Sabathia returns, Yanks beat A’s 8-3 for third straight win


Source: FanGraphs

For the first time this season, the Yankees have won three consecutive games. I’m not joking. First time all year. Crazy, huh? The Yankees beat the Athletics 8-3 on Friday night and they have now won ten of their last 15 games. I wouldn’t say things are going great just yet, but they’re definitely heading in the right direction. West Coast night games get bullet point recaps, so let’s dive in:

  • CC Returns: After 15 days on the DL with a hamstring injury, CC Sabathia returned Friday night and was pretty damn awesome. He allowed a run in the second inning on a walk, a hit batsman, and a single, then settled down to retire 13 of the final 16 batters he faced. Sabathia struck out a season high eight in six innings, allowing just the one run on three singles and a walk. He didn’t show any rust, didn’t run out of gas in the middle innings, nothing. It was like he never left. Sabathia now has a 3.41 ERA (3.19 FIP) on the season. Welcome back, big man.
  • Five in the Fourth: It was obvious early on Sonny Gray did not have it. He hasn’t had it all season, really. Gray was behind in the count all night and he struggled to put guys away with two strikes. In the fourth inning, the Yankees finally made him pay. Following an Aaron Hicks walk and Didi Gregorius single, Ronald Torreyes ripped a legit triple over Coco Crisp’s head in center to plate two runs. A wild pitch brought Torreyes home, then Carlos Beltran doubled in two more later in the inning for the 5-1 lead. Been a while since the Yankees had a big inning like that.
  • The Non-Big Three: The Yankees had a short bullpen Friday night after the big three relievers each pitched Wednesday and Thursday. The big lead allowed Joe Girardi to go to Kirby Yates and Chasen Shreve to close things out and they made it stress free. Yates did allow a run on a single and a double in the seventh, and Shreve allowed a run on a triple and a ground out in the ninth, but that’s no big deal. Yates threw two innings, Shreve threw one.
  • Leftovers: Beltran paced the offense by going 3-for-5 with three doubles. Jacoby Ellsbury (single, two-run triple, walk, catcher’s interference) and Brett Gardner (single, walk) reached base six times in front of him … the 7-8-9 hitters (Hicks, Gregorius, Torreyes) went a combined 6-for-12 with three walks … Mark Teixeira went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and continues to look completely lost from the left side of the plate … Ellsbury’s catcher’s interference was his fifth of the season already. The single-season record is eight by Roberto Kelly with the 1992 Yankees … and finally, this was Sabathia’s 100th win as a Yankee. Pretty cool.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings, and here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. This four-game series continues with the third game Saturday. That’s a 4:05pm ET start. Masahiro Tanaka and rookie lefty Sean Manaea will be the pitching matchup.

DotF: Hensley needs second Tommy John surgery

Awful news: RHP Ty Hensley needs a second Tommy John surgery, Brian Cashman and farm system head Gary Denbo confirmed to Chad Jennings. Hensley had his first Tommy John last year. He was the team’s first round pick in 2012 (30th overall) and he’s thrown only 42.1 innings in parts of five seasons due to various injuries (hips, hernia, elbow). Poor kid. Here are some other notes, including more injury updates from Jennings:

  • RHP James Kaprielian (elbow inflammation) will begin a throwing program shortly. We recently heard he’s expected to be back on a mound within 4-6 week. LHP Jacob Lindgren (elbow) is still shut down. Doesn’t sound like Lindgren’s return is imminent.
  • OF Mason Williams (shoulder), OF Slade Heathcott (knee), C Luis Torrens (shoulder), OF Trey Amburgey (hamstring), and RHP Domingo Acevedo (hamstring) are all said to be working their way back with no issues.
  • RHP Austin DeCarr and RHP Domingo German are both progressing well in their rehab from Tommy John surgery. There’s no timetable for their return to game action yet.
  • LHP Nestor Cortes landed in Baseball America’s Prospect Report today after striking out 12 last night. It’s not behind the paywall, so make sure you check it out.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Indianapolis)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 0-4
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 RBI
  • DH Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K — back-to-back games with an extra-base hit for the first time since signing
  • CF Cesar Puello: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — missed some time with a concussion, but he’s quietly hitting .283/.443/.400 so far
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 8/3 GB/FB — 53 of 91 pitches were strikes (58%) … he still has a 1.74 ERA on the season
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 29 of 45 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 1/0 GB/FB — four pitches, three strikes

[Read more…]

Game 41: Can the Yankees make it three straight?

Nightmare fuel. (Presswire)
Nightmare fuel. (Presswire)

The season is roughly one-quarter of the way complete and the Yankees still have not won three consecutive games all year. Isn’t that unbelievable? The Astros are the only other team in baseball without a winning streak of at least three games this year. I guess the AL wildcard game screwed everyone up.

Tonight the Yankees have a chance to win their third straight game and boy, it would be really nice to see them get over that hump. They’ve won nine of their last 14 games overall, so they’ve been playing better, but they’re probably not going to climb out of last place winning two games at a time. At some point they need an extended winning streak. What better time than now? Here is the Athletics’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s another cool, cloudy, and windy night in Oakland. Same weather as last night. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 9:30pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) ran the bases again. The Yankees are facing a lefty tomorrow, so if they’re going to activate A-Rod this weekend, that would be a good time to do it … Luis Severino (triceps) is expected to resume playing catch this weekend.

Roster Moves: James Pazos was sent down to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Sabathia … Phil Coke cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton. He can still elect free agency.

Friday Night Open Thread

We’ve got another West Coast night game tonight, but at least it’s the last one on the trip. Two afternoon games this weekend. Here’s the open thread until the regular game thread comes along. The Mets are playing and MLB Network is showing a regional game. You’ve also got NBA and NHL playoff action, so talk about any of that stuff right here.

Yankees sign Neal Cotts to minor league deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have signed veteran left-hander Neal Cotts to a minor league contract, the team announced. He’s heading to Triple-A Scranton. Cotts opted out of his minor league deal with the Angels a few days ago. Seems like he’s taking Phil Coke‘s spot in the organization after Coke was designated for assignment earlier this week.

Cotts, 36, had a 3.29 ERA (3.39 FIP) in 13.2 Triple-A innings with the Angels before opting out. Last season he had a 3.41 ERA (5.00 FIP) in 63.1 innings with the Brewers and Twins, and he held lefties to .178/.243/.330 (.251 wOBA) batting line with a 23.9% strikeout rate and a 5.5% walk rate. Not too bad, huh?

A few weeks back the Yankees signed Coke out of an independent league, where he was working as a starter. Cotts is a pure left-on-left matchup reliever, so he’s not someone who can come up to be a long man. I assume his current deal with the Yankees includes an opt-out date. Probably sometime next month. That’s pretty standard.

Injuries have hit the Yankees pretty hard this season. Already they’ve lost Bryan Mitchell (toe) Nick Rumbelow (Tommy John surgery), Branden Pinder (Tommy John surgery), and Jacob Lindgren (elbow) to injuries, among others. Cotts helps replenish that bullpen depth.

The Yankees signed Cotts to a minor league contract way back in 2011, but he failed his physical and the team walked away. He had Tommy John surgery back in 2009 and has undergone four different hip surgeries over the last few seasons.

Managing a bullpen isn’t easy, but sometimes it can get needlessly complicated

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two nights ago Nathan Eovaldi was removed from a start after only six innings despite retiring 18 straight batters (!) and throwing only 85 pitches. He held the Diamondbacks to one run on one hit and no walks. They hit two balls out of the infield. It was the kind of start the Yankees have been getting far too infrequently this season. Eovaldi was cruising and he looked as good as he’s looked at any point since coming to New York.

Rather than send Eovaldi back out for the seventh inning, Joe Girardi pulled the plug and went to Dellin Betances, opting to turn the game over to his dynamic bullpen. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman handled the eighth and ninth innings. Giving the ball to Betances is never a bad move — he did walk the first two batters, which was pretty unnerving — but it seemed like Eovaldi had earned another inning.

“I thought I was going to go out there, but I wasn’t disappointed with those three guys coming in,” said Eovaldi to George King after the game. Girardi added, “If I got them set up and they are rested, I am going to go to them. I could have (sent Eovaldi back out), but I am going to take my chances 99% of the time with Betances, Miller and Chapman.”

The Yankees had a two-run lead at the time and Eovaldi was preparing to face the 2-3-4 hitters for the third time, so with the team in need of a win, Girardi played it safe. Again, it’s hard to blame him given the bullpen he has at his disposal. The move was first guessed as much as any pitching change can be first guessed, and the second guessing was rampant as soon as Betances walked the first two batters.

Then, last night, Girardi did it again. Ivan Nova held to Athletics to one run in six innings and he had thrown only 62 pitches. 62 pitches! Rather than stick with his starter, Girardi again went to his big three relievers, who did the job and closed out the eventual 4-1 win. “There’s a reason we put them together down there and it’s for games like today and yesterday,” said Girardi to Billy Witz afterward.

I wanted to write something about the bullpen and bullpen management in general, but I couldn’t come up with a coherent format. I’m just going to list some thoughts using Wednesday’s and Thursday’s game as jumping off points. Got it? Good.

1. Betances needs regular work. Betances is rather unique for many reasons. He’s physically huge, he has unbelievable stuff, the results are historically great, yadda yadda yadda. Dellin has also had well-documented trouble keeping his mechanics in check, which is why it never worked out as a starter. The bullpen agrees with him because, as Betances has said, the regular work allows him to keep his mechanics tight. Yes, he throws fewer innings as a reliever, but he works more often, and that helps.

Betances had two days off prior to Wednesday and giving him three days off between appearances is when it starts to get tricky. He’s a guy who needs regular work to remain effective. It’s a tough thing for Girardi to balance, the need to get Dellin work and keep him rested for the long season. Is it really a surprise Betances came out and walked the first two batters — he had walked three batters all season going in Wednesday’s game, and two of the three walks were on Opening Day — after having two days off? Not really. The man has to pitch.

2. Assigned innings can complicate things. Girardi loves loves loves to assign his relievers set innings. It makes bullpen management simple and it allows players to settle into a routine. Ask relievers and they’ll tell you they like knowing exactly when they’ll be used. They like having a set innings. Players are creatures of habit, and when they have an unpredictable schedule, it’s tough to have a set routine.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Betances has settled in as the seventh inning guy and Miller the eighth inning guy since Chapman returned. Girardi simply bumped everyone back an inning. Most nights this is no big deal, but we’ve already seen some instances in which Dellin warmed up in the seventh, did not pitch, then Miller came in for the eighth. That’s the formula. Eighth inning guys pitch the eighth inning.

Girardi had Betances warming in the sixth inning Wednesday even while Eovaldi cruised, and since he was warming up, chances are he was going to pitch. The Yankees would have had to really break the game open for Dellin to sit down. So, in that case, why not let Eovaldi go out for the seventh, and if he gets through it clean, use Betances in the eighth rather than Miller just because it’s his inning? There should be wiggle room with those assigned innings.

(Betances was not warming up during the sixth inning Thursday, probably because he had thrown 31 pitches Wednesday. Girardi had to back off a little bit.)

3. The batter to batter strategy. By far, my least favorite Girardi move is going batter to batter with a starter. You know what I’m talking about. When the starter appears to be nearing the end of the line, he goes back out to start the next inning anyway, then is lifted after allowing a leadoff base-runner. It happens all the time — how many times do you think a starter got through an inning clean when his leash was one base-runner? — and all around the league.

Sending Eovaldi and Nova back out for the seventh and hating the whole batter to batter approach seem like conflicting ideas. There should never be a blanket one size fits all strategy though, right? It’s one thing to send Eovaldi back out when he’s retired 18 straight — or Nova when he’s getting ground ball after ground ball and had thrown only 62 pitches — and another to send, say, CC Sabathia back out when he’s already allowed three runs and a bunch of right-handed hitters are due up. There’s a certain feel to each game that has to be considered.

4. What happened to only using two of the big three per games? This sort of relates to point No. 2 and the answer is simple: the Yankees need every win they can get right now. They don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing relievers each game with an eye on tomorrow. If they have a lead in the late innings, they have to nail it down, and the best way to do that is with Betances, Miller, and Chapman. Perhaps the Yankees can climb back into the race in a few weeks, allowing Girardi to use only two of the three each night. Until then, it’s all hands on deck.

* * *

I would have sent Eovaldi and Nova back out for the seventh inning. I was actually really surprised when Betances came running out of the bullpen last night. I didn’t think Girardi would pull Nova with his pitch count so low. Girardi spent most of April talking about the need to get more length from his starters, and here he was gifted back-to-back very good outings, and he pulled the plug early each time.

It worked these last two days. I don’t think this is something that can continue all season though. When you’ve got a starter on a roll like Eovaldi and Nova last night, sometimes you have to let them handle that seventh (and eighth) inning to preserve the bullpen. Betances, Miller, and Chapman can’t pitch in every single win. They’ll be toast by August. Using the big three is mighty tempting. There also has to be some sense of bullpen preservation, and starts like the ones turned in Eovaldi and Nova give Girardi an opportunity to take his foot off the gas.