Archive for Game Stories
Mike had some dental work done earlier today, and the rest of my day was busier than expected. We dropped the ball on the game thread, but it seemed to be a good luck charm for CC and the Yanks. The erstwhile ace won in Tampa Bay for the first time since 2010, and the Bombers turned a triple play behind him while also knocking out three home runs. It was, all around, a Solarte Party for a team that’s won five in a row.
CC’s Big Day
As Yangervis Solarte, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore turned a triple play in the second inning, CC shot his arms up in the air in celebration. The Yanks held a 4-0 lead, and for a minute, it looked like CC would crack. Yet, for the third time in his Yankee tenure, the infield turned a triple play. (The first involved A-Rod, Cano and Nick Johnson while the second was one of the zaniest rundowns you’ll ever see.) For a guy not known for his hot corner defense, Solarte had the presence of mind to head to the bag and flip to second. From there, it was nothing more than a routine play, and CC escaped.
From then on, it was relatively smooth sailing. A passed ball led to an unearned run while CC’s nemesis Sean Rodriguez lofted a home run in the 7th. By then, though, the Yanks led 8-1, and the Rays’ run was harmless. Sabathia again didn’t have much velocity on his fastball, but he hit his spots and changed speeds effectively. He ended the night throwing 72 of 107 pitches for strikes with six Ks.
Big Bats vs. Price
Offensively, the Yanks made tonight’s game look easy. The Rays opted to hold David Price back a day to face the AL East leaders, and it backfired. Price gave up six runs in five innings, and of the ten hits he allowed, six went for extra bases. The Yanks hit two triples in one inning, and Soriano and McCann went back to back in the 5th. After missing three games with a back injury, Brian Roberts went 3 for 5 with a double and a triple, and in the 9th, April superstar Yangervis Solarte lofted a Grant Balfour offering into the right field seats for his first Major League home run. Solarte, who had doubled earlier, is now hitting .373/.448/.569. It’s hard to imagine it will last, but it’s been a fun ride.
Odds and Ends
Carlos Beltran took a nasty spill when he ran full speed over the wall in right field. He seemed OK, but it sure would be nice if the Rays could afford a real warning track…Dellin Betances had a tough time throwing strikes in the 8th inning, but he still struck out three of the eight batters he faced. He threw only 16 of 31 pitches for strikes, but his stuff, when over the plate, is nearly untouchable. He now has 11 strike outs in 6.1 innings but 4 walks too…Derek Jeter is very quietly hitting .295 with a .380 OBP. With a .364 slugging, the power isn’t quite there, but I’ll take the average and OBP with no complaints…These two teams face off again tomorrow as Hiroki takes on Erik Bedard, making his first start of the year.
Every day should be like this. A few hours after shutting out the Cubs in the first game of the doubleheader, the Yankees did it again on Wednesday night, blanking Chicago by the score of 2-0 to sweep the quick two-game series.
Blanked By Big Mike
Even though he threw six shutout innings, I thought this was Michael Pineda‘s worst start of the season so far. He fastball velocity was down a tick or two and his stuff just wasn’t as crisp as it has been. There were a few cement-mixer sliders throughout the night. The career-low five swings and misses wasn’t much of an accident. Pineda was not as sharp as he was in his first two starts and Wednesday was more of a grind.
And yet, six shutout innings. Four hits, one walk, three strikeouts, and a bunch of weakly hit fly balls. That’s Pineda’s thing. He allows a lot of fly balls but they are usually popped up, not well-struck. With this outfield defense, those are close to automatic outs. Pineda’s biggest jam came in the fifth, when the Cubs put runners on second and third with one out. He stranded both with a strikeout and a weak fly ball. A runner was also stranded at third in the sixth.
Here is the PitchFX data from Brooks Baseball. I think it’s worth noting Pineda threw the same number of changeups as sliders (17 each) and also got the same number of swings and misses with each pitch (two). He’s really been using that changeup quite a bit so far, and some of them have been really good too. There are still a few hangers though. Pineda threw only 89 pitches in his six innings as the Yankees continue to take it easy on him following shoulder surgery. That this was his worst start of the season so far tells you how dominant he was the first two times out.
The Yankees did not have a great offensive game — they left 12 runners on base, including five in the first three innings– but they did come through with two big two-out hits to score their only runs. Brett Gardner did the honors in the fourth inning, pulling a single through the right side to score Scott Sizemore from second base. Sizemore beat out an infield single earlier in the inning, then moved up on John Ryan Murphy‘s single to left. They were the first hits of the season for Sizemore and Murphy, both of whom were added to the roster just yesterday.
One inning later, Sizemore drove in the second run of the game with a soft little bloop single to left. I thought he broke his bat on the play. Alfonso Soriano scored from second after reaching on a single earlier in the inning. Yangervis Solarte also picked up a base hit in the inning to help things along. The Yankees really scattered their 12 hits — I was surprised to see it was that many after the game, to be honest — and they only struck out three times as a team. This could have been a real frustrating loss if the pitching hadn’t been so good.
Three Shutout Innings
Even with David Robertson on the DL, the bullpen has not allowed a run in the last six games now. The trio of David Phelps (1.1 innings), Matt Thornton (0.2 innings), and Adam Warren (one inning) chucked the final three frames on Wednesday, though they weren’t the easiest innings. Phelps put the first two men he faced on base before retiring the next three, then two of the first three batters in the ninth reached base. The tying run moved into scoring position on Warren’s wild pitch. Thankfully, the Cubs are just too futile and they were unable to capitalize.
This was the first time a team was shut out in both ends of the doubleheader since June 1988, when the Twins did it to the Athletics. The Yankees threw their first back-to-back shutouts since August 7th and 8th in 2009, against the Red Sox. I think that was the four-game series with the 15-inning game and the back-to-back homers off Daniel Bard. You remember that, right? Of course you do.
Carlos Beltran, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Sizemore all had two hits, though Beltran picked up the only extra-base hit of the night (a double). Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Solarte all had one hit apiece. Kelly Johnson went 0-for-4 and was the the only starter who failed to reach base. He’s still slugging .533, by the way.
The Yankees have won four straight games and five of their last six. Since dropping those first two games of the season to Astros, they’ve won eight of 12. Only the Athletics have a better record in the AL right now.
The Yankees are heading out on a seven-game, eight-day road trip, which will begin in Tampa on Thursday. Former Cy Young winning left-handers CC Sabathia and David Price will meet in the first of four games.
That was worth the wait. After Tuesday night’s game was rained out, the Yankees won the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs by the score of 3-0 thanks to a dominant pitching performance and some timely hitting. Pretty much a textbook win.
He’s Ours And You Can’t Have Him
The Cubs reportedly pursued Masahiro Tanaka very aggressively this winter, and at times it appeared they were the front-runner to sign him. Instead, Tanaka wound up in New York with the Yankees, and on Wednesday afternoon he faced the team that tried so desperately to sign him.
In his third big league start, Tanaka held the admittedly unimpressive Chicago lineup to two bunt singles in eight scoreless innings. The first had to be reviewed because it was a bang-bang play, the second was a bunt to beat the shift by Anthony Rizzo. Tanaka struck out ten, walked one (his second walk of the season), and at one point he retired 14 batters in a row from the second through seventh innings. This was pretty clearly the best we’ve seen him in his three starts.
Of his 107 pitches, Tanaka threw 76 strikes (71%), including 16 swings and misses. Twenty of 27 batters saw a first pitch strike and only two saw a three-ball count. Just dominant. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, though it appears to be missing eight pitches somewhere. I do want to point out that of the 29 splitters Tanaka threw, the Cubs swing at 17. They missed ten times. That is pretty nuts.
The Yankees limited Tanaka to 97 pitches and 101 pitches in his first two starts, though they sent him back out for the eighth inning with his pitch count at 97 on Wednesday. He only threw ten more pitches in that inning, but even if he had thrown 15-20 more, I don’t think it would have been a big deal at all. Tanaka was pitching on two extra days of rest — he was scheduled to start on one day of rest on Tuesday, but the rainout pushed him back another day — and his next start will be on an extra day as well. He was on cruise control all afternoon. Basically a no stress outing. What a stud.
A Swing And A Slide
Thanks to Monday’s off-day and the rainout, the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran had two straight days off. If there was any concern about him losing his swing during the longer than usual layoff, he put it to bed right in the very first inning, clubbing a hanging changeup from Jason Hammel out to right field for a solo homer. His swing is just so, so sweet. From both sides of the plate too. The quick strike gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
The team nursed that lead until the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases on a single (Brian McCann, over the shift), a walk (Yangervis Solarte), and another single (Kelly Johnson) with one out. The not-so-fearsome duo of Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore were due up, and Anna took care of business with a sacrifice fly to shallow right-center field. McCann chugged home and slide under the tag. I think he would have been awarded the plate anyway because catcher John Baker was pretty clearly blocking it, which is now against the rules. One homer, one extended rally. Something for everyone.
Wait, How Did That Run Score?
I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life, but I have never before seen what happened in the fifth inning of this game. With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Baker was called for catcher’s interference on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s swing. The ball bounced off the plate and into the infield, allowing Gardner to score while Ellsbury was tagged out. However, because of the catcher’s interference, Gardner had to stay at third and Ellsbury was awarded first base. Except that’s not what happened.
Apparently managers are allowed to decline a catcher’s interference call and accept the outcome of the play. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Here is the applicable rule, Rule 6.08(c):
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when — The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.
Since Gardner scored on the play, Joe Girardi declined the catcher’s interference and took the run. Instead of having men on the corners with one out, the bases were empty with two outs and a run in. I’d make that trade too. Give me the sure run in a reasonably close game every time. That’s so weird though. Who knew you could decline penalties in baseball? Here’s the video.
Tanaka’s eight innings spared the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader. Shawn Kelley was the only reliever used and he allowed a soft single to right in an otherwise uneventful ninth, throwing 22 pitches. No idea if he’ll be available for tonight’s game. Worry about that when the time comes, I guess. Kelley has somehow saved four games already.
The Yankees only had five hits themselves, one each by Gardner (double), Beltran (homer), Ellsbury (double), McCann (single), and Johnson (single). Beltran and Ellsbury drew walks — Ellsbury stole second after his walk in the eighth — while Solarte drew two. Alfonso Soriano and Sizemore were the only guys to not do anything productive at the plate. The bases loaded situation in the fourth inning was the only time they had multiple runners on base at the same time.
The ten strikeouts give Tanaka 28 strikeouts in his first three starts, breaking Al Leiter’s old franchise record of 25 strikeouts. Believe it or not, Tanaka is the only pitcher in history to throw at least seven innings and record at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three starts. Pretty cool.
Let’s play two! The Yankees will look to complete the doubleheader sweep in a few hours. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and will feature Michael Pineda against lefty Travis Wood. Derek Jeter and his sore quad will return to the lineup in that game.
I think I need a cigarette after that game. The whole series, really. The Yankees hung onto a one-run lead for dear life on Sunday night, beating the Red Sox 3-2 to win three of four games this weekend. Man, that game was way too intense for April 13th. I love it.
Big Time Player Does Big Time Things
The Yankees signed Carlos Beltran specifically for games like this. They’ve seen firsthand how he can be an impact player in even the most pressure-filled environments, excelling in big games and big situations. If there is such a thing as clutch players, Beltran is the model.
On Sunday, Beltran helped the Yankees both offensively and defensively in their win over Boston. He got them on the board in the third inning with a two-run homer into the first row of the left field stands, getting out in front of Felix Doubront cutter but still getting enough of it to hit it out of the park. He didn’t even square it up — the replay showed it was damn near off the handle. Beltran also singled and doubled, leaving him a triple short of the cycle.
In the field, Beltran picked up his team by playing first base for the first time in his professional career. He’d never done it in either the big leagues or the minors, yet when Frankie Cervelli went down with a hamstring problem in the fourth inning, Beltran stepped in to play the position like he’d been there his entire life. Well, that’s not true. He wasn’t tested with any tough plays and only had to received three throws from other infielders. Still, with his teammates going down with injuries all night, Beltran stepped up and played a new position as a 36-year-old veteran. Dude is a baseball marvel.
All Hail Replay
We saw the Yankees take advantage of the new replay system a few days ago, when Joe Girardi successfully challenged a call against the Blue Jays that led to a run. He made another successful challenge on Sunday, this one on the play that injured Cervelli. The backup catcher/part-time first baseman grounded into an inning-ending double play with men on corners, but the call was overturned after Girardi requested a replay. Instead of the inning and the rally being over, Cervelli was declared safe at first and the runner scored from third on the play. That was New York’s third run and, ultimately, the game-winning run. Hooray technology.
Ivan The Kinda Sorta Terrible
This had to be one of the ugliest 7.1-inning, two-run starts I’ve ever seen in my life. Ivan Nova again struggled with his command, leaving fastballs and curveballs up in the zone all night. It looked very similar to his first two starts, but this time he found a way to get outs and give his team an opportunity to win. Real gutty outing, I thought. There were times it seemed he was on the edge of disaster.
Nova allowed the Red Sox’s first on a Jonathan Herrera single in the second inning — the Sawx put together that rally with two outs, stringing together three straight singles — and their second on a monster Mike Napoli homer in the sixth. He hit it over the visitor’s bullpen and into the left field bleachers. It was a shot. Nova retired the last six men he faced and only had two 1-2-3 innings, scattering eight hits. He didn’t walk anyone and only struck out four. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball.
Through three starts this year, we have not seen the Nova we saw in the second half last year. That guy was dominant and in total control almost every time out. This version of Nova always seems to be dancing in and out of danger each time out. These are character building starts, I guess. At this point Ivan is the weak link in the Yankees’ rotation — he has yet to cruise for four or five innings at a time like CC Sabathia has done in his last two starts — but he’s only had one disaster start. At some point he has to start driving the ball down in the zone more consistently, but on Sunday he was good enough to help the team win.
Man, the end of this game was ridiculously intense. The Yankees kept Boston in the game by going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding at least one runner in all eight offensive innings, so the score was only 3-2 by time the eighth inning rolled around. With Nova out of gas, Girardi turned the game over to his David Robertson and Adam Warren-less bullpen.
After Xander Bogaerts started the eighth with a weak fly out to right, Matt Thornton was summoned to match up with David Ortiz for the second straight game. Ortiz got ahold of a hanger and drove it out to right field, but Ichiro Suzuki tracked it down and crashed into the wall making a great lunging catch. It was awesome. Ichiro was only in the game because of Cervelli’s injury and, given how the rest of the inning played out, he had a real impact on the win.
With two outs and the bases empty, David Phelps got the ball to record for the final out of the inning. Before he could do that, he put Napoli (double), Daniel Nava (walk), and A.J. Pierzynski (hit-by-pitch) on base. The Nava at-bat was a real battle in particular. Boston had the bases loaded and the go-ahead run in scoring position with two outs. The left-handed Mike Carp pinch-hit and fouled off three pitches in an eight-pitch at before swinging over top of a curveball for strike three. That was a grueling inning to watch. Phelps went full Joba with the fist pump after getting the final out:
That eighth inning was as close as the Red Sox would get to tying things up. Interim closer Shawn Kelley tossed a perfect ninth inning, striking out two and getting a line out to center field. Piece of cake. Phelps was both the bullpen hero and bullpen villain on Sunday. He loaded the bases with two outs before getting the huge strikeout to save the game. At +0.175 WPA, the Carp strikeout was the New York’s biggest defensive out of the season to date. Feels about right, no?
The Yankees blew a prime run-scoring opportunity in the first inning, when Jacoby Ellsbury was thrown out at third on Alfonso Soriano‘s sac fly. The tag was applied for the final out before Beltran crossed the plate, so the run didn’t score. Beltran wasn’t exactly busting it down the line, but that play by Ellsbury was way too high risk/high reward for that point of the game. Baseball 101: never make the third out at third base, especially in the first inning when the opposing starter is giving up rockets all over the field. Thankfully it didn’t come back to bite them.
Rough night for the Yankees physically. Before the game we learned that both Derek Jeter (quad) and Brian Roberts (back) have been dealing with nagging injuries, then Cervelli got hurt in the fourth inning, forcing Beltran to first. In the sixth, Yangervis Solarte somehow got hit in the manhood crossing first base on a ground out and limped around for a while. He ultimately remained in the game. Brian McCann took a foul tip off the bare hand in the eighth but also remained in the game. Dean Anna is the emergency catcher, in case you’re wondering.
Beltran was the obvious star offensively, going 3-for-4. Brett Gardner went 2-for-4 in front of him, but the other seven batters went a combined 3-for-23 (.130) with three walks. Ellsbury singled, Solarte singled and walked, Kelly Johnson walked, and McCann doubled and walked. His double was off the very top of the wall in center field. Legitimately about three inches from being a homer.
And finally, the forgotten great play was Gardner throwing Jackie Bradley Jr. out at the plate to end the second inning. Grady Sizemore slapped a single to left and Gardner made a perfect throw to cut the run down. If Bradley scores, the entire complexion of the game changes.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some nerdier stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. The Yankees are in first place with the win. Well, tied for first with the Blue Jays and Rays, anyway.
After starting the season with 13 games in 13 days, the Yankees will enjoy their first scheduled off-day of the 2014 season on Monday. They will reconvene at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, when the Cubs come to town for a quick little two-game interleague series. Masahiro Tanaka and Jason Hammel is your series-opening pitching matchup. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for one or both games.
For at least one afternoon, the Bronx Bombers returned. The Yankees hit five homeruns on Saturday afternoon, two fewer than they’d hit in the first eleven games of the season. The dingers helped them to a 7-4 win over the Red Sox. Let’s recap with bullet points:
- Officer McCann At Your Service: The first dozen games of the year were a little rough on Brian McCann, who came into the game with a -10 wRC+ after beating the ball into the shift for two weeks. He broke out on Saturday afternoon, hitting a solo homer in the fourth and two-run homer in the sixth, both off John Lackey. Yankee Stadium sure can be kind to lefties, though these two homers were bombs, not cheapies.
- More From The Middle: McCann wasn’t the only Yankee to have a big day at the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano all had two hits, including homers from Beltran and Soriano. Those three plus McCann (the 3-4-5-6 hitters) went a combined 8-for-15 (.533) with one double, four homers, one stolen base, one walk, and six runs driven in. That’ll do just fine, thank you very much.
- Better Than It Looks: Mike Carp’s shift-beating ground ball single in the seventh uglified Hiroki Kuroda‘s line, driving in two runs and turning two innings in 6.1 innings into four runs in 6.1 innings. Inherited runners, man. Kuroda held the Red Sox to only A.J. Pierzynski’s two-run homer for the first six frames, striking out five and walking three. It wasn’t the best outing but it wasn’t a disaster either. Would look much better had the bullpen taken care of business in the seventh. Here is Kuroda’s pitch breakdown from Brooks Baseball.
- Shaky Seventh: Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley retired all six men they faced in the eighth and ninth innings, but the seventh was a bit of a mess. Matt Thornton struck out David Ortiz with two on and one out (good!) but was also left in to face Mike Napoli (bad!). Thornton plunked Napoli to load the bases before Carp’s ground ball single. Dellin Betances took over with runners on the corners before the inning ended when Carp was thrown out trying to steal second. He had to have missed a sign. Makes no sense to run otherwise. Things got a little tense in that seventh inning.
- Leftovers: Somehow the umpires ruled that Dean Anna was safe at second on his eighth inning double even though replays clearly showed him being tagged with his foot off the bag after the slide. The Sawx challenged it and they still ruled him safe. Weird … Kelly Johnson tacked on an insurance run with a solo shot in the eighth, so all seven of the team’s runs came on dingers … Yangervis Solarte went 2-for-4 to snap out of his mini-slump, so don’t send him back to Triple-A just yet … Brett Gardner singled and the only Yankee who failed to reach base was (surprise surprise) Brian Roberts.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up this series on Sunday night (not afternoon) when Ivan Nova gets the ball against the lefty Felix Doubront. If you want to catch the series finale live at the Stadium, check out RAB Tickets.
That damn sixth inning. If they handed out wins and losses for individual innings, the Yankees would have went 8-1 on Friday night. They were the better team in every inning but the sixth. Sucks letting a game get away like that. Let’s recap the 4-2 loss to the Red Sox, bullet points style:
- One Bad Inning: For the second straight start, CC Sabathia cruised through five excellent innings before the wheels came off in the sixth. He was dominant innings one through five (one hit, two walks, six strikeouts) before two homers led to four runs in the sixth. Jonny Gomes hit a solo shot, then Grady Sizemore golfed a three-run shot on a slider that missed its spot by about two feet. Between the homers, David Ortiz had a check swing single and Mike Napoli slapped a single in a 3-0 count. Sabathia threw a perfect seventh inning after that. Nine strikeouts and 19 swings and misses in seven innings is awesome. Having things unravel in the sixth inning two starts in a row? Not awesome. Here’s the PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball.
- Two Runs Ain’t Enough: You and I have seen enough Yankees-Red Sox games over the years to know two runs usually aren’t enough to win. Not even in these offense-starved days. Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees on the board with a solo homer in the second, then Kelly Johnson singled in a run in the seventh. He had a real good at-bat against a tough lefty in Jon Lester. Derek Jeter (fly out) and pinch-hitter Brian McCann (strikeout) wasted opportunities in the eighth and ninth, respectively. They ended innings with the tying run on base or at the plate, again respectively.
- Dealin’ Dellin: Dellin Betances struck out all three men he faced in the ninth inning and was just dominant. The good version showed up. Dr. Dellin, not Mr. Betances. Cesar Cabral walked the only man he faced on four pitches — it was Ortiz, but come on man — while Adam Warren allowed a hit in an otherwise uneventful and scoreless inning. Another good day for the David Robertson-less relief crew.
- Leftovers: Jacoby Ellsbury, Soriano, and Ichiro Suzuki were the only Yankees to reach base twice. Ellsbury went 1-for-3 with a walk while the other two went 2-for-4 … Jeter and Johnson singled while Brian Roberts walked … Carlos Beltran, Frankie Cervelli, and Yangervis Solarte were all hitless. Solarte is hitless in his last nine at-bats and 1-for-11 in his last three games. Is it a slump, or is the magic starting to fade? … Ellsbury stole his fifth base and is the first Yankee to steal five bases in April since Gardner in 2010.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. We’re only two weeks into the season, but all five AL East teams are separated by one game. I expect the race to be crazy tight all summer. The Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound on Saturday afternoon in the third game of this four-game series. He’ll be opposed by John Lackey. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch the matinee.
Could you have asked for a better start to this long four-game series against the Red Sox? The Yankees took the opener on Thursday night by the score of 4-1 thanks to a dominant starting pitching performance, a total team effort on offense, and stellar work by a bullpen missing some key pieces. This might have been the best game of the season so far.
Big Time Big Mike
Well how about that for Michael Pineda‘s Yankee Stadium debut? Dominating the Red Sox for 6+ innings sure makes for one hell of a first impression. Pineda struck out seven in those six innings, allowing just one run on a solo homer by Daniel Nava, the second to last batter he faced. He walked two and surrendered only three hits besides the homer. Of his 94 pitches, 63 went for strikes and 15 went for swings and misses. Fifteen of 24 batters saw a first pitch strike, including the first eight men he faced. Dominant.
Here is the PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, if you’re interested. The data says Pineda only threw six changeups (three whiffs), but it seemed like more than that. The pitch was very good for him in this game. (Just so you know, the pitch classifications at Brooks are updated overnight, so the data might change from what they have right now.) Here is Pineda’s velocity graph for the night:
Pretty noticeable decline in the later innings there. That’s not surprising for a pitcher making his second start of the season after missing two years following shoulder surgery. That’s why the Yankees have to be careful with Pineda these first few weeks. You don’t want to push him too hard when his pitch count is approaching 100 and he’s fatigued. That’s how pitchers get hurt, especially ones with a history of arm problems. The Yankees have done a good job of taking their foot off the gas so far.
Through the first two turns of the rotation, Pineda has been the Yankees best pitcher. He’s shown very good swing-and-miss stuff and he pitches with some serious swagger. His body language screams “I belong here and you can’t hit me.” I didn’t think there was any chance he would pitch this well after surgery, at least not so early in the season, but here we are. The old Michael Pineda is not back just yet, but this current version is pretty damn awesome as is. Hard to believe this guy was competing for a rotation spot a few weeks ago. Watching Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka pitch back-to-back days is just a joy.
One Run, Two Runs, Three Runs, Four
The first three innings of this game had the look of a classic pitcher’s duel, something we don’t see very much between these two teams. These games usually feature a ton of offense. The Yankees pushed two runs across in the fourth inning because their best players put together a rally for what felt like the first time all year. Jacoby Ellsbury started the inning by reaching on an error by the third baseman, then Carlos Beltran singled through the shift to right. Brian McCann broke an 0-for-way-too-long slump with a double down the right field, scoring Ellsbury and moving Beltran to third. Alfonso Soriano killed the rally but drove in a run with a ground ball double play.
The Yankees scored another two runs in the fifth inning, the first of which scored on a … Dean Anna homer? Yep. The team’s seldom-used backup middle infielder swatted a solo homer off Clay Buchholz, taking a Raul Ibanez-esque hack and sending the ball into the short porch in right. Can’t say I saw that coming. Derek Jeter (ground rule double) and Ellsbury (single) hooked up for a little two-out rally to score the club’s fourth and final run of the night. The top of the lineup contributed, the middle of the lineup contributed, and the bottom of the lineup contributed.
Today, We Spell Redemption P-H-E-L-P-S
Before the game, Joe Girardi said both Shawn Kelley and Adam Warren were not available due to their recent workloads. That is kind of a big deal. Girardi would have to rely on his “B” relievers to get the job done, and he indicated he would hold the veteran Matt Thornton back for a save situation. Naturally, the game was reasonably close (Yankees up 4-1) when Pineda was pulled with a man on first and no outs in the seventh. Never easy.
First guy out of the ‘pen was lefty Cesar Cabral, who did his job by striking out lefties Jackie Bradley Jr. and A.J. Pierzynski. He has struck out eight of twelve left-handed batters faced during his short big league career. Cabral gave way to David Phelps after the Red Sox lifted the lefty Jonathan Herrera for the righty pinch-hitter Ryan Roberts. Phelps retired him on a routine ground out to shortstop to end the seventh. Those were the first three of nine outs from the bullpen.
The next three outs actually came easier than the first three even though Boston sent the top of the lineup to the plate in the eighth. Phelps sat down Grady Sizemore (foul pop-up), Dustin Pedroia (grounder to short), and David Ortiz (strikeout) without much of an issue, though Ortiz did have a quality at-bat. Phelps really struggled in his first two appearances of the year, but he has rebounded well. That eighth inning was huge given who was at the plate. Great job.
The final three outs did not go to Thornton despite Girardi’s pre-game comments. The manager stuck with Phelps after his strong eighth inning and his faith was rewarded with another perfect frame. Phelps struck out Mike Napoli for the 25th out, struck out Daniel Nava for the 26th out, and got Xander Bogaerts to fly out for the 27th out. Nine up, nine down for the bullpen. Seven up, seven down for Phelps. It was his first career save. What a big time performance. Excellent job by him.
Big Mike Is Cheatin’ And Tryin’
It sure looks like Pineda had a big glop of pine tar on his hand during Thursday’s start, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s sweat and dirt from the mound, who knows. Sure looks like a foreign substance though. For what it’s worth, YES showed one image in which Pineda’s hand was clean in the fifth inning, and MLB Network showed what appeared to be a similar brown goo on Clay Buchholz’s forearm.
The Red Sox and manager John Farrell never bothered to call Pineda on the mystery substance, mostly because they would look like massive hypocrites after defending Buchholz (sunscreen) and Jon Lester (???) last year. One of baseball’s many unwritten rules says you don’t call out a pitcher for doctoring a ball because your pitchers are probably doing it too, and that is what seems to have happened in this game. Be a little less obvious next time, Mikey.
I think the Yankees need to start giving Brett Gardner the “steal” sign. Just call it from the dugout. I have no idea why he isn’t attempting steals, but it’s annoying. He singled with two outs in the third inning and didn’t even budge against the eminently run-on-able Buchholz and Pierzynski battery. That is the most obvious time to steal there will ever be. Just start calling the steal from the bench. Force him to go. This is getting ridiculous.
Soriano, Kelly Johnson, and Yangervis Solarte all went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, though at least Soriano drove in the run with the double play ball. Jeter was the only player with two hits and the Yankees didn’t draw a single walk either. Only struck out six times though, so the ball was in play all night. Also, Bradley and Nava made two excellent defensive plays after I trashed Boston’s outfield defense this afternoon. Of course.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. In case you’re wondering, that gray line “shadowing” the green line on the WPA graph is the projected game odds. Read this for the nuts and bolts.
One down, three to go. The Yankees and Red Sox continue this series on Friday night — assuming the weather holds up, last I checked there was some rain in the forecast — when left-handers CC Sabathia and Jon Lester square off. If you want to catch the game, RAB Tickets can get you there.
This one stung. Getting blown out like the Yankees did on Tuesday is no big deal, but dropping a close game in which the go-ahead and tying run was on base multiple times is a tough pill to swallow. The Orioles bested the Yankees in the late innings to win the series finale 5-4.
Second Start, Same As The First
In his first big league start last week, Masahiro Tanaka held the Blue Jays to three runs in seven innings of work. He struggled in the early innings before rolling late. It was a fine first impression. On Wednesday, Tanaka again allowed three runs in seven innings, this time to the Orioles. He again struggling early before settling in later in the game. Does this qualify as a pattern? Who cares.
The Orioles threatened in the first inning with Delmon Young’s one-out double — the Yankees will get him out one of these years, I think — and threatened again in the second, this time capitalizing when Tanaka hung a slider to Jonathan Schoop. The rookie infielder clubbed a two-out, three-run homer down the left field line that stayed fair and wrapped around the foul pole. After the homer, Tanaka retired 16 of the final 20 men he faced, including the last seven in a row. One of the final ten Orioles hit the ball in the air.
Tanaka gave up the homer on a hanging slider, and while it’s cliche to say that was his only mistake since they were the only runs he allowed, it sure wasn’t his only mistake. He got away with a number of hangers and high pitches in general. Tanaka needs to cut down on that going forward, but, at the same time, I think his unpredictable pitching style helps him get away with those more than the average pitcher. Here’s the pitch breakdown, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:
- 101 total pitches, 71 strikes, 22 swings and misses
- 41 sinkers, 30 strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 92.1 mph and topped out at 94.4
- 31 splitters, 23 strikes, 11 swings and misses (!), averaged 86.5 mph and topped out at 89.3
- 18 four-seamers, 12 strikes, three swings and misses, averaged 92.6 mph and topped out at 95.5
- Five sliders and six curveballs. I’m pretty sure PitchFX misclassified some sliders somewhere. Seems like he threw a lot more than five.
I didn’t think Tanaka’s stuff was as crisp as it was in his first start, especially his slider, but he still struck out ten and generated those 22 swings and misses. That’s pretty great. He shook off the homer like a champ and pitched deep into the game, which is exactly what you want to see after early struggles. The guy doesn’t get rattled. It’s awesome. Tanaka is still adjusting to the new league and a new culture and all that, and I think once he gets more comfortable and gets to know some of hitters around the league, he’s really going to be dynamite. Three runs and seven innings with less than his best stuff? That’ll do.
Death By Bullpen
For the second straight game, the bullpen let the Yankees down. Tuesday’s game was mostly out of reach by time Vidal Nuno took over, but the score was still tied when interim closer Shawn Kelley got the ball in the ninth inning on Wednesday. Ryan Flaherty slashed a double to leadoff the frame, then Schoop, Nick Markakis, and Young dunked singles in front of outfielders. Every hit except Markakis’ came in a two-strike count.
Once Flaherty moved to third with no outs on Schoop’s single, the game was just about over. Kelley is extremely fly ball prone and it was only matter of time before someone lifted a ball to the outfield for a sac fly. Markakis just did one better and singled. An insurance run came around to score on Chris Davis’ sac fly. Maybe replacing Mariano Rivera with no one in particular wasn’t a good idea? Matt Thornton and mostly Adam Warren escaped a jam in the eighth inning to give the Yankees a chance, but no dice.
The Yankees had an opportunity to take the lead in the eighth inning, when Brett Gardner led off with a double into the right field corner. He moved to third on Derek Jeter‘s bunt — I’m usually anti-bunt, but I liked it there because a) I don’t trust Jeter to do anything productive against a hard-throwing right-hander, and b) Jacoby Ellsbury is a high-contact hitter — but Ellsbury popped up in foul territory and Brian McCann flew out to center. Carlos Beltran was intentionally walked in between. Ellsbury’s the goat there, if you must assign blame.
The ninth inning rally came to an abrupt end when Yangervis Solarte banged into a game-ending double play. Alfonso Soriano poked a leadoff double to second and Kelly Johnson followed with an infield single off Davis’ glove, putting runners at the corners with no outs. Brian Roberts put together a long at-bat (surprise surprise) against Tommy Hunter, eventually lifting a sac fly into the right field corner. He juuust missed the pitch. Solarte ended the game as the next batter. Teases.
Signs of Life
It sure looks like the middle of the lineup is starting to snap out of their collective slump. Soriano homered on Tuesday and has been hitting the ball hard for a few games now. McCann did not have a hit on Wednesday, but he did lace a line drive right at the right fielder and I thought he had better at-bats as well. Beltran doubled on Tuesday and continued to rake on Wednesday, with a solo homer (into the second deck) for the team’s first run and a double to help create their third run.
The third run was the essence of Beltran as a player. He pulled a double down the right field line, moved to third on McCann’s line out to right, and scored when Soriano grounded out to shortstop. Beltran is nowhere near the runner he was during his prime, but he’s an incredibly intelligent player who still runs the bases well because his instincts are so good. The double set it up, but getting to third and scoring on the ground ball was all about Beltran being such a smart base-runner.
The Yankees lost Tuesday’s game partly due to their atrocious infield defense. In the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game, the team flashed some serious leather. First, Gardner ran down a line drive in center field, a ball that kinda knuckled from left to right and couldn’t have been easy to read. Next, Soriano made a diving/lunging catch on a would-be bloop hit near the left field foul line. Finally, Roberts made a ridiculous grab on a hard-hit ground ball, going to his knees before having to reach up to snare the ball. It was awesome.
Johnson swatted a solo homer for New York’s second run, his second homer in as many days. He also mishandled a hard pickoff throw in the eighth inning, allowing the runner to advance to second base in a tie game. It didn’t come back to hurt them, but that was a clear example of inexperience burning the Yankees at first base.
Tanaka walked Matt Wieters with two outs in the third inning, the first walk by one of the team’s starters since Ivan Nova last Thursday. They went 33 innings between walks, by my count. That is the longest such streak since … I have no idea. No clue how to look that up. Sorry. Probably been a while though.
Also, with the ten strikeouts, Tanaka is the first rookie pitcher in team history to strike out at least eight batters in his first two starts. That’s kinda ridiculous. The last Yankee to strike out at least eight batters in his first two starts? Mike Mussina, who did it in seven straight starts to open the 2003 season.
And finally, Jeter’s plate appearance in the eighth inning was the 12,000th of his career, the 18th most in history. Hooray for round number milestones.
The Red Sox are coming to town for a long four-game weekend series. That’ll be fun.
CC Sabathia Michael Pineda and Clay Buchholz will be the pitching matchup for the series-opener on Thursday night. If you want to catch any or all of those games live, RAB Tickets can help get you in the door.
Well, that wasn’t pretty. The Orioles pounded the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon, taking advantage of some shoddy defense and ineffective pitchers to grab a 14-5 win. Yes, 14-5. That’ll put a dent in the ol’ run differential.
Bad Defense, Bad Pitching, Bad Day
You’re not going to believe this, but a team playing a catcher at first base, a career minor league journeyman at third base, a 36-year-old with a long injury history at second base, and a 39-year-old coming off a major ankle injury at shortstop struggled defensively on Tuesday. Ivan Nova was terrible, giving up rockets all over the field, but his infield defense betrayed him badly against the Orioles. Really bad.
In the first inning, a potential Delmon Young double play ball got by a diving Derek Jeter, who showed off his fall-down range all day. Quite literally too. Chris Davis followed that with a sac fly, then Adam Jones crushed a two-run homer into Monument Park. If Jeter makes the play, does Nova throw a scoreless first inning? Eh, maybe. That’s a pretty big assumption based on how he was pitching.
In the second inning, Jonathan Schoop pulled a double down the left field line, right by Yangervis Solarte. It was hard hit but Solarte looked really awkward on the play. I’m pretty sure a full-time third baseman reels that ball in, or at least knocks it down and holds Schoop to a single. Ryan Flaherty came in to score on the play. That also wouldn’t have happened had Solarte kept it on the infield.
Jeter let another potential double play ball scoot by in the fourth inning, this one off Schoop’s bat. That loaded the bases with one out, and two runs came around to score on Nick Markakis’ sac fly and Young’s single. Later in the inning, Brian Roberts couldn’t make the play on a Davis ground ball because it was hit slowly and he was in shallow right field on the shift. A run scored on the play, making it 7-1 Orioles.
The infield defense sucked (no surprise), but that doesn’t absolve Nova of all the blame. He was up in the zone all afternoon and gave up plenty of hard-hit balls. Ten hits in 3.2 innings is not all on the infielders. Nova was charged with seven runs on the day (all earned), and he’s now allowed 23 base-runners in 9.1 innings this season. That’s … a lot. Nova has really labored in his two starts. No easy innings at all.
Too Far To Comeback
The Yankees scored a quick two-out run in the first inning (Jacoby Ellsbury single, Carlos Beltran double) to answer Baltimore’s three-run top of the first, but they didn’t score again until the fourth inning, when it was already 7-1. A six-run deficit is too much to overcome when you need three hits to score one run, as this offense does these days.
The team’s three-run fourth inning came on a leadoff homer (!) from Alfonso Soriano, a double off the left field wall by Solarte, and a ground out by Brett Gardner. First baseman Frankie Cervelli and Roberts also singled in the inning. The Yankees left a runner on third base in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, and two runners on base in the sixth. Some days, five runs just aren’t enough.
Once again, the two offensive stars were Ellsbury and Solarte. Ellsbury went 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base — he stole third base three times in one inning, but the first two attempts were spoiled by foul balls — while Solarte went 2-for-4 with two doubles. He currently leads the league with six two-baggers, though that could change following tonight’s games. It feels like the only time the Yankees score is when these two do something.
Vidal Nuno really took one on the chin in long relief, allowing seven runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings. He threw 67 pitches and I think he’s going to find himself in Triple-A tomorrow, swapped for a fresh arm. Preston Claiborne and Shane Greene are the obvious 40-man roster call-up candidates. The just called up Cesar Cabral got one out and Dellin Betances recorded the final five outs.
The Yankees tripled their season homerun output in this game. Soriano hit the team’s second dinger of the season, a solo shot leading off the fourth, and he pimped it pretty good. Kelly Johnson swatted a garbage time solo homer in the eighth for New York’s third longball of 2014.
Nova did not walk anyone in his disaster start, meaning the Yankees have now gone a full turn through the rotation without any of their starters issuing a free pass. The last starter to walk someone was Nova, back against the Astros in Houston. Pretty awesome.
These teams will play the final game of this three-game series on Wednesday night. Yes, the run of day games is over. Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start at Yankee Stadium in the rubber game, matching up against the righty Miguel Gonzalez. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game.
Baseball returned to the Bronx on Monday, and the Yankees celebrated their home opener with a 4-2 win over the division rival Orioles. After dropping the first two games of season to the Astros, the Yankees have won four of their last five games. How about that?
Welcome To The AL East
The Yankees knocked Ubaldo Jimenez out of Monday’s game after only 4.2 innings, and I think they only had one really hard hit ball during those 4.2 innings. That was Derek Jeter‘s double off the left field wall in the fifth. He actually thought it was a homer (so did everyone else) and started to jog to first, but he hustled it into a two-bagger once he saw it clank off the wall. The Yankees forced Jimenez to throw 107 pitches to get 14 outs, slapping seven singles in addition to the double. They also worked him for five walks.
The Bombers scored their four runs off Ubaldo in four different ways. In the third, Jeter banged into a 1-6-3 double play that scored Yangervis Solarte, who drew a walk to leadoff the inning and moved to third on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s single. In the fourth, Solarte came up with a two-out, two-strike single to right to plate Alfonso Soriano, who singled earlier in the inning and moved to second on Kelly Johnson‘s walk. Nick Markakis came up just short on his diving catch attempt. In the fourth, Ellsbury singled in Jeter after the double. Johnson drew a bases loaded walk to force in a run later in the inning. Three of the four runs were helped by walks. Walks walks walks.
I want to single out Roberts, who neither scored nor drove in a run, but played a big role in the game nevertheless. He saw 19 pitches (!) in his three at-bats against Jimenez, drawing a walk to load the bases immediately prior to Johnson’s bases loaded walk in the fifth. Nineteen pitches in three trips to the plate! Roberts took a full inning off Ubaldo’s day all by himself. He isn’t hitting much (.150 AVG through the first seven games), but he’s drawing walks (.346 OBP) and is a pain in the ass at-bat in general. I’ve said this more than a few times already, but these are the types of at-bats the Yankees were not getting last year, especially from the bottom third of the order. Roberts did not do any damage directly on Monday, but he sure made life tough for Ubaldo.
Ho Hum, Kuroda Was Very Good Again
Like I’m sure many of you, I was a bit concerned about Hiroki Kuroda coming into the season because of his age and late-season fade last year, but after two starts, those concerns are pretty much gone. Kuroda has looked like the 2013 first half version of himself, showing good velocity and being unpredictable with his breaking pitches. He did allow eight hits in 6.1 innings of work, including three doubles, but they were mostly scattered. The bullpen picked him up when the first three hitters of the seventh inning recorded base hits.
Here is Kuroda’s pitch breakdown from Brooks Baseball:
- 47 sinkers, 32 strikes, four swings and misses, averaged 92.8 mph and topped out at 93.7
- 24 splitters, 13 strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 86.2 mph
- 16 sliders, nine strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 84.4 mph
- three curveballs and two four-seam fastballs as well
Kuroda’s final line was two runs allowed on those eight hits in those 6.1 innings. He struck out four, and like just about every Yankees’ starter these days, he did not walk anybody. Fifty-six of his 92 pitches were strikes (61%), and until those three batters reached to start the seventh inning, he was cruising right along without much an issue. Outside of CC Sabathia‘s disaster on Opening Day, the Yankees have gotten pretty strong work from their rotation this year.
No Robertson? No Problem
Following the game, we learned David Robertson had to be placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade I groin strain. That means everyone in the bullpen will move up a notch for at least two weeks. Injuries stink but they are a part of life. Joe Girardi excels at bullpen management and he pushed all the right buttons on Monday.
As I mentioned before, the bullpen picked up Kuroda in that seventh inning. Matt Thornton was brought in to face Ryan Flaherty with runners on first and second with one out, and he retired the lefty with a weak ground ball to second base. It’s clear Girardi is using Thornton as nothing but a matchup left-hander and that’s great. He has no business facing righties at this point of his career. David Phelps, who has really struggled so far this year, came in after Thornton and got a weak ground ball back to himself from the rookie Jonathan Schoop to end the threat. I still don’t want to see Phelps in big spots just yet, but he did the job on Monday.
with Robertson out, Shawn Kelley was the closer du jour, pushing Adam Warren into the eighth inning. Warren walked the first batter of the eighth — his first base-runner of the season — before escaping the jam with a fly ball (Nick Markakis) and two strikeouts (Adam Jones, Chris Davis). The recovery was impressive after the walk. Warren’s been pretty good as a short reliever so far (ahem). Kelley recorded with first career save with two easy fly balls and a ground out on nine total pitches. Piece of cake.
The Orioles helped the Yankees by making two outs on the bases: Nelson Cruz forget how many outs there were in the second inning and was doubled off first base on Steve Lombardozzi’s fly ball. It wasn’t even close, Cruz was still near second base by time the ball got back into the infield. Brian McCann then picked Schoop off at second base with a snap throw to end the top of the fifth.
Ellsbury was thrown out trying to steal second base in the fifth inning thanks to a fantastic throw by Matt Wieters, but the replay showed he slid in just under Flaherty’s tag. It was very close but it did look like Ellsbury was in there. Girardi did not challenge though, and four of the next five batters reached base (two singles, two walks). Fallacy of the predetermined outcome, yadda yadda yadda, but Girardi should have challenged in hindsight. Could have really blown the game open there.
Ellsbury had two hits to continue his little hot streak. Soriano also went 2-for-3 with a walk and appears to be coming out of his funk. Gardner and Jeter each had one hit, Beltran and Solarte both singled and walked, Johnson drew two walks, Roberts drew one walk, and McCann went 0-for-4. He was the only starter who failed to reach base. Solarte creamed a pitch in the eighth that looked gone off the bat, but Markakis caught it on the right field warning track. Almost his first career dinger. Almost.
Funny moment: the Bleacher Creatures were chanting “So-Lar-Te! So-Lar-Te!” as part of the roll call for about a minute before Jeter told Solarte to wave. Rookie mistake.
Same two teams tomorrow afternoon in the second game of this three-game series. I guess that’s the alternative to not having the day after the home opener off, playing a day game so scheduling a doubleheader is easier. Who knows. Ivan Nova and Wei-Yin Chen will both be making their second starts of the season in the matinee. If you want some last minute tickets, check out RAB Tickets.