Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1: CC and Judge lead Yanks to 91st win

Ninety-one wins in a rebuild transition year. Not too shabby. The Yankees won their penultimate game of the regular season Saturday afternoon, this one a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays. They’re now 20-8 in September, their best record in any month this season. Alas, the Red Sox beat the Astros up in Boston, so they clinched the AL East title. At least the Yankees did them no favors Saturday and made them clinch themselves. The Yankees will face the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

CC’s Surprise Start
It wasn’t until this morning that we found out CC Sabathia, not Jaime Garcia, would start this game against the Blue Jays. The Yankees were still mathematically alive in the AL East race, so they wanted to put their best foot forward. I don’t blame them one bit. Gotta do what you can to win the division. The advantage of avoiding the Wild Card Game is too great.

Sabathia’s final start of the regular season — and possibly the final start of his Yankees career (sobs) — went marvelously, though I will say the Blue Jays seemed to be mailing it in. They’re ready for their season to end. One foot is in the batter’s box and the other is on the plane home, you know? I don’t mean to take anything away from Sabathia. He was awesome. The Blue Jays just didn’t seem very interested in competing.

In his 5.2 innings Saturday, Sabathia scattered four hits, and two of the four were followed by a double play. The Blue Jays did not have a runner reach second base until the sixth inning, when Ryan Goins doubled to right with one out. A fan reached over the short porch to catch the ball, so Goins was awarded second base following a review. That was Toronto’s fourth baserunner of the afternoon and first to advance beyond first base.

Sabathia’s final line: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K on 75 pitches. Joe Girardi had a pretty quick hook — he didn’t let CC face Josh Donaldson a third time when Donaldson represented the tying run — and whatever he said to Sabathia on the mound got a good laugh out of the big guy. With his regular season now complete, Sabathia finishes with a 3.69 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 148.2 innings. Give that man one-year contracts until he retires.

Two Runs Are Just Enough
Aaron Judge probably won’t win the AL MVP award — I think Jose Altuve has it locked up, fair or not — but I know he is the MVP of all our hearts. Judge opened the scoring Saturday afternoon with his latest moonshoot, this one a 484-foot blast deep into the left field bleachers. It wasn’t quite as far as that ball he hit against the Orioles a few weeks back, though he hit it to the same general area.

Judge went 6-for-12 with three home runs against Stroman this season. That makes me happy. Judge hit ten homers in 18 games against the Blue Jays this season, and that also makes me happy. I look forward to him hitting many more dingers against Stroman — he’s short and went to Duke, you know — and the Blue Jays in the coming years.

The Judge dinger gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the fourth. They added another run later in the inning. Didi Gregorius slapped a single over a leaping Goins at shortstop — I’m pretty sure the ball deflected off his glove — then advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Starlin Castro brought him home with a single back up the middle. I’m pretty sure that one deflected off Goins’ glove too. One run on a monster homer and another on two hits off the infielder’s glove. Baseball.

The Final Two Innings
I’m not quite sure why Tommy Kahnle came in for the eighth inning. He allowed a dinky infield single and a walk before being replaced by David Robertson. Was it an audition for high-leverage postseason work? If it was, you’d think the leash would be a little longer than that. If you’re going to pull the plug that quickly, what could Kahnle have realistically done to build trust? Whatever.

The infield single and walk turned into a run when Donaldson lifted a sacrifice fly to left field later in the inning. I thought he creamed the pitch off the bat. I thought it was way gone. The wind brought it back in though, and I mean really brought it back in. Brett Gardner retreated, then had to sprint a long way forward to make the catch. The play at the plate was really close. Had the throw been a little more on-line, Ezequiel Carrera would’ve been out.

Anyway, Robertson escaped that eighth inning — he struck out Justin Smoak with two runners on base to end the threat and preserve the 2-1 lead — then Aroldis Chapman did his thing in the ninth. Safe to say neither Robertson nor Chapman will pitch Sunday, regardless of score. The game is meaningless and the Yankees will want them rested for the Wild Card Game on Tuesday. Same with Chad Green, who got four outs Saturday as the bridge from Sabathia to Kahnle.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Todd Frazier was the only Yankee with two hits and I don’t remember either of his singles. It was one of those quick moving and otherwise nondescript games, the kind of game that’ll meld into the glob of baseball we all watch and forget each season. Judge homered while Gary Sanchez, Gregorius, Castro, and Greg Bird had singles. Bird’s single was a rocket off the wall. He was thrown out by a mile trying to stretch it into a double. Bird is many things. Fast is not one of them.

And finally, Judge’s home run was his 33rd at Yankee Stadium this season — 33rd! — which is a new single-season record. At any Yankee Stadium. The previous record was 32 homers at home by Babe Ruth in 1921. Pretty amazing he’s hit 33 home runs at home and still has 19 on the road. Judge had a 38-homer pace away from Yankee Stadium this season. Pretty wild.

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final game of the 2017 regular season. It really flew by, huh? I guess that happens when you’re having fun. Jordan Montgomery and Brett Anderson are the scheduled starting pitchers for Sunday’s regular season finale. That’s a 3pm ET start across the league. Every game starts at the same time.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 0: Tanaka masterful as Yankees win 90th game of 2017

For the first time since 2012, the Yankees have won 90 games in a season. They shut the Blue Jays out 4-0 in Friday afternoon’s series opener, and they did it thanks to a masterful performance from their erstwhile ace. The Yankees are still alive in the AL East, though one more Red Sox win, and it’s over. At least the Yankees are making them earn it.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

TanaKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKa
If this was indeed Masahiro Tanaka‘s final start as a Yankee, he went out with a bang. A good bang. Not a “he gave up a lot of home runs” bang. Tanaka took a perfect game into the fifth inning and didn’t allow a hit to the outfield until the sixth inning, when Ryan Goins lined a single to center. Toronto’s only baserunner up to that point was Ezequiel Carrera, who beat out an infield single in the fifth to end the perfect game bid.

Tanaka struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and 12 of the first 18 batters he faced Friday afternoon, and only one of those 12 strikeouts was looking. Both the splitter and slider were working beautifully. Tanaka threw 103 total pitches and finished with 23 swinging strikes, most of which came on pitches that dove out of the strike zone. Here is the pitch location of those 23 swings and misses, via Baseball Savant:

masahiro-tanaka-whiffs

No pitcher in baseball is better than Tanaka at getting hitters to chase out of the strike zone. His 42.7% chase rate going into Friday’s game was far away the highest among the 58 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title this year. Corey Kluber was a distant second at 39.7%. Tanaka’s ability to get swings on pitches out of the zone is unmatched and it was on full display Friday. He had the Blue Jays fishing all afternoon.

Tanaka’s final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 15 K on 103 pitches. The 15 strikeouts are a new career high and tie Stephen Strasburg for the most in a game this season. Also, Tanaka struck out every Blue Jay at least once. A few other notes:

  • Tanaka has three 13+ strikeout games this year, tied with Kluber for the second most in baseball. Only Chris Sale has more. He has four.
  • The last Yankee to strike out every opposing batter with 13+ strikeouts in the game overall? Ron Guidry in his franchise record 18-strikeout game back in 1978.
  • A full list of Yankees with 15+ strikeouts and zero walks in a start: Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. That’s it. That’s the list.

Tanaka finishes the regular season with a 4.74 ERA (4.34 FIP) and 194 strikeouts in 178.1 innings. So close to 200 strikeouts! Only four times in franchise history have two pitchers recorded 190+ strikeouts: 1904 (Jack Chesbro, Jack Powell), 2001 (Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina), 2009 (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett), and 2017 (Luis Severino, Tanaka). Between the one-and-done nature of the Wild Card Game and the looming opt-out, this might’ve been Tanaka’s final start with the Yankees. I hope not, but it might’ve been. Heck of a way to go out. Hope to see you in the ALDS, Masahiro.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Scratch Out Four Runs
This was one of those games that felt like a blowout even though it wasn’t really a blowout. Early runs and great pitching tends to do that. The Yankees struck for two runs right in the first inning. They loaded the bases with one out on a single (Jacoby Ellsbury), a walk (Aaron Judge), and a single (Didi Gregorius). Starlin Castro opened the scoring with an infield single that I could’ve sworn was foul ball off his foot, but apparently night.

The well-placed infield single — it was a little dribbler in front of third base, Josh Donaldson had no chance for a play at any base — gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, and Greg Bird stretched it to 2-0 with a sacrifice fly. Judge drove in the third run with a rocket single to left in the fifth inning, after Ellsbury singled and stole second. In the third inning Judge grimaced a bit as he ran through first base on a ground out — cameras caught him trying to stretch something (back? legs?) out in the dugout — which was scary, but he stayed in the game and hit a 116 mph single, so yeah. He’s fine.

The Yankees scored their fourth run of the day in the sixth inning, which featured Gregorius stealing second base twice. He stole second, but was sent back to first when the umpire ruled Castro fouled off the pitch. Gregorius then stole second again anyway later in the at-bat. Four steals in four attempts in the game for the Yankees. Blue Jays catcher Raffy Lopez is now 1-for-17 (5.9%) throwing out runners this season. Yikes. A Bird double plated Didi for the 4-0 lead.

Leftovers
David Robertson pitched around a walk in the eighth and Dellin Betances was yanked after allowing a single and a walk in the ninth, which seems completely ridiculous to me. A priority right now should be getting Betances on track, not grabbing every last win. The Yankees were up 4-0 at the time! Somehow Jonathan Holder had a longer leash in a one-run game Thursday night. Good grief.

Eight hits for the Yankees but only one extra-base hit. That was Bird’s double in the sixth. Ellsbury, Judge, Gregorius (two), Castro, Bird, and Austin Romine had the singles. Judge and Todd Frazier drew the only walks. The Yankees went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, if that’s your thing.

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The penultimate game of the regular season. The Yankees and Blue Jays will play the middle game of this three-game season-ending series Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular old 1pm ET start. Jaime Garcia and Marcus Stroman are the scheduled starting pitchers for that one.

One terrible inning dooms Gray, Yankees in 9-6 loss to Rays

A missed opportunity, this was. The Astros beat up on the Red Sox on Thursday night, but the Yankees couldn’t take advantage and trim the AL East deficit. They blew a three-run lead to the Rays and lost the series finale 9-6. Womp womp. One more Red Sox win or one more Yankees loss clinches the division title for Boston. Ain’t dead yet!

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

Special Guests On The Toe-Night Show
For the 11th time this season, the Yankees hit back-to-back home runs Thursday night. And they did it to start the game. Brett Gardner sent Jacob Faria’s second pitch of the night into the second deck in right field for a leadoff homer, then Aaron Judge followed with a home run on Faria’s seventh pitch. That one was also hit into the second deck in right field. Can’t remember the last time a right-hander batter went right field second deck like that.

Because they both went deep, Gardner and Judge got be special guests on the Toe-Night Show, the mock press conference that has invaded post-dinger dugouts in the Bronx. Ronald Torreyes and his crew have a boom mic and everything these days (pic via @MearnsPSA):

aaron-judge-toe-night-show

This is good. I enjoy this. The back-to-back home runs gave the Yankees a quick 2-1 lead, and they continued to add on in the ensuing innings. Todd Frazier drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with a single in the second inning — Ellsbury singled and advanced on a passed ball earlier in the inning — to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead, then Greg Bird visited the short porch for a solo home run in the fourth. I’m pretty sure Bird thought he missed it. He sure didn’t react like it had a chance to get out.

Judge (eight games) and Bird (six games) have the two longest active extra-base hit streaks in baseball right now, and Judge’s is the longest by a Yankee since Johnny Damon had an extra-base hit in ten straight games in May 2009. Also, Gardner’s home run a) extended his career high to 21, and b) was only his second since July 28th. He had only one homer in his last 53 games going into Thursday night. Huh. I didn’t realize that.

The Fifth Inning Meltdown
Sonny Gray labored right from the get-go Thursday night — he couldn’t hit the mitt to save his life — yet he still managed to get through four innings with one run allowed. The one run was a Corey Dickerson solo homer into the second deck in right field in the first inning. That gave the Rays a quick 1-0 lead before Gardner and Judge answered with back-to-back homers in the bottom of the first.

The wheels fell off in the fifth inning and Gray finished with the following line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 2 K on 86 pitches. The six runs are the most Sonny’s allowed in his eleven starts as a Yankee, and the five walks are the second most he’s ever allowed. (He had a seven-walk start in 2015.) Anyway, let’s recap that fifth inning meltdown with an annotated play-by-play. ESPN’s redesign is just awful, but I’m going to power through it.

yankees-vs-rays-play-by-play1(1) That was an all-around ugly play. Gray spiked a breaking ball and it got away from Gary Sanchez, and on the play at the plate, Gray slid in on his knees and tried to apply the tag. It was not pretty. His glove bent back and he slid into the plate awkwardly. I know the competitive juices are flowing and all that, but geez, just let the run score in Game 159 when you’ve already clinched a postseason spot. No need to risk injury.

(2) The wild pitch was clearly on Gray. The passed ball was most definitely on Sanchez. It can sometimes be tough to tell who is to blame on passed pitches, but on these two, it was pretty clear. Sanchez let a breaking ball scoot through his legs, allowing the run to score. It had been a while since Gary had one of those. Twelve games, in fact. He does still lead the league with 16 passed balls now. I still love him.

(3) Between the Dickerson homer and the Wilson Ramos go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth, Gray has now allowed nine home runs in six starts and 35.2 innings this month. He allowed seven homers in his previous 20 starts and 121 innings. Six of the nine September homers have come at home, so Yankee Stadium has not been too kind to Sonny these last few weeks. He’s been off a little the last few times out, and when you’re off a little in this park, the ball tends to carry over the wall. Gray’ll figure it out soon. Kinda has to with the postseason approaching.

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

(4) I don’t really get why Jonathan Holder was the first one out of the bullpen in a one-run game, even in the fifth, especially with every game a must win to have a shot at the division title. Even with Dellin Betances and Chad Green unavailable, it seemed like a spot to go to Tommy Kahnle to escape the jam and keep the deficit at one, then let the September kids start an inning clean. Instead, Holder came in, hit a batter — I have no idea why the play-by-play says he came in after the hit batter, but that’s wrong, Holder his Daniel Robertson — and allowed a run-scoring single to former Yankees farmhand Cesar Puello. Three batters faced for Holder, zero outs.

(5) The third and final batter Holder faced was Peter Bourjos, he of the .224/.276/.388 (76 wRC+) batting line. Bourjos split the left-center field gap with a rocket two-run triple. Bad. Bad bad bad. I imagine Holder’s … uh … hold on a 40-man roster is pretty tenuous. Failing to retire a batter against the bottom of the lineup in a one-run game is no way to stick around. By the way, Bourjos against the Yankees in 2017: .290/.333/.613. Bourjos against everyone else in 2017: .211/.262/.342. I hate baseball sometimes.

(6) The seven runs are the most allowed by the Yankees in an inning this season. They’d allowed six runs in an inning on only two occasions. Is it weird that seems low to me? Not that I think the Yankees stink or anything, it just seems like every team would allow six or more runs in an inning a bunch of times in a season, not twice in 158 games. Eh, whatever. If you’re going to have your worst inning of the season, after you clinch is a good time to do it. The seven-run fifth turned a 4-1 lead into an 8-4 deficit.

Leftovers
Rough game for Sanchez, physically. Gray spiked a curveball in the dirt in the second inning, and it came up and hit Sanchez in the neck, under his face mask. He was in obvious pain after that but did stay in the game. I have no idea why anyone ever catches. It looks terrible. Also, Sanchez took a Tommy Hunter fastball up high to the shoulder in the fifth inning. That one looked like it hurt. I imagine Gary will sit tomorrow in the day after after a night game. He could use it after this one. He got beat up pretty good.

Aaron Hicks pinch-hit in the ninth and smacked a home run. He’s now 3-for-5 with two homers and three walks in three games since coming back from the disabled list. And he robbed a grand slam. Ellsbury had two hits (both singles) while Gardner (homer), Judge (homer), Starlin Castro (single), Bird (homer), and Frazier (single) had one hit apiece. Gardner also drew two walks. He’s been on base 34 times in his last 19 games.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I really wish all the innings the Yankees gave Holder this year had gone to Ben Heller. I just don’t get it. Heller retired six of seven batters faced and allowed just a walk in 2.1 scoreless innings. He struck out two and has allowed one run in ten innings with the Yankees this year, and had a 2.88 ERA (3.09 FIP) with a 36.8% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk rate in 56.1 Triple-A innings. /shrugs

And finally, Gardner and Judge combined for the first set of back-to-back homers to start a game for the Yankees since way back in April 2012, when Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson did it. The Rays, meanwhile, have allowed back-to-back homers to start a game three different times this season, including twice this month. That seems bad.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and we have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final series of the regular season. Time flies, eh? The Blue Jays are coming to town for a three-game weekend set. Friday’s series opener is an afternoon game with a 1pm ET start. Day game after a night game with pretty much everything clinched? Something tells me we might be in for a Spring Training lineup Friday. Masahiro Tanaka and Joe Biagini are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Severino and the Aarons power Yankees to 6-1 win over Rays

Another day, another win. The Yankees are playing some pretty good baseball right now. They picked up a 6-1 win over the Rays on Wednesday night and have now won 18 of their last 24 games. The Yankees are a season high 20 games over .500 and their next win will be their 90th. That seems good. The Red Sox won, so their magic number to clinch the AL East is down to two. Not much the Yankees can do that about. Just keep winning and make the BoSox earn it.

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

Sevy’s Final Tune-Up
In his final start of the regular season, Luis Severino looked very much like a pitcher going through the motions and getting his work in. It wasn’t a Spring Training outing, but I’d say Severino was throwing with maybe 80% intensity. He did ramp it up at times, most notably when he struck out Corey Dickerson to end the fourth with runners on second and third, but mostly he was on cruise control. Free and easy, just staying sharp in advance of the postseason.

Severino made one mistake Wednesday night. Well, no, two mistakes. He got away with a hanging slider to the formerly good at baseball Evan Longoria in the sixth inning (Longoria pulled it foul). The one big mistake was a hanging two-strike slider to Adeiny Hechavarria in the fifth inning, which Hechavarria parked in the left field seats for a solo home run. He’s pretty annoying, huh? Hechavarria did the number on the Yankees during the Citi Field series too.

The final regular season start for Severino: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K on 91 pitches. Considering this was a postseason tune-up start, that is the baseball equivalent of messing around and getting a triple double. Severino finishes the season with a 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts. He’s the first Yankee starter with a sub-3.00 ERA since Andy Pettitte (2.88 ERA) and David Cone (2.82 ERA) both did it in 1997. As for the strikeouts, here is the franchise’s single-season strikeout leaderboard:

  1. 1978 Ron Guidry: 248
  2. 1904 Jack Chesbro: 239 (in 454.2 innings!)
  3. 2011 CC Sabathia & 2017 Severino: 230

Yup. Our little baby pitching boy is all grown up. Heck of a season for Severino. With all due respect to what Masahiro Tanaka did last year, Severino had the best pitched season by a Yankees since Sabathia in 2011, and maybe even further back than that. In all likelihood, the season will be on the line in the Wild Card Game the next time Sevy toes the slab, and I couldn’t be more confident in him.

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

Bombs Away
For the first four innings, the Yankees did a whole bunch of nothing against Matt Andriese. Brett Gardner started the game with a double and was stranded at second. Chase Headley beat out an infield single with two outs in the second and was stranded. Aaron Judge worked a two-out walk in the third and did not move. Starlin Castro was safe at first on a Longoria error with one out in the fourth and did not advance another base.

It wasn’t until the fifth inning, after Hechavarria’s home run, that the offense kicked it into gear. Jacoby Ellsbury worked a seven-pitch walk to start the inning and Aaron Hicks followed with a ground ball single to put runners on corners with no outs. Gardner hit a bad luck line drive at Hechavarria for the first out — Hechavarria is sooo annoying — which brought Judge to the plate. He’s unclutch, I hear.

The Yankees have already clinched home field advantage in the Wild Card Game, so the pressure is off and Judge lined an unclutch two-run double into the left field corner to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Can you believe this guy? So unclutch. Andriese got to two strikes on Judge, which is where you want to be, but his fifth breaking ball of the seven-pitch at-bat was up just enough for Judge to drive it down the line. So very unclutch.

That two-run double gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fifth. They broke it open in the sixth. Back-to-back solo homers for Castro and Greg Bird, and two-run home run for Hicks. Just like that, a 2-1 lead became a 6-1 lead. The best part? The Yankees are now holding fake press conferences in the dugout whenever someone hits a home run. Here’s Castro being interviewed by his teammates:

They call it the Toe-night Show. For real. This team is really good and also really fun. There’s something to be said for being professional and acting like you’ve been there before and all that, but the Yankees took it to the extreme for a few years. It gets boring after a while. The Yankees finally have some personality, you know? They’re good, they’re young, and they’re very fun. Love this team, you guys. Love ’em more than you’ve ever loved another team. They’re special.

Leftovers
Chad Green had to bail Chasen Shreve out of a two on, two out jam in the sixth inning, otherwise it was a nice easy night for the bullpen. Dellin Betances went ground out, strikeout, pop out in the eighth. Nine of his 13 pitches were strikes. He’s looked much better his last few times out. I’m not saying Betances is fixed yet or even that he will be fixed soon, but at least he’s temporarily stopped walking everyone.

How about Hicksie? He went 2-for-3 with a home run before being removed from the game Wednesday night — that’s all part of the plan as he works his way back from the oblique injury — and is 2-for-4 with the homer, three walks, and one strikeout in two games back. And he robbed a grand slam. Not a bad two days for him. Gardner and Headley each had two hits in this game as well. The Yankees had nine hits total and six went for extra bases.

And finally, the strikeout was No. 100 on the season for Betances. He and Green are the sixth pair of teammates with 100+ strikeouts in relief in baseball history. Betances is now the ninth reliever in history with four 100+ strikeout seasons. Pretty cool.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Rays will wrap-up this three-game series Thursday night. Only four more games remaining this season. Regular season, anyway. Sonny Gray and Jacob Faria, not Alex Cobb, are the scheduled starters. The Rays decided to shut Cobb down for the season.

Game 158: Sevy’s final (regular season) start

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tonight, Luis Severino will make his final start in what has been an overwhelmingly successful season. He’s been one of the top starters in baseball and he’ll appear on plenty of Cy Young ballots. Severino’s final start of the regular season tonight. His next start will be either a Game 163 tiebreaker to decide the AL East, or the AL Wild Card Game next week (or Game One of the ALDS, I suppose). The pressure will ratchet up a notch or three.

Because of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Girardi and the Yankees approach this as a tune-up start for Severino. Five innings or 75 pitches, whatever comes first. That sort of thing. Enough work to stay sharp but not so much that it could carry over and have some sort of effect on his next start. We’ll see. The Yankees are still alive in the AL East race, so get another win and continue to make the Red Sox sweat. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. DH Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Luis Severino

It was uncomfortably hot most of the afternoon in New York. It has cooled down a bit since then, mostly because there’s a little rain in the forecast. Nothing heavy and hopefully nothing that will delay the game. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and WPIX will have the broadcast. Last WPIX game of the season! Enjoy the game.

Yankees 6, Rays 1: New York clinches home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game behind Montgomery’s solid outing

With this win tonight, the Yankees have clinched home-field advantage for the AL Wild Card Game (if that becomes their destination). Also, with the Red Sox loss, the division deficit has reduced to three games. Slim hope but it’s still there. The recipe for tonight’s win was simple: Jordan Montgomery pitched well, the offense scored enough runs and the bullpen tossed three no-hit innings to make it as least stressful as possible. 88th win of the season – that’s the Yankees’ most since 2012, when they made it to the ALCS. Let’s recap this thing.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Six solid

Montgomery started the game dicey very early on. He allowed soft singles to Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza just past the infielders and walked Evan Longoria to immediately load the bases in the first. He got a breather by striking out Logan Morrison for the first out. However, Wilson Ramos drove a deep drive to right center that looked to be just going over the fence… until Aaron Hicks denied it. Hicks made a well-timed jump to rob Ramos of a grand slam. That would have been a devastating start for the Yankees but they held the Rays to merely a run. Huge. Not bad for a guy who just came off a DL suffering an oblique injury.

After the shaky start, Montgomery settled in and followed with five scoreless innings. In those frames, he allowed only five baserunners (one of them on a strike out wild pitch in which Adeiny Hechavarria reached first) and struck out three. He may not have the flashiest stuff, but boy he can mix up pitches. Per Brooks Baseball, Montgomery threw 34 fastballs (both two-seam and four-seamers combined), 8 changeups, 9 sliders and 29 curveballs. Of those 29, six of them generated whiffs. He’s had a nice season for a guy who’s a pitchability lefty in the AL East – 9-7, 3.96 ERA/4.11 FIP in 150 IP. Even though Montgomery’s had his ups and downs this season, if you told me he’d end up with these numbers back in March, I would have taken it ten out of ten times.

Thinking about it again… that Aaron Hicks catch was big. There’s a huge difference between getting out of the first inning with no outs, bases-loaded jam with only one run allowed and allowing a grand slam and suffering a meltdown for a start. Credit to Montgomery for bouncing back nicely for the rest of the night though.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Score four

You know how the Yankees have been making opposing starting pitchers throw tons of pitches in early parts of the game? That happened tonight as well. This time, they knocked Blake Snell out of the game with no out in the second inning.

The Yankees started the inning with a bang. Starlin Castro, who donned high socks tonight, led the inning off with a long, 445-feet home run into the left field bleachers to tie the game at one a piece. After that, the Fraziers and Ronald Torreyes all singled to load the bases in a flash for the Yankees. Hicks, fresh off the disabled list (and that amazing catch an inning earlier) walked to score the Yankees’ go-ahead run. At this point, Snell seemed to have completely lost his command. Even after the mound visit, Snell could not throw a strike against Aaron Judge and forced in another run, 3-1 Yankees. After getting only three outs and having throw 49 pitches, the lefty was out of the game and Kevin Cash put in the former Yankee Chaz Roe to face Gary Sanchez.

Sanchez squared one to the right side… but it found Hechavarria’s glove and Hicks was doubled off at the second. Not ideal. However, during Matt Holliday‘s at-bat, Roe’s slider got away from Ramos way outside, resulting in a run-scoring wild pitch. Sloppy pitching by the Rays in this frame. But hey, the Yankees will take it.

Score two more

The scoreboard was full of goose eggs after the bottom of the second till the eighth inning. With Austin Pruitt pitching for the Rays, Torreyes worked a rare walk to get on base with one out. During Brett Gardner‘s at-bat, Toe advanced to second on a wild pitch and onto third on a groundout. Judge, as Judge does, walked to get on base to make it runners on corners. Sanchez followed it up with an RBI single to center to make it 5-1 Yankees and Holliday tacked on another with a bloop one to the shallow center. 6-1 Yankees and that’s how the score would remain for good.

Leftovers

The Yankee bullpen tossed three perfect innings tonight. Tommy Kahnle got the seventh inning and absolutely dominated Daniel Robertson, Peter Bourjos and Kiermaier – groundout, strikeout, strikeout, respectively – all in just 11 pitches. Kahnle has yet to allow an earned run in the month of September (10 IP) and that’s a really good sign heading into the postseason.

Taking care of the eighth was David Robertson, who struck out one and walked one in a scoreless frame. It seemed like Aroldis Chapman was going to enter the ninth for a save. But as the Yankees scored two in the bottom of the eighth, the save situation became null and Joe Girardi put in struggling Dellin Betances to end the game. Betances retired the side in only seven pitches (four strikes) to end the game rather swimmingly. Sure, he didn’t strike out anyone or anything but I’ll definitely take this from him. This should be considered a positive step for the big guy after a rough month he’s had.

Castro went 3-for-3 tonight. His home run in the 2nd inning was his first at Yankee Stadium since June 11, as unbelievable as that might sound. Torreyes, the little machine that could, maintained his status as a solid utility guy by going 2-for-3, a walk and two runs scored. Judge did not hit a home run today. Bust! However, he did go 1-for-3 with two walks, a strikeout and an opposite-field double. It was almost an on-brand game for him.

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA

Here are tonight’s box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will continue the three-game series against the Rays tomorrow at the Bronx. Luis Severino will be up against Matt Andriese for a 7:05 pm game start.

Judge hits 49th and 50th home runs, breaks McGwire’s rookie record in 11-3 win over Royals

Is baseball fun? Yes, baseball is extremely fun. The Yankees had to play a makeup game with the Royals on Monday, and they turned that makeup game into an 11-3 win. Aaron Judge made rookie history along the way. The Yankees will clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game with one more win or one more Twins loss. Whatever comes first.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Move Over, Big Mac
Holy crap Aaron Judge has hit more home runs than any other rookie in baseball history. That is insane. What would you have been happy with from him this season? I’d have signed up for .250/.340/.450 with 25 dingers in a heartbeat going into Spring Training. Instead, Judge is hitting .283/.414/.620 (169 wRC+) overall this year, and on Monday afternoon he smacked his 49th and 50th — 49th and 50th! — home runs of the season, tying then breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record.

The record tying blast was a classic Judge at-bat. He worked a full count — going into the game, his 167 plate appearances with a full count were far and away the most in baseball (Edwin Encarnacion was second with 145) — against Royals rookie Jake Junis, then drove a fastball at the top of the zone the other way into the right field seats for a two-run home run. Perfect. The dinger gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the inning.

Four innings later, after the Yankees increased their lead to 6-3, Judge went deep again, this time to break McGwire’s record. Trevor Cahill started Judge with two curveballs, one for a ball and one for a swinging strike. He set up a changeup with a high fastball for ball two, but the changeup was a little too up in the zone, and Judge roped it out to left field. One dinger to right, one dinger to left.

That is now seven home runs in the last seven games for Judge, and 13 home runs in 22 games in September. Remember his post-All-Star Game slump? I do. It was ugly for a while there. Safe to say Judge has snapped out of it though. He’s crushing the ball to all fields and he looks confident at the plate. He looks like First Half Aaron Judge, and it is beautiful to see. With the Yankees at home the rest of the regular season, Aaron needs to hear M! V! P! chants every at-bat. Make it happen.

Six Good Innings, One Bad Inning
CC Sabathia went from six shutout innings to a bare minimum quality start real quick Monday. It took eight pitches, in fact. Sabathia cruised through the first six innings, holding the Royals scoreless on three hits and a walk. Kansas City had just one runner make it to third base and only three get as far as second base in those six innings. CC was on cruise control.

The wheels came off a bit in the seventh inning. Joe Girardi sent Sabathia out for the seventh with a 6-0 lead and his pitch count at 72, and hey, that’s what I wouldn’t done. Eric Hosmer started that seventh inning with a single, then Salvador Perez got the Royals on the board with a high and far two-run home run to left field. Sabathia caught a little too much of the plate with a high changeup. Blah. Mike Moustakas then followed with a solo homer deep to right field. That ended Sabathia’s afternoon and cut the lead to 6-3.

Sabathia’s final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K on 80 pitches. He was better than that line indicates though. Sabathia faced 24 batters and it wasn’t until batters 22, 23, and 24 that the Royals really started to square him up. Next time Girardi should look into his managerial crystal ball so he knows to pull his not at all struggling starter before things start to fall apart. What are they paying this guy for? Geez. (I kid, I kid.)

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tack-On Runs
Fortunately, the Yankees had built up plenty of breathing room before Sabathia’s little seventh inning implosion. They scored their first run of the afternoon in the very first inning. Brett Gardner dunked a leadoff single to right-center, Judge flew out to deep center field (even his outs are hard-hit these days), Gary Sanchez poked a double into the right field corner, and Didi Gregorius got the run home with a grounder to first base. The Yankees were up 1-0 only 12 pitches into the bottom of the first. Judge then made it 3-0 in the third.

The sixth inning is when the Yankees really broke things open. Gregorius stroked a one-out single to left then, while at first, he tripped on the base and fell down when he stepped back on a pickoff throw. It looked kinda bad at first, but Didi was laughing at himself the entire time and stayed in the game with no problem. I know this because he scored all the way from first base on Matt Holliday‘s double to left field to stretch the lead to 4-0. Losing Gregorius to an injury on a stupid pickoff throw would be awful. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.

Know who else is red hot aside from Judge? Greg Bird. He followed Holliday’s double with a two-run home run into the second deck in right field to give the Yankees a 6-0 lead and officially blow this one open. Bird is now 6-for-14 (.429) with three doubles and two homers in his last four games, and, most importantly, he looks more comfortable at the plate than he has all season. Took a while to get over last year’s shoulder surgery and this year’s ankle surgery, but it appears Bird is now over them, and not a moment too soon.

Two home runs for Judge and one home run for Bird must’ve had Sanchez feeling a little left out, so he added a home run as well. The crowd was still giving Judge a standing ovation following his 50th home run curtain call — that was the loudest I’ve heard Yankee Stadium since Alex Rodriguez‘s farewell game last year — when Sanchez lined a dinger into the left field seats for an 8-3 lead. Third time this month Judge and Sanchez have gone back-to-back, I do believe. Once against the Rangers, once against the Orioles, and once against the Royals (I think).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

But wait! There’s more. The Yankees added a three more runs in the eighth inning thanks to a silly Torreyes hit — a bloop dunked in along the right field line, then the ball got away from Alcides Escobar when he tried to apply the tag at second base, allowing Toe to get to third — and a Gardner double into the corner. Gregorius then singled in another run and Holliday plated another with a sac fly. Judge had a chance to hit his third homer of the game that inning, but alas, he was walked for the 120th time this season. L-O-L. Love this team, guys. Love them with all of your baseball heart.

Leftovers
Judge, Bird, and Sanchez combined to go 6-for-13 (.462) with four home runs, one double, and two walks. First time — and hopefully not the last time — those three have gone deep in the same game. Three hits for Sanchez, Gregorius, and Torreyes. Two hits for Gardner and Judge. The wraparound 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup went a combined 13-for-22 (.591) with three doubles and four homers. That’ll do.

Chad Green replaced Sabathia after the seventh inning mini-meltdown and pitched around a walk. He struck out one and now has 102 strikeouts in 67.1 innings this season. Remember, he started the season in minors. Green didn’t play his first MLB game until May 9th this year. David Robertson, who was already warmed up before Judge and Sanchez provided insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, threw a clean eighth and Tommy Kahnle handled the ninth. Nice and easy.

And finally, thanks to today’s game, Judge has now homered against every single AL team this season. Well, except the Yankees. The Royals completed the set. I have no idea how to look this up, but hitting a home run against every other team in the league — again: against every other team in the league! — sounds incredibly hard to do. At least in the expansion era.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score — their redesigned box scores suck so much and I haven’t yet found an alternative to my liking — and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Royals are heading out now that the makeup game is over, and the Rays are coming to town for a three-game series. One Yankees win will eliminate Tampa Bay from postseason contention. Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are the scheduled starting pitchers for Tuesday night’s opener.