Yanks survive the rain, beat Rays 7-5 for sixth straight win

Well that was an ordeal. After 346 total pitches and three rain delays totaling one hour and 34 minutes, the Yankees beat the Rays 7-5 on Friday night for their sixth straight win. With the Orioles losing to the Tigers, the Yankees are now one game back of the second wildcard spot. What a time to be alive.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Snell Ya Later
Man, was a rough outing for Rays rookie Blake Snell. He only allowed three runs, but it would have been worse had the Yankees not had a runner thrown out at the plate in the first, and if Snell hadn’t thrown out his glove and knocked down a surefire run-scoring single in the second. The Yankees forced the poor kid to 88 pitches (!) in 2.2 innings. The first three innings took about an hour and 20 minutes. Snell threw lots of pitches and had a brutal pace.

The game’s first run scored because the Rays don’t seem to care about defense anymore. They seemed to forget about it last year. Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with a single, then Rob Refsnyder stroked a line drive to left field that probably would have been caught by an average defensive outfielder. Luckily Corey Dickerson was out there, and he took a weird route to Refsnyder’s ball, allowing it to get by him and roll all the way to the wall. Ellsbury scored from first for the 1-0 lead.

There are two reasons Refsnyder was thrown out at home on Starlin Castro‘s single to center later in the inning. One, third base coach Joe Espada made a terrible send. Kevin Kiermaier has a great arm and Espada waved Refsnyder in anyway. And two, Refsnyder hesitated twice. Once off the bat to make sure it wouldn’t be caught, and again as he rounded third base. It seemed like he was surprised Espada sent him. The play at the plate was not close.

Rob Refsnyder Kevin Kiermaier

It always sucks having a runner thrown out at the plate, especially in the very first inning, but at least the Yankees had a run on the board. Snell looked beatable too. Back-to-back two outs walks by Aaron Judge and Ellsbury gave New York another rally in the second inning. Refsnyder ripped a line drive after working the count full, so he had a quality at-bat. Unfortunately Snell threw his glove out and knocked it down. Nothing you can do there. Straight up bad luck. Snell stopped the ball from going into center field and scoring a run. The lead remained 1-0.

By that point the Yankees had really worn Snell down. He threw 60 pitches in the first two innings, and the slumping Gary Sanchez started the third with a solo home run into Monument Park. Sanchez will be fine. His at-bats have been good and he hasn’t been chasing out of the zone. Just a slump. It happens. Snell left a fastball up and Sanchez clobbered it. A Mark Teixeira double, a fielder’s choice, and a wild pitch made it 3-0 Yankees later in the inning. That was it for Snell. Night over.

A Little of Good Pineda, A Little of Bad Pineda
Michael Pineda came out of the gate throwing fire. His slider was falling off the table and he even threw some quality changeups in the first inning. Pineda’s stuff looked very good in the first three innings, during which he struck out six of 12 batters while allowing two soft singles and a walk. He got 13 swings and misses in his first three innings. Thirteen is good number for a full start. He did it in three innings.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

But, of course, Pineda did not carry that stuff through the rest of the game. Logan Morrison and Steven Souza combined for back-to-back solo homers in the fourth inning — Morrison’s was a bomb into the suite level, Souza’s hit the foul pole in left — to turn that 3-0 lead into a 3-2 lead. The homers came on consecutive pitches too. It goes from good to bad so quickly for Pineda. Dominant for three innings, then boom, it’s a one-run game.

Crew chief Mike Everitt jumped the gun a bit in the fourth and called for the tarp, though it stopped raining only a few minutes later. It was a 21-minute delay. Pineda came back out for the fifth inning because the delay was so short, and after a quick first out, he walked Logan Forsythe and allowed an infield single to Kiermaier. Castro got to the ball but couldn’t reel it in. Longoria beat the throw on a potential inning-ending double play to extend the inning.

Joe Girardi was taking no chances. The Yankees had stretched the lead to 7-2 (more on that in a bit), but the Rays had runners on the corners, and Pineda has simply earned zero trust this season. Girardi yanked him at 77 pitches and Pineda didn’t even look at him on the mound before walking off. He was pretty annoyed at the quick hook. Went right to the clubhouse too. Didn’t wait for the inning to end. (He returned to the dugout a few minutes later.)

Chasen Shreve struck out Brad Miller to strand the two runners, so Pineda was charged with two runs on six hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out seven and got 19 total swings and misses despite only throwing 77 pitches. That’s his third highest swing-and-miss total of the season. Pineda got 21 whiffs on 113 pitches against the Orioles in July, and 20 on 96 pitches against the Tigers in June. Still though, not a great outing for Pineda despite those first three innings. Same ol’ Mike.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Blown Open
At the time of the first rain delay, the Yankees had a runner on first with two outs in the fourth inning. Kevin Jepsen came in when the game resumed, and he immediately allowed a ground ball single to Sanchez and a walk to Castro. When you walk Starlin Castro, you deserve whatever comes next. In this case that was a grand slam. Teixeira hit a ball off the top of the bullpen wall in right-center that hopped over for a four-run homer and a 7-2 lead.

The Yankee Stadium crowd called Teixeira out for a curtain call and he obliged. That was cool to see. His career is coming to a close and the fans showed their appreciation for eight productive years. Every home run from here on out could be the last of Teixeira’s career. That’s kind of weird. Hopefully that one wasn’t it. The grand slam was the third of the season for the Yankees, by the way. Chase Headley hit one against Jon Gray in June, and Castro hit one against Josh Tomlin last month. I don’t remember either.

More Rain, And Even More After That
Man, what a terrible job by Everitt. Because one unnecessary rain delay was not enough, he called for the tarp a second time in the sixth inning. It stopped raining a few minutes later (again) and the second delay lasted 22 minutes. Sigh. Before that, Shreve was charged with two runs in the sixth, then after the delay things got kinda dicey in the eighth. Tyler Clippard got out of the two on, no out rally in the most Tyler Clippard way possible: with three infield pop-ups.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dellin Betances started the ninth with a 7-4 lead, allowed back-to-back singles to Kiermaier and Longoria with one out, and then it started raining again. Much heavier this time. Everitt again called for the tarp. Three rain delays, only one of which was actually necessary. The worst.

The third delay lasted 51 minutes, yet despite that, Betances remained in the game. He said he wasn’t going to let Girardi take him out. I don’t blame him. The Yankees have crummy luck with rain delays this year. Dellin did allow a single to Morrison to cut the lead to 7-5, but was able to fan both Miller and Souza to end the game. Thank goodness. You won’t see this one on Yankee Classics anytime soon.

Leftovers
In addition to his solo home run, Sanchez also made an unreal snap throw from his knees to pick Dickerson off second base in the fourth inning. Look at this throw. Just look at it:

Man, what a throw. Sanchez had a single, a homer, a walk, and he picked a runner off second. Pretty nice night for him. The other kids had good nights too. Refsnyder went 2-for-4 with a walk, and both Tyler Austin and Judge went 0-for-2 with two walks. The Yankees drew eleven walks as a team, their most in a nine-inning game since April 2014. Position player Mike Carp walked five that night.

Teixeira, in what has become a rare spot start, went 2-for-4 with a double, a grand slam, and two walks. Really nice night off the bench for him. Teixeira seems to be genuinely enjoying the last few weeks of his career. If he’s upset about not playing more, it’s impossible to tell. He’s become a quality role player for a suddenly contending team.

Shreve (two outs), Adam Warren (four outs), Tommy Layne (one out), Clippard (three outs), and Betances (three outs) all pitched out of the bullpen. Seems like the bullpen will be short again tomorrow, at least in the sense that the big end-game guys may not be available. Good thing there are 13 relievers on the roster.

And finally, Pineda is up to 179 strikeouts on the season. He has a chance to be the first Yankee right-hander with 200+ strikeouts since Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens both did it in 2001. Yeah, it’s been a while. The last Yankee with 200+ strikeouts regardless of handedness was CC Sabathia in 2011. He had 230.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for both the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages as well. Here’s the win probability graph. This game was weird. It felt like the Yankees were up big, but Tampa had the go-ahead run at the plate in the ninth inning:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays will be back at it Saturday afternoon with the third game of this four-game series. That’s a 4:05pm ET start. Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Archer will meet in a matchup of Opening Day starters. There are only eleven home games left this season, so head on over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of them live.

Another night, another hero: Tyler Austin’s walk-off homer gives Yankees 5-4 win over Rays

Earlier this season, the Yankees lose this game. The bullpen doesn’t keep the other team down, the offense doesn’t muster anything late … we saw lots of that earlier this year. Now? Now the Yankees seem to win games like this on the regular. They found a way to win their fifth straight game Thursday night, this one a 5-4 victory over the Rays.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Old Man Sabathia
Right from the start of the game, CC Sabathia looked absolutely awful. There was no power behind his pitches and his location wasn’t good at all. It seemed like he was out there with nothing. He was going to have to really work for each out. Giving up solo home runs in the first (Kevin Kiermaier), second (Steven Souza), and third (Kiermaier again) innings wasn’t exactly unpredictable. Sabathia did not look good by any stretch.

The big man finished the game with those three runs allowed in four innings plus two batters. I thought sending him out to face the top of the lineup a third time in that fifth inning was a really dicey decision by Joe Girardi. I know none of the top relievers were available, but even a fresh mediocre reliever was a better option than a fatigued Sabathia throwing nothingballs. The three runs scored on seven hits and no walks.

According to PitchFX, Sabathia averaged only 88.5 mph with his sinker, down from his 90.7 mph season average and 90.2 mph in his last start. I don’t know if this was just one of those games or what. Hopefully that’s all it was. Sabathia looked really bad, like he might be pitching hurt, and that’s the last thing the Yankees need right now. Hopefully he comes out full throttle in five days.

Reverse Jinx
A few days ago I wrote about Brian McCann‘s lack of power in the second half, so I’m going to take credit for his recent home run surge. McCann has now hit three homers in his last eleven plate appearances, including two in this game, after hitting two homers total in his first 37 second half games. Who should I reverse jinx next? I’m thinking Michael Pineda but am open to suggestions.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Before McCann’s two dingers, the Yankees scored two first inning runs against Alex Cobb on a series of singles and one mistake. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury started the game with back-to-back bloops, and Didi Gregorius drove in the first run with a single to right. The second run scored when first baseman Brad Miller couldn’t handle Cobb’s pickoff throw, allowing Ellsbury to trot home from third.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead on Kiermaier’s first homer, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead after that bottom of the first, then the Rays tied things up 2-2 on Souza’s homer. McCann broke the tie in the second with a bomb of a solo home run. It landed in the suite deck in right field. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one hit there. After Kiermaier tied the game in the third, McCann untied it with a second deck homer in the fourth. The Yankees led 4-3 after four.

A Battle of the Bullpens
We all knew the bullpen was going to be shorthanded coming into this game. Well, shorthanded is a relative term. Rosters are currently expanded and the Yankees have 12 relievers in the bullpen, but Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard, and Luis Severino were not going to be available Thursday. The team’s four best relievers, basically. The other eight guys were going to have to hold down the fort.

With Sabathia bowing out of the game in the fourth, Girardi was going to have to dig deep into his bag of relievers. First out of the bullpen was Jonathan Holder, who stranded the two runners he inherited from Sabathia. Something amazing happened that fifth inning: Girardi got a balk call reversed. Holder was called for a balk when he moved his glove, allowing the tying run to score. Girardi convinced the umpires to talk it out, and they determined Holder was simply telling McCann to cycle through the signs again. The balk was overturned.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

I can’t remember ever seeing a balk call reversed like that. The balk rule is so damn ambiguous. When stuff like that happens, you know the Yankees are living a charmed life. They’re getting every break, it seems. The balk reversal saved the Yankees a run, but Souza did tie the game was a monster home run in the sixth inning. It hit up the restaurant in Aaron Judge territory. After all of that, the game was tied 4-4 in the sixth.

Four relievers combined to get nine outs in the seventh, eighth, and nine innings. Chasen Shreve got one, Blake Parker got five, Kirby Yates got two, and Tommy Layne got one. Parker is slowing moving into the Circle of Trustâ„¢, isn’t he? He retired Evan Longoria and Souza as part of his outing. Tampa’s most dangerous hitter and a guy with two home runs on the night.

Five relievers, four of whom spent time in Triple-A earlier this season and another who was released by a division rival, combined to throw five innings of one-run ball after Sabathia exited the game. They allowed the run on five hits and walk while striking out five. Pretty? Nah. But give me this kind of performance from these dudes every day of the week. They held down the Rays long enough for Tyler Austin to do this:

Girardi could have easily pinch-hit Mark Teixeira in that spot to get the platoon matchup against Erasmo Ramirez. Teixeira could take aim at the short porch and win the game with one swing. Instead, Girardi stuck with Austin, who actually got ahead in the count 3-0. He took a strike, swung so hard through a 3-1 changeup that he nearly broke his bat on his back, then sat back and shot the 3-2 pitch into right field for the walk-off home run.

Austin had a single earlier in the game and is now 6-for-12 with two doubles and two home runs in his last four games. That’s after a lengthy 5-for-37 (.135) slump that saw him on the bench more often than not. All three of Austin’s big league home runs have been opposite field shots at Yankee Stadium. He has right field pop and that’s going to serve him very well in this ballpark.

Leftovers
For only the second time in his 20 starts as a big leaguer, Judge did not strike out. He went 1-for-3 with a hard-hit single and was thrown out stealing second, though replays showed he may have been safe. The Yankees didn’t challenge though. Judge’s at-bats have been much better the last few days. He seems to be coming around. Hopefully it’ll be dinger time soon.

Gardner (two singles) and Ellsbury (single, walk) both reached base twice. Ellsbury drew a walk leading off the eighth inning and never tried to steal second. Well, that’s not true. He ran on the final pitch of the inning, which Starlin Castro swung through for strike three. That was annoying. The game was tied 4-4 in the eighth and Ellsbury didn’t budge. Argh. Those are the bases he was brought in to steal.

Gary Sanchez went 0-for-4 and is in a 6-for-35 (.171) slump. That was bound to happen. The slump has lowered his season batting line all the way down to .336/.410/.689 (188 wRC+). He’ll be fine. McCann had three hits total, it should be noted. Between the dingers and selling the umps on Holder not balking, it was a productive night for McCann.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN for the updated standings. The Yankees are now four games back in the AL East and two games back of the second wildcard spot. They haven’t been this close to a postseason spot since April 25th, 18 games into the season. Pretty awesome. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This series is only getting started. The Yankees and Rays will reconvene at Yankee Stadium on Friday night for the second game of this four-game set. Pineda and rookie Blake Snell are the scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for any of the 12 home games left this season.

Sweep! Mitchell and Severino hold down the Blue Jays in 2-0 win

That was a satisfying series. Stressful, but satisfying. The Yankees, led by two young pitchers, shut out the high-scoring Blue Jays 2-0 on Wednesday night. This is their first three-game sweep of the season, believe it or not. This team is fun as hell right now, aren’t they? Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mitchell Returns
Welcome back to the big leagues, Bryan Mitchell. Go face the Blue Jays in homer happy Yankee Stadium with only 21 minor league tune-up innings under your belt. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, and truth be told things did come close to unraveling a few times, but Mitchell was able to bear down and escape each jam he faced. The result: five scoreless innings. Five! Who expected that? No one, that’s who.

The Blue Jays had their best chance to score against Mitchell in the third inning, which he started by walking No. 8 hitter Melvin Upton and No. 9 Kevin Pillar. That generally leads to bad things. Luckily Devon Travis smashed a hard-hit ground ball to Chase Headley, who started the 5-4-3 double play. A ground out by Josh Donaldson ended the inning. Mitchell’s only 1-2-3 inning was his last, the fifth.

All told, Mitchell allowed four hits and two walks in his five innings, and it could have easily been only two hits had Tyler Austin not come down with a case of the Trumbos in right field. Mitchell used mostly fastballs to keep the Blue Jays in check — his 80 pitches were broken down into 64 fastballs and 16 curveballs — including a filthy cutter that averaged 93.4 mph. Also, he got ten ground outs and only three air outs. What more could you want from the kid? Way to go, Bryan.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two Runs Are More Than Enough
The Yankees had a chance to score in the very first inning thanks to a Brett Gardner single and an error by Travis. It was a tough error; Didi Gregorius hit a hard grounder up the middle, Travis ranged to his right to field it, but his flip to second for the force out was wide of the base. Very difficult play. Should have been a hit. Mark Teixeira struck out to end the inning, so the Yankees couldn’t capitalize. Blah.

Both runs scored in the third inning and they scored in very different ways. Starlin Castro started the scoring with a solo home run, his career-high 20th. Marcus Stroman left a slider up and bam, dinger time. Stroman was shook after that, because the next three Yankees reached base. Gregorius poked a double to left, Teixeira worked a walk after falling behind in the count 0-2, and Brian McCann pulled a run-scoring single through the shift. All of that happened with two outs. All of it.

After the homer, five of the next eight Yankees to bat reached base. They very nearly scored a third run in the fourth inning, but Jacoby Ellsbury‘s opposite field double barely hopped over the wall, forcing Gardner to stop at third. He would have scored from first base easily on the play, especially with two outs. Heck, replays showed he was rounding third when the ball hopped over the wall. Alas. Two runs was all the Yankees got and it was one more than they needed.

Bullpen Ace
As soon as Mitchell walked Upton and Pillar in the third inning, Joe Girardi had Luis Severino up in the bullpen. His plan was clear. Whenever Mitchell was done, Severino was coming in. He wasn’t needed until the sixth, after Mitchell allowed a leadoff double to Troy Tulowitzki. Severino retired Donaldson (fielder’s choice), Edwin Encarnacion (ground out), and Jose Bautista (strikeout) to strand the runner. The Bautista strikeout if GIF-worthy:

Luis Severino Jose Bautista

Severino remained in and threw scoreless seventh and eighth innings as well. Once the Yankees got the lead, that was the plan all along. Get whatever you can out of Mitchell, the ride Severino as long as possible. He allowed one hit and one walk in his three scoreless innings of relief, striking out three. His final out was the scariest; Encarnacion flew out to the right field warning track with a man on base in the eighth. That was the tying run right there.

In six total games as a reliever, Severino has faced 51 batters and allowed two hits. Two! Two hits and four walks in 14.1 innings equals a 0.42 WHIP, which is decent. Severino has struck out 17 of those 51 batters, or 33.3%. The kid should absolutely be given a chance to start next season, but if the rotation doesn’t work it, it sure looks like he can be a dominant reliever. Closer du jour Tyler Clippard stuck out two in a perfect ninth. What a nice game on the mound.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees had nine hits total, including two each by Gardner and Ellsbury. Every starter had a hit except Teixeira and Austin Romine, and Teixeira drew a walk. Romine was the only one who failed to reach base. It was not a great night for the bats, but the pitching staff was able to pick them up. That has to happen from time to time.

The Orioles, Tigers, and Astros all lost on Wednesday, which means the Yankees gained ground on each of the three teams ahead of them in the wildcard race. Awesome. The Yankees are 2.5 games back with 24 to play. If nothing else, this team looks poised to play meaningful baseball for a few more weeks. I’ll take it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score, MLB.com has the video highlights, and ESPN has the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages either. The first one is actually kinda useful. Here’s the win probability graph.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
One AL East rival leaves the Bronx and another comes in. The Rays will be in town for a four-game weekend series starting Thursday night. CC Sabathia and Alex Cobb, who just returned from Tommy John surgery, are the scheduled starters for the series opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other 12 home games left on the schedule.

Yankees survive ninth inning meltdown, hang on for crazy 7-6 win over Blue Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Well, the Yankees definitely aren’t boring anymore. Tuesday night’s 7-6 win over the Blue Jays was, without question, the most intense and fun and stressful and exciting game of the season. It was the best game since the Carlos Beltran home run/Andrew Miller vs. Troy Tulowitzki game in Toronto last season, right? Has to be. This was playoff baseball. Goodness.

I seriously have no idea how to recap this game. I usually build these things as the game progresses, but it just wasn’t happening with this one. The game was too hectic. It was crazy. I’m going to try something a little different and annotate the WPA graph so that way we hit on everything. Sound good? Too bad if it doesn’t, we’re going with it anyway. Let’s get to it.

NYYvsTORwpa090616(1) Luis Cessa‘s fourth big league start was his biggest test so far. The Blue Jays can really hit, and Edwin Encarnacion made sure Cessa knew it in the very first inning. He missed his spot with a fastball (by a lot) and Encarnacion absolutely clobbered it into the second deck in left field. It left his bat at 114 mph, which is nuts. The Blue Jays took a quick 1-0 lead on that blast.

With a rookie pitcher, you worry a monster home run like that will scare them out of the strike zone or away from their fastball. Not Cessa. The Royals hit him around early in his last start, but he showed some composure and held Kansas City down long enough for the offense to come back. Cessa did the same in this one. He shook off Encarnacion’s home run and retired nine of the next 12 men he faced. Only two of those 12 batters hit the ball out of the infield.

(2) Brian McCann must have known I have a “Brian McCann hasn’t hit for much power lately” post in the hopper for Wednesday. I wrote the damn thing earlier on Tuesday and, sure enough, McCann goes and hits his third home run of the second half in the fourth inning to tie the game 1-1. It was only the second home run Aaron Sanchez has allowed since the All-Star break. That kid is mighty impressive, isn’t he? He missed up with a changeup and McCann promptly deposited it into the second deck.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

(3) The defense both helped and hurt Cessa in the fifth inning. Mostly hurt. Kevin Pillar dunked a single into center to start the inning, and after a Justin Smoak fly out, Devon Travis beat out an infield single when Chase Headley failed to make the barehand play. YES was using the behind the plate angle, which is basically the worst thing ever, so I have no idea if Headley had time to use his glove. Doesn’t matter. Travis was safe the Blue Jays had two on with one out.

The next defensive miscue came on the very next pitch; Jose Bautista lifted a soft broken bat fly ball to left field that should have been caught, but Brett Gardner held up and allowed the ball to drop in for a run-scoring hit. He had to misread it off the broken bat. I can’t explain it otherwise. It looked like Gardner thought it was hit harder than it actually was. The ball dropped in a few steps in front of him and the Blue Jays took a 2-1 lead. The Yankees had just tied the game in the previous half inning. Blah.

Toronto only scored one run in the inning because Headley atoned for his barehand whiff with an outstanding diving stop on Josh Donaldson’s rocket down the line. It was ticketed for the corner and would have scored at least one run, if not two. Headley snared the hot shot and threw across the diamond for the out. One of the best defense plays of the season, bar none. Encarnacion flew out after that, so despite all the baserunners and bad defense, the Blue Jays were only able to score the one run that fifth inning.

(Presswire)
That is a man who knows he just mashed a tater. (Presswire)

(4) It sure looks like Tyler Austin is getting locked in, huh? Austin hit a home run in his first MLB at-bat, then went into a 5-for-37 (.135) slump and found himself on the bench more often than not. He did come out with two doubles on Monday afternoon, and, more importantly, he had some quality at-bats. Austin was flailing a little bit before that. Monday he stayed controlled and did damage at the plate.

Before Austin played hero in the seventh, the struggling Aaron Judge extended the inning with a two-out single to center. He grounded out in his first at-bat of the night but it was actually a good at-bat. Sanchez jumped ahead in the count 0-2, Judge worked it full, fouled off another pitch, then rolled over on a sinker. Bad outcome, but it was his best at-bat in a long time. The single set Austin up for the go-ahead birthday home run. To the action footage:

What a bomb. I don’t remember the last time a right-handed hitter hit one into the right field bleachers. I told you Austin has oppo pop. Austin is the first Yankee to hit a home run on his birthday since Alex Rodriguez last year. He’s the first rookie to hit a birthday home run with the Yankees since Eduardo Nunez in 2011. Congrats, Tyler. Your 25th birthday was way better than mine.

(5) Rosters may be expanded, but that doesn’t mean the bullpen can’t be worn down. Tyler Clippard has pitched three straight days and Dellin Betances pitched two straight, so when Cessa was pulled with one out in the sixth, Joe Girardi had to do some mixing and matching. The just recalled James Pazos didn’t get his batter out and gave way to Adam Warren, who got Smoak to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Warren stayed on to retire the side in the seventh, including Bautista and Donaldson, and he got the first two outs of the eighth too. The matching up started after Troy Tulowitzki singled with two outs in the eighth. Tommy Layne came in, walked pinch-hitter Melvin Upton, then gave way to Ben Heller. The Yankees were up 3-2 at the time, but the Blue Jays had two on, so Heller was in a pickle. He groove a fastball to Kevin freakin’ Pillar, who hammered a go-ahead two-run double to the wall in left. Blargh.

Girardi sure seems committed to using Heller in tight spots, and the rookie couldn’t get it done Tuesday. Betances was never going to come in for the four-out save after pitching Sunday and Monday, and with Clippard unavailable, Heller was probably Girardi’s best option. Either him or Chasen Shreve, who got the last out of the inning. It’s easy to say Heller shouldn’t have been in that spot given the outcome, but the alternative was Jonathan Holder or Kirby Yates or Nick Goody, so yeah. Not great. Bottom line: Heller can’t throw a pitch that poor. Even guys like Pillar will make you pay for grooved fastball. These are the big leagues.

(6) Earlier this season the Yankees would just roll over in a game like this. Blown lead in the eighth? Meh. Go get ’em tomorrow. Not these Yankees though. The kids don’t know any better and the veterans feed off that. The eighth inning rally started with, of all things, a Jacoby Ellsbury walk. Those done come around often. Jason Grilli was up there grunting fastballs, but he missed with four wide ones, so Ellsbury was on first.

Grilli pretty much owned Gary Sanchez for the first out of the inning. Struck him out on four pitches and had Sanchez looking silly. Once Sanchez struck out, I was waiting for Ellsbury to take off for second — there’s no reason to risk getting thrown out with Gary at the plate — but it never happened. Didn’t need to. The slumping Didi Gregorius hit a first pitch triple over Pillar’s head in left-center that scored Ellsbury to tie the game 4-4. I thought Pillar was going to catch it. He’s so good in the field. It sailed right over his head though. How about that?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the life of me, I will never understand why Grilli threw Starlin Castro a two-strike fastball. He got him to chase two breaking balls out of the zone for a quick 0-2 count because that’s what Castro does, yet Grilli opted for the heater, and Starlin lifted it out to right field for the go-ahead sac fly. Grilli and Russell Martin got a little too cute there trying to set something up. They should know Castro will chase three straight pitches off the plate.

The sac fly gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead, and after McCann drew a five-pitch walk, Headley provided two insurance runs with a two-run home run into the short porch. Two insurance runs the Yankees would ultimately need. Headley more than made up for the missed barehand with the diving stop and the two-run home run. You done good, Chase.

(7) Three-run lead with Betances on the mound? No big deal. Even against the top of the Blue Jays lineup and while pitching the third straight day. Dellin had plenty of breathing room. Then eight of his first 12 pitches were balls and suddenly Encarnacion was up as the tying run. That was: bad. Encarnacion fouled off five pitches as part of a ten-pitch at-bat before beating out an infield single. A wild pitch moved Bautista and Donaldson up earlier in the inning, so a run scored to cut the lead to 7-5, and the tying run was on base.

(8) Betances was clearly not sharp in his third straight day of work, so much so that his first out was not recorded until his 27th pitch. Twenty-seventh! Woof. Betances struck out Martin for the first out, then walked pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro on seven pitches. The Yankees still led 7-5, but now the Blue Jays had the bases loaded and Dellin had thrown 34 (!) pitches to get one out. Egads. That’s bad.

Betances needed another six pitches to get Upton to hit a ground ball towards defensive replacement Mark Teixeira at first. It should have been the second out of the inning. Instead, Dellin took a little misstep at first and completely missed the bag. Upton was safe and another run scored. And the bases were still loaded. And there was still only one out. And Betances had thrown 40 pitches and was visibly fatigued. He was on fumes. The stakes were high and morale was low. The Yankees needed a hero.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

(9) Girardi did the only thing he could do after the Upton infield single: he took out Betances. He had to. Dellin’s pitch count was through the roof — it wasn’t just 40 pitches, it was 40 high-stress pitches — and he was working for the third straight day. It was dangerous to push him any further.

So, with Betances worn out and Warren having already pitched and Clippard unavailable, in came Blake Parker for the save chance with the bases loaded. The Yankees started 2016 with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller in their bullpen along with Betances, yet here was Blake Parker coming in to get the most important two outs of the season. Baseball, man.

Parker was able to strike out Pillar for the second out using almost exclusively non-fastballs. He dropped a first pitch curveball in for a strike, then got him to swing through a second pitch splitter for an 0-2 count. Pillar fouled off a high fastball, then Parker spiked a splitter that Sanchez was able to block with his body. Huge underrated play in the game. The pitch was nowhere close to the plate and Sanchez kept it in front of him to stop the tying run from scoring.

Pillar fouled off a splitter before getting locked up with a curveball for a called strike three. I have no idea what he was looking for, but it definitely wasn’t that. Pillar just froze. That was only the second out. Still one more to go with the bases loaded. Smoak was apparently paying attention during Pillar’s at-bat, because when Parker again tried to steal a first pitch strike with a curveball, Smoak gave it his A-swing and drove the ball out to deep left.

Off the bat, I thought it was a line drive at Gardner, and I was just hoping it was close enough for him to catch it. I’m getting really bad at reading balls off the bat, it seems. The ball carried all the way to the wall, and there was definitely an “oh gosh that’s going out” feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched Gardner race back to the wall. The game ended with one of the best catches of the season. Take it away, Brett:

I don’t know if that was the prettiest defensive play of the season — in fact, I know it’s not — but dammit, that was easily the biggest defensive play of the season. Saved the game and kept the Yankees close in the postseason race. Smoak hit that ball mighty hard, much harder than I thought, and Gardner was able to make the catch even though the ball rolled up his damn glove and had to be snow-coned. Here’s the slow motion replay:

Brett Gardner catch

I love and hate this team so much.

Leftovers
The Yankees only had seven hits as a team, but three were home runs and another was a triple, so it all worked out. Sanchez, Castro, and Judge had the singles. McCann, Austin, and Headley had the dingers. Gregorius had the triple. Ellsbury drew two walks while McCann and Austin drew one each. Austin looks really comfortable at the plate right now. Glad to see it.

Seven relievers combined to throw 113 pitches in 3.2 innings. That’s 10.3 pitches per out. Warren threw 44 in 2.1 innings and Betances threw 40 to get one out, so I reckon we won’t be seeing those two for a few days. Clippard will be the closer du jour for a little while. Not so fun fact: three of those seven relievers (Pazos, Layne, Heller) did not retire a batter. Argh.

The Yankees caught a break in the ninth inning. Encarnacion should have been awarded first base on a catcher’s interference call — the replay made it crystal clear — but the umpires missed it. It’s not a reviewable play either. That would have loaded the bases with no outs. Of course, Encarnacion singled in a run later in the at-bat, so it’s not like the non-call saved New York’s bacon.

The Yankees have finally (finally!) won a series against the Blue Jays. They’d lost six straight series to Toronto dating back to last year, and they’d also lost five straight home series to the Blue Jays dating back to 2014. It was not a pretty win and it was certainly not stress-free, but at least now that monkey is off their back.

And finally, the Yankees are now 72-65 and a season-high seven games over .500. They’re 20-13 since they gave up on the season and traded away some of their best players at the deadline. Also, the Yankees are now only 4.5 games back of the AL East lead. They haven’t been that close since April 27th.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the un-annotated win probability graph, which does not accurately reflect how much I nearly puked:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Time to sweep these mofos. The rest of the AL East never bothered to bury the Yankees and now it’s time to make them sweat it out. Bryan Mitchell is scheduled to start Wednesday’s finale and make his 2016 debut after breaking his toe covering first base in Spring Training. Marcus Stroman will be on the bump for the Blue Jays. There are only 14 home games left this season, and RAB Tickets can get you in the door for all of them.

Ellsbury and Tanaka lead Yanks to 5-3 win over Blue Jays


Source: FanGraphs

For only the fourth time in 14 tries since last season’s trade deadline, the Yankees managed to beat the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium. Wins against Toronto have been tough to come by for more than a calendar year now. The final score was 5-3 on Monday afternoon. It’s Labor Day, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Ellsburied: One day after riding the bench in what Joe Girardi called the most important game of the season, Jacoby Ellsbury came out and swatted a two-run home run in the first inning Monday. He then singled in the team’s third run of the day two innings later. Ellsbury went 3-for-4 and drove in three of the Yankees’ five runs. Nice way to respond after sitting out Sunday.
  • Tanaka Grinds: I thought Masahiro Tanaka looked too strong in the first inning. He was on extra rest and he only threw 71 pitches last time out because of the rain delay, so maybe that was it. His two-seamer was running all over the place, so much so that he couldn’t locate it consistently. The Blue Jays jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a double and a single in the first, but Tanaka was able to settle down, limit the damage, and retire 18 of the next 23 batters he faced. He allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks in 6.1 innings. It wasn’t easy, but Tanaka was able to take the ball into the seventh.
  • Insurance Runs: The Yankees led 3-1 after Ellsbury’s run-scoring single in the third, and while a two-run lead is nice, it’s hardly comfortable against the Blue Jays. Thankfully Tyler Austin came through with a two-out, two-run double off the wall in the fourth inning. That stretched the lead to 5-1. Toronto can score runs in a hurry, so the game was hardly over, but at least now the Yankees had some breathing room.
  • Survive the Bullpen: Bringing Jonathan Holder into the game to face the middle of the Blue Jays’ lineup in his second MLB appearance was not Girardi’s finest move. Holder walked Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to load the bases in the seventh, then Ben Heller came in and gave up the two-run single to Edwin Encarnacion to cut the lead to 5-3. Maybe go with the experienced guys over the kids against hitters that good next time, Joe. Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances closed the door in the eighth and ninth after it got interesting.
  • Leftovers: Austin seems to be coming around. He went 2-for-3 with two doubles … Aaron Judge, meanwhile, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. This is getting painful. At least he robbed a near homer without jumping … Didi Gregorius went 0-fot-4 with two strikeouts and has been slumping for a week or two now … Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro had one hit each while Chase Headley and Austin Romine each drew a walk … the Orioles won, so the Yankees remain 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Blue Jays continue this three-game series with the middle game Tuesday night. Luis Cessa and Aaron Sanchez are the scheduled starters. There are only 15 home games left this season, so head over to RAB Tickets if you want catch any of them live.

Yankees avoid the sweep, salvage series with a 5-2 win over the Orioles

In what Joe Girardi called “probably the most important game of the season,” the Yankees came out and took control of Sunday’s series finale early against the Orioles. They won 5-2 to salvage the series. The Yankees went 7-5 during this 12-game stretch against the Mariners, Royals, and Orioles, three teams they’re competing against for the second wildcard spot.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three Early Runs
The Yankees were not only shut out Friday and Saturday, they were also shut out by the Orioles last Sunday at Yankee Stadium as well. They hadn’t scored a run against the O’s in 27 innings. Twenty-seven innings! Yikes. And they very nearly blew a run-scoring opportunity in the first inning too. Brett Gardner and Rob Refsnyder started the game with walks, but Gary Sanchez and Starlin Castro followed with strikeouts against Wade Miley. Sigh.

After the last two games it was easy to assume the worst as soon as Sanchez and Castro struck out. They’ve been the team’s two hottest hitters the last four weeks or so. Miley is pretty terrible though, so not all hope was lost. Chase Headley was able to get a run home with a little jam shot bloop to shallow left, then a wild Austin Romine appeared with a well-placed ground ball through the left side of the infield …

Austin Romine

… to score two more runs. Phew. The Yankees went from being on the verge of wasting a rally to scoring their first three runs of the weekend in the span of six pitches. Headley’s two-out infield single — Chris Davis failed to make the scoop on Manny Machado’s spinning throw — in the third inning gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Refsnyder singled to start the frame, moved to second on Sanchez’s walk, then moved to third on Castro’s double play.

A Grind For Pineda
You could tell right away this game was going to be a tough one for Michael Pineda. The first three batters of the game made solid contact — Adam Jones and Machado sandwiched singles around Pedro Alvarez’s line out — and Pineda had to work hard to strike out Mark Trumbo and Davis to strand the runners. He then started the second inning by walking Steve Pearce after jumping ahead in the count 0-2. Blargh.

Pineda’s only 1-2-3 inning was the third. He put the leadoff man on base in every other inning. By my unofficial count, he threw 54 of his 87 pitches from the stretch, or 62%. I have no idea what the league average is, but 62% seems bad. Pineda finally allowed a run in the third after Trumbo walked and Davis singled with no outs. Pearce hit a grounder to Headley at third, and while it looked like he could have gone home, he opted for the 5-4-3 double play. Unfortunately the ball was hit a little too weakly and Pearce beat it out at first.

With a four-run lead and the Orioles very capable of hitting the ball out of the park, I’m totally cool with going for the double play there. The Yankees did everything perfectly — Headley fired the ball to second and Castro’s turn was quick — yet Pearce beat it by about half-a-step. It happens. Even if Headley cuts the runner down at the plate, Pineda’s looking at two on with one out, and that’s scary. Try to avoid the big inning. A Jones single and an Alvarez run-scoring double ended Pineda’s afternoon in the fifth inning.

The total damage: two runs on five hits (four singles, one double) and two walks in four innings plus two batters. Pineda did strike out four, including three with runners in scoring position. It was not a great start, but you know what? We’ve seen several Pineda starts like this one blow up and get out of hand. This one didn’t. He got some key strikeouts and Joe Girardi’s appropriately short leash limited the damage.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Five Innings From The Bullpen
As soon at it became clear the Yankees would use Severino in relief in September, I think we all kind of assumed he would step in as the guy who bridged the gap between the starter and the usual late-inning relievers. If that means throwing two or three innings, fine. Severino was starting in Triple-A and is stretched out, so he’s good for multiple innings. A multi-inning fireman is a really nice weapon.

Severino was brought in to put out the fire in the fifth inning, after the double by Alvarez scored a run. Girardi summoned the young right-hander to face the middle of the O’s lineup with a runner at second and the tying run at the plate. The save stat is kinda stupid. Severino was asked to get the three biggest outs of the afternoon in that fifth inning. That was a save situation. He had to protect the lead against the middle of the lineup.

It was not the prettiest inning — Severino went to a 3-2 count on Machado, Trumbo, and Davis — but the end result was minimal contact and no runs allowed. Severino struck out Machado, walked Trumbo, walked Davis to load the bases, then struck out Pearce for the second out of the inning. Yeesh. Thankfully Matt Wieters rolled over on a ground ball the end the threat. Severino’s 24th pitch was the first one the Orioles put in play.

The Yankees were nursing a 4-2 lead and they still had 12 outs to go. Severino went back out for the sixth, retired the side in order, then gave way to Tommy Layne for the left-on-left matchup against Alvarez leading off the seventh. Layne got Alvarez and Adam Warren got Machado and Trumbo. Davis led off the eighth with a single literally off Tyler Clippard; it looked like it hit him in the back or triceps. I’m not sure. Either way, he stayed in the game.

Clippard was able to fan both Pearce and Wieters before Dellin Betances came in for the stress-free four-out save. Two strikeouts, a soft grounder, and a hard-hit fly ball Jacoby Ellsbury ran down. All told, five relievers combined to hold the O’s to one hit and two walks in five innings, and the one hit was the infield single that hit Clippard. Severino, Clippard, and Betances each fanned a pair. The bullpen came up huge a few times on the this road trip and they did it again Sunday afternoon.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth thanks largely to Mark Trumbo, who is not a right fielder but plays one on TV. He misplayed a Tyler Austin fly ball into a two-base error — I think Trumbo might have lost it in the sun, though he did get some leather on it — and Austin came around to score after a bunt (Ronald Torreyes) and a sac fly (Gardner). That gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead.

Headley was the only player on the roster with multiple hits. Refsnyder, Romine, Austin, and Aaron Judge had one each. The Yankees drew a whopping seven walks as a team, though only two came around to score. Gardner and Sanchez had two each. Seven walks is not a season-high but the Yankees have only had one game with more; they drew eight against the Indians last month.

Obscure stat alert: the Yankees now have three players with eight saves for the first time in franchise history. Betances, who is 8-for-9 in save chances since taking over as closer, joins Andrew Miller (nine) and Aroldis Chapman (20) in the team’s 8+ saves club. Those three have 38 of the team’s 40 saves in 2016. Chasen Shreve and Chad Green have the other two. You knew that, I’m sure.

And finally, Severino’s two innings and 38 pitches of relief almost certainly take him out of the running for Wednesday’s start in place of the injured Green. Bryan Mitchell lines up to start that day, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees went with an old school bullpen game now that rosters have expanded. We’ll see.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages either. The Yankees are now 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with 27 games to play. Here’s the win probably graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The road trip is over and the Yankees are heading home for a ten-game homestand. It’s the second-to-last homestand of the year, you know. Ten games at home, eleven on the road, six at home. That’s it. That’s all that’s left. Masahiro Tanaka and R.A. Dickey will be on the mound in Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays. That’s a 1pm ET start. Labor Day matinee. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other 15 home games left on the schedule.

Orioles 2, Yankees 0: Gausman dominates (again) and Yankees get shut out (again)


Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees came to Baltimore knowing this is their biggest series of the season to date. They’ve responded by being shut out in the first two games. Only six total hits too. And two were infield singles. The Yankees have actually been shut out in three straight games by the Orioles dating back to last weekend’s series at Yankee Stadium. Good job, good effort. This final score was 2-0. It’s Saturday night and it’s a holiday weekend, so this one is getting bullet points:

  • Strong Sabathia: Two runs (one earned) in six innings against the O’s in Camden Yards? CC Sabathia did his job. Aaron Judge bobbled a broken bat single in the fourth inning, allowing the first run to score, then Adam Jones hit a solo homer into the first row in the fifth. Sabathia allowed six hits and walked two in his six innings. He only had one strikeout and did have to battle through some innings, but, at the end of the day, two runs in six innings against that offense in that park is really good. Sabathia deserved better.
  • Cy Gausman: For the fifth time this season, the Yankees were completely shut down by Kevin Gausman. They’ve scored three runs total in 33.2 innings against him, and two of the three were driven in by a guy who was forced into retirement. The Yankees had their best chance to score in the fourth, when a walk (Jacoby Ellsbury), an infield single (Gary Sanchez), and a hit-by-pitch (Didi Gregorius) loaded the bases with one out. Starlin Castro then struck out on a 3-2 pitch way out of the zone (surprise surprise) and Brian McCann flew out weakly (surprise surprise) to end the threat. Gausman has a 0.80 ERA against the Yankees and a 4.41 ERA against everyone else in ’16.
  • Leftovers: Sanchez, Castro, McCann, and Chase Headley had the team’s four hits, all singles … Ellsbury and Judge drew the only walks … Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard both pitched into and out of trouble in their scoreless innings … the Yankees have been shut out in three straight games by the same team for the first time since 1973 (White Sox). They’ve also been shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since last season and only the second time this century.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Orioles wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon. It’s pretty much a must-win if this team wants to remain relevant a few more weeks. Michael Pineda and Wade Miley are the scheduled starters.