Yankees have no answer for Price in 4-2 loss to Blue Jays

Once again, the Yankees were out-hit, out-pitched, and out-defended by the Blue Jays. That’s been happening since literally Opening Day. Toronto won Monday night’s series opener 4-2 and is now 12-5 against the Yankees in 2015. They’ve outscored New York 77-50. Total domination.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Over Early
The Blue Jays can score in a hurry, and it didn’t take long for the Yankees to fall behind 3-0 on Monday. Adam Warren gave up a single to Ben Revere and hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch — more like he grazed Donaldson’s jersey, but it is what it is — to set up the first inning rally. Jose Bautista slapped a singled back up the middle to score the first run, a wild pitch advanced the runners, then Edwin Encarnacion hit a grounder to short to score the second run.

Up to that point, Warren did not allow a hard-hit ball. Well, I guess Revere made solid contact, but it’s Ben Revere. It was a fliner more than a liner. That all changed when Justin Smoak scalded a double over Carlos Beltran‘s head in right to drive in the third run of the inning. A non-Beltran right fielder might have been able to make the catch, but it’s not like it was a routine play. Smoak crushed it. Warren needed 19 pitches to get one out, which was very bad because he was on an 80-85 pitch limit.

To his credit, Warren did settle down after the three-run first inning, at least until he hit his pitch limit in the fourth inning. He retired nine of the final dozen batters he faced and one of the three base-runners was an infield single. (Chase Headley made yet another throwing error, allowing the runner to go to second.) Too bad that first inning happened. With David Price on the mound, that three-run deficit was a huge hill to climb.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One Chance Against Price
The Yankees had four base-runners in seven innings against Price and three of the four came in the third inning, which was by far New York’s best chance to get back into the game against the southpaw. After a quick ground out by Didi Gregorius, the Yankees loaded the bases on a Cliff Pennington error (Dustin Ackley reached), a single (Jacoby Ellsbury), and a walk (Brett Gardner). Bases loaded with one out and the three-four hitters due up? Perfect!

Runs did not happen though. Alex Rodriguez put up a real good fight against Price before striking out on the ninth pitch of the at-bat for the second out of the inning. The eighth pitch of the at-bat was a little weak pop-up that landed juuust foul on the right field side. We’re talking an inch or two from a two-run bloop single. Maybe even three runs. Check it out:

Alex Rodriguez foul ball

A game of inches, man. Game of inches. Brian McCann followed A-Rod‘s strikeout with an inning-ending fly ball to center field. The Yankees got nothing out of their best chance against Price, who, predictably, got locked in and dominated the rest of the way. Following the walk to Gardner to load the bases, Price retired the final 14 batters he faced. He’s allowed five runs in 26.1 innings against the Yankees as a Blue Jay. Pretty much the difference in the AL East race right there.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bullpen on Parade
Once Warren was out of the game, I set the over/under at 5.5 relievers the rest of the night. It was under, surprisingly. First up: James Pazos. He retired Pennington and Revere to close out the fourth inning. It was Caleb Cotham‘s turn next, and he cut through Donaldson (strikeout), Bautista (fly out), and Encarnacion (fly out) in order in the fifth. That was cool. Cotham started the sixth, got the first two outs, then gave way to Chasen Shreve. Nice work, Caleb.

Shreve, on the other hand, continued to look nothing like the guy who was so excellent earlier this season. He allowed an infield single to Ryan Goins, which, whatever, kinda dopey, but then Shreve walked Kevin Pillar (!) and Matt Hague (!!) to load the bases. Not good! Thankfully Revere flew out loudly to Beltran in right field to end the inning. Shreve threw seven strikes out of 16 total pitches. He has allowed 22 of the last 45 batters he’s faced to reach base (.489 OBP). What a downturn.

Anyway, whenever you use six pitchers in a game, it’s only a matter of time until you run into someone who doesn’t have it, and that someone was Branden Pinder (and Shreve, I guess). Pinder walked Donaldson leading off the seventh, gave up a double to Bautista, then was ordered to intentionally walk Encarnacion for some reason. Second and third with no outs against the best offense in baseball wasn’t bad enough, so the Yankees did the Blue Jays a solid and gave them a free base-runner. Not sure I like that move.

Andrew Bailey, reliever No. 5, inherited the jam and was able to limited the damage to just one run, which I guess was the best case scenario. Ex-Yankee Russell Martin lifted a two-strike sac fly to center to score Toronto’s fourth run of the evening. Bailey then tossed a perfect eighth as well. He looked really sharp. Easily the best he’s looked since coming up. Bailey might now be in the Circle of Trust™ by default. Joe Girardi definitely needs one more reliable reliever.

Nope. (Presswire)
Nope. (Presswire)

Last Chance
The Yankees had their last chance to get back into the game in the eighth inning, when they scored their first run. Aaron Sanchez gift-wrapped them a leadoff walk, then Ackley poked a single through the left side to put runners at the corners. That was it for Sanchez. His night was done. Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons went to lefty relief ace Brett Cecil, who allowed a run-scoring single to Ellsbury. I have no idea how Ellsbury hit that pitch. It was at the shoestrings and he slapped it up the box.

The Yankees were in business, with one run in and runners at first and second with the 2-3-4 hitters coming up. Rather than rally, Cecil struck out Gardner, A-Rod, and McCann on 15 total pitches. Those three took ten swings and missed four times. Cecil did get a favorable called strike three on Gardner — the breaking ball sailed in high (strike zone plot) — but I’m not sure it would have changed the outcome anyway. Cecil was dominant. A-Rod and McCann were completely overmatched. Those two came up empty not once, but twice Monday night in huge spots.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Greg Bird launched a solo home run to dead center off Roberto Osuna with two outs in the ninth, but by then it was too little, too late. The Yankees had just five hits — Bird’s homer and singles by Ellsbury (two), A-Rod, and Ackley — and two walks in the game. This was their 30th game with no more than five hits in 2015, sixth most in baseball.

The five relievers combined: one run on three hits and four walks (one intentional) in 4.2 innings. That’s pretty good! I think we all would have signed up for that when Warren walked off the mound in the third inning. The middle relief has been crazy shaky of late but they kept the Yankees in Monday’s game. Couldn’t ask for any more.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot remains eight. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages as well. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Leftovers
The Yankees and Blue Jays play the middle game of this three-game series Tuesday night. The pitching matchup will be Luis Severino and Marco Estrada. Severino’s two worst big league starts have come against Toronto. He’s allowed nine runs in 8.1 innings against the Blue Jays and seven runs in 35 innings against everyone else. Hopefully Severino can reverse that trend Tuesday.

Yankees take the Subway Series with a 11-2 win behind CC’s arm and big bats

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This game didn’t start well – CC Sabathia labored through the entire first inning while Matt Harvey mowed down Yankee hitters. There’s a reason why you don’t stop watching after the first few innings though – the Yankee offense took advantage of non-Harvey Mets pitchers later in the game to make this win look very, very easy. The guys from Bronx took two out of three in the enemy territory to win the Subway Series before they head up north for a crucial series versus the Blue Jays.

It’s a Sunday night. I had a long day of watching sports (attending the Redskins game, watching more NFL and MLB games and this) so let’s do this 11-2 win bullet point style.

– CC is good again?: The Mets took a quick 1-0 lead in the first only after first two hitters – both Ruben Tejada and David Wright hit a double each (on 0-2 counts, go figure). By then all of us were wondering if we were in for a long night of CC struggling and bullpen laboring. Well, CC did have to work a lot to get out of the first inning without any more damage – he loaded the bases with two outs with a pair of walks but induced a Michael Cuddyer pop out to escape.

For the rest of the night, Sabathia was brilliant. He only allowed three more hits in five innings while striking out five more. Thanks to the offense imploding post-Harvey, CC earned his first win since July 8, which, in my opinion, is a long time ago (a lot of things happened to me in that time period). After being a thorn on the side for the Yankee rotation until early August, Sabathia is making a strong case to be a playoff starter now, who would’ve thought?

– The top of sixth: So you probably know about this Matt Harvey pitch count deal. Well, Harvey was just dealing tonight, allowing only one hit in five scoreless innings. Starting in the sixth, though, Terry Collins took Harvey out and put in Hansel Robles as the first reliever. Jacoby Ellsbury reached second to lead off on an infield single and Daniel Murphy’s throwing error. Brett Gardner followed it up with a fielder’s choice grounder that Wright botched. That was not a pretty sight for Mets fans and it got worse for them. Carlos Beltran, whom they booed mercilessly all this weekend, hit a go-ahead double to put the Yanks on top, 2-1. Three batters later, with two outs and two on, Dustin Ackley homered to right to make it 5-1. Dustin Ackley! The man has been on fire as a Yankee (1.057 OPS in 22 AB prior to tonight’s game). I doubt he keeps that up but it would be nice if a change of scenery/being coached by new people in new org somehow tapped that former second overall pick potential. Only time will tell but it’s awesome to see Brian Cashman‘s sole deadline acquisition pay off pretty neatly.

– More runs!: Yankees scored another in seventh thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Chase Headley by Eric O’Flaherty. In the top of eighth, facing Carlos Torres and Tim Stauffer, they tacked on five more. Ellsbury drove in Rico Noel (pinch-running for A-Rod) to make it 7-1. Torres struck Gardner out but walked Beltran before getting yanked for Stauffer. Brian McCann followed it up with an RBI single for a 8-1 lead and Greg Bird hit a dinger to left-center to make it 11-1. Holy cow, did anyone imagine this kind of outburst when the lineup was being shut down by Harvey? Chris Capuano would allow a run in the next frame to shorten the lead to 11-2 but that was pretty much it.

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


Source: FanGraphs


So that series win was a plus to any Yankee fan’s night, right? Well, they are about to face the Blue Jays for the next four days – we’ll see how we feel after that series.

Yankees shut Mets out 5-0 thanks to Big Mike, big homers

How do you rebound from a tough loss? With a shutout win the next afternoon. The Yankees beat the Mets 5-0 in a not so quick yet well-played game Saturday afternoon. It was their fourth shutout and 81st win of the season. Hooray for clinching a .500 record.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

More Early Runs
Once again, the Yankees scored in the first inning. They lead baseball with 117 first inning runs this season — the Rockies are next with 107 — and they scored three within the first three batters Saturday afternoon. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led the inning off with back-to-back bloop singles — they were eerily similar; same arc, same spot, the whole nine — then Carlos Beltran followed with a no-doubt three-run homer into the second deck in right. Quick 3-0 lead.

Both Gardner and Beltran recorded their hits in 0-2 counts and I was hopeful that was an indication Noah Syndergaard was off his game a bit. Instead, he settled right down and retired the next 12 batters he faced. The Yankees didn’t have another base-runner until Dustin Ackley smacked a leadoff triple in the fifth. The run didn’t score though. Didi Gregorius and Michael Pineda struck out, and Ellsbury grounded out. The run felt doomed to be stranded as soon as Didi struck out. Can’t count on the pitcher and the current version of Ellsbury to get the run in there.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Return of Big Mike
Pineda’s first four starts off the DL were pretty crummy. He allowed 14 runs in 21.2 innings in those starts, and the Mets have been tearing the cover off the ball of late, so Saturday afternoon was going to be a big test for Big Mike. The Yankees are going to need him to be better these last two weeks, and Pineda aced Saturday’s test, throwing 5.1 shutout innings. He struck out four, walked one, and allowed four singles. That’s all.

Joe Girardi went to his bullpen surprisingly early (more on that in a sec) even though Pineda appeared to have plenty left in the tank. Either way, this was Pineda’s best outing since his forearm injury by far. I remember two hard-hit balls: Chase Headley made a fabulous diving grab to his right on Wilmer Flores’ ground ball in the second, then Ellsbury ran down a line drive in the right-center field gap later in the game. I don’t remember who hit it, I just remember Ellsbury chasing it down. Pineda was pretty awesome. More of this Big Mike going forward, please.

Insurance Runs
Like I said, Syndergaard handled the Yankees very well after giving up Beltran’s home run, at least until the sixth inning rolled around. Beltran laced a one-out single to center and Brian McCann followed with a mammoth two-run home run in the bullpens. It was a very aesthetically pleasing home run. Syndergaard threw a fastball right into McCann’s bat path and the follow through left zero doubt the ball was gone. McCann put a great swing on that pitch. It looked good and it gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead in the sixth.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Panic Time
I think we reached peak Girardi panic mode in the bottom of the sixth. Pineda was cruising along, then he allowed two soft singles — Kelly Johnson hit a grounder to beat the shift and Curtis Granderson blooped a ball to left — leading off the inning, and Girardi had the bullpen working. Pineda rebounded to strike out Yoenis Cespedes on three pitches … and that was it. Afternoon over at 86 pitches.

Know what the weird thing was? I totally expected it. I did not, however, expect Stephen Drew to be double switched out of the game literally one out after replacing Ackley. Seriously, Drew came in for defense with a five-run lead after Ackley struck out to end the top of the sixth, which made total sense, then he was out of the game on the double switch. So weird. Anyway, Justin Wilson replaced Pineda, walked the lefty Daniel Murphy to load the bases after maybe getting squeezed, then struck out David Wright and Juan Uribe with his patented “fastball after fastball after fastball” approach.

All things considered, it worked. The Yankees need every win possible and Girardi opted for a fresh Wilson over a fatigued-ish Pineda with men on base, and Wilson escaped the jam. Was it was a curious move to pull Pineda with his pitch count so manageable and the bullpen struggling so much lately, possibly because they’re out of gas late in the season after getting 12 outs a game day after day earlier this season? Yes, of course. But clearly Girardi trusts like three guys in the bullpen and these games are too important. Whatever.

Anyway, Wilson went back out for the seventh and struck out the first two batters of the inning. He struck out four in a row — you could argue five in a row considering he was squeezed against Murphy — then gave way to Caleb Cotham, who struck out Kevin Plawecki. Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth — Yankees relievers struck out seven in a row at one point — and of course Andrew Miller had to come in for the ninth after Chris Martin made a minor mess. He allowed two infield singles, which was enough for Girardi to go to Miller. He got Travis d’Arnaud to ground out to end the game.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
The first four spots in the lineup did all the damage. Ellsbury, Gardner, Beltran, and McCann went a combined 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and both scored and drove in all five runs. The bottom five spots in the order went 2-for-19 (.105) with ten strikeouts. Ackley tripled and Greg Bird ground-rule doubled. Ackley, Drew, Brendan Ryan, and Rob Refsnyder all played second base in the last four innings.

Pineda and the various relievers combined to strike out 12 Mets on the afternoon. It was the team’s 54th game with double digit strikeouts this year. Only that sicko staff in Cleveland has more. They have 55. The Yankees lead the AL with 28 games with at least ten strikeouts and no more than two walks. They did that this game, because duh. Why else would I mention it?

And finally, for some reason the Citi Field crowd broke into a “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” chant after McCann’s homer. What the hell was that about? The Mets are in first place! Don’t worry about the Yankees, root for your own team. That’s way more fun.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to eleven. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Mets wrap up the 2015 Subway Series with the ESPN Sunday Night Game. Blah. CC Sabathia and Matt Harvey will be the pitching matchup in the sixth game of the nine-game road trip.

Yankees can’t support Tanaka in Subway Series opener, fall 5-1 to Mets

Well, I can’t say I was surprised to see the Yankees held to only one run Friday night given the starting lineup they ran out there. Blame the NL rules, I guess. The Mets won the first game of the second leg of the 2015 Subway Series by the score of 5-1.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Off The Hook
The Yankees lead baseball in first inning runs, and they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over the Mets with some weak contact against Steven Matz. Brett Gardner worked a leadoff walk, moved to third on Carlos Beltran‘s bloop single — Gardner knew Curtis Granderson was in right and took advantage of his arm — then scored on Chris Young‘s routine fly ball to center field. Not much hard contact at all, but a run is a run. The Yankees struck first.

Unfortunately, the Yankees never scored again. Two singles and a botched bunt gave them some base-runners in the second inning, but they couldn’t get the big hit with two outs. Matz settled down after that, retiring nine straight batters from the second through fifth innings. The Yankees did have seven hits against the southpaw in six innings, but all six were singles, and only one or two were hard-hit. The game was there for the taking early on — Matz was up over 60 pitches after only three innings — and the Yankees never cashed in.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tanaka’s Mistakes
Masahiro Tanaka made three mistake pitches in his six innings Friday night. Lucas Duda hit the first off the facing off the second deck in right field for a solo home run in the second, Duda hit the second into the right field corner for a double in the fourth, and Daniel Murphy hit the third into the bullpen for a solo homer in the sixth. Tanaka made three mistakes and paid for them all.

All together, Tanaka allowed just those two runs on five hits in six innings. He struck out four, didn’t walk anyone, and got 12 of his other 14 outs on the infield. Tanaka had to come out of the game after throwing only 82 pitches because Joe Girardi needed to use a pinch-hitter leading off the seventh — they were down 2-1 and you’ve gotta get a real hitter in there — but otherwise he was good. He just paid for his mistakes. So it goes.

Death by Bullpen. (Al Bello/Getty)
Death by Bullpen. (Al Bello/Getty)

Blown Open
The Yankees had their best chance to take the lead in the sixth inning, after Didi Gregorius beat out an infield single with two outs to put runners at the corners. The problem? Brendan Ryan was due to up next. Girardi could have pinch-hit for him — Alex Rodriguez would have been the obvious movewith Matz’s pitch count getting up there — but whoever hit would have been walked to get to Tanaka’s spot, and taking him out of a 1-1 game in the sixth inning with his pitch count hovering around 70 seems crazy.

Anyway, Ryan grounded out on the first pitch, and the Yankees never had a serious chance to take the lead again. Chasen Shreve allowed a two-run homer to Juan Uribe in the seventh to give the Mets two important insurance runs, making it a 4-1 lead. Shreve has now allowed five runs in his last four innings, including three homers. He looks nothing like the guy he was for the first four months of the season.

To their credit, the Yankees did make it interesting in the ninth inning. Dustin Ackley doubled into the right field corner — he has three hits in his last three pinch-hitting appearances — and A-Rod pinch-walked, then Ellsbury lined a ball literally off Jeurys Familia to load the bases with one out. The tying run was at the plate. Gardner then flew out and Chase Headley struck out. Game over.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Mets scored another insurance run in the eighth thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury‘s misplay in center field, giving Daniel Murphy a triple. It certainly wasn’t a routine play, but Ellsbury jumped for some reason and the ball deflected off his glove. Ellsbury also pinch-hit for Tanaka leading off the seventh and flied out weakly on the first pitch. He’s killing them.

Branden Pinder, James Pazos, and Andrew Bailey got one out each in the eighth inning and combined to allow the insurance run thanks to Ellsbury’s misplay. The bullpen allowed three runs in two innings and is up to 22 runs allowed in 33.1 innings over the last week. The relief crew, which was so strong the first four or five months of the season, has fallen apart this month.

Every starter had exactly one hit except Murphy and Tanaka. Ackley and Ellsbury had hits off the bench. Gardner and A-Rod drew the walks. The Yankees went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Hard to believe they actually had eight at-bats in those spots. Didn’t feel like it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights as well as the updated standings and postseason odds. The Blue Jays beat the Red Sox, so the AL East deficit is a season-high 4.5 games with 16 to play. Time to start focusing on the wildcard, folks. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot remains 12. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday afternoon, in the middle game of this three-game series. Michael Pineda and Noah Syndergaard will be the pitching matchup in the matinee.

Severino outduels Archer, Yankees win 3-1 and take the series

(Source: Getty)

Behind Luis Severino‘s big arm, the Yankees took tonight’s game 3-1 and the series against the Rays. Good to head to Flushing on a positive note, right? It was also good to see Severino have a solid outing after a rough one versus the Blue Jays. The lineup managed to score two off of Chris Archer and Greg Bird added an insurance monster home run for three total runs, which were good enough for tonight.

First two runs

Yankees struck first in the second. Carlos Beltran walked to lead off the inning and Bird hit a hard slider deep into the gap to drive in the first run. Bird advanced to third on a Chase Headley groundout but failed to score thanks to Didi Gregorius‘ ground out to first and Dustin Ackley‘s line out.

(Source: Getty)

The Yankees added another run in the sixth. With two outs and Brian McCann on first, Greg Bird walked on four pitches to put a runner on scoring position. Chase Headley followed it up with a soft single to left to drive McCann in. 2-0 Yankees. Nice to see the offense take advantage of opportunities like this especially when your young ace is dealing.

Sevvy!

Luis Severino, a 21-year old thrown into the big leagues in the middle of a heated pennant race, had a nice bounceback outing tonight – 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 3.12 in 43.1 IP, which is pretty awesome for a 21-year old in ML. Dare I say … he is like how I envisioned Phil Hughes would be back in 2007 when the righty was called up to the big leagues.

Unlike the previous start, when his command seemed to be a liability, Severino managed to avoid big hits (mostly) and strike hitters out. In the sixth inning, however, with one out and runner on first, Severino allowed a big fly ball to Steven Souza that hit the roof of the Tropicana Field, allowing the first and only run of the match. After striking out Nick Franklin for the second out of the inning, Joe Girardi took Severino out. That frame might not have gone as everyone had wanted, but the outing pleased a lot of people, that’s for sure.

Justin Wilson, who relieved Severino in the sixth, struck out Kevin Kiermaier to get out of the frame scoreless.

(Source: Getty)

Dellin Betances vs. Command

The Yankees ran into a bit of a scare in the bottom of seventh. After Justin Wilson got two quick outs, Girardi brought in Betances to get the last out of the frame. We’ve all seen this, right? Tonight, the process went quite more stressful than how it usually has.

After getting ahead 0-2, Betances totally lost the strike zone to walk the pinch-hitting Grady Sizemore. And then he went on to walk the next two batters – Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe – to load the bases. Betances has run into some kind of rut with command lately.

Thankfully, he struck out James Loney in three pitches. Loney was Rays’ best hitter by far against Severino, going 3-for-3 against the 21-year old. But he didn’t stand a chance against Betances – a 82 mph curve for called strike, 98 mph fastball for called strike and whiffed on a 86 mph curve for a big, fat K.

Betances had a much more stress-free eighth. He allowed a leadoff single to Souza Jr. on the first pitch. Two pitches later, however, Franklin’s bunt lined softly to Headley’s glove and he doubled off Souza Jr. for a double play. Another two later, Kiermaier grounded out to end the inning – a five pitch eighth!

Post-Betances

In the top ninth, with Andrew Bellatti pitching, Bird hit a 84 mph changeup way out of the park to extend the lead to 3-1. I have no idea how far that home run went but it was just absolutely crushed – it hit the back wall above the Tropicana sign above the right field seats. He’s no Mark Teixeira but after tonight’s game, he’s hit for a nice 127 wRC+ in 115 plate appearances.

Oh, and in the bottom ninth, Andrew Miller threw a clean 1-2-3 frame to close out the game. He’s just absolutely filthy – 14.56 K/9 with a 2.62 BB/9, those two say it all .

Box score, standings, highlights and WPA

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


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees have a day-off tomorrow and will face the Mets for a three-game series this weekend. That will be exciting, don’t you think?

A-Rod and Heathcott lead comeback, Yankees rally for big 4-1 win over Rays

Holy cow. Best win of the season? I think this qualifies given the postseason race and all that. The Yankees went from being nearly no-hit to a 4-1 win over the Rays on Monday night. A+ win. Would watch again. Love this team, you guys.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Slayed By Heathcott
I’m going to start at the end. No other way to do it. The Rays took a 1-0 lead into the top of the ninth, and pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley got things going with a leadoff single. He replaced Brendan Ryan and came up with the Yankees’ second (!) hit of the game. They were in business … until Jacoby Ellsbury banged into a 3-3-6 double play on the first pitch. Ellsbury’s been a black hole lately. Gosh.

The Yankees didn’t quit though. They have that Fightin’ Spirit. Brett Gardner worked a four-pitch walk against Brad Boxberger then stole second to get into scoring position. (They initially called it defensive indifference, which was absurd. He was the tying run!) With Gardner on second and two outs, Alex Rodriguez laced Boxberger’s 1-1 pitch into the right-center field gap for a game-tying double. Boom. The Autumn of Al is in full swing.

A-Rod only tied the game though. The Yankees still needed to score again to take the lead. The Rays opted to intentionally walk Brian McCann, which made sense because rookie Slade Heathcott was on deck. He replaced Rico Noel, who pinch-ran for Carlos Beltran in the seventh. I would have walked McCann to pitch to the rookie too. Shows what I know. On the first pitch he saw from Boxberger, Slade did this:

I have no idea what WPA says, but that felt like the biggest hit of the year. I know Beltran hit that three-run homer in Toronto, and I know some other guys had huge hits throughout the summer, but man, that was enormous. This game went from potentially very bad to incredible in an eye blink. And to think, if Johnny Barbato doesn’t melt down in the ninth inning Friday night, Triple-A Scranton’s season doesn’t end and Heathcott might still be in the minors. Baseball, man.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Big Poppa
That might have been CC Sabathia‘s best start in three years. Game Score says it was his best since May 2013, though Game Score lacks context. It doesn’t consider opponent and other stuff like that. Yeah, the Rays have scored the fewest runs in the AL, but they also loaded the lineup with righties, who have hit .314/.370/.520 (.381 wOBA) against Sabathia this year. Also, the Yankees are in a postseason race and the bullpen was sorta taxed. That makes CC’s outing more impressive.

Sabathia held the Rays to three hits in 6.2 scoreless innings and not one was hit hard. Asdrubal Cabrera rolled a seeing-eye ground ball single the other way to beat the shift, then both Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermaier beat out infield singles that were touched by defenders. Ryan and Greg Bird couldn’t make the plays, respectively. Sabathia also walked two hitters and that was it. He allowed just one hitter to reach third base — Cabrera on Souza’s infield single. That was all. Sabathia dominated.

And, for all his good work, Sabathia was rewarded with a no decision. He walked Richie Shaffer with two outs in the seventh and was yanked in favor of Justin Wilson with his pitch count sitting at 111. Sabathia threw 68 strikes (61%) and got a season-high 15 swings and misses. His previous season-high was 14 swings and misses done three times. That was some outing by Sabathia. May new knee brace CC never change.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Elusive First Hit
The Yankees did not record their first base hit off Erasmo Ramirez until Beltran ripped a hard-hit grounder off Shaffer’s shoulder at first base leading off the eighth inning. They had just two base-runners in the first seven innings: walks by A-Rod and Gardner. Gardner stolen second/advanced to second on A-Rod’s ground ball in the seventh, then was doubled off on McCann’s line drive. Mikie Mahtook caught McCann’s rocket at the wall in right field, then threw to second to get Gardner, who was going … somewhere? I have no idea why he was that far off the base.

Anyway, Noel replaced Beltran after his single, then almost immediately stole second. That’s why he’s on the roster, to do that. Bird popped up into foul territory for the first out of the inning, which was a killer because it didn’t even move Noel to third. The game was scoreless in the eighth inning! One run is frickin’ huge. Alas. Chase Headley then lined out to Mahtook — Noel moved to third on the play — and Didi Gregorius struck out to end the inning. Womp womp.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

When One Run Seemed Like Too Many
The Rays finally broke the ice and scored a run in the bottom of the eighth against Wilson. Mahtook, who is the guy Tampa selected with the Yankees first round pick when they signed Rafael Soriano, singled with one out in the inning, then scored all the way from first on Logan Forsythe’s booming double to left. The Yankees are lucky it stayed in the ballpark. It hit the top of the padded wall, bounced up, and the relay throws weren’t good enough.

Joe Girardi had Dellin Betances warming while the Yankees batted in the top of the eighth, but for some reason elected to stick with Wilson. I guess Dellin was only coming in if the Yankees scored? Anyway, Wilson faced Evan Longoria and Forsythe with a runner on base, and while he struck out Longoria, Forsythe burned him. Isn’t keeping a scoreless game tied against the middle of the lineup way more important than protecting a lead? Seems weird to warm up Betances and then not pitch him in that spot. Girardi’s made some curious decisions the last few days.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Leftovers
Congrats to Caleb Cotham, who picked up his first career win. He struck out Cabrera to end the eighth inning with Forsythe standing on third following his go-ahead double. (He took third on the throw.) Cotham used only five pitches to retire the only man he faced. Andrew Miller struck out the side on 14 pitches in the ninth. He was electric. As good as he’s looked all season.

Only four hits for the Yankees: singles by Beltran and Ackley, A-Rod’s double, and Slade’s homer. They did draw five walks though, including two by Gardner. A-Rod, McCann, and Bird also drew walks. McCann’s was intentional. The Yankees went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position. That seems wrong. Did they really have six at-bats with men in scoring position?

And finally, this was Sabathia’s first start with zero earned runs since April 7th, 2013. He threw seven scoreless innings that day. At 63 starts, Sabathia had by far the longest active streak with at least one earned run allowed. David Buchanan of the Phillies was second with 31. Geez.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason berth is down to 16. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams Tuesday night, when the Yankees and Rays play the second game of this three-game set. Adam Warren returns to the rotation and will face Jake Odorizzi.

Tanaka dominates Blue Jays, Yanks snap five-game losing streak with 5-0 win

Phew. The Yankees really needed that win. The five-game losing streak is over thanks to Sunday afternoon’s 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. Toronto still won three of four this weekend, which sucks, but at least the Yankees avoided the sweep. Small victory.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Two Runs, One Hit
The Yankees were able to strike early Sunday afternoon, and they scored their two second inning runs despite getting just one hit, which didn’t come with runners in scoring position and didn’t leave the yard. R.A. Dickey set the whole inning up when he lost the strike zone — Alex Rodriguez sandwiched a line drive single between walks by Brian McCann and Chase Headley. The bases were loaded with no outs. Just six of Dickey’s first 18 pitches in the inning were strikes.

The big hit never did come that inning, but the Yankees did score thanks to a pair of productive outs. Dustin Ackley, who was in the starting lineup because he came into the game 6-for-17 (.353) in his career against knuckleballers (Dickey and Tim Wakefield, basically), lifted a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score McCann for the first run. A-Rod tagged up and went to third on the play, which was big because Didi Gregorius followed a fly ball to medium center field.

Off the bat, I didn’t think it was deep enough to score A-Rod, and once they sent him I was hoping for an off-line throw. The throw was pretty much perfect though, and Alex simply outran it. He slide across the plate headfirst to score the second run, then pumped his fist. Rodriguez looked better running those 90 feet than he’s looked on the bases all season. A star player doing star player things. The Yankees had an early 2-0 lead.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Ace They Need, Not The Ace We Deserve
The Yankees didn’t need a good start from Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday. They needed a great start, and a great start is exactly what the staff ace delivered. Four hits and no walks in seven shutout innings against the best offense in baseball, with seven strikeouts and nine other outs on the infield. Although three of the four hits were doubles, the Blue Jays never had a runner make it as far as third base.

Tanaka threw 78 of his 111 pitches for strikes (70%) and he crushed Toronto by mixing his six-pitch arsenal. Look at this pitch distribution. Other than his trademark splitter, which he threw 47 times, Tanaka didn’t throw another pitch more than 19 times or fewer than eleven times (via Brooks Baseball):

Masahiro Tanaka Toronto Blue Jays

Tanaka pitched backwards too. He faced 24 batters and only four saw a first pitch fastball. Four! The Blue Jays took 55 swings and missed 14 times, or 25%. That’s pretty great. Tanaka retired a dozen in a row from the third through seventh innings and never once appeared to be in something less than total control. That was domination. He did what he wanted whenever he wanted.

In eight starts since August 1st, Tanaka now has a 2.78 ERA with 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 55.1 innings. That includes three starts against the Blue Jays. Tanaka held Toronto to three runs on 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings in those three starts. He struck out 20. Not an ace? Please. He’s ace incarnate. Tanaka stepped up Sunday and delivered when the Yankees desperately needed him to.

Smackley. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Smackley. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

Insurance Runs
These are the Blue Jays, of course, and two runs won’t be enough to beat them most days. Thankfully, the Yankees tacked on three more runs throughout the course of the game to make things a bit more comfortable and give Tanaka a little more breathing room. I think fans appreciated the insurance runs more than Tanaka.

Joe Girardi‘s decision to play Ackley at first base worked out pretty well. He had the sac fly in the second inning and drove in two more runs with a two-run homer in the fourth. It was a Yankee Stadium cheapie into the third or fourth row in right field, no doubt about that, but it was a clear line drive over the right fielder’s head. Extra-base hit all the way. Double in some parks, a homer in this one. That made it 4-0 good guys.

Then, in the eighth, Carlos Beltran and A-Rod teamed up for another run with an assist from Rico Noel. Beltran singled, Noel pinch-ran, then Alex doubled into the left field corner to score Noel. Ben Revere bobbled the ball a bit, and the relays were less than perfect, so Rico slid in safely. That’s why Noel is on the roster, to score from first on hits like that. The designated runner is not just there to steal bases. That gave New York their 5-0 lead.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Leftovers
Once Tanaka was done, Girardi turned to Dellin Betances for the eighth inning, and he struck out the side on eleven pitches. For the first time in about three weeks, he looked like vintage Dellin. Easy domination. James Pazos (one out) and Caleb Cotham (two outs) retired the side in order in the ninth. The stress-free nine-pitch ninth inning against the top of Toronto’s lineup was unexpected.

The top of the order didn’t do a whole bunch Sunday. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Beltran, and McCann went a combined 1-for-15 (.067) with a walk. Add in Stephen Drew and it’s 1-for-18 (.056) for the wrap around 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup. The 5-6-7-8 hitters went 6-for-11 (.545) and drove in all five runs. A-Rod and Ackley had two hits apiece.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to 17. Now here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This not very good homestand is finally over. The Yankees head to Tampa next, their home away from home, and will start a three-game series with the Rays Monday night. Both starting pitchers are officially listed as TBA right now, though CC Sabathia will start for the Yankees. Erasmo Ramirez is lined up for Tampa, though I don’t know if they have some other plans at the moment.