Aaron Judge shines, Montgomery impresses in 8-4 Yankees win over the Rays

This was a day game with a lot of action. We saw a rookie make his MLB debut, the Yankees scoring in bunches to come back from a 3-0 deficit, a scary collision and, well, New York coming up victorious in the end. With today’s win, New York already clinched the home opening series versus Tampa and improved to a 4-4 record.

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

The debut

Jordan Montgomery‘s first big league inning was a whirlwind. He struck out the first two hitters on eight pitches. He then walked Evan Longoria after getting ahead in the count 0-2 allowed a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks. Montgomery threw a fastball right down the middle and those tend to get crushed in the bigs. Welp, welcome to the big leagues, kid. He didn’t let that get to his head too much though.

After that frame, Montgomery turned in a solid outing: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 2 BB sounds pedestrian, but 7 strikeouts stand out, and so do 17 whiffs. Sure, the Rays lineup doesn’t scare too many people, but for a rookie making the first ever ML start, that’s pretty solid.

Neither broadcast had a radar gun most of the game due to technical difficulties, but according to Brooks Baseball, Montgomery topped out at 93.4 mph with his four-seamer. What is more impressive though, is the pitch’s average vertical movement of 11.92, which means that he has a nice “rise” to his fastball, as David Cone mentioned several times during the YES broadcast. It is physically impossible for fastball to actually “rise” during flight but it can stay on higher plane and confound hitter’s eye levels. FanGraphs has the average vertical movement for lefties at 9.4, for reference. Also, Montgomery generally did a good job at staying away from the meat of the plate with his command.

From Baseball Savant
From Baseball Savant

He was able to locate a lot of the pitches on the bottom part of the zone (or lower). Maybe a few hittable ones up the zone but it would be strange not to see that from a guy making his first MLB start, with adrenaline, etc.

There aren’t a lot of guys like Montgomery in the bigs – a tall lefty with very high arm slot that can throw any pitch at any count. He has definitely earned a more long-term trial in the Yankee rotation with today’s start. I think, if the ML coaching can add some jazz to his secondaries, he can become a more dominant starting LHP long-term. That’s just my outlook though.

Runs! 

After being shut out by Blake Snell for the first four innings, the Yankees had a big offensive chance in the fifth. Chase Headley singled and Aaron Judge followed it up with a walk. Kyle Higashioka hit a grounder that Tim Beckham couldn’t handle and bases were juiced for Pete Kozma. It seemed like the Yankees were going to waste an opportunity though – Kozma struck out and Jacoby Ellsbury popped out on the first pitch. Thankfully, Aaron Hicks worked a full-count walk to push in Headley to make it a 3-1 game.

Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in Jumbo Diaz to face Matt Holliday. Diaz uncorked a slider that Derek Norris couldn’t block and let it slip in between his legs, scoring Judge. 3-2 Rays. With bases loaded — after Holliday’s walk — and a righty pitcher up, Joe Girardi stuck with Chris Carter, who ended up popping out to end the threat. Should be noted that Greg Bird was available off the bench, but I guess Girardi felt more comfortable sticking with Carter there.

In the sixth, with Diaz still on mound, Starlin Castro and Headley both singled to get on base. Judge followed it up with a 116.5 mph rocket up the middle to tie it up, 3-3. Higashioka’s bunt ended up being a force out at second base, putting the Yanks in a one-out, runners in corners chance. Girardi opted to pinch-hit Kozma with Brett Gardner and the Rays put in LHP Xavier Cedeno to counter.

Be well, Brett (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Be well, Brett (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Gardner hit a comeback grounder to Cedeno but the lefty’s throw to first got Weeks to handle it on the baseline. Weeks, who hadn’t played much first base, got on Gardner’s way and they both collided very, very brutally. It was a scary sight. While the go-ahead run scored for New York on the play, both Gardner and Weeks were taken out of the game. Hope they are both alright. You hate to see injuries like that. Gardner’s injuries were described as a “bruised jaw and strained neck.” Yikes. Get well soon, Brett.

On a much more positive note, the Yankees managed to score more in that frame. Ellsbury singled to center to score Higashioka and Hicks’ RBI ground drove in Ronald Torreyes, who replaced Gardner. New York came away with a 6-3 lead out the bottom of sixth.

They weren’t done scoring though. In the bottom of seventh, the Rays had Erasmo Ramirez up on the mound. With two outs and Carter on first, Ramirez served up a two-seamer on the inside part of the plate to Aaron Judge. Judge, with his huge power, drove the baseball into Monument Park for a two-run homer (435 feet, to be exact). It didn’t look like Judge got all of the pitch either — he didn’t get his arms extended and looked maybe a little bit jammed. Nonetheless, he made a solid contact off the bat and the ball just simply traveled far enough and a bit more. After today’s game, Judge is hitting .308/.379/.692 in 29 PA’s. That’s a reason to be excited!

Miscellaneous

All Rise (Al Bello/Getty Images)
All Rise (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The bullpen turned in another solid outing today. Bryan Mitchell, one of the starter candidates from the ST, relieved Montgomery and recorded four outs. After Mitchell, Tyler Clippard tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. It looked like Yankees would go with Betances in the 8th but Judge’s homer bumped their lead for five runs, which prompted Girardi to put in Tommy Layne instead. Layne allowed a run in an inning’s work, which shaved Yankees’ lead to 8-4. Well, that’s how the score remained for good. Jonathan Holder came in to pitch the ninth but allowed two baserunners while getting an out, making it a save situation for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman got the remaining two outs to earn the first save of the season, and that’s all she wrote.

While the top of the lineup was a bit quiet today (combined 2-for-16 from Ellsbury, Hicks, Holliday and Carter), the no. 5 to 7 hitters – Castro, Headley and judge – played catalyst to Yankees’ comeback today. They combined for 6-for-11 day with three RBI’s (all coming from Judge, by the way).

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Here’s box score and standings rrom ESPN and WPA graph from FanGraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will play a 7:05 pm EST game tomorrow for a series finale versus the Rays. Luis Severino will make his second start of the year versus Matt Andriese. If you want to check out the game, RAB Tickets got you.

Pineda flirts with perfection, Judge homers again as Yankees beat Rays 8-1 in home opener

That was very nearly a magical home opener. Instead, it was merely a great home opener. The Yankees rode Michael Pineda‘s utter dominance to a 8-1 win in the first game of the 2017 season at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon. This game was satisfying. Yes, yes it was.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Biggest of Mikes
We have gotten the full Michael Pineda experience in his first two starts. Last week in Tampa, Pineda allowed four runs on eight hits and couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. In the home opener Monday, Pineda was Big Mike in every way, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and finishing the afternoon with eleven strikeouts and two hits allowed in 7.2 innings. It was complete and total domination. The Pineda we don’t see nearly often enough.

Through six innings and two outs the Rays had nothing particularly close to a hit — Brett Gardner made a nice running catch near the foul line for the second out of the seventh, which was the closest thing to a hit at the time — and only one of the first 20 batters they sent to the plate saw a three-ball count. Heck, Tampa didn’t see a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count until the sixth inning, when Tim Beckham got a 2-0 count with two outs. Pineda bounced back to strike him out.

All told, Pineda faced 25 batters Monday and threw a first pitch strike to 20 of them. Of those 25 batters, only six hit the ball out of the infield. Want to know why? Look at Pineda’s location, via Baseball Savant:

michael-pineda

Almost everything was in the bottom half of the strike one. Pineda’s a big dude delivering the ball from way up high, so pounding the bottom of the zone like that means he was throwing with some serious downhill plane. It’s hard to get the ball airborne when a 6-foot-7 pitcher is pitching to the knees all afternoon. Twenty-three outs, eleven strikeouts, seven ground balls. That’ll do.

Pineda lost the perfect game with two outs in the seventh inning on a legitimate double by (who else?) Evan Longoria. There wasn’t much to it. Pineda missed his spot a bit and Longoria yanked a line drive to left field. Gardner had no chance to run it down. Tampa’s only run came in the eighth inning, on Logan Morrison’s solo home run to right field. It snuck over the wall and was initially ruled a triple before replay confirmed the dinger.

As good as Pineda was Monday, Joe Girardi got him out at exactly the right time, with two outs in the eighth inning and his pitch count at 93. Four of the last five batters he faced hit the ball hard, plus taking him out mid-inning gave the fans a chance to give Pineda a nice ovation. Well done, Big Mike. I hope to see you more often. That other guy we saw last week is no fun.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Building A Lead
It looked like it was going to be another one of those games after the first inning. Singles by Gardner and Matt Holliday put runners on the corners with one out, but the Yankees failed to push a run across because Chris Carter struck out and Starlin Castro grounded out. Hate wasting first inning rallies like that. You’ve got a chance to take a quick lead and put the other team on the defensive right out of the gate. Alas. No runs.

Thankfully, the Yankees did not waste the opportunity the next time Gardner reached base. He struck out with one out in the third inning, but the ball bounced away from catcher Derek Norris, allowing Gardner to reach first on a wild pitch. He chugged all the way around to score on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s rocket double into the right-center field gap. Ellsbury’s been pretty awesome so far this year. We give him a hard time, but props dude. He’s played very well in the early going. The Ellsbury double gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

In the fourth, the Yankees’ large adult son Aaron Judge made it a 2-0 lead with a solo home run to left field. Just like the home run he hit Sunday, this one came in a two-strike count. Cobb left a curveball up and Judge unloaded. It was not deep — Statcast measured it at modest 397 feet — but it was crazy high. The home run came after Cobb thought he rung Judge up with a little comeback two-seam fastball on the outside corner. Home plate ump Bill Miller said it was off the plate (it was), the at-bat continued, and Judge went deep.

With the way Pineda was pitching, two runs felt like plenty. The Yankees added a few more just to be safe. Chase Headley lined a home run to right field on the very first pitch of the seventh inning. It was a classic Yankee Stadium cheapie. In most parks it’s a double off the wall — the ball sail over right fielder Steven Souza’s head — but in this ballpark, it lands in the first row for a home run. I’ll take it. So will Headley, who now has two home runs in seven games. He didn’t record his first extra-base hit until the team’s 33rd game last year, remember.

The blast gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead at the time. A Brad Miller error opened the door for New York’s fourth run of the game in the eighth inning. He booted Gardner’s leadoff grounder. Gardner stolen second and third (!), then scored on Holliday’s rocket into the left-center field gap to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. A Carter triple (!!!), a Castro homer, and a Ronald Torreyes fielder’s choice stretched the lead to 8-1. The Yankees have score 15 runs in their last 12 offensive innings dating back to Sunday.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Cobb was charged with five runs in 7.1 innings, though he pitched better than that, I thought. He gave up three runs in the first seven innings, including two on solo homers. The bullpen made a mess of things after Cobb was out of the game in the eighth. He did a nice job keeping the Yankees off-balance overall though. Not sure why I’m mentioning this, but here we are.

The Yankees scored eight runs and seven different players drove one in. Six different players scored runs too. Austin Romine and Torreyes were the only starters without a hit, though Romine reached base on an error in that five-run eighth inning and Torreyes plated a run with a fielder’s choice. A total team effort by the offense. Roughly 26 hours ago it looked like this team couldn’t buy a hit. Go figure.

Easy afternoon for the bullpen. Tyler Clippard replaced Pineda in the eighth inning — Dellin Betances pitched Saturday and Sunday, so I’m guessing Girardi didn’t want to use him three days in a row so early in the season — and needed one pitch to record the third out. Chasen Shreve handled the ninth with ease.

And finally, congrats to Kyle Higashioka. He made his Major League debut in the ninth inning. He caught the final three outs. Higashioka spent parts of ten seasons in the minors and dealt with Tommy John surgery along the way. Pretty cool to see him get in a game. He’s waited a long time for this.

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day, unfortunately. Third one in the first nine days of the season. The Yankees and Rays will reconvene at Yankee Stadium for the second game of this three-game series Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 1pm ET start for some reason. Luis Severino Jordan Montgomery (he’s being called up) and Blake Snell are the scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other seven games remaining on the homestand.

Yankees come back late to avoid sweep, beat Orioles 7-3

The Orioles are no longer the only undefeated in baseball. The Yankees rallied in the late innings for a 7-3 win in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. They needed that. I think fans needed it more.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Six Solid From Sabathia
For the first time this season, the Yankees had a starter record an out after the fifth inning. Three outs, in fact. CC Sabathia chucked six workmanlike innings Sunday afternoon, holding the Orioles to three runs on six hits and four walks. He struck out three and threw 98 pitches. Pretty? No way. Effective? Yeah, effective enough. Starts like this have become the norm for Sabathia at this point of his career.

Also the norm for Sabathia at this point of his career: weak contact. He was second among all starters in soft contact rate (24.0%) and first in average exit velocity (85.3 mph) last season. We saw that again Sunday. I’m not sure any of the six hits Sabathia allowed were well-struck. Most were soft liners to the shallow outfield. The O’s scored their first run on a Chris Carter misplay — they had runners on the corners with one out, Sabathia got the weak grounder to first, and for some reason Carter threw to second rather than throwing home. Mark Trumbo was running and Carter had a clear lane to throw and plenty of time, yet he threw to second. I do not understand.

That all happened in the second inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. They scored another run later that inning on J.J. Hardy’s (yup) soft single to right, then, in the fifth, Trumbo gave the O’s a 3-0 lead with another soft single, this one to center field. For some reason the Yankees had their outfielders deep all afternoon. I know the O’s have a lot of power, but maybe bring them in a few steps when Sabathia is pitching? He gives up a ton of those soft line drive singles in front of the outfielders.

Off The Hook
Orioles starter Wade Miley came out and walked four of the first eight, and six of the first 12 (!) batters he faced Sunday, and the Yankees let him off the hook. None of those walks runs scored. There’s two ways you can look at that, I suppose. One, the Yankees are terrible and they didn’t capitalize on the walks because the offense stinks. Or two, Miley was never around the plate, so the Yankees didn’t get anything to hit. I’m feeling optimistic after this win, so I’ll go with the latter.

Matt Holliday worked a two-out walk in the first inning, then was immediately erased on a pickoff. Holliday wasn’t going anywhere, Miley just has a really great move and got him. So it goes. Miley then walked the bases loaded in the second inning, only to have Ronald Torreyes bail him out with what was easily the worst at-bat of the day:

ronald-torreyes-wade-mileyThat purple dot way outside the zone? That’s the one Torreyes swung at for strike three. He looked like a young kid trying to hit a five-run homer in a big spot. Miley threw a purpleball out of the zone and got him swinging to escape the jam. Nine batters, four walks, no runs through two innings.

It wasn’t until there were two outs in the fifth inning that the Yankees recorded their first hit. Aaron Hicks managed to find a hole back up the middle with a hard-hit ground ball. Miley threw away a pickoff throw and walked Holliday one last time for good measure before getting out of the inning. His final line: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 5 K. Good grief. Amazingly, this is the second time Miley has walked seven and not allowed a run in his career. He did it back in 2013 as well. The last time someone did that against the Yankees was 2000. Dan Reichert walked nine in eight scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium. The 2000 Yankees had no heart!

Gavel: slammed. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gavel: slammed. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Comeback
Fighting Spirit! Turns out all the Yankees had to do to score some runs Sunday was get the pitcher who was walking everyone out of the game. In the sixth inning the Yankees struck for two runs with two outs courtesy of a Torreyes triple. That second inning at-bat was terrible. No doubt about it. Torreyes made up for it with the two-run triple in the sixth. Aaron Judge and Austin Romine strung together back-to-back singles to set that two-out rally up.

The Torreyes triple brought the Yankees to within 3-2. They tied the game 3-3 in the eighth inning, on Judge’s first home run of the season. It came in a two-strike count too. The at-bat went called strike, ball, called strike, ball, foul, dinger. I’m pretty sure Judge got it off the end of the bat too. He definitely didn’t square it up:

Either way, squared up or off the end of the bat, Judge hit the ball out to tie the game. Big fan of Judge hitting homers. Would watch again.

The comeback did not end there. This wasn’t one of those “rally to tie the game but lose anyway” games. The Yankees struck for four runs in the top of the ninth inning and boy oh boy did the Orioles help them out. The inning started with Holliday’s fifth walk of the day. Fifth! He’s the first Yankee to draw five walks in a game since Mark Teixeira back in 2009. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran and stole second, though it didn’t really matter because Carter walked as the next batter. Carter’s walk was the team’s tenth of the day. Ten walks. Geez.

Based on that ninth inning, Darren O’Day is bad now. Remember when he used to chew up Alex Rodriguez? He couldn’t buy an out in that ninth inning. Following the back-to-back walks, O’Day left a pitch up that Starlin Castro sent back up the middle for a go-ahead single. Ellsbury crossed the plate to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. They didn’t stop there either. Chase Headley drew yet another walk to load the bases with no outs. The Yankees had the lead and they were in business.

Judge, who tied the game in the eighth inning, drove in an insurance run with a weak ground ball to first base. Chris Davis scooped it and was readying to throw home for the force, but he tripped over his own feet and tumbled to the grass. He recovered in time to get the out at first, but the run was in. It’s about time the Yankees scored a run like that. We’ve seen them make some hilarious errors already this year. This was the first time they benefited from one.

The Judge grounder pushed the lead to 5-3. Romine made it 7-3 with a two-run sac fly. He hit the ball deep to right field, deep enough for Headley to tag up from second and go to third, and the throw eluded Manny Machado. It hopped into foul territory, far enough away that Headley was able to chug home. Back-to-back silly plays to score runs. Yay. Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the ninth inning. Judge made a diving catch for the 27th out. Love this team, you guys.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Leftovers
All told, the Yankees drew eleven walks in this game. It’s the first time they’ve walked eleven times in a nine-inning game since, well, last September. I thought it would be a much longer time ago. Holliday had the five walks and Carter had two. Brett Gardner, Headley, Judge, and Romine had the others. The Yankees had eleven walks Sunday after drawing 16 walks total in their first five games of the season.

The 7-8-9 hitters (Judge, Romine, Torreyes) went a combined 6-for-12 with a triple, a homer, two walks, and one strikeout. Very nice production from the bottom of the lineup. Gardner went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts. He was the only Yankee to hit safely in each of the first five games this season. In the ninth inning, after Pete Kozma pinch-ran for Carter, Joe Girardi opted to slide Headley over to first rather than use Greg Bird. Bird is nursing an ankle issue and he’s sick. Seems like he wasn’t available at all today.

The unsung heroes: Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances. Six up, six down for those two in the seventh and eighth innings, paving the way for the comeback. Clippard faced the top of the lineup — Machado took a big ol’ hack in a 3-0 count and hit a ball to the warning track, which was scary — while Betances handled the middle, including Trumbo and Davis. Nice work holding the O’s down those two innings.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. ESPN has the standings, if you’re paying attention to them already. (It’s too early.) Also, don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph. It’s nice to see one of these bend in favor of the Yankees for a change.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The home opener, finally. Glad to have baseball back in the Bronx. The Yankees open the Yankee Stadium portion of their schedule Monday afternoon against the Rays. That’s a 1pm ET start. Michael Pineda and Alex Cobb are the scheduled pitchers. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to go to that game, or any other game on the nine-game homestand.

Another blown lead, another loss: Yankees fall 5-4 to Orioles


Source: FanGraphs

So what is going well for the Yankees right now? Nothing. Pretty much nothing. The Yankees blew another lead Saturday — this was a three-run lead as opposed to the four-run lead they blew Friday — to drop to 1-4 on the young season. They look every bit as bad as that 1-4 record suggests too. Hopefully this ugly play won’t last much longer. It’s Saturday and it’s a nice night out, so here’s the first bullet point recap of the season:

  • An Early Lead: On the bright side, the Yankees actually got to Kevin Gausman on Saturday. He held them to five runs in 41 innings last year. On Saturday, they hung four runs on him in 4.2 innings. Ronald Torreyes singled in a pair in the second inning, the third run scored on a balk, and the fourth on a Starlin Castro single. The Yankees were up 4-1 after the top of the fifth. Yay!
  • Tanaka Unravels: For the first four innings Saturday, Masahiro Tanaka looked like the normal Masahiro Tanaka. He allowed just a run on a bloop single through four innings. Then, in the fifth, the first four batters reached base, including Manny Machado, who lined a double off the right field wall. The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs, and Tanaka did well to escape while allowing just one run. Still, that one run cut the lead to 4-3. Tanaka was charged with three runs on six hits, four walks, and a hit batsmen in five innings. His control was better than Opening Day, but not where we saw it all last season.
  • The Blown Lead: You have to admire how committed the Yankees are to marginalizing Adam Warren. He relieved Tanaka, retired all four batters he faced on ten pitches, then was pulled to get the left-on-left matchup against Chris Davis, which of course didn’t work. Davis doubled against Tommy Layne and Mark Trumbo singled against Dellin Betances to tie the game. A stolen base and another single drove in the go-ahead run for the Orioles. Warren, meanwhile, has retired all 18 batters he faced this season. Love to slave to platoon matchups.
  • Leftovers: In case you missed it, Gary Sanchez is heading to the disabled list with a biceps strain. He hurt himself taking a swing … Castro, Torreyes, and Matt Holliday each had two hits … Brett Gardner had a hit and a walk (and a nice diving catch) while Aaron Hicks had a hit and a two walks … Hicks also had a double taken away by Seth Smith’s nice leaping catch in right field … and finally, congrats to Holliday for reaching 2,000 career hits. He dunked a single to right in the first inning to reach the milestone.

Here are the box score and video highlights, and also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page. The Yankees and Orioles will wrap up this three-game series Sunday afternoon. That’s a 1:35pm ET start. It’ll be a battle of veteran lefties on the mound: CC Sabathia and Wade Miley.

Yankees can’t protect a four-run lead, drop the series opener 6-5 to the O’s

You can lose in many ways, and the way the Yankees lost tonight was quite frustrating. New York took a nice 5-1 lead — padded by homers by Matt Holliday and Gary Sanchez — and let the Orioles score five unanswered runs to lose this one 6-5. Their record fell to 1-3.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Taking the lead

The Yankees got the first inning started with a Brett Gardner single, a stolen base, and a Gary Sanchez walk. Greg Bird swung right through a 91 mph fastball right down the middle to strike out but Holiday sliced a single to right to bring Gardner in for a 1-0 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury followed it up with a strike out and Starlin Castro popped up to end the threat. Could’ve scored more there but a lead is a lead nonetheless.

The Orioles got a run back quite quickly. Luis Severino allowed a double to Seth Smith to start the bottom of first and an RBI-single to Adam Jones (which just went past Greg Bird’s reach). After Manny Machado struck out, Chris Davis followed it up with a hard grounder that was stopped by Castro but not quite fielded, making it runners on first and second with one out. The Yankees had a chance to end the frame with a double play but Chase Headley‘s throw to second hit Jones in the helmet. Not a banner inning for the Yankee defense — but with Severino striking out Wellington Castillo, they got out of it allowing only one run.

Holliday was in charge of another set of runs later on. With Gardner on third, Holliday absolutely squared up on a hanging splitter from Ubaldo Jimenez for a two-run home run. 3-1 Yankees. During the Yankees’ slow start, Holliday’s emergence has been a bright spot. After tonight, he’s hitting .308/.438/.615. Not expecting that to be sustainable but he’s hitting and seeing the ball very well, which is what all you could ask of him.

Top of the fifth, Gary Sanchez finally got to join in on the fun. With Gardner on second with a double, Jimenez hung another splitter up the zone and Sanchez ruthlessly punished him, driving the ball way into the deep part of the left field seats for a 5-1 Yankees lead. We’ve seen Sanchez hit some scorching grounders in the first few games of the season. This is what happened when he was able to elevate it for a long, long distance.

Severino: not quite there yet

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

I felt that Severino was cruising along until the bottom of fifth. Before allowing that three-run homer to Machado, he had allowed only one run in 4.2 IP while striking out five. His fastball averaged at 96.8 mph, which meant he was throwing pure gas pretty much the entire start. His fastball also had a nice 10.80 average vertical movement, which means that the fastball showed some nice rise. Not bad at all.

However, after allowing a single to Schoop and walking Jones, Sevy allowed a three-run home run to Machado to make it 5-4 Yankees. That was one major blemish of his start — could’ve been a much nicer-looking start at, let’s say, one run allowed in five innings. I don’t think he really missed his spot either. Sanchez barely moved his glove but Machado used his quick hands and power to drive it out of the park. He’s one gifted ballplayer.

Anyways, here’s his final line. Hopefully something better next time he’s up: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.

Blowing the lead

After Jonathan Holder and Tommy Layne combined for a scoreless sixth, the Yankees put in Tyler Clippard to pitch the seventh inning, which seems to be the formula nowadays. He induced a grounder to third from Jonathan Schoop but Headley shanked the throw quite low and the ball went past Bird’s glove. Schoop moved to second and advanced to third on Hardy’s sac bunt.

With a 5-4 lead and a runner on third, New York had the infield in as Clippard faced Seth Smith. However, that didn’t matter as Smith smashed a fastball up over the right field fence to give Baltimore a 6-5 lead. Welp. Clippard is a good pitcher with a flyball tendency and that can happen once in awhile with guys like that.

Once they took the lead, the Orioles had their eighth-and-ninth inning reliever equations working perfectly – Brad Brach struck out the side  and Zach Britton did what Zach Britton usually does, which is getting saves with his ridiculous sinker. 6-5, the Orioles won and Yankees lost and that’s all she wrote.

Miscellaneous

You know how Sanchez wasn’t getting much BABIP love earlier this season? He got some back tonight. As mentioned, Sanchez smacked a huge home run in the fifth inning and later, he also hit a bloop single. A bloop single! That BABIP number is regressing to the norm as we speak.

Meanwhile, Greg Bird continued to struggle. He struck out thrice in four at-bats, dropping his season average to .063. Again, not too worried about him. It’s only been four games into the season. That kind of slump can happen to any good hitters in random four-game stretch during a season.

Brett Gardner swung one hot bat tonight. He had three hits — one of them double — and two stolen bases as well. Matt Holliday went 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks. Ellsbury and Castro — the no. 5 and 6 hitters of lineup — combined for 3-for-8. The offensive stats would’ve seemed much more positive than they do now had the Yankees secured the lead for a win.

Box score, WPA graph and standings

Get your box score and standings from ESPN, and WPA graph from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees are at it again at the Camden Yards tomorrow at 4:30 pm. Tanaka will look for redemption from his poor opening day start while the Orioles will send Kevin Gausman.

Yankees fall to the Rays 4-1, lose their first series of the year

Well, the Yankees dropped the first series played in the 2017 season. On a bright side, the last time Yankees had a season opener in the Trop, they got swept (2012) so, uh, improvement? It was not an ideal series but they got plenty more games to go. Their losing formula tonight was simple: Michael Pineda got knocked around and the bats went silent.

Michael Pineda, like a deja vu

Mike Pineda allowed 27 homers last year, which was a 1.38 HR/9 rate. It’s not exactly dreadful but you want to see many fewer gopher balls from the starter.  He started this season the way he left off. Three pitches in, Pineda left a fastball up against Corey Dickerson, and he drove the ball over the left-center wall. 1-0 Rays. At least it wasn’t after two outs, right?… alright that’s not really a consolation.

Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Pineda got into another jam in the second inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Steven Souza, he allowed a loud single to Logan Morrison – it was a flyball that hit the third catwalk and was automatically called a single. Aaron Judge could’ve caught it if not for that (I think). Stupid Tropicana Field. Anyways, Pineda struck out Tim Beckham for the first out of the inning. They got the second out on a force out at the home plate. However, with two outs and runners on second and third, Derek Norris hit a single to bring both of them in. 3-1 Rays. Starlin Castro got a little glove on it, but the ball was hit too hard.

Big Mike had a nice bounceback inning in the 3rd. However, naturally, he got into another jam in the fourth. Pineda’s final line: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 0 BB and 6 K’s, good for a 7.36 ERA and a 0.99 xFIP. That is the quintessential frustrating Big Mike numbers right there. He also got a decent amount of whiffs, getting 13 overall (8 of them from his slider). He got hit hard many times yet he struck out Evan Longoria twice. Enigma!

It’s only Pineda’s first start of the year. With his talent and the upcoming free agency, I’m sure he knows that he should be better than what he showcased tonight.

Cobb got’em cold

Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

After giving up a 1-0 lead, the Yankees answered right back. Jacoby Ellsbury, leading off the second inning, hit a 91 mph fastball middle-in into the right field seats for a solo homer.

Well, that ended up being the only run the Yankees scored all game. Alex Cobb, who made a comeback last year from Tommy John surgery, had an ugly 8.59 ERA in 22.0 IP in 2016. However, the dude is talented. Prior to the surgery, he had a solid 2014 season in which he marked a 2.87 ERA in 166.1 IP. 2017 may well become Cobb’s comeback year. Not a lot of shame in getting shut down by him. Yankee hitters got flummoxed by his offspeed pitches (changeup and curve generated 12 whiffs combined). New York also went 0-for-9 in RISP chances, including 0-for-4 combined from Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. You have bad games like this. It happens.

Ellsbury got a base hit off of Rays closer Alex Colome to try to start a ninth-inning rally. However, Castro promptly grounded out into a double play to immediately kill the momentum. Chase Headley hit a single to reach the base but Judge flew out to end the game.

Bullpen warriors 

Another game, another scoreless outing by the Yankee bullpen. Tonight, they went 4.1 IP scoreless thanks to Tommy Layne, Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve. That’s a major silver lining from this game, if you ask me. However, if the starters don’t get it together and Joe Girardi has to run the bullpen like this frequently… it could turn ugly.

Anyways, focusing on what happened today: Adam Warren, how about that guy? He’s looked pretty awesome as a “guy to burn some innings out of the bullpen when the team is losing.” It’s not the sexiest job but it’s pretty vital to the team. Tonight, he threw 2.1 perfect innings while striking out four. He generated 8 whiffs in 32 pitches (so, hitters swung and missed on one out of every four pitches he threw), which is great. I don’t think I was ever enamored with the idea of having Warren in the rotation but he’s a blast to watch in certain bullpen roles. I’m a fan.

Miscellaneous

Gary Sanchez and Bird are combined 2-for-26 to start the season. It’s not what you want but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just one series. Just so happens that it’s also the very first of the year, which means that that’s all the numbers we have to see in evaluating their (very, very young) 2017 season. They’ll be fine.

On the other hand, Chase Headley is pretty hot to start this season. He’s 7-for-11 so far with two extra base hits (a double and a homer). I don’t think he’ll have an All-Star worthy season but it’d be good to have a solid-hitting Headley all season — just a wishful thought.

Another guy off to a hot start? Jacoby Ellsbury. He went 3-for-4 tonight, bringing his average up to .455. It’s way too early to read into this but I recall the hitting coach Alan Cockrell wanting Ellsbury to move his hitting point up front. It is something to follow and see as the season goes on. Would be a cool thing if that adjustment makes Ellsbury’s contract someone bearable for 2017.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Here’s a box score from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA graph from Fangraphs. If you watched this game, you probably have the idea of what the graph looks like.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees get another off-day tomorrow prior to their weekend series in Baltimore. If you’re going to Camden Yards to see any games this weekend, I’m jealous of you.

Yankees 5, Rays 0: Torreyes and Headley lead Yankees to first win of 2017

The Opening Day losing streak may be at six years, but you know what? The Game Two winning streak is now at three years. Boom! The Yankees picked up their first win of the 2017 season Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. They beat the Rays 5-0.

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

Sabathia’s Resurgence Continues
Masahiro Tanaka was damn near perfect in Spring Training. He almost made it through the entire Grapefruit League season with a 0.00 ERA. Then, of course, he couldn’t make it out of the third inning on Opening Day. CC Sabathia, meanwhile, got knocked around all spring, then went out and tossed five scoreless innings in his first regular season start Tuesday night. Go figure.

The Rays, as teams tend to do, stacked their lineup with right-handed batters against Sabathia. Kevin Kiermaier and Brad Miller were the only lefties in the starting lineup, and you can understand why. Two years ago righties hit .304/.363/.502 (.370 wOBA) against Sabathia. Goodness. Adrian Beltre hit .300/.358/.521 (.371 wOBA) last season, for reference. The big man has a big platoon split late in his career.

As of past of last year’s renaissance, Sabathia picked up a cut fastball, which he used to bust righties in on the hands. That helped him hold opposite side batters to a .258/.325/.400 (.316 wOBA) batting line. That’s still not great, but it is a heck of a lot better than two years ago. Sabathia used the cutter to limit Tampa’s righty hitters to three hits and two walks in 14 plate appearances Tuesday, with two of three hits being infield singles. Here’s how Sabathia pitched those righties, via Brooks Baseball:

cc-sabathia-vs-rhb

Cutters inside — the new Trackman system is classifying them as four-seam fastballs for some reason, but watching the game, they sure looked like cutters — and everything else away. Sabathia struck out two and got eight ground ball outs, the latter of which is more important. At this point of his career Sabathia can’t blow hitters away. But if he can keep the ball on the ground, he’ll be in good shape. Nice work, CC. A fine season debut, this was.

Three Runs On A Role Reversal
You know, Matt Holliday is supposed to be the one launching home runs while Ronald Torreyes gets the BABIP luck, not the other way around. Naturally, Torreyes smacked the Yankees’ first home run of the season, a loud two-run shot in the third inning. He hit two homers in Spring Training, remember. Maybe he’s growing into some power. Then again, when Jake Odorizzi leaves an 86 mph cutter here …

ronald-torreyes-jake-odorizzi

… most hitters will drive the ball with authority. Torreyes did exactly that and the Yankees took a 2-0 lead, their first lead of the season. (Aaron Judge laced a line drive single back up in the middle as a previous batter despite being down in the count 0-2. Judge is looking pretty comfortable at the plate so far this year, at least compared to last year.)

Brett Gardner followed the Torreyes home run with a double into the right field corner — that was three straight hard-hit balls for the Yankees — so the Yankees were again in business. Then Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird struck out to put the rally on life support. Womp womp. Holliday picked them up by strategically lifting a pop-up into the catwalks in left field, which caused Peter Bourjos to lose sight of the ball. It bounced in for a run-scoring double. Smart move by Holliday. You can’t teach that kind of veteran experience. The Yankees were up 3-0 in the third.

Four Innings From The Bullpen
Sabathia escaped a little two-out jam in the fifth inning — he walked Bourjos and gave up an infield single to Steven Souza, then got Kiermaier to hit a tapper back to the mound — and Chase Headley gave the Yankees an insurance run in the next half inning. He smacked a solo home run off whatever the hell that thing is in center field at the Trop. Last season Headley didn’t hit his first home run until May 12th. He got it out of the way early this year.

With a 4-0 lead and off-days galore these first ten days of the season, Joe Girardi went to his top relievers to close out the game. Bryan Mitchell needed nine pitches to cut through the middle of the Rays lineup in the sixth inning. Tyler Clippard struck out two in a perfect seventh inning. Headley was nice enough to drive in another insurance run in the eighth, this time with a shift-beating ground ball single. That’s four shift-beaters in two games. Headley also stole a base. He’s sneaky good at that. It was the Yankees’ first steal of the year.

Once the lead was stretched to 5-0, Girardi went to Jonathan Holder for the eighth, not Dellin Betances. Holder allowed two dinky infield singles — the Rays had five hits on the night, four of which were infield singles — before giving way to Betances, who walked Longoria to load the bases with one out. Never easy. Betances escaped the jam with a strikeout (Rickie Weeks) and a weak grounder to first (Logan Morrison). Aroldis Chapman cruised through the ninth with ease. Five relievers, four scoreless innings.

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

Leftovers
Sanchez went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and is now 0-for-10 with three strikeouts on the season. Bust! Back to Scranton he goes. In all seriousness, Sanchez had a double taken away by Longoria, who made a nice play at the line, and he also smashed a line drive right at the shortstop. This isn’t one of those “he’s flailing at everything!” slumps. This is one of those “bah, he’s hitting into some bad luck” slumps. It’s not even a slump. It’s two games! He’ll be fine.

Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except Sanchez and Starlin Castro. Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits, the first a hard-hit grounder that hit Odorizzi and deflected away from the defenders, and the second a ground ball double down the line. Holliday hit what I thought was his first home run of the season in the eighth inning. He hit it hard, but the ball just died and was caught at the warning track. Too much topspin, I guess.

Judge’s wingspan turned a double into a single in the first inning. Longoria stroked a line drive single to right field — it was Tampa’s only hit to leave the infield — and Judge was able to run over and reach out to grab the ball before it rolled to the wall, limiting Longoria to one base. Being nine feet tall has its advantages.

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The first rubber game of the season. The Yankees and Rays will close out this three-game series Wednesday night. Michael Pineda and Alex Cobb are the scheduled starters.