Bullpen, offense pick up Sabathia for come-from-behind 8-6 win over Blue Jays

Is this team not awesome? This team is awesome. The Yankees erased a four-run deficit Wednesday night for an 8-6 win over the Blue Jays in the series finale. Just keep winning series, baby. That’s the name of the game. The Yankees are now 17-9 with a +45 run differential through the first 26 games of the season. Last year they were 9-17 with a -28 run differential through 26 games. Also, the Yankees are now 92-70 in their last 162 games. YUP.

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

Strugglin’ Sabathia
CC Sabathia started his season with three very good starts, allowing four runs (three earned) total in 18.1 innings. He’s since followed those three very good starts with three very bad starts. Four runs in five innings against the Pirates, seven runs in 5.2 innings against the Orioles, and now six runs in four innings against the Blue Jays. It hasn’t all been bad luck either, even though Sabathia seems to have a knack for giving up ground balls with eyes.

The Blue Jays struck for four runs in the first inning Wednesday night, putting the Yankees in an early hole. The first two runners reached base and Sabathia nearly escaped the inning unscathed, but Justin Smoak was able to punch a ball back up the middle for a two-out RBI single. Fine. Whatever. One run isn’t the end of the world. But Sabathia couldn’t stop the bleeding. He served up a three-run home run to Steve Pearce, the next batter. Six batters into the game, the Yankees were down 4-0.

In the second inning Sabathia allowed two more runs, including one on a bases loaded walk to Russell Martin. He had runners on the corners with one out and Jose Bautista down 0-2 in the count, but he walked him. Sabathia had a 2-2 count on Martin after that and walked him too. The put-away pitch just wasn’t there. He threw 44 pitches in the first two innings and only one resulted in a swing and a miss. The Blue Jays looked mighty comfortable in the box.

To Sabathia’s credit, he settled down a bit and got through the third and fourth inning scoreless. He was removed from the game after starting the fifth inning with a walk and a single. (Adam Warren escaped that jam.) The final tally for Sabathia is six runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings plus two batters. He did strike out five. His location was really poor early on. There were lots of pitches over the plate. At least Sabathia was able to figure out it for a few innings there, but yeah, this is three bad starts in a row. No mas, CC.

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

Answering Back
Trailing 4-0 before you bat is daunting! The Yankees have Fighting Spirit though. They put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning to answer right back. Single (Brett Gardner), walk (Aaron Hicks), three-run home run (Matt Holliday) is how Marcus Stroman, who is really short and went back to college to get his degree while rehabbing his torn ACL two years ago (just in case you hadn’t heard), started his evening. The home run was the 300th of Holliday’s career. Congrats to him.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the second inning, but were unable to score. Then, in the third, Starlin Castro planted a single into center field and Aaron Judge clobbered his Planet Earth leading 13th home run of the season. No player at any level of professional baseball has more home runs than Judge in 2017. This one landed in Monument Park and had the crack of a no-doubt home run. You can close your eyes and tell when this guy goes deep just based on the sound. That two-run home run got the Yankees to within 6-5.

Luck Biagini Tonight
Oblique/lat tightness forced Stroman out of the game after three innings, which meant the Yankees were going to get plenty of cracks against Toronto’s shoddy bullpen. And for a few innings there, they wasted a bunch of prime scoring opportunities. Runners on first and second with one out in the fourth? Holliday bangs into a double play. Bases loaded with two outs in the sixth? Kyle Higashioka stared at strike three. Sucks.

It wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Yankees rallied to both tie the game and take the lead. It all started with a Joe Girardi ejection. Home plate umpire Bill Welke had a pretty generous strike zone all night — Gardner, Hicks, and Holliday all struck out looking on borderline pitches in the sixth — and Girardi snapped after Castro took a pitch inside and off the plate for the called strike. He gave Welke the business and was ejected.

After the ejection, the strike zone did truly seem to tighten up. Welke was no longer calling those borderline pitches strikes, and the Yankees took advantage. Judge started the rally with a one-out single to left, and Chase Headley really made things interesting with a double into the right field corner. Now the Yankees had runners on second and third with only one out. An out could have tied the game.

The strikeout prone Chris Carter came to the plate, and rather than strike out, he dunked a broken bat bloop over the shortstop’s head into shallow left field to tie the game. Carter’s been piling up singles lately. What’s up with that? Didi Gregorius pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes and gave the Yankees the lead with an infield single. It was a chopper back to Biagini, who looked home before throwing to first. That hesitation was long enough for Didi to beat it out, giving the Yankees a 7-6 lead. Hicks stretched the lead to 8-6 with a bases loaded walk. The strike zone plot of the Hicks walk, via Brooks Baseball:

aaron-hicks-walk

Yep, the strike zone definitely tightened up after Girardi’s ejection. A bloop tied the game, an infield single gave the Yankees the lead, and a bases loaded walk plated an insurance run. That had to be the most annoying game-losing rally to watch as a Blue Jays fan. I, personally, loved it.

The Unsung Heroes
Big ups to the bullpen. The Yankees have an off-day Thursday, so Girardi didn’t have to hold back. Warren replaced Sabathia in that fifth inning and escaped the two-on, no-out jam with a fly ball, a strikeout, and a ground ball. Usually you’d expect Warren to remain in the game in that situation, but he was warming up alongside Sabathia since the second inning. He wasted a lot of bullets in the bullpen, hence only one inning of work.

Tyler Clippard got five outs — he put two on with one out in the sixth, then escaped in part by blowing a fastball by Bautista — before giving way to Dellin Betances, who got four outs. Aroldis Chapman closed it out in the ninth and ended the game in the best way possible: by striking out Martin twice. Martin swung and missed at a pitch that hit him, but the umpires incorrectly ruled it a foul ball and the at-bat continued. Chapman struck him out again anyway. Perfect.

All told the four relievers combined to allow one hit and one walk (both by Clippard) in five scoreless innings of work. They struck out six. Great, great work by the bullpen. They held the Blue Jays down and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. Sabathia needed a pick-me-up after that four-run first inning and he got it from the bullpen and the offense. What a satisfying win.

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

Leftovers
Judge went 3-for-5 with the home run and is now hitting .330/.433/.818 (240 wRC+). That’ll do, kid. The Yankees are a perfect 11-0 when Judge homers this year, and he’s also the youngest player in baseball history to hit 13 home runs in his team’s first 26 games. If you’ve read RAB long enough, you know I’ve been a Judge believer for a long time. Never in a million years did I expect this.

As for the rest of the offense, Gardner had two hits and two walks to raise his season batting line to .247/.354/.435 (124 wRC+). Remember when everyone wanted to put him on a rocket to the sun? Good times. Hicks drew three walks and is up to .288/.433/.615 (190 wRC+) on the year. Castro had two hits and it dropped his batting line from .360/.402/.550 (169 wRC+) to .362/.402/.543 (167 wRC+). Love this offense. It’s fun to know they’re never truly out of a game.

The Yankees showed some emotion in this one! Girardi got ejected, Sabathia let out a roar after striking out Bautista to end the fourth inning, and Gardner went all Paul O’Neill on a trash can after striking out looking on one of Welke’s borderline strikes in the seventh inning. The Yankees can be pretty uptight at times. It’s good to see some emotion every once in a while.

And finally, with Gary Sanchez expected to come off the disabled list Friday, this game was Higashioka’s last chance to get his first MLB hit before being sent down to Triple-A. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, two strikeouts, and a tough luck line drive at the third baseman. Keep your chin up, Higgy. You’ll get the first big league knock soon.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page, which you may or may not find useful. Here’s the comeback probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day and a six-game five-game road trip through Chicago and Cincinnati. The Yankees will get a breather Thursday before opening their weekend series with the defending World Series champion Cubs — it will never not be weird typing that — on Friday afternoon. That’s a 2:20pm ET start because that’s how they roll at Wrigley Field. Gonna be kinda cool to see Starlin back at his old stomping grounds. Michael Pineda and Kyle Hendricks are Friday’s scheduled starters.

Judge goes deep two more times to help Yankees to 11-5 win over Blue Jays

Good game. Would watch again. The Yankees rebounded from their first set of back-to-back losses since the first week of the season by hammering the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. The final score was 11-5. Welcome back, offense. We missed you the last two days.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Splat Latos
The Yankees did not have a scoreless inning offensively until the fifth Tuesday night, which, not coincidentally, was the first inning the Blue Jays had someone other than Mat Latos on the mound. It was clear from the get-go Latos didn’t have much working. The Yankees started the game with a double (Brett Gardner), an infield single (Chase Headley), and a double (Matt Holliday) to take a quick 1-0 lead. Boom boom boom. Nice start after Monday’s game.

That first inning rally was stopped at one because Didi Gregorius managed to hit a double play grounder with runners on second and third. There was some funky baserunning involved. Didi hit a weak tapper to the pitcher and Headley wandered too far from third, then Holliday wandered too far from second, then Headley made an ill-advised break home and was thrown out. It was not pretty. And after all the RISPFAIL the last two days, it seemed ominous.

Thankfully, the Yankees hammered away at Latos after that. The wind was blowing out at Yankee Stadium and they lifted four balls up into the jet stream for home runs the next three innings. First up was Aaron Hicks, who tomahawked a high fastball …

aaron-hicks

… into the right field seats for a two-run home run in the second inning. I thought it was a pop-up off the bat. So did Jose Bautista, the right fielder, who appeared to have a beat on the ball, but kept having to back up as the wind took it. That was Hicks’ fifth homer and 59th plate appearance of the season. He hit his fifth homer in his 270th plate appearance last season, on August 12th. I approve of this new Aaron Hicks.

The Hicks homer gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and a few batters later they stretched that to 5-0 thanks to Gardner’s two-run homer. Chris Carter snuck a ground ball single through the left side of the infield, then Gardner parked one in the second deck in right field. Pretty much the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen. Gardner’s supposed to hit the seeing-eye singles and Carter the second deck dingers. Baseball is weird sometimes.

Solo home runs by Aaron Judge in the third inning and Gardner in the fourth inning gave the Yankees a 7-0 lead, all against Latos. He was: bad. The Judge home run was an opposite field shot right into the right field corner. A nice little Yankee Stadium cheapie. Gardner’s appeared to be wind-aided. He got the ball up in the air and it carried into the home bullpen. Second two-homer game on the homestand for Brett. Go figure. He went 69 games without a homer and now has four in the last four days.

Most displeased. (Elsa/Getty)
Most displeased. (Elsa/Getty)

A Strange Game For Tanaka
Bit of a weird outing for Masahiro Tanaka. He allowed a leadoff double to Kevin Pillar to start the game, but was able to strand the runner and keep the Blue Jays off the board through four innings. He looked really good. Lots of weak contact and silly swings. Vintage Tanaka, basically. The Yankees have gave him a nice big lead and he was on cruise control. Doing what a veteran does with a big lead.

Then, in the fifth, the Blue Jays started to square him up pretty good. Steve Pearce, who came into the game hitting .167/.211/.167 (2 wRC+), smacked a solo home to left, then a double (Devon Travis) and a hard-hit single (Chris Coghlan) gave Toronto their second run. Even the third out of the inning was a hard-hit liner to second. Bautista hit a booming double to left to open the sixth, and although he didn’t score, it was still another well-struck ball.

Pearce took Tanaka deep again in the seventh, and one out and one single later, Masahiro’s night was over. (The inherited runner later came around to score on Dellin Betances balk.) Tanaka’s final line: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. Meh. He was great the first four innings and crummy the final two innings plus one out. Tanaka picked a good night to throw a clunker. The offense picked him up.

The Tack-On Runs
The balk by Betances gave the Blue Jays their fourth run and cut the lead to 8-4. The Blue Jays actually loaded the bases and had the tying run at the plate with two outs in that seventh inning, but Dellin put an end to that nonsense by striking out Kendrys Morales on three pitches. Betances can sometimes get a little nibble-y — well, it’s more like can’t-throw-a-strike-y — but when he goes into FU mode, he’s untouchable, as Morales found out.

Anyway, that 8-4 lead became an 11-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh thanks to Judge’s second home run of the night. The first was a little liner into the right field corner. The second was a majestic shot high up in the air that eventually settled into the left field seats. It was a monster at-bat. Monster at-bat. Judge fell behind in the count 0-2 to Jason Grilli, worked it back to 3-2, fouled off four two-strike pitches, then put the ball into orbit.


I’m pretty sure Judge thought he just missed that ball based on his reaction. Like he got it off the end of the bat or something. I guess the wind pushed it out, which tends to happen on windy nights when you hit the ball as high as he did. Judge also made a diving catch in right and is now hitting .313/.424/.795 (233 wRC+) with an AL leading 12 home runs. He also has a 15.2% walk rate. Pitchers are scared.

Leftovers
The Yankees hit five home runs in the game and all five were hit by the outfielders: two for Gardner, two for Judge, and one for Hicks. It’s the first time the Yankees had all three outfielders go deep in the same game since May 17th, 2014, when Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Zoilo Almonte (!) did it. Also, this is the first time since May 30th, 1961 that the starting outfield combined for five homers. Two for Mickey Mantle, two for Roger Maris, one for Yogi Berra that day. L-O-L.

How is this guy even real? (Elsa/Getty)
How is this guy even real? (Elsa/Getty)

Tyler Clippard replaced Tanaka and faced three batters, allowing two of them to reach base. That loaded the bases with one out — the Yankees were still up 8-3 at the time — which prompted Joe Girardi to go to Betances. Good idea. That’s when you want your best reliever in the game. Tommy Layne allowed a run in the eighth inning and Jonathan Holder finished off the ninth. Things got a little dicey in the seventh, but no harm, no foul.

The Yankees had 16 hits total, including three each by Gardner and Holliday, and two each by Headley, Judge, Hicks, and Starlin Castro. Castro’s up to .360/.402/.550 (171 wRC+) on the season. Gosh. The starters in the top seven spots in the lineup went a combined 14-for-31 (.452) with four doubles and five homers even including Didi’s 0-for-4. Facing Mat Latos is good for the ol’ batting average.

Austin Romine exited the game in the seventh inning with what the Yankees called cramping in his groin. He grimaced a bit while running the bases in the sixth. Girardi didn’t seem overly concerned after the game. He did indicate they won’t activate Gary Sanchez should Romine not be available tomorrow. Sanchez will finish his rehab.

And finally, Kyle Higashioka almost picked up his first MLB hit in the seventh inning. He lifted a little bloop to shallow left that clanked off Pearce’s glove. Pearce was given an error (correctly), but I was hoping they’d give Higgy his first hit. He’s going down when Sanchez returns, and it’d be cool to get that first knock out of the way, you know?

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Blue Jays wrap up this three-game series with the rubber game Wednesday night. That’s the final game of the homestand. CC Sabathia and Marcus Stroman are the scheduled starting pitchers. Want to catch that game at Yankee Stadium? RAB Tickets can get you there.

Yankees lose 7-1 as the offense gets quieted by Blue Jays

Yeah, just a bad game all-around. The bats got shut down by fastball-changeup mix master Marco Estrada while Luis Severino and Luis Cessa did not have their best showings. The Yankees drop the first of the home three-game series to the Blue Jays 7-1 in a typical oh-well-it’s-just-a-game fashion.

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

Laboring through 5.2 innings

Severino started the game with spottier command than what he’s shown in April. He got into a jam in the first but got out of it unscathed. However, he allowed a two-run homer to Ryan Goins (!) in the 2nd inning to put the Jays up top 2-0. On a 3-1 count, Severino wanted to throw a strike and the ball missed Austin Romine‘s outside corner spot.

The Yankees scored a run in the bottom of 4th to inch it close to 2-1. In the bottom of sixth, with Severino heading towards 100 in pitch count, the Jays got couple of baserunners on with a Justin Smoak infield single and Devon Travis ground-rule double. Goins hit a deep fly that looked like a double at worst, but Jacoby Ellsbury made a great leaping catch to rob him. However, Ellsbury flipped the ball right over Aaron Judge‘s head and both runners — from 2nd and 3rd base — were able to score for a rare 2-run sacrifice fly. Two hitters later, Chris Coghlan saw a hanging slider in the middle of the plate and took it into the right field seats for a 5-1 Jays lead. Joe Girardi then took out Severino for Cessa. He departed with a very mediocre 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K and 2 HR line.

After showing what he can do when everything clicks, Severino couldn’t deliver today. Happens to young pitchers. Actually, happens to all pitchers. Pitching is a hard occupation. While he didn’t totally melt down, it surely would have been nice for things to go his way more often. His command was just off tonight. Look at all those pitches he missed trying to nick the strike zone corners. There are tons towards the lower right part and left side:

bandicam-2017-05-02-12-25-31-067

Oh well. He’ll bounce back.

Death by changeup

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

My personal opinion is that, in the world of Noah Syndergaard sliders and Dellin Betances curveballs, the fastball-changeup combination remains the superior approach for pitchers. Hitting is all about getting the timing right and pitching is disrupting it. And boy, Estrada really disrupted Yankee hitters’ timing up tonight. That’s what he’s been living off of since 2015.

Not only is Estrada good at changing speeds, he also specializes in changing hitters’ eye levels. Check out the zone profile of his game tonight from Baseball Savant:

est

That’s a healthy mix of pitches both low and high. Yankees hitters did have seven base hits against Estrada but none of them were extra-base hits and they only scored a run – on an RBI single by Aaron Judge (who else?). Per Brooks Baseball, Estrada threw 37 fastballs and 45 changeups. That will get into hitters’ heads.

Miscellaneous

It took him until May but Ellsbury finally got his trademark catcher’s interference tonight. In the bottom of 6th, Ellsbury hit a grounder up to a middle that seemed like a fielder’s choice, but he just nicked the catcher’s mitt on the backswing, so umpire Jordan Baker rewarded him a base. That was Ellsbury’s 27th career catcher’s interference and he needs three more to surpass Pete Rose’s record. Incredible. We’re all rooting for ya, Jacoby.

On a quiet night for the bats, Starlin Castro still got some base hits. The second baseman got two hits in four at-bats, upping his season average to .358. Rest of the lineup collected only four hits, and, as mentioned, none of them being extra-base hits. Remember when too many homers was a thing? That was just this past weekend. They’ll get it going soon, hopefully.

Luis Cessa pitched the rest of the way after Severino departed and well, he was unspectacular. 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K and one long home run allowed to Jose Bautista. He’ll likely be sent back to Triple-A for tomorrow and they’ll promote another fresh arm in case of a long-relief situation.

Box score, standings and WPA graph:

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


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees face the Blue Jays again tomorrow. Masahiro Tanaka will be on the hill against Mat Latos (!).

Yankees lose a wacky 11-inning battle to the Orioles 7-4


Source: FanGraphs

Without any sort of exaggeration, I can say this was one of the weirdest baseball games I’ve ever watched. Anyways, this seemed like a sluggish Yankees loss until the bottom of ninth. Then … well, everything happened. It did end up being a 7-4 Yankee loss but with a lot of wacky and frustrating twists in between. Here are things that happened in bullet point form:

  • Montgomery’s imperfect outing: After retiring the first seven hitters, Jordan Montgomery got into a jam in the third after allowing an infield single to Craig Gentry and walk to J.J. Hardy. He struck out Joey Rickard, but Adam Jones hit a bloop single right in front of Aaron Judge‘s reach to tie the game 1-1. It seemed like Montgomery was nibbling a bit that inning until the at-bat against Mark Trumbo — the battle he won throwing a 93 mph fastball past him. Monty cruised along until the sixth when he issued free passes to Manny Machado and Trumbo to begin the frame. The Yankees had a 2-1 lead at the time, but Jonathan Holder allowed both runners plus one of his own to score, giving Baltimore a 4-2 advantage. While Montgomery ended up with 3 ER in 5 IP, he did strike out 7 hitters. I was wondering how he would fare against the powerful O’s lineup and to be honest, it was just along the lines of my expectations. Sure, he could have pitched better but …
  • LOB’d to death: … the Yankee hitters weren’t doing themselves any favors. In the entirety of the game, they left a whopping 16 (!) runners on base. For the first eight innings, before the ninth-inning comeback, they stranded 11. Really hard to win a ballgame that way. Wade Miley seems to approach hitters very differently this season. After being hit hard last year (5.37 ERA in 30 GS), he seems to throw much more out of the zone this season. He’s been walking tons of hitters (5.52 BB/9 after today) but also striking out a lot more (11.03 K/9) and limiting damage in general (2.32 ERA/3.74 FIP after today). For what it’s worth,the  Yankees faced Miley earlier this month and left 12 guys on base. Today the Yankees got 13 runners on base against the lefty and only scored two. Two! One of them was on a Matt Holliday solo homer in the 1st inning and another was on a Chase Headley RBI single in the 3rd after Miley walked Starlin Castro and Judge. That was all the Yankees scored until the ninth. New York had runners in scoring position three other times before the ninth and failed to cash in. It was just cringeworthy in the 2nd inning when they had Didi Gregorius and Chris Carter on second and third bases with no outs, and the next three hitters struck out swinging to let Miley off the hook. Anyways, we have more LOB fail to go later in the game. But before that …
  • Tying it up: Without their super closer Zach Britton on the roster, the Orioles had Darren O’Day to try to close out the game in the ninth. He got Aaron Hicks to pop out, then allowed a single to Holliday. The game looked to be in the reach when Castro grounded out on a fielder’s choice (just barely beating out a double play along the way). However, Judge worked a walk to reach first base and both runners got to advance on a very, very confusing balk call when O’Day tried to pick off Castro. Buck Showalter got ejected arguing with the umpire and the Yankees had two runners in scoring position, shifting the momentum the New York way. After O’Day allowed Headley to walk, Baltimore brought in the LOOGY Donnie Hart to face Gregorius with bases loaded. Didi send a dramatic, two-RBI single up the middle to tie the game up and put Bronx into an absolute bedlam. I mean, geez, after being so silent with RISP all game, the team comes through on a very, very crucial spot – how could you not love it? However, Hart struck out Carter (of course) to send the game into #freebaseball territory. This is where things got really, really weird.
  • El Viaje Misterioso De Nuestro Bryan: As top of the 10th began, Bryan Mitchell, who pitched in the 9th, moved over to the first base (???) as Aroldis Chapman came into pitch. The strategy here was that Mitchell can later go back to pitch if the game goes long. But don’t kid me here – it was an idea that not a lot of us would’ve seen it coming. Well, it almost worked. Chapman threw a scoreless inning and the offense got the bases loaded with one out against Logan Verrett. The two of the team’s hottest hitters, Castro and Judge were coming up so New York was going to walk it off, right? Not so quick. Verrett got Castro to force out at home and Judge to strike out swinging to escape. That would’ve been like a hell of a move if the Yankees won right there. Instead, they had to play without the DH (because of this rule), Chapman got sub’d out of the game when Greg Bird pinch-hit for him in the tenth, and Mitchell was back on the mound in the top of 11th as a position swap with Birdie. And, of course, Mitchell (and the sloppy Yankee defense) allowed three in that frame to give the Orioles a 7-4 lead. Verrett held on to it to win it for Baltimore. That was some teaser right there. The Yankees did win the series, but I feel like they lost more than just one game. Oh well.

Here are the box score, updated standings and WPA graph. The Blue Jays are coming to town next for a three-game series. Marco Estrada and Luis Severino are Monday’s starters.

Gardner, Judge, Romine power Yankees to 12-4 win over O’s

For the first time since August 22nd, 2015 — 616 days ago — the Yankees are in sole possession of first place in the AL East. At least one of my ten bold predictions will come true. The Yankees followed Friday night’s stunning come-from-behind win with a 12-4 depantsing of the Orioles on Saturday. They’ve now won four straight and 14 of their last 17 games. And because the Mets beat the Nationals, the Yankees now have baseball’s best record at 15-7. Their +46 run differential is tops in the game too. They play today, they win today. Das it.

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

Gardner Plants Two
The Yankees started Saturday’s game with back-to-back home runs, kinda. After Matt Holliday ended Friday’s game with a walk-off home run, Brett Gardner led off this game with home run into the right field second deck for a quick 1-0 lead. I’m making the executive decision to count those as back-to-back home runs. They came in consecutive at-bats, right? Right. Back-to-back dingers it is.

Gardner has not had a good start to the season overall and the home run was his first in 303 plate appearances and 69 games dating back to July 30th of last season. He didn’t have to wait long to go deep again. Just one inning. In the second Gardner homered again, this time hitting a three-run shot into the home bullpen to give his club a 5-0 lead. Ubaldo Jimenez cured whatever ailed him, I guess. The Yankees have been scoring plenty early on this year. Getting Gardner going would make them even more dangerous.

That second inning four-run rally started with a Didi Gregorius single to right center. It continued with back-to-back walks by Aaron Judge — based on how carefully they pitched him Saturday, the O’s are terrified of Judge (as they should be!) — and Greg Bird. Ubaldo gonna Ubaldo. That loaded the bases for Austin Romine, who lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to get the run home. That made it 2-0 good guys before Gardner homered for the 5-0 lead.

Big Mike‘s Big Grind
Two runs in 5.1 innings is a good start overall, though it didn’t come easily for Michael Pineda. He had just one 1-2-3 inning, the fourth, and his defense saved him at least one run and possibly two in the third inning. The Orioles had men on first and second with one out when Chase Headley made a spectacular diving catch to rob Manny Machado of extra bases. The ball was ticketed for the left field corner. The best part? Headley’s reaction. He was fired up:

chase-headley-catch

Thanks to that play, Pineda got through the first five innings scoreless, though he allowed some baserunners along the way and needed 93 pitches to do it. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the O’s broke through — the Yankees had a healthy 7-0 lead at the time — thanks to a Machado double (he’s so good I hate it) and a Headley error. Headley made another great diving stop, but he pulled Bird off the bag with the throw, allowing Machado to score.

All told Pineda was charged with two runs (both unearned thanks to Headley’s error) on five hits and one walk in 5.1 innings. He threw 104 pitches total and had eight strike ’em outs. There were just a lot of long at-bats. Nine of the 23 batters Pineda faced saw at least five pitches. Machado alone saw 20 pitches in his three at-bats against Pineda, including a 12-pitch battle in the first inning. Not the crispest outing for Big Mike, but he worked through it. This was the kind of start that could have gotten out of hand in previous years.

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

Keep Adding On
One thing these 2017 Yankees do that the 2013, 2014, and 2016 Yankees did not do often enough is tack on insurance runs. Those teams would build a one or two-run lead and try to protect it the rest of the way. This team keeps adding on. That’s why they have six wins by at least five runs and only four by two runs or fewer so far.

The first four of Saturday’s insurance runs came courtesy of Romine. He drove in two runs with a single back up the middle in the fourth inning and another two runs with a homer in the sixth inning. Romine drove in five runs on the afternoon and became the first No. 9 hitter to drive in five runs for the Yankees since … Joe Girardi! Girardi drove in seven runs as the No. 9 hitter during a game against the Rangers in August 1999. Love it. Here’s that box score.

That fourth inning rally was set up by a Judge single and a Bird walk. Judge stole third with one out (!) and Bird took second on the throw. The homers get all the attention, but Judge is a well rounded player. Offense, defense, baserunning, the whole nine. Of course he then homered too, because that’s what he does. Judge’s seventh inning two-run shot the other way into the right field bleachers (lol) stretched the lead to 12-2. Look at this:

aaron-judge

How does a 6-foot-7 guy get his hands like that and inside-out a ball into the damn bleachers? Who does that? Judge joins Graig Nettles (11 in 1974) and Alex Rodriguez (14 in 2007) as the only Yankees with double-digit home runs in April. He should have eleven too if not for that stupid triple. Judge went 2-for-2 with two walks, a homer, four runs scored, and a steal of third base on the afternoon. He’s hitting .301/.393/.767 (217 wRC+) overall. My large adult baseball son is all grown up.

Leftovers
Adam Warren replaced Pineda in the sixth inning and looked a bit shaky at first. He allowed a single to Hyun-Soo Kim, hit Jonathan Schoop with a pitch to load the bases — Schoop left the game an inning later, by the way — then uncorked a wild pitch to give the O’s a run. Warren escaped the jam when Caleb Joseph swung through a hanging slider. He then settled down and retired six of seven batters faced in the seventh and eighth innings.

The 6-7-8-9 hitters went a combined 6-for-10 with a double, two homers, and five walks. They drove in eight of the team’s 12 runs. The Yankees rarely got production like that from the bottom of the lineup the past few years. Now it seems to happen every other day. Add Gardner to the mix and the wrap-around 6-7-8-9-1 portion of the lineup went 8-for-14 (.571) with a double, four homers, and five walks. Goodness.

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

Tommy Layne, who had thrown 14 pitches total the previous 16 days, finished the game with a messy ninth inning. His inning went single (Ryan Flaherty), homer (Joseph), single (Craig Gentry), strikeout (Joey Rickard), walk (Machado), strikeout (Mark Trumbo), fly out (Trey Mancini). I know Layne hasn’t pitched a whole lot, but he’s been pretty bad so far. The Yankees need him to straight it out sooner rather than later since he’s the only non-Aroldis Chapman lefty in the bullpen.

And finally, Judge has tied the MLB rookie record with ten home runs in April. Trevor Story did it last year and Jose Abreu did it in 2014. Judge has one more April game remaining to break that record.

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will go for the sweep when they wrap up this three-game series with the Orioles on Sunday. That’s another 1pm ET start. Rookie lefty Jordan Montgomery and veteran lefty Wade Miley are the scheduled starting pitchers. There are four games remaining on the homestand and RAB Tickets can get you in the door for all four of them.

Yankees 14, Orioles 11: Judge, Castro, Holliday help Yankees come back from 9-1 deficit

This team. THIS TEAM. I love them. Even when things are going bad, they’re worth watching. They have Fighting Spirit. The Yankees were down 9-1 — 9-1! — after the top of the sixth inning Friday night. They outscored the Orioles 13-2 the rest of the way to earn a 14-11 walk-off win in ten innings. Love this team, you guys.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

You Can’t Make A Huge Comeback Without Bad Pitching
You know, the game started out so well for CC Sabathia. Seven up, six down on 16 total pitches in the first two innings. Sabathia got two quick outs to start the third inning, then Joey Rickard reached on a dinky well-placed infield single. Fine. Whatever. Get out of it. Sabathia couldn’t. He walked the generally un-walked-able Adam Jones, then served up a rocket double to Manny Machado. Machado’s double was the first hard hit ball of the game for the O’s, and it came at the wrong time.

A two-run third inning shouldn’t be the end of the world. The Orioles didn’t stop there though. Sabathia plunked Chis Davis in the shoulder in an 0-2 count to start the fourth inning — 0-2 hit batsmen are so annoying — before Welington Castillo lifted a two-run home run into the short porch in right field. Eight quick outs to start the game, then four runs allowed in the span of the next six batters. Sigh. Machado made it 5-0 Orioles in the fifth with this moonshoot of a home run:

Unless I’m forgetting one, and I doubt I am, Machado is the first player to clear the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar entirely and hit a ball into the seats above. Well, the camera row, not the seats, but you know what I mean. Aaron Judge hits balls over the bar and into the concessions area in batting practice all the time, but during the game? Never happened before. Machado is the first to hit it up there during a game. Can’t even be made about that. I’m amazed.

The end result was seven runs on nine hits, two walks, and one hit batsman in 5.2 innings for Sabathia. He was yanked with men on the corners and two outs in the fifth — Joe Girardi wasn’t about to let him face Machado a fourth time — and replaced by Bryan Mitchell, who promptly walked Machado and gave up a grand slam to Mark Trumbo to make it 9-1 O’s. Womp womp. The Yankees came into the game with a team 2.90 ERA, best in MLB. The correction was never going to be pretty.

I suppose the good news is Sabathia’s velocity came back. He averaged 88.2 mph with his cutter against the Pirates last weekend and did not look good at all. On Friday night it was back up 91.0 mph. Yay? Late career Sabathia is going to have dud starts like this one, with or without the 90-something mile an hour velocity. The Yankees were due for a disaster start and they got it out of the way in this one. Thankfully, the offense picked them up.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sentenced To Two Home Runs
Even when the 2017 Yankees are getting blown out, they’re still fun to watch. Judge, who has alternated homer games and no-homer games for a week now, clobbered two home runs Friday night. It was his first career multi-homer game. The first was a solo shot with the Yankees down 5-0, a line drive into the visitor’s bullpen. The second was a two-run shot — the Yankees were down 9-2 at this point — on a line into Monument Park. ON A LINE.

That ball left Judge’s bat at 119.4 mph. It is the hardest hit home run since Statcast launched on Opening Day 2015. (Giancarlo Stanton had the previous record at 119.2 mph.) The two-run shot brought the Yankees to within 9-4. Judge is only the seventh player in Yankees history to hit nine homers in April. The last? Alex Rodriguez. He hit 14 during that hilariously incredible April in 2007. Judge has two games left to join A-Rod and Graig Nettles (eleven in 1974) as the only Yankees with double-digit homers in April.

Fighting Spirit
The two Judge home runs gave the Yankees some life. Mitchell tried to snuff it out quickly. He went back out for the seventh inning and retired only one of the six batters he faced. Jonathan Holder had to come bail him out, but by then the Orioles had tacked on two more runs to build an 11-4 lead. That was deflating. 9-4? Eh, that’s kinda within reach. 11-4? That feels less so. Not for these Yankees though!

The comeback started in earnest in the bottom of the seventh inning. An infield single (Austin Romine), a double (Chase Headley), and a walk (Matt Holliday) loaded the bases with one out. Cleanup hitter Jacoby Ellsbury did a cleanup hitter thing and smashed a grand slam into the right field bleachers. How about that? It was his 100th career homer and first career grand slam. Suddenly the Yankees were within 11-8.

Cleanup Hitter. (Presswire)
Cleanup Hitter. (Presswire)

Following a scoreless eighth inning, O’s closer du jour Brad Brach — Zach Britton is on the disabled list with a forearm issue — got the game-tying rally started for the Yankees with a leadoff walk to Headley. Holliday followed with a very long single off the wall in right-center field. It was one of those “he hit it too hard and he runs too slow” singles. For a normal hitter, it’s a double. Either way, the Yankees had men on the corners with no outs. They were in business.

Ellsbury got Headley in from third with a fielder’s choice to second base that maybe could have been a double play. The defender bobbled the ball slightly but was able to recover to tag Holliday as he approached the second base bag. Ellsbury reached first and Headley crossed the plate to cut Baltimore’s lead to 11-9. Then Starlin Castro, who I’m starting to think might actually be good now, crushed a game-tying two run home run. To the very necessary video:

The best part of the game-tying home run? Other than the fact it tied the game? The follow through:

starlin-castro1

Castro dropped to one knee, Adrian Beltre style. He did that following his ninth inning run-scoring single against the Red Sox on Thursday night too. I can get on board with this becoming a thing. The Yankees tied the game and man, Yankee Stadium was alive. I haven’t heard this ballpark this loud during a random regular season game in a long time. The Wild Card game in 2015? Sure. The various farewell games (A-Rod, Derek Jeter, etc.)? Yep. It was loud then too. This was an otherwise nondescript regular season game on April 28th, and the place was lit.

Starlin’s game-tying home run was just that though: game-tying. The Yankees still needed to score again to win. They did that in the tenth inning thanks to O’s reliever Jayson Aquino. He walked Aaron Hicks to start the inning then walked Kyle Higashioka — Hicks hit for Austin Romine earlier in the game — who was trying to bunt. Higashioka was giving Aquino an out and he couldn’t throw a damn strike. That, by the way, was the first time Higgy has reached base as a big leaguer. He’s come a long, long way to get here.

Runners on first and second with no outs in the bottom of the tenth inning of a tie game seems like a good time for a terrible strikeout, and Headley obliged. Aquino got him to fish for soft stuff out of the zone. Blah. Headley’s been awesome this season, but that was a yucky at-bat. Thankfully, Holliday picked him up one pitch later. Do the damn thing, Matty H.:

Holy crap. What an incredible ending to an incredible game that probably half of New York turned off after the fifth inning. This team, man. They’ve got something special going right now. The kids are contributing, the veterans are coming up big … it’s all coming together.

(Presswire)
My favorite photo of the season so far, easily. (Presswire)

Leftovers
Welcome back, Didi Gregorius. Sir Didi celebrated his return to the lineup by going 2-for-5 with a double and a run-scoring ground out. He also made several sparkling plays in the field. Ronald Torreyes is awesome — his celebration of the walk-off homer was amazing — but it sure is nice to have Gregorius back, isn’t it? He made an impact right away, on both sides of the ball.

Shout to the bullpen. Well, the bullpen sans Mitchell. He was crummy tonight. Holder, Tyler Clippard, and Aroldis Chapman combined to retire ten of the eleven batters they faced to give the offense a chance to get back in the game. Couldn’t have done it without those guys. (Chapman took a chopper to his pitching hand but remained in the game. Didn’t seem to be much of an issue.)

Fun fact: the Yankees hit for the home run cycle in this game. They had a solo homer (Judge), a two-run homer (Judge and Castro), a three-run homer (Holliday), and a grand slam (Ellsbury). I wish I could look up the last time the Yankees did that or the last time any team did that. Seems like kind of a rare thing, no? Maybe Katie can dig that up somehow.

The Yankees had 14 hits total and the middle of the lineup, the 3-4-5-6-7 portion, went a combined 11-for-20 (.550) with two doubles and five home runs. They drove in all 14 runs. Goodness. Headley had a double and two walks as the second place hitter as well. What a job by the offense. In years past, they had no chance of coming back in a game like this.

And finally, Judge has nine home runs through 21 team games. I bring this up because the Yankees rookie record is 29 home runs by Joe DiMaggio in 1936. I’m not say Judge is going to do it. But gosh, he sure does have a nice head start, huh?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. Also make sure you check out our ultra-useful Bullpen Workload page too. Ultra-useful isn’t hyperbole, is it? Nah. Here’s the amazingly awesome probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

At one point in the seventh inning the Orioles had a 99.5% chance to win the game. The Yankees had a 1-in-200 chance to win the game. This was the one.

Up Next
Same two teams Saturday afternoon for the middle game of this three-game series. That’s a 1pm ET start, thankfully. Been getting kinda sick of those weird Saturday start times. Michael Pineda and Ubaldo Jimenez are the scheduled starters. Good luck predicting the outcome of that one. Anyway, RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game. Weather’s supposed to be great.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: Tanaka bests Sale in battle of the aces

Oh baby! Was that a fun game or what? Rain turned this three-game series into a two-game series, and the Yankees won both games while holding the Red Sox to one run total. Thursday night’s win saw Masahiro Tanaka outpitch Chris Sale, which is a very fun thing I hope to see many more times. The final score was 3-0 good guys.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Masterful Masahiro
All the talk coming into this game was about the great Chris Sale. And he is great! He was great again Thursday night too. But Masahiro Tanaka was better. He mowed through the Red Sox to finish the complete game shutout on a mere 97 pitches. He’s the first pitcher to shut out the Red Sox on fewer than 100 pitches since James Shields in 2008, and he’s the first Yankee to throw a complete game shutout at Fenway Park since Mike Mussina in 2002.

Weirdly enough, Tanaka started Thursday’s game by failing behind in the count to Dustin Pedroia, the leadoff hitter, 3-0. Tanaka hadn’t looked quite like himself in his first four starts, mostly because he was missing location and falling behind in the count a bunch, and three pitches into the game, it looked like we were in for more of the same. Instead, Tanaka got Pedroia to ground out, and only twice the rest of the game did he go to a three-ball count. He walked no one. Only three hits allowed two.

The key to Tanaka’s success? Pitching at the knees. Look at this pitch location chart, via Baseball Savant:

masahiro-tanaka-pitch-location

Tanaka lived in the bottom third of the strike zone pretty much all night. He was throwing fastballs, both straight four-seamers and running sinkers, for strikes at the bottom corner of the zone, then getting the Red Sox to swing over top of the splitter. The result: three strikeouts and 16 ground ball outs, including a pair of double play balls.

All told Tanaka faced 29 batters and only nine hit the ball out of the infield. He retired the final 14 batters he faced (on 39 pitches!), and the Red Sox had only one runner make it as far as second base. That’s all. Hanley Ramirez singled in the second inning and moved to second on Mitch Moreland’s ground ball. He was stranded there. The Red Sox never had a runner make it to third base. Incredible.

Tanaka is the first Yankee to throw a Maddux — that’s what the cool kids call a complete game shutout on fewer than 100 pitches — since David Wells back in 2003. Can’t say enough about the job Tanaka did Thursday. He completely stole the spotlight from Sale. Glad to see you back, Masahiro. We missed you during those first four starts.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Building A Run
The final score was 3-0, but that was only because the Yankees tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning. The score was 1-0 for most of the game, making Tanaka’s night more impressive. He didn’t have much margin for error at all.

The Yankees scored their first run in the fourth inning and they built it the old fashioned way. Aaron Hicks started the inning with a single to right, then moved to second on Chase Headley‘s soft ground ball. A passed ball — catcher Sandy Leon was clearly crossed up behind the plate — allowed Hicks to move to third with one out. The BoSox brought the infield in, so Matt Holliday had to get the ball airborne. A ground ball wasn’t going to cut it.

Holliday came into the game in a 2-for-27 (.074) slump and Rick Porcello threw fastballs by him all night Wednesday, so I don’t blame you if you weren’t confident he’d get the run in. I’ll admit I wasn’t. Rather than strand Hicks at third, Holliday put together New York’s best at-bat of the young season, a ten-pitch battle that saw him foul off four two-strike pitches before lifting a sacrifice fly to left field. Here’s the strike zone plot for the at-bat, via Brooks Baseball:

matt-holliday-chris-sale

What a battle. Sale had nasty stuff early in the game — he struck out seven of the first ten Yankees he faced — so it’s not like Holliday was out there fouling off 89 mph waste pitches. Sale was pumping mid-90s heaters and nasty backdoor sliders. Holliday was able to stay alive long enough until Sale hung one of those sliders out over the plate. Great at-bat. Great at-bat. (Oh, and by the way, the Yankees capitalized on another mistake, the passed ball. Yup.)

The Holliday sac fly gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead and they nursed that lead until the ninth inning, when the first four men they sent to the plate had singles. Hicks got it started with a single back up the middle, his second hit of the game. His batting line is currently sitting at .324/.458/.703 (218 wRC+) through 48 plate appearances. Amazing. Holliday drove in the first insurance run with a single to left and Starlin Castro plated the second, also with a single to left. Tanaka was dealing, but those two insurance runs were much appreciated.

Love this team, you guys. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Love this team, you guys. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Leftovers
More on Holliday: he went 2-for-3 with two singles and the sac fly, making this his best game in a couple weeks now. Both singles and the sac fly were hard hit too. The first single, in the seventh inning, smashed off the Green Monster and Holliday was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Not his best decision, especially leading off the inning. He was out by a mile. Still, good to see him swing the bat well, especially against such a great pitcher.

The Yankees had nine hits total, all singles, including two each by Hicks, Holliday, Castro, and Ronald Torreyes. Torreyes is definitely the player who annoys the crap out of fans of the other team, right? Right. The 2-3-4-5 hitters went a combined 7-for-15 (.467) while the rest of the lineup went 2-for-16 (.125), and both hits were by Torreyes. Sometimes you mash dingers, sometimes you have to string together singles.

Know who had a nice game defensively? Tanaka. He made a nice play fielding Pedroia’s comebacker to start the game, and he also did a nice job hustling over to cover first base several times on ground balls to the right side of the infield. That is an underappreciated part of Tanaka’s game. The man can really field his position.

And finally, although the bullpen wasn’t used, it is worth noting Aroldis Chapman did warm up in the ninth. He was getting ready in case Tanaka ran into trouble. So, even after throwing 33 high-stress pitches Wednesday, Chapman was available Thursday. If he’s hurt, this is a funny way of showing it.

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


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are heading back home for a six-game homestand. The first place Orioles will be in town for a three-game weekend series. Would be cool to go into Monday in first place, wouldn’t it? CC Sabathia and Kevin Gausman are the scheduled starters for Friday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any other game on the homestand.