Yankees 5, Rays 1: A five-run inning good enough to take the series opener

That was a relatively stress-free win. I like. CC Sabathia allowed a run in the second inning but the Yankee bats jumped on Jake Odorizzi in the fourth and never looked back. This win pulled the Yankees within 3 games of the Red Sox in the AL East and gave them a 4-game lead in the AL Wild Card standings. A productive night! Let’s recap this thing.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Decent, but no cigar

The Rays struck first. Lucas Duda, playing in the Citi Field for the first time since being traded to the Rays, walked on four pitches against Sabathia to begin the bottom of the second. After CC retired Cesar Puello and Cesar Ramos, he allowed an RBI triple to Adeiny Hechavarria to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. The Rays shortstop grinded out a nine-pitch at-bat and CC threw a cutter that stayed a bit middle.

Sabathia got into another pickle in the bottom of the third. Peter Bourjos led it off by bunting (!!!) for  base hit and Kevin Kiermaier followed it up with a soft grounder single to the pitcher. Two nubbers in a row that Sabathia couldn’t field. However, Sabathia struck Trevor Plouffe out looking to get the first out. On the next batter, Evan Longoria, the Rays attempted a double steal and Kiermaier was called out for over-sliding second base as Starlin Castro kept the tag on him. Longoria grounded out to third to end the inning. That could have gone much worse.

.. was given a 5-1 lead after the fourth inning, but could not finish the fifth. He walked Bourjos, struck out Kiermaier and allowed a single to Plouffe. The problem was that all three encounters resulted in lengthy at-bats. Even though he had allowed only a run at that point, he seemed to be laboring in that inning – not to mention that Longoria, who owned Sabathia all his career, was coming up. Joe Girardi pulled the plug on him right away and put in David Robertson to relieve. D-Rob, being the Houdini himself, struck out Longoria and Duda to get out of the jam. Girardi went the safe route and CC might not have been happy about it, but Yankees got out of it unscathed.

Five is all you need

After being no-hit by Odorizzi for the first three innings, the Yankees got a rally going in the top of the fourth. They started it out by getting runners on the corners with an Aaron Judge walk and a Gary Sanchez single. Didi Gregorius tied the game up with a sacrifice fly. Castro followed it up by striking out swinging to make it two outs. On a full count, Matt Holliday hit a grounder that went under 3B Trevor Plouffe’s glove and trickled down all the way down the left field line. It should have been an inning-ending ground out but instead, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead. Not sure what exactly happened there. Third base is a hard position (hence why they call it the hot corner) but that’s a play that gets made at least 9.5 out of 10 times.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees took full advantage of Plouffe’s blunder. After Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an all-time leading 30th catcher’s interference, Todd Frazier went deep for a three-run homer. That was no cheapie – it hit the facing of the second deck of the left field seats. 5-1 Yankees. Tyler Austin, not to be outdone by his teammates, squared a hard double to the left to keep the rally going. Brett Gardner followed it up with a walk and Kevin Cash decided that he’s seen enough. It took Odorizzi 51 pitches to get two outs in the fifth and he was pulled out of the inning for Chaz Roe. Three no-hit innings and get piled on in the fourth. Life comes at you quick.

Leftovers

Ellsbury set the all-time MLB record today… in drawing catcher’s interference. In the fourth inning, he swung at a full-count pitch that went foul but his bat nicked the catcher’s mitt. That, by definition, was catcher’s interference and the 30th of Ellsbury’s career. He surpassed Pete Rose’s record as the king of the category in the ML history.

As mentioned, D-Rob came into relief for Sabathia in the fifth inning and took care of the business through the seventh – a seven-out outing for him! That is the first of his career. He also threw 36 pitches while at it. I guess Girardi really wanted to prioritize holding the lead rather than saving him for tomorrow – he will probably go to someone like Tommy Kahnle in a similar situation.

Dellin Betances followed to pitch in the eighth. He made things a liiiittle bit interesting by allowing two baserunners early on (Longoria single, Duda K, Puello walk). However, in a typical Dellin fashion, he struck out pinch-hitting Logan Morrison for the second out and escaped out of it after retiring Hechavarria with a flyout. Aroldis Chapman, who has regained his role as the ninth-inning guy, pitched a swift 1-2-3 in the ninth to close it out. The Yankees win!

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA graph

Here are box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA graph from Fangraphs.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees continue on the series vs. the Rays at Citi Field tomorrow at 7:05 pm. Sonny Gray will be on the mound against Blake Snell.

Game 143: A Road Series in New York

(Bruce Bennett/Getty)
(Bruce Bennett/Getty)

The Yankees are back home in New York but are still technically on a road trip. They’ll play the next three games against the Rays as the visiting team at Citi Field. Hurricane Irma forced MLB to move the series to a neutral site, and Citi Field was the best option. The crowd figures to be small and decidedly pro-Yankees. On one hand, it’s good the Yankees are back in New York. On the other, no one wanted this to be the reason. Hope everyone down in Florida is safe.

Thanks to a strong trip through Baltimore and Texas, the Yankees have created some breathing room in the wildcard race. They’re 3.5 games up on the Twins for the second wildcard spot and 4.5 games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. They’re also only 3.5 games back of the Red Sox, though I’ve sorta given up on the division. If it happens, great. I’m focused on the wildcard for the time being. The Yankees have won three straight series. How about making it four? Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Matt Holliday
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is cool and cloudy in New York this evening, and the tiny little bit of rain in the forecast isn’t supposed to arrive for another few hours. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aaron Hicks (oblique) has not yet started swinging a bat, but he hopes to return before the end of the regular season. His ten days on the disabled list end Wednesday, though that doesn’t really matter if he hasn’t even started swinging a bat … Greg Bird was a late scratch from the lineup with lower back tightness.

Roster Move: The Yankees activated Clint Frazier off the 10-day DL, the team announced. They now have 33 players on the active roster. Frazier went 2-for-17 (.118) with ten strikeouts in four rehab games with Double-A Trenton following the oblique injury. I’m a bit surprised the Yankees activated him, but they were also carrying only three true outfielders on the roster, so I guess I shouldn’t be.

Minor League Update: There will be no DotF tonight, folks. There are no games. Tomorrow Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton begin their league’s championship series, and Short Season Staten Island will resume their first round postseason series. They have off-days today and the season is over for the other affiliates.

9/11 to 9/13 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
(Adam Glanzman/Getty)

After taking four of six from wild-card contenders during their six game road trip, the Yankees return to New York for what is technically a road series against the Tampa Bay Rays. With Hurricane Irma touching down in western Florida, Tropicana Field was unavailable. That forced the Rays to play the three-game home series at Citi Field.

The Last Time They Met

From July 27 through July 30, the Yankees took three of four from the Rays at Yankee Stadium, taking a six-game winning streak in the series finale. It was part of a stretch where the Bombers won 9 of 11 to briefly regain the AL East lead going into August.

  • It was a walk-off weekend for Brett Gardner. After a Gary Sanchez single (and poor Rays fielding) scored him to tie up the opener in the ninth inning, Gardner lined a home run to lead off the 11th for the win. He’d single with the bases loaded and no outs two days later for another walk-off.
  • Masahiro Tanaka had one of his best outings of the year in Game 2. He had a perfect game until Adeiny Hechevarria singled with two outs in the sixth. He went 8 IP, allowing just two hits while striking out 14.
  • Aroldis Chapman looked like his old self, striking out five in three dominant innings while picking up the win during both of Gardner’s walk-offs.
  • Sanchez and Gardner each homered twice in the series, but so did new Rays first baseman Lucas Duda, who made an immediate impact by reaching in 7 of 12 PAs during his first series with Tampa.

For more information, check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post.

Injury Report

The Rays are relatively healthy, but rookie starter Jacob Faria (abdominal strain) made a rehab start against Staten Island on Sunday. He could be back vs. Boston this week.

INF Matt Duffy (heel) won’t play this season and had just 80 PAs as a Ray. LHP Xavier Cedeno (forearm) and former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) both began rehab appearances but are on the 60-day DL and their returns this season are in doubt.

Their Story So Far

The Rays are 71-73, leaving them 3.5 games out of the second wild card. Not only are they four games back in the loss column, they would have to surpass six teams to get the spot. Their lineup has been very middle of the road (.245/.318/.426, 97 wRC+) but they’ve also had the second worst strikeout rate in all of baseball. As Tanaka did in July, pitchers can rack up Ks against them. Their pitching staff has been solid with the 9th best team ERA (4.07) in baseball.

They have had similarly bad one-run luck to Yankees with an 18-22 record in those games. One thing that has held them back is the AL East as they are 27-33 in the division.

They’ve had a productive outfield with Dickerson/Kiermaier/Souza while Lucas Duda has been a major help since coming over at the deadline. The infield has been another story with Duffy out, Brad Miller struggling and Evan Longoria being merely an average (98 wRC+) hitter despite hitting .319/.411/.553 with three of his 18 HR against the Yankees.

Lineup We Might See

Kevin Cash mixes up his lineups depending on matchups, so you’re unlikely to see the same lineup twice. Trevor Plouffe, Peter Bourjos and Cesar Puello could all move into the lineup vs. LHPs while Mallex Smith’s glove often gets him into the starting nine. Here’s a possible lineup you’ll see this week.

1. CF Kevin Kiermaier (.278/.341/.447)
2. 1B Lucas Duda (.232/.337/.536)
3. 3B Evan Longoria (.265/.320/.433)
4. DH Logan Morrison (.248/.355/.529)
5. RF Steven Souza Jr. (.246/.351/.477)
6. LF Corey Dickerson (.280/.325/.499)
7. SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.245/.273/.366)
8. 2B Brad Miller (.195/.333/.322)
9. C Wilson Ramos (.238/.271/.387)

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:10 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi

Odorizzi has been plagued by a case of way too many home runs this year. He’s allowed at least one homer in all but three outings this year and he’s allowed 28, one fewer than he allowed last season in 64 fewer innings. His career low groundball rate has been paired with fewer strikeouts and more walks, part of which may be explained by a loss of .75 mph off his pitches.

He has only 3 quality starts in last 11 outings, though his last start was one of his best all season. He held the Twins to just two baserunners in 6 2/3 innings.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on Sept. 5) – 6.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Tuesday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. LHP Blake Snell

Snell has essentially had two seasons. Up until August, he continued to have the same issue as in his rookie 2016 season: Walks. He dished out 5.1 walks per nine innings and had a 4.98 ERA, all while barely getting through five innings a start.

Since getting recalled on Aug. 8 from his second demotion of the year, he’s been a whole new pitcher. He’s cut the walks to 2.2 per nine and held opponents to a .222/.271/.385 line. While he has a 3.16 ERA in that span, he did have a poor outing his last time out, getting battered around by the Twins, who launched two home runs off the southpaw.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on Sept. 6) – 4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Wednesday (1:10 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Chris Archer

You surely know Archer by now. Hard fastball, top-notch slider. The Rays’ No. 1 has still struggled this season, posting a 4.00 ERA. Like Odorizzi, he’s surrendered a few too many homers (25) but he’s still posted career-best strikeout and walk rates. Two outings ago, he left with forearm tightness after just two batters. He came back on turn and was beat up by the Red Sox over three innings. The good news is that his velocity was back after his disastrous two-batter start in Chicago.

Last Outing (at BOS on Sept. 8) – 3.0 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 1 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

The Rays have the fourth best bullpen ERA (3.28) since the All-Star break, only behind the Indians, Orioles and Yankees. Their closer, Alex Colome, leads baseball with 43 saves this year, but he’s been fallible, accumulating eight meltdowns.

Setting up Colome has been Tommy Hunter with Steve Cishek, Sergio Romo and Dan Jennings all spotting up in middle relief. While Jennings is one of just two lefties in the pen, he’s more than just a lefty specialist. Austin Pruitt is their main long man and former closer Brad Boxberger typically pitches low leverage innings. Since it’s September, you’ll see plenty of other pitchers with 12 relievers on the active roster.

Yankees Connection

Both Chaz Roe and Chase Whitley are former Yankee pitchers currently in middle/long relief for the Rays. Eovaldi won 23 games in pinstripes over the last two seasons before having Tommy John surgery. Of course, Cash had a brief 10-game stint with the 2009 Yankees, earning himself a World Series ring in the process.

Who (Or What) to Watch?

For this one, the crowd is weirdly a must-watch. This will be a unique environment. It’ll surely be mostly, if not exclusively, Yankees fans, but will it be nearly empty? Will the apple in center rise when the Rays hit a home run? And how will the Rays handle being on the road for perhaps the rest of the season? Hopefully, they’ll be back at Tropicana Field soon.

As for the games themselves, the Yankees come in having won three straight series. If this was in Tampa, they’d feel destined to lose two of three. Take two of three and you don’t have to worry too much about what everyone else does.

Yankees sign shortstop Ronny Rojas for $1M, and they remain connected to several top international prospects

According to Ben Badler, the Yankees have signed 16-year-old Dominican shortstop Ronny Rojas to a $1M signing bonus. The Yankees had been connected to Rojas for weeks, but had to wait until his 16th birthday on August 23rd to actually sign him. Now that he is of age, the two sides put pen to paper. Badler has a photo of the contract signing, if you’re interested.

Baseball America, MLB.com, and FanGraphs all ranked Rojas as the 11th best prospect available during the 2017-18 international signing period, which opened July 2nd. Pretty rare that three scouting publications all agree on a ranking like that, especially beyond the top two or three prospects. Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

Rojas succeeds in large part because of his quick hands and a good hitting approach from both sides of the plate. Scouts think he has a chance to hit for average and they love that he makes hard contact from both sides. In games, Rojas has displayed gap-to-gap power and there’s a chance he could hit home runs in the future … He makes all of the routine plays and has enough arm strength to keep him at the position now and in the future.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement teams can trade for an additional 75% of their original bonus pool. I didn’t realize that. It used to be 50%. The Yankees made three separate trades for international bonus space this summer — they made two minor deals with the Orioles and also netted bonus money in the Sonny Gray trade — and have reportedly maxed out their bonus pool. They started at $4.75M and are now at $8.3125M.

Bonus information for so many international deals goes unreported, and based on what we know, the Yankees have now spent $4.45M of their $8.3125M bonus pool. It is extremely likely they’ve spent more than that. Not necessarily a lot more — the big bonuses are always reported, but the small six-figure deals add up — but more. And, according to Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees are still connected to several top unsigned international amateurs:

The Rangers still appear to be the favorites for Patiño, and while there’s more uncertainty with Salinas and Cabello, several sources believe they could go to the Yankees, who have traded up for additional bonus pool space.

The Yankees are also the favorites to sign Venezuelan shortstop/center fielder Osleivis Basabe, the No. 46 prospect, though there is talk he might wait until 2018 to sign.

Salinas is Venezuelan outfielder Raimfer Salinas and Cabello is Venezuelan catcher Antonio Cabello. Salinas and Cabello are ranked among the top 15 international prospects by both Baseball America and MLB.com, so they’re not nobodies. If they sign, they’re getting a nice chunk of change. As for Basabe, I’m not sure why he’d wait to next year to sign, but hey, if he’s willing, that saves 2017-18 bonus space.

All things considered, the Yankees may end up spending north of $6M on international amateurs this signing period should the Salinas and Cabello signings happen. Probably more than $6M. That’s just me guesstimating. All those smaller signings add up, and as consensus top 15 prospects, Salinas and Cabello should be locks for mid-to-high six-figure bonuses, maybe even seven figures. For now, $6M to $6.5M is a guesstimate.

Every international signing these days is viewed through the Shohei Otani lens. Otani, should he come over to MLB this offseason, will be subject to the international hard cap because he is only 23. That $1M for Rojas means the Yankees have $1M less to offer Otani. That $8.3125M is a hard cap and it, along with whatever international signings the Yankees have made and will make, will determine how much they can offer Otani.

Based on my guesstimate, the Yankees would have approximately $2M for Otani after the season. Will it be enough? Who knows. This much is true: Otani won’t be coming over because he wants top dollar. Most teams have spent (or traded) most of their international bonus money, so while that $2M may not seem like much, few teams may be able to offer more. If Otani wanted to maximize his earning potential, he’d stay in Japan, where he’s making $2.3M this year and would make even more next year.

For now, the Yankees added another high-end international prospect in Rojas, and might add two more in Salinas and Cabello. Maybe even Basabe too. How that impacts a pursuit for Otani, assuming he comes to MLB this winter, remains to seen. I know this much: the Yankees aren’t stupid. They’re making these international signings with Otani in mind. It’s all part of the plan and hey, maybe they don’t like Otani and the plan is to not pursue him.

Yankeemetrics: Bronx Bombers invade Texas (Sept. 8-10)

(AP)
(AP)

Terrible Tanaka
If you were to bottle up the Yankees 2017 season and play it out over the course of a nine-inning game, you probably would end up with what happened on Friday night. The 11-5 loss perfectly captured this rollercoaster campaign.

A quick recap: the Yankees offense burst of the gate with five runs on eight hits in the first four innings, jumping out to a 5-1 lead, but then were totally blanked the rest of the game, with zero hits and zero runs in the final five frames. The pitching staff suffered its own collapse, too, allowing the Rangers to score 10 unanswered runs and cruise to the blowout win.

While this loss might not be as heart-breaking as others, it still ranks as one of the most embarrassing and contributes to this depressing stat: The Yankees now have five losses in games they had a lead of at least four runs, their most since 2006 (when they had six of them). It’s also one more such loss than they tallied in the 2015 and 2016 seasons combined.

After more than two months of the Good Tanaka churning out solid outings – he entered the game with a 2.77 ERA over his previous 12 starts – the Terrible Tanaka took the mound in Arlington and was pummeled. He coughed up seven runs on eight hits before getting pulled in the fifth inning. Yet in typical Jekyll-and-Hyde mode, Tanaka also flashed dominance as seven of the 12 outs he recorded were strikeouts.

The first big blow was a towering blast by Nomar Mazara in the second inning, the 30th longball Tanaka has given up the year. He is the ninth pitcher in franchise history to reach that mark, but none of the others averaged at least a strikeout per inning like Tanaka is doing this season. [/shrug]

The frequency of these disaster Tanaka starts underscores how much of an outlier the 2017 season is for the four-year veteran:

  • Fourth start with at least seven runs allowed, which matches the same number he had over 75 starts from 2014-16.
  • Seventh start that he failed to complete five innings; that’s four(!) more than he had in his first three seasons combined

As we pile on the mess that Tanaka produced Friday, its only fitting we give him our Obscure Yankeemetric: He is the first Yankee ever to allow at least seven earned runs, eight-plus hits and throw two wild pitches in a game while facing no more than 20 batters.

(AP)
(AP)

Super Sevy
As they’ve done all summer, the Yankees bounced back from one of their most horrible losses with one of their most inspiring wins of the season. Fueled by a late offensive surge and backed by a dominant pitching performance from their young ace, the Yankees won 3-1 with the lone Rangers run coming on their only hit of the gamein the fifth inning. It was their fourth game this season allowing no more than two hits, their most such games in a season since 1998.

The offense was M.I.A for the first seven innings as the Yankees seemed headed for another boring loss, until they finally put together a rally in the eighth and ninth innings. Tyler Austin played the unlikely hero role as his bases-loaded RBI single in the top of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie.

Despite limited playing time, has proved he can deliver in the clutch. Austin has a 1.599 OPS in “Late and Close Situations” (at-bats in the seventh inning or later with batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck) since getting called up to the bigs last year, the highest among all players over the last two seasons (min. 15 PA).

While the bats were in a deep slumber for much of the game, Luis Severino kept the game close with perhaps his most outstanding performance of the season. He allowed one hit and struck out 10 over seven masterful innings, adding to his Cy Young resume and legacy as one of the best young pitchers ever to wear the pinstripes. Lets go bullet-point style to recap his awesomeness:

  • Second Yankee to give up one or fewer hits in an outing of at least seven innings against the Rangers, joining Catfish Hunter, who threw a one-hit shutout on May 31, 1975 in Texas.
  • 15th start with no more than one run allowed, the most of any pitcher in the majors this season.
  • The 23-year-old is the youngest pitcher in franchise history to have 15 one-or-zero-run starts in a season, and the first Yankee of any age to do it since Mike Mussina in 2001.
  • Sevy is the second-youngest Yankee to give up no more than one hit while striking out at least 10 batters in a game; the youngest was a 22-year-old Al Downing, who threw a 10-strikeout, 1-hit shutout against the White Sox on July 2, 1963.

Severino has pitched brilliantly in the second half of the season (2.07 ERA since the break), and befitting of his incredible toughness and grit, has done his best work on the road over the past two months: 5-0 with a 0.89 ERA and 48 strikeouts in six starts away from the Bronx since July 15. He has pitched more than six innings and allowed one earned run or fewer in each of those outings, the longest such streak of road games in a single season by any Yankee pitcher. Ever.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Two many homers
When the Yankees bats are healthy, happy and clicking on all cylinders (facing a below-average pitching staff helps too) you get an offensive explosion like Sunday’s 16-7 rout of the Rangers.

They bashed their way to victory, with two of the the Baby Bombers — Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge — each going deep twice while etching their names in the record books multiple times. The last time that two Yankees as young as Sanchez and Judge had matching two-homer performances in the same game was September 23, 1973 against the Indians (Ron Blomberg and Otto Velez!).

Sanchez sparked the offensive fireworks with a first-inning laser shot to left field, and went deep again in the eighth, a 461-foot mammoth shot, for his 29th and 30th homers this year. His 30 homers match the single-season franchise record for a player whose primary position was catcher, set by Jorge Posada (2003) and Yogi Berra (1956, 1952). Sanchez is the youngest Yankee to reach the 30-homer milestone in a season since a 24-year-old Don Mattingly in 1985.

Those two bombs were also his 49th and 50th career homers (in his 161st big-league game), as he joined Mark McGwire and Rudy York as the lone players in MLB history to reach 50 dingers before their 162nd major-league game. And it was his seventh career multi-dinger game, a feat that only McGwire reached this early into his MLB career.

Together with Aaron Judge, they became the second set of Yankees age 25 or younger to hit 30-plus homers in the same season — Joe DiMaggio and Joe Gordon also did it in 1940.

Judge had a record-breaking afternoon, too, drawing his 107th walk of the season in the second inning, which set the modern era (since 1900) rookie mark. Two frames later he hit a solo dinger to center, his 40th home run of the season.

With that blast Judge joined a group of franchise legends to hit 40 homers in their age-25 season or younger: Mickey Mantle (1956), Joe DiMaggio (1937), Lou Gehrig (1927) and Babe Ruth (1920). Judge added his 41st home run in the sixth inning, a gigantic 463-foot blast that made him and Sanchez the only pair of teammates to each crush a 460-foot-plus home run in the same game this season.

And finally there’s this little historical nugget that sums up Judge’s unprecedented combo of patience and power: He is the first Yankee right-handed batter ever to hit 40 homers and walk 100 times in a season.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 11th, 2017

Record Last Week: 4-2 (46 RS, 31 RA)
Season Record: 77-65 (750 RS, 598 RA, 85-57 pythag. record) 3.5 GB in ALE, 3.5 GU on WC
Opponents This Week: @ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), vs. Orioles (four games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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Two homers for Judge, two homers for Sanchez in 16-7 win over the Rangers

Good win. Good road trip, all things considered. The Yankees pounded the Rangers in the series finale Sunday afternoon, closing out the impromptu six-game trip away from New York with a 16-7 win. They won four of the six games on the trip, and in the two losses, they held a four-run lead and a five-run lead. Hate you sometimes, baseball.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Blown Open
For all intents and purposes, Rangers righty A.J. Griffin is a knuckleballer who uses a mid-60s curveball instead of an actual knuckleball. He threw that curve 23 times in 59 pitches Sunday afternoon. I guess you have to use it so much when your fastball tops out at 87 mph. Griffin left one of those 87 mph heaters up in the zone in the first inning, and Gary Sanchez promptly deposited it deep into the left field seats for a quick 1-0 lead. Hooray.

The Yankees added two more runs in the third because Griffin plunked Sanchez in the shoulder with a pitch, and I’m pretty sure it was intentional after the homer. If it was, it was stupid, because it put two men on base with one out, and Didi Gregorius followed it up with a double into the right field corner. Add in an Aaron Judge sac fly and that apparently retaliatory hit-by-pitch contributed to a two-run third inning and a 3-1 Yankees lead. They really broke it open in the fourth. Let’s annotate the play-by-play.

yankees-vs-rangers-play-by-play(1) Griffin got through the lineup one time by keeping the Yankees off balance with that lollipop curveball. The second time through the lineup didn’t go nearly as well. Jacoby Ellsbury looked very comfortable in the box during his leadoff hit-by-pitch in the fourth — that one wasn’t intentional, Griffin hit him with a curveball — and Austin Romine‘s single to center was well-struck. Left his bat at 104.3 mph. That ended Griffin’s day. Nick Martinez came in, grooved a first pitch fastball to Brett Gardner, and he lined it into the left-center field gap to score Ellsbury and Romine. The rout was on.

(2) How good has Chase Headley been? He came into this game hitting .326/.392/.535 (144 wRC+) in the second half and his hot streak dates back even further than that, to mid-June or so. His single to center scored Gardner for a 6-1 lead. Headley went 1-for-6 in the game, which lowered his season batting line to .278/.358/.427 (109 wRC+). Pretty cool.

(3) Somehow the Yankees looked even more comfortable in the box against Martinez than they did against Griffin. Sanchez ripped a double down the left field line, though not into the corner, so Headley couldn’t score from first. As good as Headley has been, he’s still slow as hell. That’s okay. Runners at second and third with no outs and three runs already in works for me.

(4) Ground ball double plays that short circuit a big inning are no fun. Starlin Castro banged into a rally killer with runners on the corners and no outs, so a run did score on the play, but still. The first six batters of the inning reached base, then bam, double play. I guess the Yankees have screwed up so many times this year when hitting into a double play to score a run would’ve been a positive outcome that we should appreciate this one? Yeah, let’s go with that.

(5) All friggin’ rise. Judge crushed his 40th (41st*) home run of the season following Castro’s double play, and he smacked it the opposite way out to right-center field. When he’s at his best, Judge hammers the ball the other way. He’s not out of the woods yet, but that’s three homers in seven games now, plus a ton of walks. Not as many strikeouts either. Those hittable pitches he was missing the last few weeks? He’s starting to hit them again. Evidence: his 41st (42nd*) homer of the season, which he hit in the sixth inning.

So make it four homers in his last seven games. Judge is only the second rookie in history to hit 40 homers in a season, and he has a real chance to approach Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 home runs. Judge is the fifth Yankee age 25 or younger to hit 40 homers in the season, joining … wait for it … Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. Oh, and he also drew his 107th walk in this game, setting a new single-season rookie record. Good gravy.

Another Short Start For Montgomery
Does Jordan Montgomery belong in the rotation right now? It’s a question the Yankees have to at least ask, right? Montgomery needed 79 pitches to allow three runs on three hits and four walks in 3.1 innings Sunday, giving him a 5.27 ERA (4.99 FIP) in 12 starts and 56.1 innings dating back to July 1st. That works out to 4.69 innings per start. Some of that is by design to control his innings, but isn’t that also part of the problem? He can’t give you any length.

Anyway, in the second inning Montgomery gave up a game-tying solo home run to Robinson Chirinos, who is somehow hitting .268/.380/.558 (114 wRC+) with 17 home runs in 264 plate appearances this season. Gotta love the juiced ball. After the Yankees put up the six spot in the top of the fourth inning to take a 9-1 lead, Montgomery walked the first two batters on eleven pitches to start the bottom of the fourth. Not good. Walk, walk, strikeout, one-run double off the wall, afternoon over. Montgomery was yanked. Got one more out after the Yankees gave him a 9-1 lead in the fourth. Brutal.

Also brutal: Chad Green throwing 48 pitches in 2.1 innings in a blowout. He entered the game with a seven-run lead and left with an eight-run lead. So, to recap:

  • Thursday: Green pitches in an eight-run game.
  • Friday: Caleb Smith pitched in a two-run game.
  • Sunday: Green pitches in a seven-run game.

I know the Yankees have blown a four-run lead and a five-run lead within the last week, but using Green in games like this seems overkill? The Yankees blew those four and five-run leads partly because Green wasn’t available after pitching with even bigger leads. There has to be a middle ground somewhere, a middle ground where Green isn’t reserved to piggyback with Montgomery every fifth day. Green did allow a run in his 2.1 innings Sunday, so I guess it’s good he got it out of his system with a huge lead.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Not to be outdone by Judge, Sanchez added a second home run in the eighth inning, that one a very long solo blast onto the grassy knoll beyond center field. Sanchez missed a month and still reached 30 homers. As a catcher. At age 24. The 30 homers tie Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra for the most ever by a Yankees catcher in a single season, regardless of age. Judge and Gary are going to be socking dingers in the same game for a long, long time. I can’t wait.

You know you had a good day at the plate when your cleanup hitter went 4-for-4 with a double and is only the third biggest story on offense. Gregorius had those four hits and also drove in four runs. He somehow didn’t score a run though. Weird. Three hits for Romine and two for Gardner, so the wrap around 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup went a combined 13-for-24 (.542) with two doubles, one triple, and two homers. The Yankees scored 16 runs, had 18 hits and three walks, and struck out twice (Ellsbury and Ronald Torreyes).

Twice the Yankees had a runner at third base essentially deke the infielder into holding onto the ball and not making the play at first. In the third inning, with Sanchez at third, Castro hit a grounder to Joey Gallo, who tried to tag Sanchez after he wandered down the line. Gary retreated to the bag and everyone was safe. Then, in the fifth, Ellsbury deked Gallo into holding onto the ball on Headley’s would-be ground out. Everyone was safe again. Both Sanchez and Ellsbury came around to score after that.

As expected, both Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances pitched in the blowout win. For real. Kahnle struck out two in 1.1 scoreless innings and Betances struck out two in his inning. He also walked two and allowed a booming two-run double. Good thing he didn’t do that in a close game, huh? Dellin hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, so he needed the work. When Betances goes too long between appearances, it ain’t pretty, as we saw in this one.

Welcome to the Yankees, Erik Kratz. He never did catch while Sanchez and Romine served their suspensions, but he did come off the bench late in this game to pinch-hit for Sanchez with the score out of hand. He roped a run-scoring double. Sure, why not. Tyler Wade drove in a run with a single off the bench and Tyler Austin drew a pinch-hit walk. Everyone got in on the act except Castro (0-for-6) and Greg Bird (0-for-5).

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
For all intents and purposes, the road trip is over. The Yankees are heading back to New York for their neutral site series with the Rays at Citi Field. CC Sabathia and Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound in Monday night’s opener. Hope everyone in Florida is staying safe.