CC Sabathia, big hits lead the Yankees to an 8-4 win over the Tigers

(Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Clearly, the cold didn’t bother the Yankee bats today. After being shut out by Jordan Zimmermann and company yesterday, New York struck back with an 8-4 victory thanks to dingers and a big Jacoby Ellsbury three-run triple. Oh yeah, and fifth starter CC Sabathia threw a solid game to start off his season, which is always neat.

Hot Offense In Cold Detroit

Al from Miami, playing in the frigid weather, delivered a solo homer in the first inning on a Mike Pelfrey 92-mph fastball down the zone. It looked like a solid line drive off the bat and just didn’t sink until clearing the left field fence. Talk about a frozen rope in freezing weather.

The Yankees padded their lead in the second inning. Brian McCann singled to lead off the inning, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. A Carlos Beltran ground out sent him to third. Starlin Castro failed to bring him in (grounded out weakly to first) but Didi Gregorius did the job by lining an RBI single to left. 2-0 Yanks.

They were far from done with Pelfrey. In the fourth inning, with one out, McCann walked and Beltran added another baserunner with a single. With two runners on, Castro hit a liner to right to J.D. Martinez that momentarily went into his glove, but dropped in for base hit. Because it appeared that Martinez made the catch for a second, McCann didn’t get a solid start and stopped at third base. With bases loaded, Gregorius hit a sac fly to bring McCann in. 3-0 Yankees. Ronald Torreyes’s infield single loaded the bases once again. Jacoby Ellsbury delivered the knockout blow by hitting a deep three-run triple that made it 6-0 Yanks. New York roughed up Pelfrey in his Detroit debut.

The circle change! (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Six Inning CC

The Yankee fifth starter, CC Sabathia, was up for a tough task: facing that Tigers lineup in the cold. It’s not like he came off of an inspiring Spring Training either (5.51 ERA in 16.1 IP). For the first three innings, however, he was literally perfect, throwing only 34 pitches as well. His fastball sat around 85-87 mph, which is more Mark Buehrleian than vintage Sabathian.

In the bottom of the fourth, however, the big man faltered a bit. Sabathia allowed his first baserunner in the fourth with a four-pitch walk to Ian Kinsler. After retiring Justin Upton, he walked Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to load the bases. Maybe it was the cold or maybe it’s other things, but it was a totally different story with Sabathia’s command that inning. After striking out J.D. Martinez, Sabathia surrendered a two-run single to James McCann.

The bases were re-loaded with an Iglesias single, and up came Mike Aviles, who was 9-for-25 (.360) against Sabathia in his career. Aviles hit the first pitch hard to left but Brett Gardner ran in down to end the inning. That frame could have gone been a lot worse. 6-2 Yanks.

CC gave up another earned run in the seventh when Kirby Yates let the inherited runner score. Sabathia’s final line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. All things considered, not a bad start. He is also the first Yankee starter this season to pitch six full innings, so there’s also that.

Rest of the Game

Just as the Tigers were close to bringing some momentum on their side after scoring two in fourth, the Yankees took it right back. In the top of fifth, McCann got on base with a single (again) and Carlos just launched a 92 mph fastball from Buck Farmer into the right field seats for a 8-2 lead. That pitch was up and center, and, well, you know what hitters like to do with mistakes like that.

The Yankees did surrender two more runs in the bottom of seventh: a Kirby Yates wild pitch and RBI ground out by Ian Kinsler. That was just about all the damage that Yankee bullpen allowed though. Joe Girardi plugged in the Dellin BetancesAndrew Miller duo to take care of the last two innings. They went as well as you’d expect: Dellin struck out the side in a scoreless inning and Miller struck out one in a perfect frame. Ho-hum. Yankees won 8-4 in the second game of the series.

Leftovers

Starlin Castro had two hits today – the second one happened to be the 1,000th of his career. He’s still a young guy – a 90’s kid (born in March 1990) so I think that makes it pretty impressive. Our Katie Sharp wrote earlier this week that, with that accomplishment, he’s in company with some special names.

Torreyes impressed in ST with his bat control and he showed off his skill today. Starting at third on Chase Headley‘s day off, he went 3-for-4, bringing his season average to .800 with a 2.000 OPS. Yes, they are in a grand total of five at-bats, but it’s cool to see someone like him finally have some ML fun after being sent around many teams last offseason.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Here’s the updated standings from ESPN, WPA from FanGraphs and the box score and video highlights from MLB.com. Knock yourself out if you want to bask into this win a bit more.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees play the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game tomorrow against the Tigers. It will be a matchup of highly-paid starters: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Justin Verlander.

Offense no-shows as Yankees fall 4-0 to Tigers

On the bright side, Friday afternoon’s 4-0 loss to the Tigers was fairly quick. The game took only two hours and 44 minutes. The Yankees did their part to improve the pace by never once threatening offensively. There was nothing close to a rally.

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

Rested For Saturday
The Yankees and Joe Girardi have been saying they plan to rest their regulars more often this season since the end of last year. I just didn’t think they would rest them all in the same game. Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran were all on the bench Friday afternoon, and Girardi cited the afternoon game following the late flight into Detroit as the reason. That makes sense, I guess.

Not surprisingly, the Yankees didn’t muster much against Jordan Zimmermann, who looked razor sharp in his first start with the Tigers. They had two hits and three walks in seven innings against Zimmermann — he walked three or more batters only four times in 33 starts last year — and they didn’t have a runner make it to second base until there were two outs in the seventh. At one point Zimmermann retired eight straight and eleven of 12 batters faced.

The Yankees did a little better against the bullpen — Austin Romine drew a walk against ex-Yankee Justin Wilson in the eighth and Brett Gardner led off the ninth with a single against Kyle Ryan — but not much came of it. It was a little late by then. Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mark Teixeira had the team’s three base hits. They were all singles. Teixeira advanced to second on a wild pitch and was the team’s only base-runner in scoring position.

I understand the importance of resting the veteran players, I do, and I’m all for it, but maybe stagger the rest going forward? That lineup didn’t stand much of a chance Friday afternoon. The pitching staff is not good enough to put a game in their hands like that.

Death By Soft Contact
In the fourth inning, the Tigers put together one of those annoying rallies in which Luis Severino‘s biggest mistake was allowing too much soft contact. I hate those. It’ll go into the records books as two hits on four singles and a fielder’s choice, but there was one hard-hit ball, and it should have been an out. J.D. Martinez lifted a high fly ball to center field that Ellsbury misread and turned into a base hit.

It’s kinda silly that plays like do not get ruled an error. It was a very catchable fly ball the outfielder misread, yet it counts against the pitcher. So silly. Anyway, regardless of the scoring, the ball fell in and the Tigers had a runner on first with one out instead of the bases empty with two outs. Nick Castellanos followed by pushing a ground ball single through the right side of the infield, then James McCann pulled a ball into the hole at shortstop for an infield single.

Didi Gregorius saved a run on McCann’s single — at least temporarily — because he kept it on the infield, but he had to dive and there was just no way he had time to get up and fire to first for the out. So the bases were loaded on a fly ball that should have been caught and two well-placed ground balls. Stupid baseball, man. Jose Iglesias then plated a run with a single on this not poorly located slider …

Luis Severino Jose Iglesias

… which was the second hardest hit ball of the inning. Anthony Gose grounded out to second to drive in the second run of the inning. I initially thought there was a chance for Starlin Castro to come home for the force out — Castellanos was chugging in from third — but he was playing far too deep, so he instead got the lead runner at second. There was no chance at a double play because Gose runs too well. Some innings, man.

Sevy’s Slider
In a weird way, the Tigers were not a great matchup for Luis Severino because they’re so right-handed. He has issues getting his slider down, and on Friday six of the ten hits he allowed came on sliders. When a right-hander is facing a lineup full of righties, he’s going to throw a lot of sliders. Very few of Severino’s sliders were as good as the one Iglesias singled off in that fourth inning.

Severino’s best secondary pitch right now is his changeup — to be clear, Severino’s slider typically has nasty movement, but he doesn’t command it consistently, so it’s a location issue more than a stuff issue — and he only threw eight of them Friday because the Tigers are so right-handed. That’s a pitch usually reserved for lefties. Also, Severino very rarely pitched inside …

Luis Severino location

… which didn’t help matters. (The plot is from the catcher’s point of view.) I’m not sure if that was the game plan — guys like Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez are going to punish an inside fastball if you miss even a little bit — but Severino didn’t make them move their feet at all. Little too predictable there, kid.

Severino was mostly fine overall. Certainly not overwhelming or dominant, but it was his first start of the year, and it was cold, and he was facing a good team. His final line was three runs on ten hits and no walks in five innings plus two batters. He struck out five and threw 95 pitches. My big takeaway: the slider location still needs work.

Leftovers
Luis Cessa became the final member of the Opening Day roster to get into a game this season. He made his Major League debut in the seventh and struck Justin Upton on four pitches. Not a bad way to begin your career. Cessa then allowed an opposite field home run to Cabrera, so yeah. He struck out two and allowed just the one run in two innings.

The Yankees got their first taste of the new neighborhood play rules. James McCann grounded into a 5-4-3 double play in the eighth, but the replay showed Castro was off the bag when he made the pivot, so the runner at second was ruled safe. It’s amazing MLB is going to such great lengths to make the game safer, yet they eliminated the neighborhood play.

Gregorius went 0-for-3 and saw four pitches total. Castro, in his first game as the No. 3 hitter, went 0-for-4. He banged into one double play and nearly hit into another, but was able to beat the throw at first. Ellsbury, Gardner, and Teixeira actually reached base five times in a dozen plate appearances. (Ellsbury was caught stealing after his single.) The rest of the team reached base twice in 20 plate appearances.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the game’s video highlights. Here are the updated standings, if you’re interested. We also have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The former is pretty useful. I’m still not sure why I bother with the latter. Now here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Tigers continue this three-game set Saturday afternoon. That’s another 1pm ET start. CC Sabathia will toe the slab for his first start of the new season. Mike Pelfrey will be on the bump for the Fightin’ Miggys.

Teixeira’s go-ahead home run propels Yankees to 8-5 win over Astros

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Hey look, first win streak of the season! After several innings of chasing the lead (and tying the game), Yankees won Thursday’s game on a decisive Mark Teixeira three-run homer in the bottom of seventh. After dropping the season opener, New York won the next two to also the series as well.

Selectively Nasty Nate

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi flashed some nasty stuff: fastball hitting 100, slider and splitter at around low-90’s. Even when the weather wasn’t optimal for pitchers today, he flashed that mid-season heat that would make some forget about the frigid weather in Bronx for the last few days.

But all that didn’t stop from Astros’ bats fro scoring runs off him. In the top of the second, 1B Tyler White hit his first career home run. He had allowed a double to Luis Valbuena on a 89 mph slider and White hit a 87 mph splitter out of the park. With the next batter, against Preston Tucker, Eovaldi gave up another dinger and Houston led 3-0. If you are a Yankee fan, it’s not what you want, especially considering that Eovaldi isn’t exactly known for gopher balls (0.58 HR/9 last year).

That was not all for Eovaldi either. The fourth inning sort of summarized his outing: hard stuff, hard hits. He allowed three hits – one of them a deep double by Carlos Gomez – but also struck out two. Nate showed flashes of being an overpowering pitcher while allowing hard-hit balls without completely breaking down overall. Eovaldi’s final line – 5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 7 K’s and 2 HR’s allowed – should reflect that. It’s not the prettiest start from Nasty Nate but there are positives.

Fighting for the lead, one at a time

The Yankees had a chance to score in bottom of second with one out and runners on corners. Chase Headley hit a sac fly to drive Teixeira in from third to make it 3-1. It didn’t seem like Headley drove the ball that well but the wind pushed the ball back further. Next up was Starlin Castro, who has been hitting cover off the ball this series. He got another hit but got thrown out on the second trying to stretch the double to end the inning. Off the bat, the ball was hit hard enough to be a home run but it just wasn’t high enough to clear the fence. Castro didn’t really bust out of the batter’s box either.

New York tacked on another run in the third when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to deep right to score Didi Gregorius for a 3-2 score. They had even bigger hits in the fourth to continue the chase. Brian McCann took the first pitch from Mike Fiers in his second at-bat deep to cut the deficit to 5-3, and Castro followed it up with a solo homer of his own to make it 5-4.

Speaking of whom, how about Starlin Castro? We’ve gushed over his hot start here in RAB and today added more for us to admire. Sure, it’s too early to call it a success after three ML games but he *has* hit for a 1.833 OPS and played vital roles in offense for all of them. he’s a young player who’s clearly talented – he just has to maintain that success consistently.

It wasn’t just Castro who was hot today – the top five of the lineup (Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, A-Rod, Teixeira and McCann) combined for 9-for-21 today, which is always what you want.

Tex message to the other way

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

New York tied the game up 5-5 in the bottom of fifth with A-Rod’s first base hit of the year driving in Ellsbury. Two innings later, they took a lead against two impressive Astros relievers – Will Harris and Ken Giles. Harris had a great 2015 campaign with a 1.90 ERA in 71.0 IP while Giles was one of the most dominating relievers in ML, striking out 11.19 batters in 9 IP with a 1.80 ERA.

Harris got Ellsbury to ground out to start the frame. Gardner followed it up with a single, which prompted A.J. Hinch to bring in Ken Giles to minimize the damage. Giles, facing A-Rod, challenged him with two very hard fastballs – Rodriguez swung and missed on both, looking a little bit late. However, on the next pitch – another heater – A-Rod caught up to it and singled to center to put two runners with one out.

Teixeira was the next hitter. On a 1-0 count, Tex hit an outside 98 mph fastball that cleared the left field fence (just barely) for a three-run homer, giving Yankees their first lead of the day. I do not know if that would have been a home run in many ballparks but I will say this: it was hit hard and would have brought in at least a run or two in neutral parks. Giles, by the way, only allowed two home runs in all of 2015. In this series, he allowed two in two appearances. Baseball can be weird like that.

The scripted finish

Today, Dellin Betances looked like the Dellin Betances we’ve all come to know. At his best, he can make hitters look silly by making them chase at a curve down the dirt, and that’s exactly what he did to both Carlos Correa and Colby Rasmus.

Following Betances was, as always, Andrew Miller. Miller didn’t exactly have a squeaky clean outing, allowing two hits in the ninth inning. He did, however, strike out the side to wrap the game up and earn his first save of the year. His stuff looked pretty good, not showing any ill effects from chipped right wrist.

Leftover

Speaking of relievers – Kirby Yates made his Yankee debut today in the sixth and I’d say he did well – in a scoreless frame he allowed a hit but struck out two. I don’t know how he will perform moving forward but if he can register and outing like that frequently, he can be a nice piece throughout the season.

Here are the box score, highlights, and WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs


Yankees go onto their first road trip of the year tomorrow, playing the Detroit Tigers for a three-game weekend series in Comerica Park.

Starlin Castro leads Yankees to 16-6 win over Astros for first win of 2016

The first win of the season always feels good, doesn’t it? Especially when it’s a blowout. The Yankees walloped the Astros 16-6 on Wednesday night. Nice way to rebound from that yucky Opening Day loss.

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

A Good Start
So hey, it turns out the Yankees are pretty good at scoring runs when the reigning Cy Young award winner is not on the mound. Twelve of the first 17 men they sent to the plate Wednesday night reached base. Is that good? That seems good. Let’s recap the six-run first inning with an annotated play-by-play. (Click the image for a larger view.)
NYYvsHOUpbp(1) The six-run rally started with a catcher’s interference call, something Jacoby Ellsbury is weirdly good at. Since the start of the 2008 season, Ellsbury’s first full season as a big leaguer, he has 15 catcher’s interference calls, most in MLB. Ryan Ludwick and Carl Crawford each have 13, and David Murphy has eleven. No one else has more than eight. Weird. For whatever reason, Ellsbury seems prone to catcher’s interference calls. Hey, can’t complain about it. You’ve got to do whatever you can to get on base.

(2) The Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning without putting a ball in play. That Alex Rodriguez walk really seemed to set the tone for the rally too. Collin McHugh jumped ahead in the count 0-2, but A-Rod worked the count back full and eventually drew the walk. He laid off some tough pitches too. Rod is still such a great hitter. His at-bats are rarely non-competitive.

(3) Mark Teixeira‘s two-strike single started the scoring — he hit the ball so hard and George Springer threw it back in so quickly that Ellsbury, who was on third base, had barely crossed the plate when the throw was cut off near the pitcher’s mound — and Brian McCann‘s two-run single ensured the Yankees would not waste a golden opportunity. He was down 0-2 in the count, then went down and hooked a McHugh curveball into right field. Look where this pitch was:

Brian McCann

I know broadcasters usually reserve the “nice piece of hitting” line for singles filleted to the opposite field, but I’m using it here: that was a nice piece of hitting. McCann probably shouldn’t have swung at that pitch, but he had seen McHugh’s curveball earlier in the at-bat, so he made the adjustment and went down to get it. Just like that, the Yankees were up 3-1 and the line kept moving.

(4) The team’s first out of the game was a productive out: Carlos Beltran hit a hard-hit ground ball to first base that scored Teixeira from third. The Chase Headley at-bat after that was pretty big in my opinion. The Yankees had a runner at third with one out, and you definitely want to get that run. Headley could have gotten the job done with an out. Instead, he battled McHugh for an eleven pitch at-bat, the last pitch of which went for a run-scoring single. It’s still very early in the season. McHugh’s pitch count was over 40 in the inning, and I’m sure his legs were starting to get heavy. He seemed to have nothing to put Headley away. Ultimately, that was his final batter of the night.

(5) A-Rod stole the team’s first base of the new season Tuesday. Naturally, Headley stole the team’s second base of the season Wednesday. Go figure. Starlin Castro took advantage of the opportunity and drove in Headley with a single up the middle. I don’t really have much more to say about that. When Headley starts stealing bases, you know the inning is going well.

(6) Ellsbury, the tenth batter of the inning, made the second out on a line drive to short. Even the first two outs in the inning were hard-hit. Everything was going well for the Yankees. They worked the count and they made good contact against two pitchers presumably struggling in the cold. Textbook.

(7) I was really hoping Teixeira would get a chance to bat with the bases loaded twice in the first inning. Alas, Rodriguez popped out to end the inning. The total damage: six runs on four singles, one double, three walks, one stolen base, and one catcher’s interference. McHugh and reliever Michael Feliz combined to throw 65 (!) pitches. The Yankees led all of baseball with 125 first inning runs in 2015. They’re up to six in two games in 2016.

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

Oh, You Thought They Were Done?
The Yankees followed that six-run first inning with three runs in the second and another three runs in the third. Houston pitchers did not have a 1-2-3 inning until the eighth. Castro’s first home run as a Yankee, a three-run ding dong into the visitor’s bullpen, was the big blow in the second. McCann walked and Beltran singled earlier in the inning to set things up.

In the third, Teixeira’s first home run of the season drove in three runs to give New York a 12-5 lead. Up to that point, the Yankees had scored 13 runs in 4.1 innings against Not Dallas Keuchel in 2016. It was a classic Tex shot, pulled into the second deck in right field. We’ve seen him hit about a hundred of those these last seven years and two games. Three-run dingers are pretty cool, you guys.

Big Fly Mike
Not a good night for Michael Pineda, huh? He allowed six runs on eight hits and no walks in five innings, including three home runs. One was a grand slam by George Springer in the second inning, immediately after the Yankees’ six-run first, and two were solo shots by the very good at baseball Carlos Correa. Correa’s second blast hit halfway up the windows of the restaurant in center field. Look at this thing:

Statcast measured that homer at 462 feet. I’m not even mad. I’m impressed. The three home runs came on pitches very much like that one in the video, soft stuff Pineda left up in the zone. Really good hitters like Correa and Springer (and Correa again) don’t miss those.

As with McHugh, I’m sure the cold was a factor in Pineda’s rough start. It’s hard to grip a baseball when the temperatures are in the 40s, and let’s not forget Big Mike sat in the dugout for a long time between innings because the Yankees were scoring all those runs. I’m going to sound like a homer but whatever: I think Pineda (and McHugh) should get a mulligan for this game because of the cold. If he does it again in five days, it’s a problem.

Proven Closer
With a six-run lead and four innings to go, Joe Girardi turned the game over to new long man Ivan Nova. This was a real good opportunity to keep Ivan stretched out. Sometimes those can be hard to come by. Nova allowed four hits and a walk in four scoreless innings, striking out five. He threw 56 pitches. Ivan did a nice job closing this one without making it interesting. We all had Nova getting the team’s first save of the season, right? Right.

Leftovers
I feel bad for Feliz. He’s an actual prospect — MLB.com ranked him as Houston’s No. 10 prospect coming into the season — and manager A.J. Hinch hung the kid out to dry, leaving him in to allow six runs in 4.1 innings. Feliz threw 107 pitches (!) and was clearly out of gas near the end of his outing. I get it, the kid made the team as the long reliever and someone has to wear it in games like this, but man, that’s rough. His confidence must be shot, and I’m sure the ‘Stros are going to send him down for a fresh arm before Thursday’s game. Sucks.

Beltran hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to push the lead to 13-6. Lefty Tony Sipp, who I kinda sorta wanted the Yankees to sign this offseason, tried to climb the ladder, but Beltran just reached up and drove the pitch out left. Little Ronald Torreyes — I say that affectionately, the guy is listed at 5-foot-10 on the official roster but he’s really more like 5-foot-8 — came off the bench late in the blowout to hit a two-run triple.

Brett Gardner managed to draw four walks in six plate appearances. He saw 34 total pitches, by far the most of any player on either team. Believe it or not, the 1-2-3 hitters went a combined 1-for-11. They did draw six walks though, the four by Gardner and two by A-Rod. Ellsbury singled for that one hit. Dustin Ackley came off the bench to play the last few innings at first base. He flew out to right in his first at-bat of the campaign.

Castro and Gregorius, the Prestige Worldwide™ middle infield, combined to go 7-for-10. Castro had four hits and drove in five runs. He was a triple shy of the cycle. This middle infield is: cool. Teixeira, McCann, and Beltran had a pair of hits each.

And finally, the Yankees sent 49 batters to plate Wednesday, and 24 reached base. That’s a .490 OBP. Yay offense! Yay Yankees!

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here are the up to the minute standings. It’s never too early to scoreboard watch, you know. (Yes, yes it is.) Now here is the WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Astros will wrap up this three-game series Thursday afternoon, weather permitting. Right now the forecast is calling for rain pretty much all afternoon. Bummer. The game is scheduled to begin at 4pm ET. Nathan Eovaldi and Mike Fiers will be the starting pitchers, should the game be played. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to brave the coming storm.

Bats go silent, bullpen falters in 5-3 loss to the Astros on Opening Day

For the fifth consecutive season, the Yankees are 0-1 after Opening Day. The club’s vaunted bullpen let a 2-2 tie turn into a 5-2 deficit in the eighth inning — the umpires had a hand in that, but it wasn’t all them — because baseball is weird like that. Of course the bullpen blew it on Opening Day. Go figure. The Astros took the season-opener by the final score 5-3.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Opening Day Tanaka
Things were going pretty well for Masahiro Tanaka until there were two outs in the sixth inning. The very good at baseball Carlos Correa hit a solo homer to right to knot the game up 2-2, then Tanaka walked Colby Rasmus on seven pitches to end his afternoon. Prior to that he limited the Astros to one run on three hits, and even that run required some defensive funny business.

I wasn’t all that surprised Joe Girardi yanked Tanaka when he did. They weren’t going to let him pitch super deep into the game on Opening Day following offseason elbow surgery — he threw 87 pitches in the game — plus he has to make his next start on normal rest Sunday. Monday’s rainout knocked out the extra day of rest the Yankees were planning to give Tanaka.

Anyway, Tanaka was pretty good Tuesday afternoon, even including Correa’s game-tying dinger. Here is the PitchFX data on his outing, via Brooks Baseball:

Masahiro Tanaka pitches

Tanaka’s fastball was moving so much that I assume a bunch of those 51 splitters (!) are actually two-seamers PitchFX classified as splitters because of the movement. I mean, an 89.8 mph splitter? Nope. That’s a Nathan Eovaldi splitter, not a Tanaka splitter. Tanaka’s two-seamer was running all over the place. He was dotting that inside corner to lefties/outside corner to righties with the fastball all afternoon.

The one real mistake pitch, the Correa #obligatoryhomer, was a splitter that stayed up and caught a little too much of the plate. It happens, and hitters as good as Correa will make you pay. Tanaka was pretty good overall and very good up until those last two batters. If that’s a sign of things to come this season, I’ll take it no questions asked.

Hey Dallas, You Think You Need A Sweater?
It was really cold in New York this afternoon. It was 36 degrees at first pitch — the coldest first pitch at Yankee Stadium since 2003, according to Bryan Hoch — and it seemed Dallas Keuchel struggled a bit in the cold in the first few innings. He’s a feel pitcher, not someone who is going to blow hitters away, and it’s tough to get a feel in the cold.

Keuchel walked Aaron Hicks on four pitches in the first inning and Brian McCann on five pitches in the second inning. He walked two Yankees in 22 innings last innings, remember. Thirteen of his first 26 pitches were balls. That trademark Keuchel command was not there. He couldn’t paint the corners like he usually does, at least not early.

Carlos Beltran was able to squib a ground ball single through the shift — the team’s first hit of the season! — immediately prior to McCann’s walk. Chase Headley followed with what sure looked like a tailor made double play ball, but Correa bobbled the grounder and was only able to get the out at first. Headley almost beat it out.

With runners on second and third and two outs, Starlin Castro came to the plate for the first time as a Yankee, and he laced Keuchel’s second pitch of the at-bat down the line and into the left field corner for a two-run double. It barely stayed fair. Look:

Starlin Castro double

The ball got down quick and hugged the line, giving the Yankees their first two runs of the new season. Keuchel finished the afternoon having walked four batters in seven innings. (He went to two other three-ball counts as well.) His season high a year ago was four walks, done once.

It was cold — so much so some fan yelled “Hey Dallas, you think you need a sweater!” as a taunt — and Keuchel wasn’t especially sharp the first few innings. He settled down and held to the Yankees to only those two runs. The bats went silent after the second inning.

Battle of the Bullpens
First out of the bullpen this season: Chasen Shreve. He cleaned up Tanaka’s mini-mess in the sixth inning and got all three outs in the seventh inning as well. The eighth inning meant it was Dellin Betances time, and Betances started his outing by walking Jose Altuve on five pitches. Not ideal. Altuve predictably stole second. That’s what he does.

With Altuve on second, Betances quickly jumped ahead in the count 0-2 on Correa. After a ball, Correa nubbed a little grounder along the first base line, which Dellin picked up and shot-putted over Mark Teixeira‘s head at first base. The ball sailed into foul territory and Altuve came around to score to give Houston a 3-2 lead. Girardi popped out of the dugout to argue Correa interfered with the throw and, well, look (via @PinstripeAlley):

Carlos Correa Dellin Betances

You’re not supposed to run on the grass. You’re supposed to run either right down the line or along the 45-foot line in foul territory. Girardi argued, the umpires conferenced, and they ruled Correa safe anyway. And you know what? It’s the right call. Interference in that case refers to the first baseman’s ability to catch the throw, not the defender’s ability to make the throw. Dellin should have hit Correa right in the back with the throw. I’m serious! That’s how you get the call.

Anyway, Girardi continued to argue afterwards but was somehow not ejected. He protested instead. Don’t hold your breath expecting that protest to be successful. First of all, the umpires were not wrong. Secondly, only two protests has been successful over the last 30 years, and both involved the weather. That play is not reviewable, by the way.

So the Astros took the lead and the inning continued. Correa stole second — runners are 32-for-39 stealing bases against Dellin in his career — Betances walked Rasmus, and Luis Valbuena followed with a two-run single. Of course, Betances struck him out earlier in the at-bat (via Brooks Baseball) …

Dellin Betances Luis Valbuena

… but home plate umpire Dana DeMuth called the 2-2 pitch a ball, so the inning continued and Valbuena singled. The umpires did not help matters at all, but Betances kinda stunk, and Betances stinking is not part of the plan. Four of the six batters he faced reached base and two didn’t even have to take the bats off their shoulders.

With the 5-2 lead, Astros manager A.J. Hinch gave the ball to new setup man Ken Giles in the eighth inning, and Didi Gregorius immediately took him deep for a solo homer to cut the deficit to 5-3. Who had Didi hitting the first homer of the season? I thought it would be Brett Gardner for the third year in a row.

Anyway, Giles retired the next three batters and closer Luke Gregerson tossed a perfect ninth. Only one of the final 18 Yankees to bat reached base. That was Didi’s homer. Keuchel settled down and the Astros have a good bullpen. Ugly day for the offense aside from Castro’s double.

The Firsts
Since this was Opening Day, the Yankees had a lot of “first of 2016s” today. Here is a list of the notables:

  • First Hit: Beltran (ground ball single in the second inning)
  • First Home Run: Gregorius (solo homer in the eighth)
  • First Walk: Aaron Hicks (first inning against Keuchel)
  • First Run Driven In: Castro (two-run double in the second)
  • First Run Scored: Beltran (and McCann) on Castro’s double
  • First Stolen Base: A-Rod! (third inning against Keuchel)
  • First Strikeout: Tanaka, duh (Correa to end the first inning)
  • First Reliever Strikeout: Shreve (Marwin Gonzalez for second out of the seventh)

Johnny Barbato also made his big league debut out of the bullpen, and his first MLB pitch hit Tyler White in the hand. Probably not the debut he had in mind. Barbato did strike out the next batter he faced for his first big league out though, so that’s cool. He struck out two more in the ninth. Even cooler.

Leftovers
Castro had a very nice debut in pinstripes. In addition to the two-run double, he also made two nice defensive plays on weakly hit ground balls he had to charge then flip to first base. Not a bad afternoon for the new second baseman.

The Yankees had four hits: one each by Beltran, McCann, Castro, and Gregorius. Hicks, Alex Rodriguez, Teixeira, and McCann had the walks. The 1-4 hitters went a combined 0-for-13. Ain’t gonna win many games when that happens. That second inning was the only time the Yankees sustained any offense.

Gregorius got spiked in the left leg on Correa’s fourth inning stolen base. The throw actually beat the runner and the tag was applied, but the ball popped out of Didi’s glove. More importantly, Gregorius stayed in the game after hobbling around a bit. The homer is a pretty good indication he’s fine.

And finally, during the pregame show, YES noted the Yankees started the season with the roster’s average age under 30 for the first time since 1992. The average age of the 2016 Opening Day roster is 29 years and 99 days.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here are the standings, if you must see them after one game. Also, our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages are back, so check those out too. Here is the ol’ WPA graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of 162. The Yankees and Astros will be back at it tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium. Michael Pineda and Collin McHugh will be on the pitching bump. (I was planning to write pitching mound but apparently my brain switched to bump halfway through, so I’m just going to leave it.) RAB Tickets can still help you get in the door on the cheap even with print-at-home ticketing discontinued.

Season Over: Yanks go out with a whimper in 3-0 wildcard game loss to Astros

In the end, the team-wide offensive inconsistency was too much to overcome. The limp to the finish line carried over into the postseason and the Yankees were knocked out by the Astros in the AL wildcard game Tuesday night. The final score was 3-0. The season is officially over. Everything sucks.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Runs? They Didn’t Even Get To Third Base
Offense has been hard to come by of late — the Yankees scored 44 runs in their final 14 regular season games, or 3.14 per game — and the struggles didn’t go away in October. Dallas Keuchel certainly didn’t help matters. The Yankees mustered only three hits on the night, all singles, and they drew two walks. They didn’t even have a runner reach third base. The offense was totally overmatched. This game was not nearly as competitive as the score may indicate.

The hits: Greg Bird with two outs in the second, Didi Gregorius leading off the sixth, and Carlos Beltran with two outs in the sixth. Chris Young drew a one-out walk in the first and Chase Headley drew a one-out walk in the seventh. That’s all. That’s all the base-runners. The sixth inning was the only time they had two runners on base at the same time. So they had the tying run on base! That’s good! And Alex Rodriguez was up! That’s also good! So was Keuchel’s climbing pitch count!

That sixth inning rally, which really wasn’t much of a rally, was by far the Yankees best chance to get back into the game. Keuchel was tiring — manager A.J. Hinch went out to talk to him before the A-Rod at-bat to see how he was doing, in fact — and, at the very least, the Yankees had a chance to get on the board. Instead, Alex missed a cookie of a cutter …

Dallas Keuchel Alex Rodriguez

… and flew out to center field to end the inning. That’s it right there. That’s the pitch that could have turned the entire game around. Instead, Alex flew out, and the Yankees had just one base-runner the rest of the game. That was Headley’s walk. The final eight batters they sent to the plate made outs and only one of those guys hit the ball out of the infield.

Give Keuchel credit, he pitched a helluva game on short rest, but the we’ve seen games like this too many times the last few weeks. Maybe not this bad — I mean, three singles and two walks? yeesh — but bad. The offense really sputtered down the stretch. Bird and Beltran were the team’s only reliable hitters over the last few weeks and that’s simply not enough. It was a team-wide disappearing act. From watching Tuesday, you would have never guessed this team scored the second most runs in baseball in 2015.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Obligatory Home Runs
Two runs in five innings is not a bad start by any means, but Masahiro Tanaka wasn’t great in the wildcard game when the Yankees needed him to be. The first inning was incredible. Yankee Stadium was electric — I haven’t heard it that loud since the 2009 postseason — and Tanaka struck out the first two batters before getting a fly out to end the inning. It was amazing. What a fun inning.

Then Colby Rasmus ruined the fun with a first pitch home run leading off the second inning to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Yuck. Houston actually loaded the bases that inning and could have really blown things open, but Tanaka was able to escape with just the one run allowed. Carlos Gomez hit Tanaka’s first pitch of the fourth inning out of the park for a solo homer to make it 2-0. Tanaka’s homer problem continued to be, well, a problem.

All told, Tanaka allowed just those two runs on four hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out three and got a healthy 13 swings and misses out of 83 total pitches (15.7%). This was a grind though. Tanaka had to battle in every inning but the first. He wasn’t great but he wasn’t terrible either. All things considered, I think I would have taken two runs in five innings from Tanaka coming into the game, especially with the bullpen ready to go.

The Bullpen
As planned, Joe Girardi went to his big three relievers. Justin Wilson walked a batter but got a double play and four outs total. Dellin Betances was summoned in the seventh and he allowed an insurance run on a walk, a stolen base, and a single. The walk wasn’t surprising at this point. Dellin’s had control problems for weeks now.

The steal shouldn’t be surprising either — Betances allowed 17 steals in 21 attempts this year. He is very slow to the plate and usually it doesn’t matter because he’s so good at preventing base-runners. The Astros were very aware of his problem holding runners though, so pinch-runner Jonathan Villar stole second and scored on Jose Altuve’s single. Look at this pitch Altuve hit:

Jose Altuve Dellin Betances

Baseball can be so stupid sometimes. Betances and Andrew Miller eventually got the final six outs of the game without incident. The plan was Tanaka to Wilson to Betances to Miller, and that’s exactly what happened. Too bad the offense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Leftovers
I’m not sure what’s left to add here. Both Gregorius and Headley had a great game in the field — Headley made an excellent barehand play for the final out of that messy second inning — and Brett Gardner also made a great play running down an Evan Gattis line drive into the right-center field gap in the second. The defense finally showed up!

Gardner and Ellsbury were booed tremendously after making outs in the eighth inning. I hope they were just booing the team’s general lethargy rather than Gardner individually. I know he had a brutal second half, but he was pretty awesome overall this year. Ellsbury? Let’s just say I have no trouble booing guys with Red Sox ties.

And finally, the final out of the season was a soft McCann ground ball to shortstop. I was hoping he’d pop-up one last time. Alas.

Box Score & WPA Graph
Here’s the box score and video highlights. I might as well link you to the season standings, Bullpen Workload page, and Announcer Standings page one last time. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Up Next? Up next is the offseason. The next time we see the Yankees will be roughly four months from now in Tampa, when they report to Spring Training. Every offseason is busy and exciting and this one will be no different. Thanks for reading this season. The ending sucked but it was still a fun year.

Yankees drop season finale 9-4 to O’s, clinch home field in wildcard game anyway

The Yankees have successfully backed into the postseason. They closed out their 2015 season with a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday, though thanks to the Diamondbacks, they were still able to secure home field advantage in the wildcard game anyway. The Yankees went 1-6 in their final seven regular season games and finished the year 87-75 with a +66 run differential.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Miniscule Mike
In his biggest start as a Yankee, Michael Pineda didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Pineda put the Yankees in an early 2-0 hole in the first inning, allowing Matt Wieters to drive in Gerardo Parra (single) and Chris Davis (double) with a single down the right field line. Two-out runs are just the worst. Love scoring ’em, hate allowing ’em.

Pineda tossed scoreless second and third innings before the wheels came off in the fourth. Wieters doubled — it was a single into the right-center field gap that Carlos Beltran helped turn into a double with his veteran gait — to start the frame, then Pineda got two quick outs, putting himself in position to escape the jam. Instead, J.J. Hardy poked a two-out, two-strike single back up the middle to score the run and give the O’s a 3-1 lead.

Joe Girardi went to Chris Capuano for the left-on-left matchup against Ryan Flaherty, and of course it didn’t work. It seems like every move Girardi has made over the last month has backfired, even the ones that made sense. Flaherty ripped a hard hit grounder back up the middle, it deflected off Capuano’s foot, and impromptu second baseman Dustin Ackley flat out whiffed on the ball. He was in perfect position to corral the chopper and throw to first for the final out. Instead the ball got by him and scooted into right field for a double.

Following an intentional walk to Nolan Reimold, Capuano allowed a two-run, two-strike, two-out single to Parra to break the game open. The Orioles were up 5-1. Pineda was charged with four of the five runs even though he was only actually on the mound for three of them. He allowed those four runs on six hits and no walks in 3.2 innings. He struck out five. Pineda had a 5.48 ERA after coming off the DL and a 5.04 ERA since the 16-strikeout game. Bad.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Four Runs Ain’t Enough
For only the fifth time in their last 12 games, the Yankees scored 4+ runs Sunday afternoon. They had chances, oh they had plenty of chances, but these days those chances only mean the other team has the Yankees right where they want them. The Yankees collectively seem to be squeezing sap out of the bat and are simply unable to capitalize on their opportunities. They get plenty of opportunities! But not enough runs.

The Yankees scored their first run in the second inning on Ackley’s ground out. Greg Bird started the inning with an opposite field double into the left field corner and Chase Headley moved him up to third with a ground out. They scored their second run in the sixth inning, that on a Didi Gregorius triple. Reimold made an awkward diving attempt but flat out whiffed. Ackley singled as the previous batter and scored the run.

Later in the game, after the Orioles had blown it open (more on that in a bit), the Yankees managed to tack on two more runs. By then it was too little, too late. Beltran, Brian McCann, and Bird strung together back-to-back-to-back one-out singles in the seventh to score a run, then Headley drew a walk to load the bases. Ackley plated another run with a fielder’s choice, which in this case means a tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball Hardy bobbled. There’s the four runs.

Let’s talk about those blown chances now. In the very first inning, Alex Rodriguez walked and Beltran singled to right with two outs, putting two men on base. McCann then popped on the first pitch to end the inning. Gregorius followed Ackley’s run-scoring ground out with a two-out double but was stranded when Jacoby Ellsbury struck out. That’s three runners left on base through two innings.

Beltran drew a two-out walk in the third and was left hanging when McCann again popped up on the first pitch. Ackley tripled — Reimold made another awkward diving attempt in center — and Gregorius walked with two outs in the fourth, but then Ellsbury grounded out to first to end the inning. Didi’s run-scoring triple in the sixth was followed by an Ellsbury pop-up (first pitch, of course) and a Brett Gardner ground out. Another stranded runner.

After Ackley’s run-scoring fielder’s choice in the seventh, Gregorius popped up with runners at the corners to end the inning. He actually represented the tying run at the time. The O’s pulled away but the Yankees did put up a bit of a fight in that seventh inning. Either way, the Yankees left a runner on base in each of their first seven innings. They went quietly after that.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Blown Open
Obviously the decision to go to Capuano in the fourth inning was weird, but, to me, that’s on the front office, not Girardi. The Yankees didn’t add any pitching depth at the trade deadline — it was an obvious need at the time — so Girardi’s options were either Capuano or a bunch of kids. A bunch of kids who have done little to stand out in their limited time as big leaguers.

So Girardi went to Capuano and it didn’t work out. In the next inning he gave the ball to Bryan Mitchell, who walked Manny Machado and served up a mammoth two-run homer to Davis. He hit it the other way into the bullpens. Mitchell was pretty awesome for a while earlier this summer, then he got hit in the face by the line drive, and he hasn’t been effective since. The Davis homer made it 7-1 Fightin’ Showalters.

James Pazos, Andrew Bailey, Branden Pinder, Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, and Caleb Cotham combined for the final eleven outs. Wilson and Miller threw five and eight pitches, respectively. That was just a tune-up so they didn’t go five days between appearances heading into the wildcard game. Cotham served up a two-run homer to Davis in what was likely his final at-bat as an Oriole. That was kinda cool.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees had ten hits and McCann was the only player with exactly one hit. Beltran had three and Bird, Ackley, and Gregorius had two apiece. The top three spots in the lineup went a combined 0-for-13 with two walks, both by A-Rod. The bottom four spots went 6-for-15 (.400) with two walks. McCann broke an 0-for-23 (!) slump with his seventh inning single.

Girardi emptied his bench in the ninth and got Rico Noel (ground out), Gary Sanchez (strikeout), and Jose Pirela (strikeout) one last at-bat. Pirela grounded out to second to end the season. Remember how it started? Masahiro Tanaka struck out Jose Reyes on three pitches. His first pitch of the year was a slider. That feels like a lifetime ago.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game and here are the final standings for the season. Hard to believe it’s been 162 games already. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Bonus Out-of-Town WPA Graph
As I mentioned in the intro, the D’Backs beat the Astros in Arizona, clinching home field advantage in the wildcard game for the Yankees. Paul Goldschmidt’s seventh inning two-run home run off former Yankee Chad Qualls was the big blow. Here’s the box score and win probability graph for that game:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The regular season is over and thank goodness after that limp to the finish. The Yankees and the rest of the baseball world have an off-day Monday, then the AL wildcard game will be played Tuesday night at 8pm ET. It’ll be the Yankees and Astros. Tanaka will indeed be opposed by Dallas Keuchel, who will be working on three days’ rest for the first time of his career.