown Ass Man outing from the 23-year-old kid in an elimination game. If Severino doesn’t get a chance to pitch again this season, he gets to finish on a high note. What a performance.

The Wrath of Kahnle. (Presswire)
The Wrath of Kahnle. (Presswire)

The Late Innings
Much to the delight and appreciation of everyone, the Yankees tacked on insurance runs after the Santana and Perez homers cut the lead to 5-3. In the fifth inning, Frazier reached second base when Danny Salazar threw a ball into foul territory. Frazier hit a little grounder and the ball got by Santana at first base. Another error. Frazier moved to third on a Hicks ground out and scored on Gardner’s sac fly. Shout out to the Indians for playing Jason Kipnis in center. The career second baseman had no momentum behind his throw at all, allowing Frazier to slide in safely.

In the sixth, the Yankees added another run on Gary Sanchez’s second home run of the ALDS. The first was a two-run shot against Corey Kluber. This one was a solo shot the other way against Bryan Shaw, who was out there throwing 99 mph cutters. For real. The Yankees did strand plenty of runners in Game Four — they went 4-for-13 (.308) with runners in scoring position and still managed to strand eleven runners — which is annoying, but the Indians made a lot of defensive mistakes and the Yankees capitalized. There are no style points at this point. However the runs score works for me.

With a 7-3 lead and his top relievers all worn down, Girardi went to Dellin Betances in the eighth, and bad Dellin showed up. Two walks to start the inning, then the hook. He threw a dozen pitches and only four were strikes. His pitch locations.

dellin-betances-pitch-locationsYeah. The thing is, Betances was great in Game One of the series and great for his first two innings in Game Two. Then Bad Dellin showed up in Game Four. Sigh. Girardi pulled him after the second walk because he had to, and in came Tommy Kahnle. Six up, six down, five strikeouts for Kahnle. He has retired all 15 batters he’s faced in the postseason. Like I said after the Wild Card Game, Kahnle is going full 1996 David Weathers this October. He’s just going to come in and shove. Awesome.

Leftovers
Eight hits and six walks for the Yankees overall. Gardner had two hits, Gregorius had three walks, and Bird, Castro, and Frazier each had a hit and a walk. Another rough night for the DH spot though. It was occupied by Chase Headley in Game Four. He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. The DH spot is 0-for-18 in the postseason now. Gross.

I had no problems with Girardi’s bullpen usage, not that anyone asked me. I was fine with going to Betances in the eighth, I was fine with yanking him after two walks, and I was fine with Kahnle completing the game. I know people were screaming to pull Betances after the first walk, but that’s not realistic. You can’t send a reliever out there with a one baserunner leash every time. The dude will be walking on eggshells each time he pitches.

Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman did warm up in the bullpen at various points, though they didn’t really get hot. It was more like playing catch to get loose. Green was throwing in the sixth in case Severino ran into trouble and Chapman was throwing in the ninth in case Kahnle got into trouble. Again, fine with me. Having Playing a little catch never hurt anyone.

And finally, according to Statcast, the slowest fastball thrown by the Yankees in Game Four registered at 96 mph. That is ridiculous. It’s not an accident either. The Yankees built their pitching staff around power and it was on full display Monday.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here is our Bullpen Workload page and here is the win probability graph …


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game Five. After losing the first two games, that’s all you could hope for. A chance to play Game Five. Tuesday is an off-day, then the two teams will reconvene at Progressive Field on Wednesday night for the series finale. That one will feature a CC Sabathia vs. Corey Kluber rematch. Fun fun fun.

Yankees 1, Indians 0: Tanaka and Bird keep the season alive

Andy Pettitte, Cecil Fielder, and Paul O’Neill’s catch in Atlanta. Mike Mussina, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter‘s flip play in Oakland. Masahiro Tanaka, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge‘s catch against the Indians. Add another intense 1-0 postseason win to the Yankees Classics reel. The Yankees kept their season alive Sunday night with a 1-0 win in Game Three of the ALDS. What a win. What a team.

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

There Goes My ‘Hiro
When the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka four years ago, they envisioned starts like this. Season on the line, back up against the wall against the best team in the league. As big as a game can get, really. Tanaka’s regular season wasn’t great, so more than a few folks were skeptical going into Game Three, but holy cow did Tanaka deliver. One of the best postseason starts in franchise history given the stakes. I don’t think that’s hyperbole.

Through seven masterful innings, Tanaka held the Indians to three hits and a walk in seven shutout innings, striking out seven. Did he get some help from his defense? Yes, absolutely. Judge robbed Francisco Lindor of a two-run home run in the sixth, using all 6-foot-8 of his frame to make the leaping catch at the wall. A game-saver, it was. Best of all, Judge took the home run away from Zach Hample, everyone’s least favorite ballhawk.

More MVP worthy than anything Judge has done all year. (Screen grab via Sung-Min Kim)
(Screen grab via Sung-Min Kim)

Perfect. Just perfect. Give Judge the MVP just for that alone.

Anyway, the biggest moment of the game for Tanaka came in the fourth inning. Jason Kipnis ripped a line drive that deflected off Judge’s glove and rolled away — Aaron Hicks, dude, you’ve gotta back up the play — for a one-out triple. A sticky situation, that was. Not only was the runner at third with one out, but MVP candidate Jose Ramirez was the plate. The same Jose Ramirez who struck out in only 10.6% of his plate appearances this year. With a runner on third and one out, you want a ball in play, and few make as much contact as Ramirez.

Tanaka, however, did manage to get that huge strikeout by leaning on what else? His splitter. He threw four splitters in the six-pitch at-bat, each one nastier than the one before. The strikeout pitch was a nasty split that dove right out of the strike zone. Tanaka followed that up by striking out Jay Bruce, who has done some serious damage against the Yankees this season. Runner on third with one out? Striking out the No. 3 and 4 hitters makes for a fine escape job.

With his bullpen short, Joe Girardi asked Tanaka to go out for the seventh inning even though there were some signs of fatigue and general “the Indians are starting to get to him.” He didn’t get any swings and misses in the fifth and sixth inning, and more pitches were being left up in the zone. But Tanaka went out and sat down Ramirez, Bruce, and Carlos Santana in order to complete seven strong.

There’s a chance this was Tanaka’s final start as a Yankee. The Yankees are still down 2-1 in the series, the Indians are still great, and the opt-out is looming. And a performance like this only going to push Tanaka closer to opting out, if he’s still sitting on that decision. If it was his final start, he went out with a massive bang, with a clutch showing against the league’s best win in an elimination game. Not an ace? Please. This was as ace-like as it gets.

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

Hang On To The Roof
Oh, by the way, Carlos Carrasco is really good too. He had video game stuff working Sunday night. Carrasco didn’t pitch quite as well as Tanaka — he finished with three hits and three walks allowed in 5.2 innings — but he kept the Yankees off the board and that’s all that matters. The Yankees had their best chance to score against Carrasco in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with two outs. Andrew Miller quickly snuffed that out with a Starlin Castro pop-up. Alas.

After six innings, this felt very much like a “first team to homer wins” game, and given the stakes, that’s pretty scary! Especially since Tanaka has had some home run issues this year and Yankee Stadium is known to give up a cheapie from time to time. As it turned out, the Yankees were the team to get that big home run, and it came in a rather unexpected way. From a left-handed hitter against Andrew Miller. Huh.

That left-handed hitter: Greg Bird. Twice Bird has faced Miller in this series — they’d never faced each other prior to the ALDS — and twice Miller worked him over. Took his lunch money and stuffed him in a locker. That’s usually how it goes for Miller against lefties. In Game Three though, Miller left a fastball up in the zone and Bird swung like he knew it was coming. He turned around the 95 mph heater for a second deck shot and a 1-0 lead. The very necessary video:

I love everything about it. Bird’s reaction. Miller’s reaction. The way the camerawork makes it look like that ball landed in the upper deck. The crowd reaction. Love it all. It was a no-doubter off the bat, and Yankee Stadium got as loud as I’ve ever heard it. It was as loud as any postseason game I’ve been too at the old ballpark. The stands were shaking and everything. What a moment. What a home run. After everything Bird has been through the last two years, how could you not be happy for the kid?

Protect The Lead
Bird’s seventh inning home run meant the Yankees were six outs away from forcing a Game Four. How would they get those outs? With a taxed bullpen, the answer wasn’t obvious. David Robertson came in to start the eighth inning and he was so very clearly running on empty. Austin Jackson bailed him out by flying out on a 2-0 pitch for the first out, but a six-pitch walk to Michael Brantley followed, and that was it. Robertson was done. His pitch locations:

david-robertson-pitch-locations

That is a pitcher running on fumes. And who could blame him? Between the Wild Card Game and ALDS Game Two, Robertson had thrown 77 high-stress pitches — in only two appearances! — in the previous four days. With Chad Green and Dellin Betances also having worked hard of late, Joe Girardi had three options. One, stick with Robertson. Nope. Couldn’t do it. I’m glad Girardi pulled him. Two, go with Tommy Kahnle or Adam Warren. Okay. Defensible but not ideal.

Or three, go to Aroldis Chapman, who the Yankees gave the largest reliever contract in history so he could save games exactly like this one. Girardi went with the third option. In came Chapman for the five-out save. Greg Allen, who pinch-ran for Brantley? Stranded at first. Chapman struck out Yan Gomes and Giovanny Urshela to end the eighth inning, and he needed eight pitches to do it.

Now, in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees had a great chance to tack on an insurance run. Brett Gardner started the inning with a bloop double — hooray for Kipnis in center! — but two strikeouts (Judge and Gary Sanchez), an intentional walk (Didi Gregorius), and a fielder’s choice (Castro) put an end to that. I know I’m not the only one who said to myself “they’re going to regret not scoring that run, aren’t they?”

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

The ninth inning was never going to be easy. Not because Chapman stinks or anything like that, but because the ninth inning in games like this are rarely easy. Getting three quick grounders to close out a game like this just doesn’t happen, you know? Chapman started the ninth by striking out Lindor, but Kipnis shot a two-strike single back up the middle to put the tying run on base, then Ramirez followed with an infield single to put the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run on base.

Calling it an infield single is, of course, leaving out a lot of information. It was a hard-hit ground ball that Todd Frazier stopped with a tremendous diving grab to his left. Just a fantastic stop … and then he muffed the transfer and no outs were recorded. I didn’t think he’d get the double play — Ramirez is too fast to double up after a dive — but the out at second? For sure. Instead, Frazier bobbled it and got none. Great. Fantastic. Awesome.

Chapman, by this point, was up over 20 pitches and starting to show signs of tiring. He threw two innings in Game Two two days ago, remember. Chapman was missing his spots and the foul balls were becoming more and more frequent. No one was warming up in the bullpen though, so it was Chapman’s game. He reached back to strike out Bruce — Bruce went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game Three — then battled Santana for seven pitches. On his 34th and final pitch of the night, Chapman coaxed a well-struck fly out to center for the 27th out. Look at his reaction:

aroldis-chapman-reaction

That is the body language of a man who thinks he might’ve just given up the season-blowing three-run home run. Fortunately, the 102 mph heater missed enough of the sweet spot to stay in the park. That was one hell out of an outing for Chapman. Gutsy. He didn’t have much left in the tank at all when Bruce was at the plate, but he managed to get Bruce and then Santana with the tying run in scoring position. Chapman’s biggest moment as a Yankee, easily.

Leftovers
How about Sanchez? Those strikeouts of Ramirez and Bruce to strand Kipnis at third base in the fourth inning were made possible by Sanchez blocking the hell out of splitters in the dirt. Tanaka knew it too. He pointed at Sanchez after the inning as they walked off the field. Gary had about six or seven great blocks in the game overall. For all the crap he takes for his blocking, much of it deserved, he was a beast back there in Game Three.

The Yankees only had five hits total. The dinger by Bird, bloop double by Gardner, a Hicks infield single, and solid singles by Sanchez and Gregorius. Judge and Jacoby Ellsbury each drew a walk while Gregorius drew two, one of which was intentional. The Yankees only had four at-bats with runners in scoring position all night.

Leftovers
For the box score, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. Here is our Bullpen Workload page and here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Game Three win means we get to do this all again Monday night. The Yankees will look to force a Game Five while the Indians will look to end this series and advance to the ALCS. Trevor Bauer, not Josh Tomlin, is starting that game for the Indians. The team announced Bauer will go on short rest after Game Three. Luis Severino will be on the mound for the good guys.

Indians 9, Yankees 8: Yanks grab defeat from jaws of victory in Game Two of ALDS

I don’t even know what to say. A litany of mistakes turned an 8-3 lead into a disastrous 9-8 loss in 13 innings Friday night, putting a Yankees on the brink of elimination in the ALDS. There are no excuses for this one and plenty of blame to go around, and no one deserves more blame than Joe Girardi.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sometimes Indecision Is Worse Than A Bad Decision
This game turned in the sixth inning. I’ll get to everything that happened before the sixth and after the sixth in a little bit, but right now, let’s focus on the sixth. The Yankees took an 8-3 lead into that sixth inning and CC Sabathia was cruising. He’d retired 11 straight batters before walking Carlos Santana on four pitches to start the frame. Jay Bruce lined out softy to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and that was it, Sabathia’s evening was over.

Personally, I was totally cool with removing Sabathia, even after only 5.1 innings and 77 pitches. We’ve seen Sabathia have trouble this season once his pitch count gets over 80-85, so going to a fresh Chad Green in a very important postseason game was a-okay with me. I just didn’t expect Green to be less than dominant. He looked pretty fatigued. Following an Austin Jackson fly out and a Yan Gomes double, Green hit Lonnie Chisenhall in the hand with a two-strike fastball. It is maybe the single biggest play of the season.

Immediately, Gary Sanchez pointed to the dugout telling the coaching staff to ask for a review because the pitch did not actually hit Chisenhall in the hand. It hit the knob of the bat and deflected into Sanchez’s glove. That’s a foul tip! That’s strike three! The inning was over! Sanchez was telling the Yankees to challenge … and the challenge never came. Chisenhall went down to first and everyone looked at each other for a moment, but no challenge. Here’s the play:

I am going to repeat this: the ball hit the knob of the bat and deflected into Sanchez’s glove for an inning-ending foul tip strike three. That’s what the Yankees had to gain there. The third out of the inning with two men on base to preserve their 8-3 lead through six innings. Inexplicably, the play was not challenged, and two pitches later Francisco Lindor walloped a grand slam off the right field foul pole. That 8-3 lead was suddenly an 8-7 lead. Some numbers:

  • Yankees win probability had strike three been called: 97.3%
  • Yankees win probability after the hit-by-pitch to load the bases: 93.2%
  • Yankees win probability after the grand slam: 68.4%

The difference between a strike three and the grand slam was roughly 30 percentage points of win probability, which is massive. That’s on par with the biggest non-walk-off hits in baseball each season. Green was having trouble putting hitters away and did not look very good — he’d warmed up three times since the second inning, which probably didn’t help — and eventually put a yucky slider on a tee for Lindor.

We have to go back to the non-challenge though. I’ve been harping on this for years. Girardi does not use his challenges enough. He has a great success rate year after year, but he also challenges fewer plays than just about every other manager, and that feels like a giant waste. Furthermore, you get two challenges in the postseason, not one. And Girardi still did not use one. Did I mention it would’ve been an inning-ending strike three? Because it would’ve been an inning-ending strike three.

I don’t blame home plate umpire Dan Iassogna for calling that a hit-by-pitch. It happens so fast I think it’s easy to understand why you’d call it a hit-by-pitch. But it wasn’t, and plays like that are why replay exists. There was nothing Girardi could’ve said after the game to make things better. He instead somehow made them worse. Here’s the video, if you want to watch. Here’s what Girardi said about the non-challenge:

“There was nothing that told us he was not hit on the pitch. By the time we got the super slo-mo, we were a minute — probably beyond a minute — and it was way too late. They tell us we have 30 seconds … Being (an ex-catcher), my thought is I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm. That’s how I think about it.”

I … uh … what? First of all, your catcher was telling you the batter was not hit by the pitch. Maybe Girardi would’ve listened if Austin Romine was behind the plate? If you’re not going to trust your starting catcher on a potentially huge play like that, it’s a big problem. Secondly, Chisenhall sure as heck did not react like a hitter who just a took pitch the hand, and that was an indication something was up. Pitches to the hand hurt. Girardi should know that. Chisenhall is either the toughest dude in history or he didn’t get hit.

And third, holy crap the “I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm” stuff is unbelievable. What a joke. Girardi had no problem breaking Aroldis Chapman‘s rhythm in the tenth inning when a ball may or may not have been thrown into the camera well. He had no problem with the endless parade of mound visits we saw this summer breaking his pitcher’s rhythm. Something tells me Green would have been totally cool with sitting in the dugout with a five-run lead having his rhythm broken had the call be challenged and overturned.

That to me sounds like a manager who screwed up, knows he screwed up, and doesn’t want to admit he screwed up, so he came up with that ridiculous excuse. Where is the accountability? Aaron Judge struck out in a record 30-whatever straight games this year and answered every question, took all the blame after each game. Tyler Clippard coughed up how many games this year? He took responsibility for all of them. The manager completely botches a challenge situation in the postseason and we get “I never want to break a pitcher’s rhythm” as an answer? Seriously?

Even if Girardi challenges and the replay crew in New York doesn’t overturn the call, fine, who cares? You did all you could do. A play that enormous can not go unchallenged. Just challenge it. Don’t wait for the thumbs up from replay guru Brett Weber. It’s the sixth inning and possibly the last best chance for the Indians to get back in the game. It was inexplicable and a complete failure on Girardi’s part. This was his Buck Showalter/Zach Britton moment. He will never escape it. It is part of his legacy. The decision — indecision, really — flew in the face of common sense, it cost the Yankees dearly, and Girardi wouldn’t even accept responsibility. Awful. Absolutely awful.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Breaking Down The Klubot
Okay, let’s get to the rest of the game. Who had the Yankees scoring six runs in 2.2 innings against Corey Kluber? Not me. That’s for sure. Most runs he’s allowed this season. True story. Right in the very first inning it was clear Kluber was not the usual F.U. mode Corey Kluber. He walked Judge and gave up a two-run home run to Sanchez to give the Yankees a quick 2-0 lead. Hooray!

The best part: the Yankees continued to work Kluber after the homer. By time Aaron Hicks struck out to end the first inning, they’d forced Kluber to throw 38 — 38! — pitches. Kluber hadn’t thrown 30 pitches in an inning since July 9th, in his final start of the first half. Couldn’t have asked for a better start. Two innings later, Starlin Castro poked a two-strike single back up the middle to give the Yankees their third run, and two batters after that, Hicks crushed a three-run home run to right field. Look at this thing:

Given the stakes and the pitcher, it is one of my all-time favorite home runs. Kluber just could not get the third out of that third inning and Hicks made him pay big time on that hanging slider. Two innings after that, Greg Bird demolished a two-run home run against Mike Clevinger to stretch New York’s lead to 8-3. Eight runs through five innings in a game Kluber started? We all would’ve taken that in a heartbeat. More than anyone expected.

Sabathia Grinds It Out
Man do I love Sabathia. His defense does not, apparently. Right after the Yankees took that 2-0 lead in the top of the first, they gave it right back with a gift-wrapped rally. Todd Frazier made an error on Lindor’s ground ball — he tried to ole it and missed — Sabathia walked Jose Ramirez on four pitches, then Sabathia hit Edwin Encarnacion in the knee with a pitch to load the bases with one out. Suboptimal! Carlos Santana tied the game with a two-run single.

Austin Jackson opened the second inning with a single, then Frazier committed his second error of the game when his throw to second base on Gomes’ potential 5-4-3 double play short-hopped Castro at second. Castro couldn’t make the pick and both runners were safe. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, then the Yankees a) intentionally walked Lindor to load the bases, and b) brought the infield in. Why set up the double play with the intentional walk only to bring the infield in? I do not understand. Jason Kipnis poked a single threw the drawn in infield for a 3-2 lead. Sigh.

Had the Yankees gone on to win this game, I was all ready to write that Sabathia’s escape job in the second inning as the biggest moment of the game. The Yankees were down 3-2 and the Indians had the bases loaded with one out. Sabathia managed to get Ramirez to pop-up in foul territory and Michael Brantley to strike out to end the inning, limiting the damage. That was huge. Ramirez and Brantley were the first two batters of an eleven straight batters retired stretch.

Sabathia’s final line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Frazier did him no favors with the two errors and Green allowed the runner he inherited from Sabathia to score as well. Like I said, I was cool with pulling Sabathia after 5.1 innings and 77 pitches. I just didn’t expect Green to come in and not be able to put guys away. He allowed nine two-strike foul balls to the four batters he faced. That’s not the Chad Green we saw all season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Blowing The Rest Of The Game
The non-challenge and grand slam were terrible, BUT, the Yankees still had the lead. It was 8-7 and the Yankees needed some combination of nine outs from David Robertson — Robertson replaced Green after the grand slam — and other relievers to earn the win in Game Two. Easy? No, not against the Indians. But doable.

Robertson mowed through the middle of the order in the seventh inning, then, despite Girardi saying he might not be available at all following his extended outing in the Wild Card Game, Robertson went back out for the eighth inning as well. He then gave up the game-tying solo home run to Bruce. Remember when the Yankees didn’t claim him on trade waivers or agree to take on his salary at the trade deadline? Think they regret that one? They should.

The Bruce home run tied the game 8-8. It was pretty crushing. Tommy Kahnle came in to finish off the eighth inning, and in the ninth, out came Chapman. He threw a scoreless ninth and tenth inning. So, just to circle back, Chapman could throw two innings in a tie game but not two innings with a one-run lead. Why not just use him to start the eighth instead of a fatigued Robertson? What the hell is going on here? I can’t be the only one who thinks this makes no sense.

While the bullpen did its thing, the offense was busy doing not much of anything. They had five baserunners in 8.2 innings after Bird’s dinger. Frazier led off the sixth with a single, then Gardner banged into a double play. Frazier led off the eighth with a single, Gardner bunted him up, but Judge grounded out and Sanchez struck out. Bird drew a walk and Hicks singled to put men on the corners with two outs in the tenth, then Chase Headley grounded out.

Worst of all, Frazier reached base again leading off the 11th, this time when third baseman Erik Gonzalez threw away a routine ground ball. Threw it way over Santana at first base and into the stands, allowing Frazier to advance to second base. Pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes then ventured too far off the bag and was picked off by Gomes from behind the plate. Brutal. Just brutal. Torreyes was originally called safe before the play was overturned.

A potential rally was snuffed out just like that. The Yankees never had another baserunner. Meanwhile, on the mound, Dellin Betances was throwing fire for the second straight night. Six up, six down in the 11th and 12th. As good as Betances has looked all season. Girardi decided to send Dellin back out for a third inning, which is when things went south. Jackson worked a leadoff walk, stole second, then scored on Gomes’ walk-off double down the third base line to end the game. Betances gets saddled with the loss but doesn’t deserve it. That game was lost long before he took the mound.

Leftovers
The Yankees had eleven hits and somehow they were all tied up in five players. Two hits for Sanchez, two hits for Castro, two hits for Bird, two hits for Hicks, and three hits for Frazier. All other Yankees went 0-for-20. Judge did draw three walks though. Gregorius drew one and Bird had one as well. Eight runs should be enough. More than enough. I mean, six innings in 2.2 innings against Kluber and lose? Turrible.

Green was charged with three runs in one-third of an inning. Robertson, Kahnle, Chapman, and Betances then combined to allow two runs in 6.2 innings, which isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things, they just happened to be two back-breaking runs. The Bruce game-tying homer and the Gomes walk-off double. Well, technically it was scored a single, but it would’ve been a double under normal circumstances.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the loss probability graph …


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The ALDS now shifts from Cleveland to New York, where the Yankees have been a much better team in 2017. Hopefully that trend continues in Game Three. It kinda has to. This season has been fun as hell and I’m not ready for it to end. Saturday is a travel day and the series will resume Sunday night. Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco are the Game Three scheduled starting pitchers. The Indians, in case you’re wondering, have not lost three consecutive games since June.

Indians 4, Yankees 0: Bauer dominates Yanks in ALDS Game 1

Well that was no fun. The Yankees dropped Game One of the ALDS on Thursday night and they didn’t put up much of a fight at all. Trevor Bauer started over Corey Kluber and no one would be able to tell the difference looking at the stat line. The Yankees lost 4-0 and the game didn’t feel as close as the score indicates. They trail the best-of-five series one game to none.

(Gregory Shamus/Gett)
(Gregory Shamus/Gett)

Gray Day
Sonny Gray‘s control is officially A Problem. He walked four batters in 3.1 innings Thursday night and is up to 12 walks in his last three starts and 14.1 innings. Furthermore, Gray went to a three-ball count on eight of the 17 batters he faced. Can’t pitch behind in the count that often. Can’t do it. And yet, Sonny has been doing it a lot lately.

In those 3.1 innings Gray allowed three runs, and it could’ve been worse. The Indians loaded the bases with no outs on a double, a single, and a hit batsmen in the second inning, but a double play ball and a fly out helped the Yankees limit the damage to one run. In the fourth inning, Gray walked leadoff hitter Edwin Encarnacion, then allowed a two-run homer to Jay Bruce. Somehow Bruce hit an up-and-in pitch out of the park:

jay-bruce-home-run

I thought that was a little jam shot fly ball off the bat, yet it carried over the right field wall. It was the kind of home run that, if it were hit at Yankee Stadium, we’d blame the short porch and say it wouldn’t have been a home run if the game was being played in Cleveland. Go figure. The home run gave the Indians a 3-0 lead and that was pretty much that.

Gray’s final line: 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K on 73 pitches. In other words, bad. Very bad. The Indians are really good team and they make a lot of pitchers look bad, but yeah, Gray was behind in the count all night and living on the edge. His last two starts haven’t been good at all. Hopefully he gets a chance to make up for it in five or six days.

Overpowered Over-Bauer-ed
Real talk: Trevor Bauer was razor sharp Thursday night. That doesn’t make it any less annoying. He crushed the Yankees will a steady mix of curveballs at the knees and fastballs on the corners. More than one left-handed hitting Yankee took a little comeback two-seamer on the inside corner for strike three. Bauer was really, really good.

It wasn’t until Aaron Hicks smoked a double the other way off the left field wall with one out in the sixth that the Yankees got into the hit column, and it wasn’t until the eighth inning that the Yankees had two runners on base at the same time. They never had a runner make it to third base in the game. Not one. Yeesh. Bauer’s pitch selection:

  • 49 fastballs (50% after 49.5% during the regular season)
  • 36 curveballs (36.7% after 29.1% during the regular season)
  • 9 cutters (9.2% after 8.2% during the regular season)
  • 5 changeups (5.1 % after 6.3% during the regular season)

Lots of curveballs. Lots and lots of curveballs. And the Yankees are a good curveball hitting team! They ranked tenth among the 30 teams with a .274 wOBA against curveballs during the regular season. (The league average is .221.) But, like everyone else, the Yankees have more success against fastballs — they were 12th with a .361 wOBA against fastballs (MLB average is .308) — and Bauer didn’t throw many.

Bauer’s final line: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K on 98 pitches. Great pitching has a way of making an offense look lethargic and that was certainly the case Thursday night. The Yankees didn’t look to have much of a chance at any point. Pretty much the exact opposite of the Wild Card Game, when they threatened every inning.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The Late Innings
Gray bowed out early and the good news is Jaime Garcia did a helluva job soaking up 2.2 innings out of the bullpen, sparing the other guys out there. He threw 44 pitches and allowed two walks but not a hit. Jaime gave the offense a chance to get back in the game — the Indians didn’t capitalize on two bases loaded opportunities early in the game and I was really hoping they’d end up regretting it — but the offense never reciprocated.

The Yankees had two chances to get back into the game, though one wasn’t much of a chance at all. Starlin Castro poked a two-out single the other way in the seventh, ending Bauer’s night. Andrew Miller came in and made mince meat of Greg Bird. Struck him out on four pitches to end the inning. If Matt Holliday is not going to pinch-hit there — guaranteed at-bat against a lefty, albeit a great lefty — I’m not sure what he’s doing on the roster.

Then, in the eighth, Chase Headley and Brett Gardner worked walks against Miller to put two men on base with two outs. That gave Aaron Judge a chance to make it a one-run game with one swing of the bat. Instead, Cody Allen struck him out on seven pitches. Judge went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and is the first Yankee to strike out four times in a postseason game since … Johnny Damon in 2009? Huh. Wouldn’t have guessed that.

Judge and Gary Sanchez went a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts and a double play ball. Ouch. They saw 35 total pitches and 21 were curveballs. Those two are not going to see any fastballs this series. The Indians made it pretty clear in Game One. Now it’s up to them to adjust. I’m pretty confident Judge will. Sanchez? Eh, he gets a little hacky at times.

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees had three hits total — the double by Hicks and two opposite field singles by Castro. Gardner, Bird, and Headley drew the walks. Rough. The Yankees struck out 14 times as a team, only the third time they’ve done that in a nine-inning postseason game. The last time was Game Three of the 2010 ALCS against the Rangers, when they struck out 15 times.

The good news: Garcia spared the bullpen and Dellin Betances struck out the side on eleven pitches in his inning of work. Hopefully that helps him build some confidence and feel good about things. Of course, Dellin can be razor sharp today and unable to find the plate tomorrow, so who knows.

And finally, the Yankees have been shut out in Game One of a postseason series twice before: 2000 ALCS by the Mariners and 2004 ALDS by the Twins. They came back to win both series. This one’s in the bag.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here is the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Friday’s forecast has improved quite a bit over the last 24 hours or so, so things are looking up for Game Two. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow. That’s a 5pm ET start. Former Indians ace CC Sabathia and current Indians ace Corey Kluber are the Game Two scheduled starting pitchers. Obvious big game is obviously big.

Yankees 8, Twins 4: Bullpen carries the Yankees to the ALDS

Never doubt the Fighting Spirit. The Yankees are heading to the ALDS after rallying from a big early deficit in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night, eventually earning an 8-4 win over the Twins. The bullpen, man. What an unbelievable job by those guys. We all knew they’d play a big role. Just didn’t expect it to be this big a role.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sevy & Out
So that was pretty much the worst case scenario, right? Brian Dozier hit Luis Severino’s fifth pitch of the night over the left field wall for a leadoff home run, and Eddie Rosario hit Severino’s 17th pitch of the night out to left field for a two-run home run and a quick 3-0 lead. That’s a good way to take the wind out of everyone’s sails, eh?

Severino lasted one (1) out in the Wild Card Game. Homer, foul out, walk, homer, single, double, showers. Brutal. To me, Severino looked to be overthrowing, probably because he was amped up. His first pitch was 100 mph and his location was terrible, and when velocity is up and location is bad, it usually means overthrowing. Getting one out from your starter in an eliminate game is suboptimal.

Oh Yes In-Didi
Fortunately, the Twins had Ervin Santana on the mound, and Big Erv does not like pitching in Yankee Stadium. He went into the Wild Card Game having allowed 25 runs and a .310/.379/.486 batting line against in 35 career innings at the ballpark. That’s a 6.43 ERA. Falling behind 3-0 early was daunting, but anyone who’s watched this Yankees team all year knows the game wasn’t over.

The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the first with a tried and true formula: a walk, a bloop, and a blast. Brett Gardner worked the walk, Aaron Judge dunked the single in center, and Didi Gregorius brought the damn house down with a three-run home to right field. The home run was awesome, clearly. But how about Judge’s single? He reached way out to poke a slider back up the middle:

aaron-judge-ervin-santana1

Just like that, a 3-0 deficit became a 3-3 game. The Yankees were back in business. And in the second, they took a 4-3 lead when Gardner yanked a solo home run into the right field second deck. Santana buzzed him up and in a pitch earlier, so when Gardner hit the homer, he dropped his bat and stared Santana down. Can you imagine? Gardner is usually a no nonsense put your head down and run guy, and here is pimping homers. What a time to be alive.

The Yankees scored their fifth run in the third inning, when it looked like they were all set to strand Gary Sanchez following his leadoff double. Gregorius and Starlin Castro struck out, but Greg Bird picked them up with a single to right field. Sanchez chugged all the way around from second to score a run to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. In the next inning, Gardner dunked a single to left and Judge smashed a two-run home run for a 7-4 lead.

The best part of the Judge homer? He actually showed some emotion. Check it out. Judge, as awesome as he is, is one boring dude. He puts his head down and runs, and never admires his homers. I get it, but it is boring. Nice to see the big guy show a little emotion. Judge celebrated that homer like a kid in Little League. It’s okay to have a little fun out there, especially when you sock dingers in the postseason.

That 7-4 lead held up until the seventh inning — we’ll get to the bullpen in a sec, don’t worry — when the Yankees tacked on another insurance run. They very nearly blew a bases loaded, no outs situation. A walk (Judge), a single plus an error (Sanchez), and an intentional walk (Gregorius) loaded the bases. A Castro pop-up and a Bird strikeout later, the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs. Oy vey. Fortunately Aaron Hicks, whose arm never came into play, got the run home with a walk. His fourth bases loaded walk of the year. This one was on four pitches too. Hey, I’ll take it. That 7-4 lead became an 8-4 lead.

(Presswire)
Yes. (Presswire)

Greenie & Robbie, Earlier Than Expected
I figured Chad Green would be the first man out of the bullpen whenever Severino got into trouble. I just didn’t think he’d enter the game in the first inning. Good gravy. And, no joke, that first inning might’ve been the biggest moment in the game. The Yankees were down 3-0 and the Twins had runners on second and third with one out when Green entered the game. He struck out Byron Buxton and Jason Castro to escape the jam. Some numbers:

  • Green escapes jam with 3-0 deficit: 29.6% win probability
  • Green allows the two inherited runners to score: 15.3% win probability

Pretty huge swing there. A 3-0 deficit stinks, but is not insurmountable. A 5-0 deficit is much more deflating. Preventing the Twins from adding any runs there — anyone gonna talk about their failures with runners in scoring position or is that reserved for the Yankees? — was big. Real big. Green escaped that first inning jam, tossed a scoreless second inning, then started to run out of gas in the third. He loaded the bases with one out on a single and two walks. Not great.

In came David Robertson, the eighth inning turned third inning guy. The Twins tied the game on a Buxton fielder’s choice — he’s so damn fast, there was no chance to turn the double play — but Roberston otherwise escaped the inning. Then he tossed a scoreless fourth inning. And a scoreless fifth inning. Then he went out for the sixth too. He’d thrown 31 pitches up to that point, and I was 100% cool with sending Robertson back out. Get as much out of him as you can.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

That sixth inning got a little messy because Robertson was visibly fatigued. He allowed a leadoff single to Zack Granite and two-out walk to Dozier. Joe Girardi came out to talk to Robertson in the middle of the inning, and apparently Robertson talked him into staying in the game, because he wasn’t lifted. The crowd enjoyed that. The walk ended Robertson’s outing. Career-high 3.1 innings on a career-high 51 pitches. Crazy.

So it’s the sixth inning and the Yankees had already used Severino, Green, and Robertson. Not great, but at least they had a three-run lead. Except Joe Mauer represented the tying run was at the plate, and he’s quite good. Girardi clearly does not trust Dellin Betances — he had Chasen Shreve warming before Dellin — so he handed the ball to Tommy Kahnle instead. I thought it would be CC Sabathia, but nope.

Kahnle escaped that sixth inning jam with some help from Gardner, who ran down Mauer’s deep drive in the left field corner. It was a heck of a lot closer to a game-tying home run than I thought it’d be. It chased Gardner to the wall. An out’s an out though. The Yankees were through six. Kahnle went back for the seventh and retired the side on 12 pitches. Girardi sent him back out for the eighth, and he retired the side on 15 pitches. It helped that Granite literally missed the first base bag on a would-be infield single.

What in tarnation. Granite hit a grounder that Bird had to field on the grass and flip to Kahnle, Kahnle dropped said flip and Granite, had he actually touched first base, would’ve been safe. Instead, he ran through the bag, Castro picked up the ball and tagged him out. Imagine if a Yankee had done that. Crazy. Twins need to work on those fundies in Spring Training last year, like actually stepping on first base.

Kahnle, who three days ago was yanked after allowing an infield single and a walk, went out and retired all seven batters he faced in 2.1 innings of no effs given relief. Amazing. Kahnle is going to go all 1996 David Weathers on us this postseason, you watch. Aroldis Chapman did the damn thing in the ninth — he did allow a single to Mauer, but whatever — to close this one out. The bullpen: 8.2 IP, 5 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 13 K. Unreal. Absolutely unreal. Green to Robertson to Kahnle to Chapman. Just like we all drew it up.

The Wrath of Kahnle. (Presswire)
The Wrath of Kahnle. (Presswire)

Leftovers
Gardner, Judge, and Sanchez each had two hits. They went a combined 6-for-12 with two homers, a double, and two walks. Those guys drove in three runs and scored seven. The other six hitters in the lineup went a combined 3-for-21 (.143). Gregorius had the big three-run home run, Bird drove in a run with his single, and Hicks beat out an infield single. He also drew the bases loaded walk.

Pretty terrible game for Castro, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and also let a field-able ground ball get by him for a single in the sixth inning. Not great, Starlin. Jacoby Ellsbury and Todd Frazier both went 0-for-4 as well. Frazier did drive a ball to the wall in center field that Buxton reeled in. Buxton crashed into the wall and later left the game with an injury.

And finally, Sanchez took a brutal foul tip right to the biscuits in the sixth inning. It was bad, man. Real bad. I’m glad Gary has already had a kid because I’m not sure things down there are going to be working properly for a little while. Make sure you check out Robertson’s reaction to the foul tip. Priceless.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings — not that we need them anymore — and MLB.com has the video highlights. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An actual postseason series. The Yankees will face the Indians in the ALDS. Oh boy. The best-of-five series starts Thursday with Game One in Cleveland. Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, will be on the mound in that game. The Yankees haven’t announced their Game One starter yet. I assume it’ll be Sonny Gray. Baseball is fun, yes?

Yankees close out 2017 regular season with 2-1 loss to Jays

You know, it’s too bad the Yankees lost Sunday’s season finale, only because 92-70 looks so much better than 91-71. They dropped Sunday’s meaningless game 2-1 to the Blue Jays to wrap up their most fun season in recent memory. The final record: 91-71 with a +198 run differential. Only the Indians, who have a +254 run differential, outscored their opponents by more runs in 2017. The Yankees had their best record since going 95-67 in 2012.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Montgomery’s Final Start
Jordan Montgomery‘s fine rookie season came to an end Sunday afternoon with yet another rock solid start. He held the Blue Jays to one run on two hits and a walk in five innings plus one batter, giving him a 3.88 ERA (4.06 FIP) in 155.1 innings. His +2.8 fWAR led all rookie pitchers in baseball this season. AL and NL, starters and relievers. Quite a season for the young man.

Montgomery needed only 62 pitches to record his 16 outs, though, to be fair, a lot of that was the Blue Jays swinging at everything in classic Game 162 style. He was pretty sharp otherwise, burying his curveball in the dirt and elevating the fastball when necessary. The run was aided by a grounder getting under Tyler Wade‘s glove at second base — Jose Bautista got the run home with a sac fly — but who really cares. This was a “get your work in start” and Montgomery did exactly that. Well done this year, Monty.

Let’s Go Home Offense
I wrote up this whole section expecting the Yankees to basically shut things down after the Blue Jays took the lead so they could get this game over with. Then Matt Holliday had to go out and hit a game-tying solo home run in the seventh inning. Dude. Uncalled for. Had this game gone to extra innings, I reckon Holliday would’ve been buying all his teammates dinner.

Fortunately, the Blue Jays let Holliday off the hook by scoring a run in the eighth inning. Rob Refsnyder reached on a strikeout/wild pitch, Ezequiel Carrera walked, Darwin Barney bunted them over, and Ryan Goins got the run in with a ground ball tapper that went maybe ten feet. All of that happened against Domingo German, who was otherwise throwing fire. Little Sunday is going to contribute quite a bit next season. You watch.

Let it be known Austin Romine, who some people truly believe should start the Wild Card Game, could not get a runner in from third base with less than two outs in the bottom of the seventh (he grounded out to third base), then couldn’t block a ball in the dirt on the strikeout/wild pitch that led to the go-ahead run scoring in the eighth. Gary Sanchez gets killed for any pitch that gets by him, wild pitch or passed ball. Only fair the same happens to Romine.

Andujar? More like Can-do-jar. (Presswire)
Andujar? More like Can-do-jar. (Presswire)

In a meaningless game, the Yankees did exactly what they were supposed to do Sunday: swing early and often. No need to prolong at-bats on such a nice day. The Yankees forced Blue Jays pitchers to throw 136 pitches in nine innings, so 15.1 pitches per inning. They sent 32 men to the plate and eleven saw no more than three pitches in their at-bat. Greg Bird drew the team’s only walk because Danny Barnes didn’t give him a choice. The four balls were well wide.

The Yankees had five hits on the afternoon, most notably Holliday’s dinger, the final dinger of the club’s 2017 regular season. Aaron Hicks, Chase Headley, and Wade had singles while Miguel Andujar lined a generously scored double. It was hard-hit, but center fielder Teoscar Hernandez let it go in and out of his glove on the slide. Wade was thrown out trying to steal second following his single — the shortstop Richard Urena blocked the base with his foot and took a hell of a spiking to keep Wade from being safe — as he prepares for a potential postseason pinch-runner role.

What did the regulars do? Well, Holliday played the entire game and hit the home run. Starlin Castro grounded out in the first inning, then was yanked to preserve his .300 average. Todd Frazier lined out in the second, then got the rest of the afternoon off. Headley lined out in the second and singled in the fifth, then his day was done. Bird replaced Headley at first base and drew a walk. Nice, easy game. Everyone made it out healthy, and that’s the most important thing.

Leftovers
Welcome back, Adam Warren. He replaced Montgomery in the sixth inning, recorded the final two outs, then went back out to get the first out of the seventh. I’m glad Joe Girardi had him pitch in two different innings so he could go in, pitch, sit down for a bit, warm back up, and pitch more. Warren has done it a zillion times before, but it’s good to have him do it once before a potential multi-innings appearance in the postseason.

I’m a bit surprised Dellin Betances did not pitch Sunday. Girardi said earlier this week they were going to use him a bunch to try to get him right, and that didn’t really happen. Last time out Girardi pulled the plug after two batters. Hmmm. German allowed that stupid run in his 1.2 innings of work, and Ben Heller went three up, three down in the ninth. He is: good. Should’ve used him more this year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and the final regular season standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The postseason. I’ve missed it even though it’ll undoubtedly put me on the brink of a heart attack multiple times. Monday is an off-day throughout baseball, then the postseason kicks off with the AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. The Yankees are hosting the Twins and it’ll be Luis Severino against Ervin Santana. Loser goes home, winner will face the Indians in the ALDS.