Yankees avoid a shutout, but lose to the Royals 5-1

After two easy wins to start off the series, the Royals returned the favor by beating the Yankees 5-1. Eh, I’ll still take a series win. The Yankees are still in the first place with a 24-14 record with a 1.5-game lead over the Orioles.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Falling behind

The scoring started for the Royals in the second inning. With one out and two runners on base, Jordan Montgomery generated a grounder to third. Timing-wise, it should have been an easy double play. However, Starlin Castro’s throw to Chris Carter bounced in front of the first baseman and Carter couldn’t handle it. Instead of ending the inning, the Royals followed it up by taking a 1-0 lead with a Whit Merrifield RBI single. Drew Butera followed it up with another RBI single to make it 2-0 Kansas City.

The Royals did more damage in the fifth. Merrifield reached with a bunt single and two hitters later, Montgomery walked Alcides Escobar to put two runners on base. Escobar almost never walks (that was his fifth of the season) and Montgomery paid for it against Mike Moustakas. The Royals’ Moose hit a three-run home run to give Kansas City a 5-0 lead. Welp. Montgomery finished the frame but that was the last one for him tonight.

It was yet another ho-hum start for Jordan Montgomery (5 IP, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K). There’s a lot to like about him – a young, tall lefty who can throw multiple pitches in any count – but he won’t get to the next level if he doesn’t cut down on walks (4.12 BB/9 IP after tonight). After tonight, Montgomery has a 4.81 ERA/3.93 FIP. Struggles like this is expected of a rookie starter. We’ll see how he learns from his mistakes though.

Shutdown by the Duffman

Simply said, Danny Duffy was overpowering. Dude was a good power pitcher in 2016, striking out 9.42 hitters per 9 IP, but injuries and fatigue made it a bit of an enigmatic season. He’s one of those guys that if he can stay healthy for a full season, he’d be considered one of the top starters of the league. Well, he looked like one tonight against the Yankees.

In 7 innings, Duffy struck out 10 Yankees hitters while allowing only 2 hits. I don’t have the data handy for the best SP performance against the Yankees lineup this year but this has got to be one of the tops. Duffy’s killer pitch was his slider, which he got a whopping 13 whiffs per Brooks Baseball. He generated three whiffs total on other pitches so yeah, that slider really set the tone for his dominance tonight.

The Yankee bats did try to rally though. Jacoby Ellsbury reached on a bunt base hit to lead off the fourth and two batters later, Matt Holliday walked to put the runner on scoring position. However, Castro struck out swinging and Aaron Judge flew out to end that threat quite quickly. They had another good chance in the 5th. Duffy started the inning by allowing a base hit to Chase Headley and walking Didi Gregorius. However, Aaron Hicks swung at the first pitch slider to ground into the double play to kill the tension almost immediately. Yeesh. One of those nights.

Leftovers

Chad Green impressed again in his long relief appearance. He came in relief after Montgomery’s 5 IP outing and struck out 6 in three scoreless innings. Not bad. He now has 11 strikeouts and 1 walk in 7.2 IP so far in the MLB with a 0.00 ERA. Green is pitching like a guy who wants a bigger role and I wonder what the management thinks of it. He did have a 4.73 ERA in the Triple-A before getting called up so there’s also that to take into the factor but he’s also seen flashes of success in his ML stint last year. He’s an interesting case. I personally think he should get a shot at the rotation at some point but can’t say when would be a good time.

The Yankees were 2-for-14 in RISP tonight. Not great. A pair of outfielders – Aaron Judge and Jacoby Ellsbury – had a 2-for-4 night so that’s a silver lining. Gregorius, who drove in the sole Yankee run, was 1-for-3 with a walk. If you haven’t noticed, Didi is having a good season, hitting .320/.358/.413 after tonight.

Box score, standings, WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees start a three-game series at the Trop tomorrow. Luis Severino will be up against Erasmo Ramirez.

Yankees hammer Vargas, pick up 11-7 win over Royals

A quality, no nonsense win, this was. The Yankees came out Wednesday night, put a hurting on the MLB ERA leader, and cruised to an easy 11-7 win over Royals. The game didn’t feel as close as the final score indicates.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Big Two-Out Rally
I do love quick first inning leads on the road. Get on the board before the other team even has a chance to bat. Put them on the defensive right away. Love it. The Yankees did exactly that Wednesday night thanks to a Brett Gardner leadoff single and a Starlin Castro two-out double. Castro drove the ball off the wall in right field. Probably would have been a home run into the short porch in the Bronx. Either way, a 1-0 lead is a 1-0 lead.

It wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Yankees really broke the game open, and they scored all five runs that inning with two outs. I love two-out rallies too. All five runs were earned. Jason Vargas came into this start having allowed five earned runs total in his first seven starts and 44.2 innings of the year, giving him an MLB best 1.01 ERA. The Yankees put a nice dent in that. A lot happened in that fourth inning, so let’s recap it with an annotated play-by-play.

yankees-vs-royals-annotated-play-by-play(1) I thought Lorenzo Cain broke his wrist on Castro’s double. It was very 2006 Hideki Matsui-esque. Remember when Matsui broke his wrist attempting a sliding catch? Cain nearly did the same thing. He laid out to catch Starlin’s base hit, rolled over his wrist, and failed to complete the catch. The ball rolled away far enough that Castro advanced to second. Fortunately Cain was able to stay in the game. That was scary.

(2) I’m pretty sure the ball would have disintegrated on impact had Aaron Judge connected with either the 3-0 or 3-1 swings. He really cut it loose, but Vargas pulled the string with back-to-back changeups, and Judge was way out in front. Veteran pitcher got the best of the young hitter. Vargas threw a third straight changeup in the 3-2 count, and Judge spit on that one for ball four. Nice at-bat. Judge muscled up and tried to unload in the 3-0 and and 3-1 counts. Then he backed off in the 3-2 count.

(3) Didi Gregorius has really come a long way against left-handed pitchers the last year or so. He was pretty hopeless against them in the past, even during his first year in New York. Gregorius drove in the first run of the fourth inning by staying back on a two-out, two-strike breaking ball, and yanking it into right field. Very nice piece of hitting. In the past, Didi would have been close to an automatic out in that situation. Now he’s a threat.

(4) You done messed up that baseball A-A-Rod! I thought the Aaron Hicks homer was foul off the bat. I actually looked away from the screen while the ball was in flight because I expected it to sail foul. Instead, the ball stayed fair by a few feet, giving the Yankees their second, third, and fourth runs of the inning for a 5-0 lead. That was Hicksie’s seven home run of the season in his 108th plate appearance. He hit eight homers in 361 plate appearances last year.

(5) I love those tack-on runs after a three-run home run. In most cases, a three-run dinger with two outs would mean you’re done scoring that inning. The rally has been killed, so to speak. Chris Carter was able to get a ground ball single through the middle, then Gardner hammered a triple into the right field corner. Shout out to Jorge Soler for completely airmailing the cutoff man, allowing Carter to score. The play at the plate would have been really, really close had Soler hit the cutoff man. Tacking on that extra run after the big home run is always fun.

(6) I can’t believe Royals manager Ned Yost stuck with Vargas that entire fourth inning. He threw 49 pitches that inning. 49! The guy was making his 11th start back from Tommy John surgery and he’s one of your top a) starting pitchers, and b) trade chips prior to the deadline. Gotta protect that investment, yo. Yost really let Vargas wear it that inning. Good for the Yankees, of course.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mediocre Mike
It’s kinda funny what qualifies as a poor start for Michael Pineda this season, isn’t it? He allowed four runs on six hits, two walks, and a hit batsman in six innings Wednesday, and the fourth run scored after he was out of the game. Pineda served up a two-run home run to Salvador Perez in the fourth inning, with the Yankees already up 6-0. He then allowed a solo homer to Whit Merrifield in the fifth, with the Yankees up 10-2. Garbage time shots, basically.

A clean single and two errors by Headley (on the same play!) ended Pineda’s night in the seventh. I was surprised Joe Girardi elected to send Pineda out for another inning given how hard he had to work to get through the sixth, but with a seven-run lead and fewer than 100 pitches thrown, why not, I guess. Pineda struck out five and was fighting his command, especially with his fastball. The slider was mostly okay. He did a nice job burying it down and away to righties.

This was only the second time in eight starts this year that Pineda allowed as many four runs in a start. He allowed four in 3.2 innings in his first start, then rattled off six straight outings with three runs or fewer. Starts like this one used to be the norm for Pineda. If he got the Yankees through six innings with only four runs allowed, it felt like things went okay. Now four runs in six innings is a bad start for Big Mike. He’s been rock solid overall this year.

The Big No-Out Rally
One inning after putting up a five-spot with two outs, the Yankees scored four runs with (mostly) no outs. Vargas was out of the game, having been replaced by Peter Moylan, who is still pitching, apparently. The inning went infield single (Castro), walk (Judge), RBI single (Headley), RBI single (Gregorius), walk (Hicks), RBI fielder’s choice (Carter), sac fly (Gardner). Four runs. Bang bang bang. (Bang.)

Carter was thrown out at the plate to end the inning on Gary Sanchez‘s single. He was originally called safe. The call was overturned on replay. The Yankees were up 10-2 at that point. I have no trouble pushing the envelope, even with Carter running. It was nice to see the Yankees keep the pressure on after that five-run fourth inning. Between the fourth and fifth, they sent 17 batters to the plate and scored nine runs, and had a guy thrown out at the plate.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Tommy Layne got a lefty out! It was Alex Gordon, who came into the game hitting approximately .100/.150/.125 (.164/.277/.204, really), but hey, the left-on-left matchup guy got a lefty out. Layne replaced Pineda, then Adam Warren replaced Layne. He allowed a sac fly to Alcides Escobar to give the Royals their fourth run before escaping the seventh inning. Warren tossed a scoreless eighth as well.

Gio Gallegos made a mess of things in the ninth inning, allowing three runs on five hits while getting only two outs. Three of the five hits came in two-strike counts. Not good, OG Gio. That’s no way to earn a spot in the Circle of Trust™. Girardi had to go to Dellin Betances to get the final out with the tying run on deck, and Dellin got Eric Hosmer to hit a weak tapper back to the mound to end the game.

Eleven runs on 16 hits for the Yankees, neither of which is a season high. Well, not true. The 16 hits ties their season high, which was set in the Mat Latos game. They’ve scored as many as 14 runs in a game this season though. Anyway, the Yankees scored double digit runs for the eighth time this season. No other team has done it more than six times. Last season the Yankees did it only nine times. Man do I love offense.

Not only did every starter have a hit, six of the nine starters had multiple hits. Judge, Headley, and Carter had only one hit apiece. The 1-2-3-4 spots in the lineup went a combined 9-for-18 with two doubles, one triple, and two walks. The Yankees went 5-for-14 (.357) with runners in scoring position overall. Have I mentioned I love offense? Because I love offense.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will look to complete the sweep in the series finale Thursday night. It would be their fourth three-game series sweep of the season already. They swept only four series of at least three games last year. Lefties Jordan Montgomery and Danny Duffy are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Sanchez and Carter power Yankees to 7-1 win over Royals

Good start to the road trip and good start to the 20 games in 20 days stretch. The Yankees received good hitting, good pitching, and even good defense in Tuesday night’s series opening 7-1 win over the Royals. More games like this, please.

Yo Soy Dinger. (Presswire)
Yo Soy Dinger. (Presswire)

Power At The Top Of The Lineup, Power At The Bottom Of The Lineup
You could tell early on it was only a matter of time until the Yankees got to Royals starter Jason Hammel. The four batters they sent to the plate in the first inning all hit rockets in the air, though three were caught for outs. A few more hard-hit balls followed in the second inning. Hammel threw 30 pitches in the first two innings and the Yankees didn’t swing and miss once.

In the third, those hard-hit balls started to turn into results. Chris Carter started the inning with a ground ball single through the left side of the infield, then Brett Gardner worked a six-pitch walk to put men on first and second with no outs. The two baserunners turned into a 3-0 lead on Gary Sanchez‘s third home run of the season, a long fly ball to dead center field. It was Gary’s second home run since coming back from the biceps injury. Hooray Gary.

The Yankees struck for two more runs in the fourth inning, and it was a two-out rally. Didi Gregorius fouled off four two-strike pitches before slapping a single with two outs, setting up Carter for a towering two-run home run to left-center field. Effortless power, man. The guy flicks his wrists and the ball just carries. Homers by Sanchez, the No. 2 hitter, and Carter, the No. 9 hitter, gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead against the worst offensive team in baseball.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Almost Seven Strong For CC
Nice bounceback for CC Sabathia. It helped that the Royals, thanks to team-wide willingness to expand the zone (AL worst 32.7% chase rate), were a good matchup for late-career Sabathia. Hey, I’ll take it. Sabathia’s last four starts were pretty terrible, and if took an impatient team for him to turn in an effective start, that’s okay with me. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Royals got a runner to second base, and that was an Eric Hosmer hustle double.

Prior to that seventh inning, Sabathia limited Kansas City to three singles and a walk in six scoreless innings, and one of those singles turned into an out when Jorge Soler was throwing out trying to stretch it into a double. Sabathia needed only 62 innings in those six innings too. He had a seven-pitch inning (fourth), two eight-pitch innings (first and sixth), and a ten-pitch inning (fifth). Sabathia was on cruise control. Nice and easy.

The seventh inning rally that ended Sabathia’s night was kinda stupid. Hosmer turned a single into a hustle double to start the frame, Soler took a borderline full count pitch for ball four with two outs, then Alex Gordon beat out an infield single to load the bases. Chase Headley made a nice play going back on the ball, but with his momentum taking him into the outfield, he had little chance to throw Gordon out at first. Bases loaded, two outs.

Tyler Clippard replaced Sabathia after the Gordon infield single and struck out someone named Whit Merrifield to end the threat. Sabathia’s final line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K on 85 pitches. It seemed like he still had something left in the tank when he was removed too, but with the bases loaded and the lefty mashing Merrifield due up, Joe Girardi didn’t want to mess around. Good outing for Sabathia. We were all hoping to see a start like this.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees tacked on insurance runs in the seventh inning (Jacoby Ellsbury single) and eighth inning (Matt Holliday fielder’s choice). Holliday hit a rocket with the bases loaded and one out, but the annoyingly good at defense Mike Moustakas made a great stab and was able to throw to second. Holliday narrowly beat out the return throw to avoid the inning-ending double play.

Clippard stayed in to pitch the eighth and tossed up a zero. Jonathan Holder got the ninth inning and it went strikeout, single, walk, infield single, fielder’s choice (run scores), pop-up. Meh. Holder’s been pretty good overall. He picked a good time to have a less than clean inning. The Yankees needed an easy bullpen game like this after Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka combined to throw four (!) innings in Sunday’s doubleheader.

The Yankees did not strike out at all until the top of the ninth, when Al Alburquerque struck out the side. Go figure. Every starter had a hit except Gardner (walk) and Holliday (RBI fielder’s choice). Sanchez, Starlin Castro, Aaron Judge, and Gregorius each had two hits. Carter had three. Nice night up and down the lineup.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Make sure you don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Wednesday night, in the middle game of this three-game series. Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas, who is off to an insane start, are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Astros hammer Tanaka, Yankees drop series finale 10-7


Source: FanGraphs

The night started with a wonderful ceremony in which the Yankees honored Derek Jeter by retiring No. 2. The Cap’n has officially been immortalized in Monument Park. Up next: Cooperstown. Then, after the ceremony, the Yankees sent everyone home. Nothing else to see tonight. Yeah, I wish. The Yankees were pummeled by the Astros in Sunday night’s series finale. The final score was 10-7, and it felt way more lopsided than that. At least they won the first game of the doubleheader. Once again, let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Bad Tanaka: I think we’ve reached the point where we have to worry about Masahiro Tanaka. He’s been mostly mediocre all year outside the shutout in Boston, and this start was a complete disaster. George Springer and Josh Reddick opened the game with back-to-back home runs — going back to his last start, Tanaka allowed three homers to the last four batters he faced — and later in the first inning Alex Bregman hit a grand slam. Springer hit another homer in the second. Tanaka had to work very hard for every out too. The Astros put together long at-bats, longer than we’re used to seeing against Tanaka. The final line: 1.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4 HR. It was, pretty easily, Tanaka’s worst start in MLB. The Yankees need to get him right and soon. (Three of the homers came on the first pitch. Is he tipping pitches? Being too predictable?) There’s almost no path to contention that involves Tanaka pitching like this (5.80 ERA and 5.33 FIP).
  • Too Little, Too Late: So apparently Charlie Morton throws 97 mph with sink now? I mean, he’s always had sink, but as recently as 2014 his heater averaged 91.9 mph. It averaged 96.3 mph in this game. Huh. Anyway, the Yankees did a whole bunch of nothing against Morton until well after the score was out of hand. Brett Gardner led the game off with a single, and it wasn’t until Gardner singled with two outs in the fifth that the Yankees picked up their second hit. That one drove in their first run of the game. Matt Holliday soon followed with a three-run homer, cutting the deficit to 9-4. Wooo, Fighting Spirit! They were able to scratch out three runs and get the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but alas, it was not meant to be. There was no miraculous comeback.
  • Leftovers: Shout out to OG Gio Gallegos. He threw 44 pitches and soaked up three innings after Tanaka’s stinker. In the past he’d be shuttled out tomorrow, no questions asked. The Yankees have resisted those moves so far this year, however … Chasen Shreve followed with 2.1 scoreless and hitless innings. He’s been really good since coming back up … Gardner went 3-for-4 … the rest of the Yankees went 7-for-32 (.219).

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. We also have a Bullpen Workload page, so check that out. The Yankees have yet another off-day Monday, then they’re off to Kansas City for the start of a six-game road trip. The Royals swept the Orioles this weekend, you know. That is much appreciated given the AL East race. CC Sabathia and Jason Hammel are the scheduled starters for Tuesday night’s series opener.

Yankees 11, Astros 6: Big seventh inning snaps three-game losing streak


Source: FanGraphs

That was a good way to snap the little three-game losing streak, I’d say. The Yankees mounted yet another late-inning comeback in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader — but not before blowing their own late lead, I should note — to earn an 11-6 win over the Astros. Nice to see the offense snap out of its recent funk. There is no chance I’m writing two full recaps on a Sunday, so let’s bullet point this one:

  • Bad Sevy: It was clear early on Luis Severino had no idea where the ball was going. He walked three of the first six batters he faced, but was able to skate through the first two innings scoreless thanks to some timely strikeouts and a double play ball. The third inning was less forgiving. It went hit batsmen, single, fielder’s choice, single, single, single, single, showers. Severino allowed three runs in that third inning, and left with the bases loaded and one out. Zoinks. The return of 2016 Severino, for at least one day.
  • Two Leads: The Yankees took their first lead of the series three batters into the game on a double (Brett Gardner) and two ground outs. Nice and easy. They took their second lead of their series in the fourth inning. The Astros were up 3-1 at the time, then Starlin Castro lifted a two-run homer into the short porch, and Aaron Judge hammered a solo homer off the top of the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Just like that, it was 4-3 Yankees. Matt Holliday drew a walk to set up Castro’s two-run shot. It’s the second time this season Starlin and Judge have gone back-to-back.
  • Blown Lead: What a job by Chad Green. He escaped Severino’s third inning mess with a double play, then chucked three more scoreless innings on top of it. Great, great work by him. And I was totally cool with Joe Girardi pulling Green when he did. He was about to face the middle of the lineup a second time. Adam Warren has been great this year and he just didn’t get the job done in the seventh. Castro botching a double play — he flipped the ball into left field — didn’t help, but the lead was gone by then. An infield single, a walk, and a single did that. The botched double play and a sac fly gave the Astros two more runs. The 4-3 lead became a 6-4 deficit.
  • Fighting Spirit!: The Yankees answered Houston’s three-run top of the seventh with a six-run bottom of the seventh. A single (Gardner) and a double (Jacoby Ellsbury) with one out set it up. Holliday drove in the first run with an infield single. It was a great play by Carlos Correa. The ball was ticketed for center field, but Correa dove to stop the ball, preventing Ellsbury from scoring from second. Saved a run. Temporarily, anyway. Castro came through with a game-tying two-strike double to right, which also left the Yankees with men on second and third. An intentional walk to Judge set up Chase Headley (!) for the go-ahead triple (!!!). Shout out to Josh Reddick for making that possible with a weird route in right field. Chris Carter tacked on an insurance run with a double, giving the Yankees a 10-6 lead. All the fan favorites came through that inning.
  • Leftovers: Warren remained in to pitch the eighth inning and retired the side in order. Jonathan Holder did the same in the ninth … Gardner tacked on another insurance run with a solo homer in the eighth. His seven homers match last year’s total … every starter had a hit except No. 9 hitter Austin Romine … the Yankees had eleven hits total, but only two singles. Two! Five doubles, one triple, three homers. This is their second game with nine extra-base hits this season. They had two all of last year … the Yankees are a perfect 12-0 when Judge homers this season.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees will retire No. 2 in honor of Derek Jeter later today, then play the second game of the doubleheader. Masahiro Tanaka and Charlie Morton are the scheduled starters for that one. Ready to do this all over again?

Yankee bats get quieted by Lance McCullers Jr. in a 5-1 loss

Well … at least they didn’t get shut out. But boy, that was a forgettable one. Lance McCullers Jr. is a pretty good pitcher and he pretty much toyed with the Yankee lineup for the most of his outing. Meanwhile, Jordan Montgomery went up against the powerful Astros lineup and the result was so-so (4 ER, 6 IP but 1 BB in 7 K). The offense managed to pick up a run in the bottom of the ninth but that was it. 5-1 Astros. The Yankees are now on a three-game losing streak.

(Elsas/Getty)
(Elsas/Getty)

McCullers’d

Just like Dallas Keuchel yesterday, the Yankee bats let McCullers cruise through the lineup early on. Unlike Keuchel, McCullers is a power pitcher who can get whiffs from his mid-90’s fastball, nasty breaking ball and changeup. Last season, he had some trouble limiting the walks (5.00 BB/9 IP) but that’s not the case so far in 2017: 2.42 BB/9 IP after tonight’s outing. He’s also striking a ton while at it (10.61 K/9 IP). I genuinely think we’re seeing a future Cy winner in development.

For the first five innings, the Yankees only had two baserunners and they were both on Aaron Judge‘s base hits. It was particularly brutal in the fifth. Judge doubled to deep left (114 mph exit velo) to lead off the inning. With the Yankees lineup, you’d think that they could drive in a run or two, right? Nope. McCullers struck out the next three hitters swinging to strand Judge at second. Maybe the lineup is in a bit of a funk but at the same time, they ran into a talented pitcher who had everything clicking tonight.

The Yankees had the best chance against McCullers in the sixth. They got two runners on base with one out (Brett Gardner single and Matt Holliday reaching on an Alex Bregman error). However, Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury both followed it up with weak grounders to immediately kill that rally. Just been that kind of night for New York.

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Just trailing the entire game

It was a 0-0 pitching duel until the top of the fourth. Montgomery allowed ground ball singles to Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez. Brian McCann, as he did many times back when he was with the Yankees, hit a fastball in his happy zone into the right field second deck. 3-0 Astros. Houston added another run in the fifth. George Springer led off the inning with a double. Montgomery got the next two hitters out without advancing Springer to the third. However, Correa hit a bloop single that fell right in front of Judge. The right fielder’s throw home was way over Gary Sanchez‘s head but that wouldn’t have mattered – Springer scored easily to make it 4-0 Astros.

I didn’t have too high expectations for Montgomery. 1 BB and 7 K’s are pretty great, especially considering he had walk problems prior to tonight. 4 ER in 6 IP do leave something to be desired. It’s a lot to ask for a rookie pitcher to pitch a gem against the Astros lineup though. He’s still learning and developing. For what it’s worth, this 89 mph cutter to get Jake Marisnick to strike out swinging was a gem. Boy, I hope he throws more of it.

1jm

In the meantime, Astros brought in their bullpen arms starting in the bottom of the seventh. Will Harris and Luke Gregerson each threw a perfect frame with three strikeouts combined. Were the Yankees, who displayed one of the best offenses in the baseball up to this series, finally going to get shut out? Well…

Adding one in the end

Trailing 5-0 into the bottom of ninth, the Yankees were in the danger of being shut out for the first time this season. With the Indians being zeroed earlier today, only the Yanks, Nationals and Twins (!) were the remaining teams this season that haven’t been shut out.

Because it wasn’t a save situation, Astros put in James Hoyt instead of Ken Giles. Hoyt has a neat back story. Check out this read. Anyways, Holliday reached on an infield single to start the frame. Hoyt struck out Castro but Ellsbury singled to right to put the runner on scoring position. Judge struck out swinging and the hopes of Yankees getting a run seemed pretty dim. However, never fear, Didi Gregorius singled to right-center to finally avoid a shutout! But well, that was it. Hoyt struck out Ronald Torreyes to end the game and that was it. 5-1 Astros. Bleh. I won’t be watching the re-run of this game.

Leftovers
On a game that majorly stunk, there were few saving graces. For instance, Giovanny Gallegos made his ML debut in the ninth inning. He threw two pitches and retired Carlos Correa to end the top of the ninth. I’m hoping he gets more looks in the ML.

But wait, there’s more! Aaron Judge, who had been in a little bit of slump lately, went 2-for-4 tonight with a pair of rocket base hits. Didi Gregorius also had a 2-for-4 night and, as I mentioned, drove in the Yankees’ only run of the night.

Also, there was an egregious display of #umpshow in the bottom of the seventh. Chase Headley showed a bunt but the Will Harris cut fastball nicked his finger. The game delayed a bit with the trainer and Girardi tending to the third baseman. However, Headley insisted in staying in the game and it seemed like the game was going to go on … then he got into an argument with home plate ump Adrian Johnson and got ejected. That was a very confusing situation. After the game, Girardi said that McCann asked Headley if the ball hit him and Headley responded. However, Johnson thought that Headley was talking to him and the situation escalated from there. For what it’s worth, here is Adrian Johnson’s version of the story. In my opinion, it was a gross misunderstanding and mishandling of the situation from the ump. It happens but it’s not a good look.

Box score, standings, WPA graph

Here is tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


There is supposed to be a 1 pm EST game tomorrow, but we’ll see. The weather doesn’t seem promising from what I’ve heard. If it happens, it’ll be a match of Luis Severino vs. Mike Fiers. I predict this losing streak will stop at some point – we’ll see if it’ll be at the next game.

Ellsbury thrown out at home, Yankees drop series opener 3-2 to Astros

So close! The Yankees very nearly made another miraculous ninth inning comeback in Thursday night’s series opener against the Astros. Instead, the final out was recorded at home plate, and they lost the game 3-2. Man, that would have fun. What a wild ending.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Keuchel On The Ropes
Early on, it sure looked like Dallas Keuchel would cruise to a complete game shutout, probably on fewer than 100 pitches too. He’s regained his Cy Young form this season, and he held the Yankees to two baserunners — a Chase Headley infield single and a Chris Carter ground ball single — in the first four innings, and he needed only 42 pitches to do it. Four of the 13 batters he faced those four innings made first pitch outs.

The Yankees finally put together a rally in the fifth inning, and they needed an error to do it. First baseman Yulieski Gurriel dropped the ball on Headley’s routine grounder to third base. The throw to first was perfect. Right to Gurriel’s chest. It just clanked off his glove. Very weird. Didi Gregorius followed with a single and Aaron Hicks followed with a walk to load the bases with one out. Woo! Then Carter struck out for the second out. Boo!

Fortunately, Jacoby Ellsbury came through with a clutch catcher’s interference to force in a run with two outs. You’d think Brian McCann would know better, right? Maybe scoot back a step or two when Ellsbury is in the box. Ellsbury always picks a good time for catcher’s interferences, it seems. That brought Gary Sanchez to the plate with two outs, and he reached out for a 2-0 sinker and grounded out weakly to end the threat. Drat. One run is better than no runs though.

In the very next inning, the Yankees again threatened against Keuchel, this time thanks to back-to-back singles by Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro. Castro’s single was a rocket off the wall in left field that wasn’t more than a few feet from going over from a game-tying two-run home run. He hit it so hard he had to hold at first. Runners at the corners with one out! Then strikeout strikeout strikeout. Woof. Aaron Judge, Headley, and Gregorius couldn’t even put a ball in play.

On the bright side, the Yankees did get Keuchel’s pitch count up in those fifth and sixth innings. He threw 42 pitches in the first four innings and 55 pitches in the fifth and sixth inning. Hooray for avoiding the complete game? Making them use the bullpen is better than not making them use the bullpen. Keuchel allowed one unearned run on five hits and a walk in his six innings. He struck out nine. Great pitcher pitched great. News at eleven.

Pineda’s One Mistake
On a night he was going to have to be close to perfect to win, Michael Pineda made only one real mistake on the mound, and unfortunately it came right after his defense made a mistake behind him. Josh Reddick lifted a weak fly ball to shallow center field that fell between Gregorius and Ellsbury for a single. It was Ellsbury’s ball all the way. The outfielder charging in has to call off the infielder looking over his shoulder.

Anyway, Reddick’s fly ball dunked in for a single, extending the inning and giving Carlos Correa a chance to bat with a man on base and two outs. Pineda made one of his classic two-out mistake pitches and Correa almost effortlessly lifted it into the right field seats for a two-run home run. Sanchez wanted the ball down and away, but Pineda left it up in the zone:

michael-pineda-carlos-correa

Sigh. Make a mistake to Correa and he’ll do that. Following that home run Correa was 6-for-9 with three dingers against Pineda in his career. In related news, Pineda walked him on four pitches next time up.

Aside from that though, Pineda was very good, allowing just one more run on a two-strike slider George Springer dug out of the dirt in the fifth inning. Nori Aoki reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second earlier in the inning to set that up. Pineda executed a good two-strike slider and Springer went down and got it. What can you do? Sometimes you make a good pitch and get beat anyway. Such is life.

Pineda finished the night having allowed three runs — all three were earned because the Reddick fly ball was ruled a hit (neither Gregorius nor Ellsbury touched it) — on six hits and one walk in 6.2 innings. This is only the second time Pineda has allowed as many as three runs in his last six starts. The missed location to Correa stunk, but overall this was another good outing for Pineda. He’s been pretty solid so far this season.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Fighting Spirit!
For the fourth time in their last seven losses, the Yankees had the tying run on base in the final inning. Even when they lose, they don’t go down quietly. A Hicks walk and an Ellsbury single-plus-stolen base combination gave the Yankees runners at second and third with two outs in the ninth. The tying run was at second! They might still lose, but at least they were going down with a fight, you know?

Sanchez then provided the big hit with runners in scoring position the Yankees had been seeking all game. He yanked a single through the left side of the infield, scoring Hicks easily. Ellsbury was sent home and … was thrown out at the plate by Jake Marisnick to end the game. A walk-off out at the plate. Zoinks. Here’s the video:

Given the result, it was a really bad send. That said, I’m okay with third base coach Joe Espada waving Ellsbury around. I think the odds of Marisnick’s throw being off-line are greater than the odds of Holliday, the next hitter, getting a hit against the very nasty Ken Giles. Marisnick made a great throw. A perfect throw, really. And Ellsbury was out. Sucks. Just one of those games the Yankees weren’t meant to win, I guess.

Leftovers
Adam Warren had something of an off-night in relief of Pineda. He stranded an inherited runner at second after entering in the seventh inning, and finished the night having allowed a hit and two walks in 1.1 innings. Warren didn’t allow a run, but he wasn’t quite sharp either. Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve combined for a scoreless ninth. Shreve getting the call in the left-on-left matchup spot over Tommy Layne seems notable.

One Yankee reached base multiple times: Hicks. He drew three walks. Hicks has 20 walks and 13 strikeouts so far this year. Ellsbury, Sanchez, Holliday, Castro, Headley, Gregorius, and Carter accounted for the seven hits, all singles. The Yankees went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and the one was Sanchez’s hit in the ninth, in which Ellsbury was thrown out at home. Womp womp.

And finally, Ellsbury’s catcher’s interference was the 28th of his career. That is second all-time. Ellsbury is one behind Pete Rose for the record. Rose had 15,890 plate appearances in his career. Ellsbury has 5,084.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Here’s the graph of win probability:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Friday night, in the second game of this four-game series. Finesse lefty Jordan Montgomery and power righty Lance McCullers Jr. are the scheduled starting pitchers. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game.