No Hitting, No Pitching: Astros crush Yankees 15-1

Yeesh, that was bad. The hitting, the pitching, the fielding, pretty much everything. The Yankees were embarrassed at home Tuesday night, falling 15-1 to the Astros for their fourth loss in six games.


Over In The First
This game was not competitive very long. Ivan Nova quickly retired the first two batters of the game before the floodgates opened thanks to a combination of a Jacoby Ellsbury defensive miscue and Nova having nothing. Nova walked Carlos Correa with two outs, which, whatever, it happens, but then Colby Rasmus lifted a line drive to center than Ellsbury misread and allowed to fall in for a triple. Ellsbury initially broke back before having to come in for the ball, and his slide fell short.

Fine, whatever, that shouldn’t happen but it did. One run isn’t the end of the world. Nova couldn’t stop the bleeding there though. He walked Evan Gattis on four pitches, gave up a line drive double to Carlos Gomez to make it 2-0, then gave up a booming two-run double to Luis Valbuena. Four-zip Astros. Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to make it 5-0. Nova then walked Jason Castro before getting Jose Altuve to ground out to end the inning. Altuve made two of the three outs in the first.

The Ellsbury misplay — it was ruled a hit but come on, a big league center fielder has to catch that ball, it should have been an error — definitely hurt, but that inning went well beyond “blame Ellsbury.” Nova had nothing and allowed seven (!) straight hitters to reach base with two outs, including three on extra-base hits. He threw 40 pitches in the inning and the Astros fouled off ten. Nova couldn’t put anyone away. Not the first time that’s happened this year.

When it was all said and done, Nova was charged with seven runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings. He struck out one. Nova has now allowed 17 runs on 34 base-runners in 21.1 innings in his last three starts. Slump? Post-Tommy John surgery wall? Who knows. Bottom line is the Yankees need Nova to be better than this. The offense is struggling and they certainly don’t have the pitching depth to compensate. Ellsbury was only a small part of the problem. Even Nova’s outs were crushed.


Offense? No Offense
The Yankees scored their only run in the ninth inning, when the game was all but over. Ellsbury hit a leadoff single, moved up to second when Chris Young was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a ground out, then scored on another ground out. Not the most exciting rally, but hey, at least they didn’t shut out. Not that it really matters.

All told, the Yankees had four hits on the night: two singles by Ellsbury, a double by Carlos Beltran, and a single by John Ryan Murphy. That’s it. No one drew a walk and they stuck out a dozen times. Dallas Keuchel, who is an excellent pitcher, was on cruise control. Seven scoreless innings and Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled him after only 88 pitches because the game was so out of hand. Save those bullets for another day.

The Yankees have now had six or fewer hits in each of their last three games, during which they’ve scored five total runs. They’re averaging 3.1 runs per game in their last 20 games. Basically everyone in the lineup other than Beltran and Ellsbury is slumping. Nova could have tossed a gem and the Yankees still would have lost. This is bad, man. Real bad.

Bullpen Adventure
The only pitcher to not allow a run? Brendan Ryan, of course. He tossed two scoreless innings to spare the bullpen. Two innings! He’s the first position player to throw two innings in a game for the Yankees since Stick Michael in 1968. Good gravy. Nick Rumbelow allowed two runs (one earned) in an inning and Chris Capuano was charged with six runs in two innings. He looked like he was pitching hurt for a while. The trainer came out to see him, he threw some test pitches and remained in the game, but didn’t look real comfortable. Hooray for Ryan. Everyone else stunk.


The benches briefly cleared in the sixth inning because apparently the Yankees took exception to something Gomez said or did. Joe Girardi told reporters they didn’t like the way he flipped his bat or something after flying out. Silly. Gomez flew out, jogged down to first, then the bench yelled something at him. Murphy said something to Gomez near home plate before the umpires stepped between them. I’m still not sure what Gomez did wrong. Seems like the Yankees have more important things to worry about than someone flipping their bat in a blowout. (Gomez homered later in the game, so good job?)

Before he pitched, Ryan played a few innings in right field. It was his fifth career game in the outfield and first since 2008. Between the pitching and the extra running, he’s going to be pretty sore tomorrow. I’m not sure anyone on the Yankees had more fun than him though. Ryan seemed to have a blast on the mound. Can’t say I blame him.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. Also, head over to our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages for some potentially useful — or perhaps not — information. Here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The ten-game homestand ends Wednesday afternoon with the series finale against the Astros. Michael Pineda will make his hopefully triumphant return from the DL and make the start. Collin McHugh will be on the bump for Houston in the matinee. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game live.

DotF: Jorge Mateo steals 81st base in Tampa’s win

The minor league season ends in about two weeks, and although LHP Ian Clarkin has not pitched in an official game this season, he is currently throwing off a mound based on his Instagram feed. Clarkin’s been out since dealing with some elbow inflammation back in Spring Training. Hopefully he gets healthy enough to pitch in Instructional League in a few weeks. Maybe even in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball somewhere.

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 loss to Pawtucket)

  • CF-LF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K
  • LF Slade Heathcott: 1-3, 1 K — first game since leaving Friday’s game for an unknown reason after running the bases
  • 3B Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 HBP
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4 — 7-for-12 (.583) in his last three games
  • RF-CF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 1 K
  • 1B Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 HBP
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 13/0 GB/FB — 61 of 99 pitches were strikes (62%) … well, if you’re not going to strike anyone out, I guess allowing no fly balls works
  • LHP James Pazos: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 23 of 38 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Game 125: Game One

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

It’s a new season. The short 38-game sprint begins tonight. The Yankees and Blue Jays are tied atop the AL East with identical 69-55 records, so the best team from this day forward will win the division. Everything that happened in those first 124 games is relatively meaningless. It’ll have no impact on the race from this day forward.

The postseason odds at FanGraphs give the Blue Jays a better chance to win the AL East (54.9% to 44.0%) because the projection systems like their roster better, but to hell with that. The Yankees have that fighting spirit and have been exceeding expectations for about two decades now. This team was supposed to be old and out of the race about eight years ago. It hasn’t happened yet. No reason to think it will now. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Ivan Nova

Another nice day for baseball in New York. The sky is blue, the clouds are poofy, and there’s a nice little breeze to offset the Freddy Garcia-esque mid-80s heat. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch locally on YES and nationally on MLB Network, depending where you live. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it earlier, CC Sabathia (knee) does not need surgery … Bryan Mitchell (face) threw a 30-pitch simulated game with no problems. The Yankees will figure out the next step in a day or two after they see how he feels. Mitchell could pitch in a minor league game next … Dustin Ackley (back) expects to begin a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Thursday.

CC Sabathia doesn’t need knee surgery, open to pitching out of the bullpen in September


One day after being placed on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation, CC Sabathia went for a second opinion today, which confirmed he has no new damage in the knee. It’s simply some arthritic stuff that requires rest. Sabathia does not need surgery, neither now nor in the offseason.

Sabathia told reporters he hopes to return to the team after his 15 days are up, and added he is willing to pitch out of the bullpen should the Yankees ask. “Helping the team any way I can,” he said. For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi said moving Sabathia to the bullpen is something they won’t discuss until CC is actually healthy enough to pitch again. Makes sense.

The overall numbers are ugly this year (5.27 ERA and 4.82 FIP in 138.1 innings) but there is reason to think the 35-year-old Sabathia could be effective in relief. For starters, he still destroys lefties, holding them to a .180/.209/.291 (.218 wOBA) batting line with a 30.4% strikeout rate this year. Secondly, Sabathia is at his best the first time through the lineup (via Baseball Reference):

1st PA in G, as SP 24 215 21 51 8 0 8 15 42 2.80 .258 .313 .419 .732 .291 108
2nd PA in G, as SP 24 209 30 60 5 2 7 11 44 4.00 .314 .351 .471 .822 .368 126
3rd PA in G, as SP 22 167 25 51 4 2 11 9 24 2.67 .331 .370 .597 .967 .333 150
4th+ PA in G, as SP 7 12 1 2 0 0 0 2 3 1.50 .222 .333 .222 .556 .286 53

Righties have crushed Sabathia this season (.388 wOBA!), but, if he’s limited to facing mostly lefties in one or two innings bursts, it’s possible he’ll be an effective reliever. Not just effective, maybe even really good. A late-inning weapon.

Sabathia has made just one career relief appearance and that was in Game Five of the 2011 ALDS, when Ivan Nova got hurt and had to leave after two innings. CC allowed a run in 1.1 innings. Moving to the bullpen — if it happens, of course — would take a bit of an adjustment on his part, though September is a good time to work through those issues thanks to expanded rosters.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Sabathia was just placed on the DL yesterday, so he’s at least two weeks away from being activated. That assumes his knee heels up quickly. We’re just going to have to wait and see. Hopefully Sabathia gets healthy soon and the team has to make a decision about his role because everyone else on the staff is healthy and pitching effectively.

Cashman confirms Yankees unlikely to make a last minute August waiver trade


This isn’t a surprise, but over the weekend Brian Cashman confirmed to reporters the Yankees are unlikely to make a last minute August waiver trade. A player must be in the organization by 11:59pm ET next Monday, August 31st, to be eligible for the postseason roster. That’s a hard deadline and there are no exceptions.

“Nothing that’s gotten to me. I’ve done a lot of claims. I’ve never been awarded any of them,” said Cashman to Dan Martin when asked about claiming players on trade waivers. Every team claims lots of players in August — Peter Gammons hears there have been more claims this month than ever before — but trade waivers are revocable, and the vast majority who are claimed get pulled back. Usually only players with favorable contracts get claimed.

It’s important to note circumstances have changed in recent days. Cashman told reporters the Yankees are unlikely to make an August trade before CC Sabathia‘s potentially season-ending knee injury further thinned out the team’s rotation depth. They may have since changed course and started scrounging for an extra arm or two since Cashman’s comments. These things can change in an instant. Either way, the GM doesn’t regret his trade deadline inactivity.

“I wouldn’t say vindicated,” said Cashman to George King when asked about the performances of Greg Bird and Luis Severino. “The criticism comes either way. Just do what you think is right and hope it works out that way. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m very comfortable with the positions we took and why we took them. I wish I could have improved us. I certainly tried, but we were unable to.

“If it was going to cost us Severino or Judge or Bird or Warren or Mitchell or Wilson or Shreve, those were all the guys, combinations that people were like, ‘You’re not going do Severino or Judge or Bird? Well, I need Wilson and Mitchell or Wilson and Shreve.’ None of it was working. So I felt like it dictated the position we took, which is ‘We have a good team, we’re trying to improve it.’ Just felt like nothing made sense under those circumstances.”

If you’re interested, MLB Daily Dish has a full list of players reportedly placed on trade waivers this month. Guys who clear can be traded, guys who have been claimed can only be traded to the claiming team, and guys who have been claimed and pulled back can’t be traded at all. (Well, they can be placed on trade waivers again, but they’re irrevocable the second time around.) There’s really not much to see. Not many exciting names.

The Yankees have not been very active in the waiver trade market in recent years. They acquired Chad Gaudin in August 2009, Steve Pearce in August 2012, and Brendan Ryan in September 2013. That’s about it. Spare parts for depth, not any sort of difference maker. Significant upgrades after July 31st are pretty rare. The Yankees could make a small tweak following Sabathia’s injury but I doubt it. And, even if they are planning to make a move, there’s no reason for Cashman to say so. Nothing to gain.

Taking stock of Ivan Nova’s post-surgery performance

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

It’s often said pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery are vulnerable to erratic performances as they regain arm strength and command of their pitches. When you combine that thinking with the notion that Ivan Nova’s career has largely been defined by periods of brilliance mixed in with extended stretches of mediocrity, it was probably inevitable that Nova was not going to be a model of reliability when he rejoined the pitching staff in late June.

Nova flashed signs of being that near-dominant pitcher in his season debut when he fired 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies, but two starts later was perhaps at his worst this season when he gave up four runs and had just one strikeout versus the Rays. And most recently against the Indians last week he put together another uninspiring start, allowing three runs before being pulled after five innings of work.

To his credit, Nova acknowledged that he’s had his ups and downs this season. “You’re going to have days like this,” Nova told the Associated Press after his dud on August 20. “Not going to feel perfect every time you go out there.”

Despite battling through bouts of inconsistency and posting a 3.72 ERA that is just barely above league-average (and a below-average 4.12 FIP), there are still a bunch of encouraging signs from Nova’s first 10 starts. Digging deeper into his numbers, there is a hint of optimism that he can be a viable starter for the Yankees as they battle for a playoff spot and the division crown in the final six weeks.


The first thing you typically look for in a pitcher trying to come back from Tommy John surgery is changes in velocity and throwing mechanics. Nova passes that test with flying colors, as his velocity is on par with previous seasons and the release points on his pitches are unchanged. He’s averaging 93.3 mph on his four-seamer and sinker, nearly the same as his rookie season (93.4) in 2011 and his last healthy season (93.9) in 2013.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (3)

His signature curveball has also been really sharp, with a top-20 whiff rate (37 percent) and top-10 marks in both batting average against (.143) and slugging (.196). Maikel Franco is one of the top rookies in the NL this season, but he had no chance on this two-strike hook from Nova back on June 24:


Pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery often struggle with their control but that hasn’t been the case with Nova. His walk rate of 7.5 percent this season is identical to what he did from 2011-13 (7.7 percent), and although he’s throwing pitches out of the strike zone at a career-high rate of 58 percent, he’s also locating pitches in the heart of the zone at the lowest rate of his career (18 percent). It seems like he is still trying to get comfortable pitching on the edges of the zone, but he’s done a good job of avoiding mistakes and grooved pitches right down the middle.

Another good omen for Nova is that he’s back to being a ground ball machine, with a ground ball rate of 52.5 percent that almost matches his 2013 mark. His hard-contact and soft-contact rates are also his best since 2011, and he’s generating popups at a rate that is nearly double his previous career best.

nova contact

Despite those positive trends, one concern is that Nova’s strikeout rate is below his peak 2012-13 levels, and he seemingly hasn’t yet regained the feel for his four-seam fastball this season. Opponents are hitting .309 and slugging .546 in at-bats ending in his heater, and have whiffed on just seven percent of their swings against it.

Perhaps realizing its ineffectiveness, Nova has ditched his four-seam fastball recently in favor of the much more effective sinker that ranks fifth among starting pitchers in ground ball rate (68 percent).

Brooksbaseball-Chart (2)

The fact Nova has been able to make these adjustments mid-season is an excellent indicator that he’s evolving as a pitcher and getting closer to reaching his potential.

Another sign of his maturity is the way that he’s been able to get out of jams and pitch under pressure this season. Batters have a .151/.230/.236 line against him with runners in scoring position and he’s stranded nearly three-quarters of his baserunners so far.

Although Nova is far from a finished product and is still clearly trying to find his pitching rhythm post-surgery, he’s shown a lot of promise in his first 10 starts this season. He’s keeping the ball on the ground with his sinker, mixing in a nasty curveball when ahead in the count, and pitching with confidence and poise from the stretch.

There’s still one hurdle, however, that Nova has yet to overcome: the inconsistency that has defined not just this season, but his entire career. Sure, he can’t shed that label in single game. But a strong performance tonight against the Astros would not only be an encouraging sign of progress in Nova’s return from Tommy John surgery, but also a key step forward in his long-term development from a talented yet unpredictable pitcher into a reliable top-of-the-rotation starter.

Injuries have caught up to the offense, but there are signs things may soon improve


Even including last night’s win, the Yankees are now 11-11 in August and have seen their six-game AL East lead disappear. They’re now tied with the Blue Jays. The combination of Toronto getting insanely hot and the Yankees playing decidedly mediocre ball have turned a comfortable division lead into a legitimate race. Races are fun! That’s why we watch. It also would have been nice to see that big lead last more than three weeks, but alas.

The Yankees have faded a bit this month — August is not their worst month of the season, they went 13-16 in May but rebounded to go 15-12 in June and 17-7 in July — for many reasons, some of which were not entirely unpredictable. First and foremost, they’ve been bit by the injury bug. They lost Michael Pineda (forearm) and CC Sabathia (knee) to injuries after both guys came into the season as health risks. Seeing them land on the DL wasn’t a total shock.

Other injuries have been somewhat fluky. Mark Teixeira fouled a ball off his shin and has been out a week, hurting the Yankees on both sides of the ball. (I love Greg Bird as much as anyone, but the Yankees miss Teixeira. It’s obvious.) Brian McCann pulled a little something in his left knee chasing after a ball in the dirt a few weeks ago, and while he’s stayed in the lineup, he’s clearly not 100%. He’s wearing a brace and has altered his batting stance to take pressure off the knee:

McCann downplayed the batting stance change but come on. It looks like he’s about to fall over trying to take his weight off that left knee. McCann hurt his knee on August 4th and has gone 12-for-57 (.211) with a 22.6% strikeout rate since. He has hit four home runs during that time, so his power is still there, but he had an 18.8% strikeout rate before the injury. His timing seems to be off slightly following the knee injury, maybe due to that weird stance.

Then there’s Alex Rodriguez, who as far as we know isn’t hurt. Either way, he is not producing like he did earlier in the year. That’s not really a surprise, I suppose. As great as Alex is, it was probably unrealistic to think he’d hit like an MVP candidate all season as a 40-year-old with two surgically repaired hips who didn’t play at all last year and barely played the year before. A-Rod‘s gone 11-for-84 (.131) with two homers this month, though it worth noting the two homers both came within the last week.

Joe Girardi gave Rodriguez both Saturday and Sunday off, saying he wanted to “refresh” him. The Yankees have an off-day Thursday, so that’s another day to rest, and they’ll be in Atlanta for an interleague series this weekend. The team has committed to A-Rod at DH this year and there’s no reason to think he’ll play third (or first) base against the Braves. Assuming he starts tonight and tomorrow, Alex will still get six days off in a nine-day span. Hopefully that gets him going.

The Yankees built that big lead in the AL East thanks in large part to Teixeira, A-Rod, and McCann. Those guys were forces in the middle of the lineup for much of the season and are a huge reason why the team still ranks second in baseball with an average of 4.73 runs per game. That’s even after scoring 61 runs in their last 19 games, or 3.21 per game. They were that good for most of the season. Now? Not so much. McCann and Teixeira are banged up and A-Rod’s in a cold spell, perhaps due to fatigue.

The good news is things may be starting to change for the better. McCann had a great game last night, going 3-for-3 with a walk. Also, Teixeira was on deck ready to pinch-hit last night when Beltran hit his walk-off sac fly, which is an indication he is moving closer to returning to the starting lineup. A-Rod? Eh, aside from his two big homers last week — big as in long distance, they were bombs — I’m not sure if there are any positive signs there. Two outta three ain’t bad, I guess.

Let’s not beat around the bush: without Teixeira, McCann, and A-Rod producing at an above average clip, the Yankees have close to no chance to beat out the Blue Jays for the division title. The Yankees need to fire on all cylinders to keep pace with Toronto, and those three key middle of the order bats are hitting a combined .189/.270/.388 in 218 plate appearances this month. Yikes. Carlos Beltran can’t do it all himself. Those three need to start helping out again.

The pitching has been solid this month but the offense has been a big letdown of late. These nagging injuries Teixeira and McCann are dealing with are part of baseball, and hey, when you have a 40-year-old player playing everyday, you run of risk of him hitting a wall down the stretch. Unfortunately all of this is happening at once. Hopefully McCann’s big night, Teixeira being on deck, and A-Rod hitting two homers last week are signs these guys are close to getting back to where they need to be. The sooner they get going, the better the Yankees’ chances of winning the AL East.