Game 12: A St. Louis Sweep?

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now. They’ve won their last six games — that’s the longest winning streak by any team so far this year — and tonight they have a chance to finish off a sweep of the Cardinals. The Cardinals have been one of the most successful franchises in baseball over the last decade or so, but boy have they looked sloppy this weekend.

Michael Pineda will be on the mound tonight making his first start since his flirtation with perfection during Monday’s home opener. Is another dominant performance on tap? Or will he get knocked out in the fourth inning like he did in his first start of the season? Pineda is nothing if not unpredictable. The rotation has been on a roll of late and I hope it continues tonight. Here is the Cardinals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. DH Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

It was hot in New York today. Like middle of the summer hot. There’s some cloud cover now and there is a little rain in the forecast tonight, though it doesn’t seem to be anything that will result in a long delay. Hopefully not, anyway. Tonight’s game will begin at 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Enjoy.

DotF: Green dominates, Fowler snaps out of slump in AAA win

RHP Ben Heller is working on his slider with Triple-A Scranton, specifically making sure he uses the same arm slot as his fastball, writes Shane Hennigan. When he does that, the pitch dives down rather than sweep to the side. Either way, I’m sure we’ll see Heller back in the Bronx at some point this year.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Buffalo)

  • 2B Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K — one two-hit game, five one-hit games, and three no-hit games so far
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 K — came into the game 4-for-32 (.125) on the season
  • 1B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 3B, 1 RBI
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-4, 3 K — off to a 4-for-23 (.174) start
  • SS Ruben Tejada: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — 9-for-23 (.391) with seven walks and two strikeouts in the early going
  • RHP Chad Green: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 7/4 GB/FB — 62 of 92 pitches were strikes (67%) … Chad Green dominates Triple-A hitters, news at eleven
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of 12 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, seven strikes

[Read more…]

Sunday Open Thread

The Yankees and Cardinals don’t wrap up their three-game series until later tonight, in the ESPN Sunday Night Game. Weekend night games are the bane of my fandom. The worst. So anyway, before the game comes along, check out Tyler Kepner’s piece of Brian Cashman. It’s a week old — I’ve been busy the last few days and haven’t had much time to read all the stuff I have bookmarked — but is very much worth the read.

Here is an open thread until the game thread comes along. The Mets are playing this afternoon and MLB Network is showing a regional game. There are also NBA playoff games on ABC and TNT, and NHL playoff games on the NBC family of networks, including Game Three for the (hockey) Rangers. Talk about those games, the Cashman article, or anything else other than religion or politics here. Thanks.

Unaccording to Plan

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Two weeks of baseball are almost in the books and, as always, they’ve been predictably unpredictable. For the Yankees, that’s manifested itself in two divergent paths thus far: CC Sabathia‘s pitching and Greg Bird‘s “hitting.”

Despite the apparent completion of his reinvention project last year, what we’d get in 2017 from Sabathia was certainly no sure thing. A pitcher as good and smart as he is could repeat what he did in 2016, but a pitcher as old as he is could just as easily fall apart. So far, it’s been the former and CC has done a great job in his starts, even pitching into the eighth yesterday.

Last year, CC leaned mostly on the cutter. In this year’s few offerings, CC has been leaning more on the sinker than he did last year. Additionally, the handful of changeups he’s found this year have been successful, leading to whiffs 33% of the time overall and 66% per swing. It’s too early to tell and all that stuff, but things are looking good for CC. It’s not often a pitcher develops again and who knows what could happen next, but I’ve never been one to bet against Sabathia.

#GREGBIRD (Presswire)
#GREGBIRD (Presswire)

On the other side of the coin is Greg Bird, who can hardly buy what even looks like a good plate appearance these days, let alone a hit. Would this stretch be markedly less noticeable if it happened in the middle of the season? Definitely. Is it concerning, at least a little bit, that Bird looks so lost at the plate? Yes.

After a hot spring in which he looked fantastic–and had similar results–it’s disappointing to see Bird struggling so much. Of course, it is still way early and just as Sabathia can fall down, Bird can climb up. Pretty much everything has been a disaster for Bird, but I find it hard to believe he’s going to keep whiffing this much on his swings.

Compared to 2015, Bird is swinging at similar rate, but he’s chasing out of the zone about four percent more. This has led to a four percent drop in zone swing percentage, too. When he has swung in the zone this year, though, it hasn’t mattered much. There’s the aforementioned whiffing problem, which as led to a zone contact rate of 53.1%; league average is just around 86%. Whether it’s timing, mechanics, or lack of pitch recognition, something is vexing Bird.

For both of these players, even if their results have been opposite of each other and opposite of expectations, there is still plenty of time. Sabathia and Bird both have the talent and the know how to succeed at their respective levels. Though it’s a positive thing with Bird and potentially a negative thing with Sabathia, we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. We know it’s coming, but what the footprint looks like is a mystery.

DotF: Mateo stays hot, Littell tosses gem in Tampa’s win

Two quick injury notes:

  • SS Thairo Estrada hasn’t played since Tuesday and is a little banged up, according to Matt Kardos. It’s nothing serious and he is not on the disabled list. Estrada’s injury is why SS Gleyber Torres has played shortstop in every game but one up to this point. The Yankees plan to get Torres time at second and third bases this year, but they need Estrada to get back on the field first. He’s the only other natural shortstop on the roster.
  • LHP Dietrich Enns has been placed on the Triple-A disabled list with a shoulder strain, reports Shane Hennigan. He’ll be shut down 3-4 weeks before starting a throwing program, so chances are we won’t see him again until midseason. Enns left last night’s start with shoulder discomfort. He’s on the 40-man roster and was a potential bullpen shuttle option.

Triple-A Scranton (10-3 loss to Buffalo)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 2 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 BB — he has six hits this year: four doubles and two singles
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 E (throwing) — came into the game 3-for-22 (.136) with no extra-base hits
  • RF Mason Williams: 0-3, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 4/6 GB/FB — 57 of 88 pitches were strikes (65%) … the big league rotation is on a bit of a roll right now, but it’s only a matter of time until we see Cessa in the Bronx again
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K — half of his 26 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Ernesto Frieri: 1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 18 of 32 pitches were strikes (56%) … at least he got this out of his system in a blowout game and not during a save situation

[Read more…]

Yankees win sixth straight, beat Cardinals 3-2 as Sabathia’s renaissance continues

The winning streak has hit six. Saturday afternoon the Yankees capitalized on some defensive mistakes and outlasted the Cardinals for a 3-2 win on Jackie Robinson Day. The six-game winning streak is the longest by any team in baseball so far this season. Fun!

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Carsten Charles In Charge
Man oh man am I enjoying CC Sabathia‘s late career renaissance. The Cardinals had seven righties and one switch-hitter in Saturday’s starting lineup — Matt Carpenter was the only lefty —  and Sabathia cut through them for 7.1 innings with cutters in and everything else away. He had some help from the defense — Brett Gardner made an excellent leaping catch with two on and two outs in the second inning (video) — but hey, sometimes you need your defense. It is a team sport, after all.

Following that Gardner catch to end that second inning, Sabathia retired 13 of the next 15 batters he faced, and only five of those 15 batters managed to hit the ball out of the infield. His afternoon ended when Randal Grichuk Jedd Gyorko lifted his 97th pitch into the short porch for a solo home run to get the Cardinals on the board. Seven innings plus one out, three hits, one walk, one run, six strikeouts. I have no idea what the future holds, but Sabathia is still a boss. Love seeing the big man thrive after all those tough seasons when he looked done. Like done done.

(Adam Hunger/Getty
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

No Contact? No Problem
Cardinals ace Carlos Martinez is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and eleven batters into Saturday’s game, he set a new career high with six walks. It wasn’t until Jacoby Ellsbury‘s leadoff single in the third — the 13th batter Martinez faced — that the Yankees put a ball in play. Commissioner Rob Manfred must have been sobbing in his office. What an odd start to the game.

Martinez walked six batters in the first two innings (!) and the Yankees turned only one into a run because, well, they couldn’t put the ball in play. It took a passed ball by Yadier Molina and a wild pitch by Martinez for Gardner to cross the plate with two outs in the opening inning. Inevitably Martinez settled down because that’s what good pitchers do. After throwing 57 pitches in the first two innings, he needed only 49 pitches to get through the next three innings.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sent Martinez back out to start the sixth inning even though his pitch count was sitting at 106. They were 106 high stress pitches too. Martinez had to grind for five innings. That sixth inning started with a classic case of baseball being dumb. Ronald Torreyes lifted a pop-up to shallow left field that everyone lost in the sun. It dropped in for a hit and Torreyes used a swim move to avoid the tag at second base:


The Cardinals challenged the play and replay confirmed Torreyes was safe. Joe Girardi on the slide after the game: “It’s Toe being Toe.” Indeed. The Yankees were still leading 1-0 at that point and I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t help but worry they would regret wasting all those walks and scoring opportunities given to them by Martinez. He was trying to give the game away. The gift leadoff double was much appreciated.

Thankfully, the Yankees made the Cardinals pay. Gardner moved Torreyes to third with a ground out, then Aaron Hicks hit a tapper back to the mound that Martinez threw away. He tried to come home to cut down the runner, and the throw sailed way wide of the plate and to the backstop. Chris Carter, who up to that point was 0-for-3 with three three-pitch strikeouts on the afternoon, pulled a single to left to score Hicks as the next batter. That stretched the lead to a much more comfortable 3-0.

Unnecessary Pitching Change Is Unnecessary
Prior to Saturday’s game Girardi said neither Aroldis Chapman nor Dellin Betances would be available due to their recent workloads, which meant the rest of the bullpen would have to pick up the slack. Adam Warren replaced Sabathia in that eight inning and recorded the final two outs without incident. He has now retired all 20 batters he’s faced this season. Not bad for the manager’s fourth most trusted option in the bullpen, huh?

For whatever reason Girardi opted to replace Warren with Tyler Clippard for the ninth inning — he said after the game it was because Clippard has more experience closing, so yeah, there’s the reason — and it did not go smoothly. Clippard allowed a solo homer to Stephen Piscotty, another opposite field shot into the short porch a la Grichuk’s against Sabathia, then he allowed an infield single and a walk with two outs. The tying run was at second base when Clippard got Grichuk to wave at a changeup out of the zone for the 27th out. Exhale.

Clippardbot set to: Cardiac Closer. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Clippardbot set to: Cardiac Closer. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees struck out 17 times at the plate and went 1-for-13 (.077) with runners in scoring position. They’re 1-for-30 (.033) with runners in scoring position over the last three games, yet have won all three. Dingers are cool. So is the other team making mistakes, like the wild pitch that scored Gardner in the first and the Martinez error that scored Torreyes in the sixth. They can’t bank on the other team making errors forever though.

The Yankees had five hits total: two by Ellsbury and one each by Gardner, Carter, and Torreyes. The Torreyes hit was the sun-aided double. The Yankees also drew eight walks and stole two bases (Ellsbury and Chase Headley). As of this writing they lead the league with 12 stolen bases in eleven games. It seems like the Yankees are running more often this year, so I was surprised to see they stole 13 bases in the first eleven games last year. Go figure.

And finally, another tough day for Greg Bird, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He is now 0-for-18 with two walks and eleven strikeouts in his last five games. Also, when Bird grounded out in the seventh inning, he could only jog down to first base. If he’s hobbled that much by the ankle, why in the world is he playing and not on the disabled list?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score at ESPN and the video highlights at MLB.com. ESPN also has the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page too. That comes in handy when you’re trying to figure out who is available each day. Now here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The first ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game of the season. Yuck. I hate having to wait all day to watch the Yankees on the weekend. Anyway, Michael Pineda and Adam Wainwright will be the mound as the Yankees look for their second consecutive series sweep. It’s not often Pineda matches up with a pitcher as tall as he is, but it’ll happen in the series finale. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game, or any of the other three games remaining on the homestand.

Saturday Open Thread

I’m a few days late on this, but don’t miss Andrew Marchand’s piece on Jean Afterman, the Yankees longtime assistant general manager. She was instrumental in getting Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees, but from the other side of the table — she worked for Soriano’s agent at the time and helped find a loophole that allowed him to leave the Hiroshima Carp in Japan and sign with the Yankees. After being hired by Brian Cashman, she helped lure Hideki Matsui to the Bronx. “You go east. But if you don’t come back with him, you just keep heading east. Don’t ever turn around,” said George Steinbrenner to Afterman before she left to recruit Matsui in Japan. Make sure you check it out. Really great stuff.

Here is an open thread for the rest of the day. The Mets are playing later and MLB Network is showing regional games throughout the afternoon and evening. The NBA playoffs begin today with a bunch of games on ABC and ESPN while the NHL playoffs continue with games on NBC and NBCSN. The (hockey) Rangers aren’t playing today though. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here as long as it’s not religion or politics.