Game 31: Continue Winnin’

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

This road trip, in risk of sounding like a broken record, has gone pretty well for the Yankees. They could make it perfect with a win tonight before they head back to the Bronx for a four-game series against the Astros this weekend. With this streak, Yankees have already gone on the best 30-game start since 2010, when they also went 21-9. A victory tonight would make it their best since 2003. There have been a lot of good Yankees team from that time period so having that hot of a start this year is pretty neat.

Here is the Reds squadron and here’s the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Chris Carter
  8. 3B Ronald Torreyes
  9. P C.C. Sabathia

Seeing some scattered thunderstorms in the Cincy forecasts tonight. I don’t know how severe the rain might get but hope not big enough to affect the game status. This game is not on YES Network – it will a FOX national broadcast game so make sure to tune in there to watch it. It’s a 7:05 pm EST start so I hope you’re ready to watch it as soon as you read this.

Tanaka solid, offense blasts four home runs to beat the White Sox 9-1

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

I’m still in the high from that ridiculous Aaron Judge home run. But anyways, the formula was simple for this win — good pitching and good hitting got it done. Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff but he grinded out a nice 7 IP, 1 ER outing while the offense hit four out of the park en route to a 9-1 victory.

Welcome to the gun show

Unlike last night, the Yankee bats raked from the beginning. Brett Gardner began the bottom of first with a double and Chase Headley followed it up with a casual, 426-feet two-run home run. How hot is Headley right now? Sure, that was the only hit he had tonight (bust!) but he’s hitting an unreal .396/.500/.646 in 58 PA in 2017. I don’t know when WAR gets updated on Fangraphs, but I’d imagine he’s close to the top.

While that was all for the first inning, the beat went on in the second. Aaron Judge led off with a single and Bird hit a double into left-center to make it runners on second and third. Austin Romine, who came into the game hitting .333/.414/.542, squibbed a single up to the middle to drive Judge in. Ronald Torreyes followed it up with an RBI ground out to make it 4-0 Yankees.

For the next two innings, the Yankee bats went quiet against 2010 1st round draft pick Dylan Covey. The bottom of fifth started unceremoniously as Gardner struck out and Headley grounded out to make it two quick outs. However, Matt Holliday and Jacoby Ellsbury hit back-to-back singles to give Starlin Castro something to work with. And boy, Castro worked it alright. He hit a three-run home run into the visitor’s bullpen to give New York at 7-1 lead.

Two pitches after Castro’s home run, Judge put a charge on a hanging breaking ball and, well, destroyed it. Just watch:

Per Baseball Savant, that home run traveled for 448 ft with an exit velocity of 115.5 mph. I wouldn’t be surprised if that actually traveled further. That distance is A-Rod territory right there. At some point in his career, Judge will probably outdo that home run, which is exciting to think about. Oh yeah, that home run put the Yankees to a 8-1 lead and Covey exited after the frame ended.

Joining the dinger party later on was Aaron Hicks. As a pinch-hitter, against the tall righty Michael Ynoa (who I vividly remember as the top 2008 IFA signee), Hicks lined one just over the short porch for a solo home run. That was as cheap as a Yankee Stadium cheapie could get but hey, I’ve said it before: you play at the Yankee Stadium, you play by Yankee Stadium rules. Hicks’ hot bat probably caught your attention as well. The man is hitting .296/.444/.778 after tonight, which is quite Giambi-in-prime-esque.

#TANAK

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

Tanaka’s final line is as follows: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. Looks like a pretty swell start, right? It was not as easy as the numbers suggest. He had runners in scoring position three out of those seven innings and, to the White Sox hitters’ credit, they squared up the balls well at times, especially Jose Abreu, who had three hits off Tanaka tonight (including two doubles). However, Tanaka remained cool and calm and got out of the jams mostly unscathed. The only major blemish was the RBI double allowed to Abreu in the fourth inning to score Tim Anderson, which was the only run Chicago scored tonight.

Brooks Baseball had Tanaka’s fastball velocity as usual (topping out at 93.5 instead of going up to 96-97 like we saw in past two starts) and indicated that his splitter was working tonight. He got eight whiffs out of that pitch (29.6% rate). I mean look, how can you throw it any better than he did it right here?

After tonight’s start, Tanaka’s ERA sunk from 8.36 to 6.00. Regression to normalcy! The first few starts were not ideal but he will be just fine.

Leftovers

Bryan Mitchell came in to relieve Tanaka to start the eighth inning and pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. It is also his 26th birthday so, happy birthday to that guy. Tommy Layne came in the ninth with one out to get some work in and got the last two to close it out.

Tonight was one of those games where it just clicked well for the offense — each hitter in the starting lineup got a hit. I’ll take games like this any day.

Box score, WPA graph and standings

Here’s tonight’s box score and updated standings from ESPN and WPA graph from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees have a day-off tomorrow and will travel to Pittsburgh for a weekend series vs. the Pirates. New York is now 10-5 after a 9-1 homestand. Time to get the beat going on the road.

Life After A-Rod

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Way back when Mariano Rivera left the Yankees, I was writing for another site and had previously written about life after Mo. However discomforting it may have been to be without the world’s greatest security blanket (aside from my actual security blanket from childhood, of course), I felt a sense of optimism going forward. The Yankees had survived a year without him with Rafael Soriano closing and had David Robertson waiting to take over for Mr. Untuck. As it turns out, things have been A-OK in the closer department for the Yankees since Rivera left. Ironically, that stability has come in the form of many different pitchers, which serves to highlight Mariano’s consistency. Now, we’re left with a similar vacancy with Alex Rodriguez‘s release/retirement hybrid. Though I’ve hardly begun to process what it means to me as a fan that A-Rod will no longer be on my favorite team, it’s time already to look forward to 2017 and beyond without him. Nothing made that clearer than Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge arriving with authority yesterday, each collecting two hits and a home run in their Bronx and big league debuts.

Regardless of our attachments to A-Rod, at the end of the day, he was a roster spot and a position to the Yankees–the designated hitter. For the rest of the year, it looks like that spot will be filled by some combination of Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez, presumably with Mark Teixeira taking a few games in when he needs a blow at first base, provided, of course, by Tyler Austin. The use of McCann and Sanchez in some sort of catcher/DH rotation makes sense: both have good bats and it’s worthwhile to pace Sanchez’s arrival, rather than just throwing him into things right away. How this bodes for next year, especially given Austin Romine‘s general competence as a backup this year, is another interesting angle.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Mike touched on the idea of three catchers in a mailbag about two weeks ago, and with Rodriguez leaving, the idea of three catchers in 2017 makes a lot more sense now. And given that Austin Romine has seen time at first base this year, it gives the Yankees some flexibility that a three catcher roster would normally prohibit. How could the Yankees manage their three catchers, as wall as the (expected to be) returning Greg Bird at first base? Let’s take a look.

On the average week in MLB, a team will likely have one of Monday or Thursday off. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a week when the Yankees have a Monday off and have night games, with the exceptions of Saturday and Sunday. They could go with a simple every-other-day rotation, alternating McCann and Sanchez at C/DH from Tuesday-Saturday with Romine going on Sunday, allowing Joe Girardi to play to the matchups for the DH spot. Tough lefty? Go with Sanchez. Tough righty? Go with McCann.  Alternatively, they could catch in chunks: McCann on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sanchez Thursday and Friday, Romine on Saturday, and one of McCann or Sanchez on Sunday. If Bird needs a day off or a half day off, Romine could slip over to first with Bird sitting or DHing, putting one of McCann or Sanchez on the bench.

Brian McCann

Assuming Brian McCann is on the team next year, he is going to be the centerpiece of the offense with Rodriguez, Tex, and Carlos Beltran gone. Gary Sanchez is going to be a big part of bolstering and supporting the lineup and getting each player rest will be crucial to continued offensive success. Additionally, while the defensive outlook for Sanchez is better than it initially was, it’s doubtful he’ll be as skilled as McCann in the immediate future–despite his proficiency at throwing out runners–and breaking him in gradually may help that development.

Alex Rodriguez was a complex person and player whom I’ll miss dearly. It was a joy to watch him play for my favorite team over the last twelve years. However, despite that feeling, the Yankees are well-positioned to creatively replace him and his production at DH.