Eovaldi’s quality start not enough to save Yankees in 5-2 loss to Oakland

Woops (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Geez, another one that was hard to watch. You would think Yanks’ RISP drought would end probably today, but… not today. The Yankees have dropped six of their last seven games. Nathan Eovaldi had a decent outing clouded by one bad inning and that definitely wasn’t enough for the Yanks to win with their struggling offense.

Getting the Lead, Temporarily

The Yanks’ tortures with RISP continued in the first inning. With Carlos Beltran‘s ground out, Mark Teixeira‘s and A-Rod‘s strikeout with runners in scoring position, the offense was 2-for-45 in RISP situations, which is .044. After tonight’s game, that worsened to 2-for-49 (.041), which is like, well, even worse. What are some terms to describe “worse than atrocious?”

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Turns out that the Yankees did score with no one on base though. In the second, Did Gregorius drilled a 1-1 fastball into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead. A lead! Unfortunately, that would be all the run that they’d score off Kendall Graveman.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

One Bad Inning

All in all, this was the best start of Nate’s 2016 season so far. Quality start is a dumb term but Eovaldi threw well enough to warrant a win, pitching six innings of three-run ball while striking out seven.

Eovaldi got into a trouble in top of fourth. He allowed back-to-back doubles to Billy Burn and Chris Coghlan to allow a run. The next batter, Josh Reddick, hit a squib single to left that drove in Coghlan. It looked like Aaron Hicks‘ strong arm was going to get him out easily at home but Brian McCann couldn’t handle the tough bounce in front of him. 2-1 A’s. Things got worse when Danny Valencia singled to center to make it runners on corners with no out. Stephen Vogt’s sac fly made it 3-1.

It seemed like the Yankees could have gotten out of the inning when Jed Lowrie hit a grounder right at Chase Headley for a potential DP. Headley bobbled the ball for a second, which erased the DP chances but it seemed like he would at least get the force out to 2nd by flipping the ball to Didi. Gregorius, however, dropped the ball to have both runners safe.

Khris Davis followed it up with a sharp single that ricocheted off of the 3rd base bag to load the bases. Lucky that ball didn’t roll past the base – could have been an easy double. The Yankee defense finally stepped up when Hicks caught Alonso’s fly ball and threw Valencia out on the plate for an inning-ending double play. It was a heck of a throw, registering at 105.5 mph per StatCast (fastest ever recorded), according to Bryan Hoch. Hicks was also a hard-throwing pitcher as a high school prospect so he has a gun. This was a wacky inning that could have gone either better or worse.

After tonight’s start, Eovaldi has 22 K’s and only 3 walks in 17.2 IP, which are just about the prettiest numbers in his season stats. Some of the others are – 6.11 ERA, 2.04 HR/9, 21 hits and 4 HR’s in 17.2  – are not as pretty. His .362 BABIP allowed indicates that he’s been unlucky with some batted balls in play. Then again, it also could mean he’s been allowing meatballs in occasion that hitters devour instantly. BABIP will normalize and Eovaldi’s ERA will fall below 6 soon (I think). I think the fact that he’s struck hitters out to a 11.57 K/9 rate is pretty nice (6.57 K/9 in career).

Late Innings

With one out in the seventh, the A’s took out Graveman for lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Didi lined a single to center and CF Billy Burns mishandled it to advance Gregorius to second and Headley to third. The Yankees had two runners in scoring position with one out. What could possibly go wrong?

Hicks hit a grounder to SS Marcus Semien. Gregorius made an ill-advised decision to advance to third from second and Semien (at least initially seemed to) tagged him. He also finished a throw to first to get Hicks out, completing a double play. However, the Yankees challenged the call, stating that Gregorius was not tagged. YES Network’s replay seemed to show that Gregorius eluded Semien’s tag but did he get out of the baseline? Possible. Either way, the umpires stood by the initial calls to end the inning. It was that kind of night.

Branden Pinder took the mound in the eighth to keep it a two-run game, which he exactly failed to do. He allowed back-to-back singles to Billy Butler and Vogt, and walked Lowrie to load the bases pretty quick. Khris Davis hit a 0-1 fastball up the middle to drive two in, 5-1 A’s. Pinder did induce a GIDP and strikeout to limit the damage to two runs, but a four-run deficit seemed quite insurmountable with the reeling Yankee bats.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In the bottom of eighth, the Yankees scored another non-RISP run. Beltran hit a big solo homer to the second deck to make it 5-2, continuing his hot April. Geez, remember when he was godawful in last year’s April? (.162/.216/.265 in 68 April AB’s) Completely different this time. After tonight, his line is at .327/.333/.633, good for a 174 wRC+.

The A’s sent their closer Sean Doolittle for the bottom of ninth. McCann beat the shift to maybe start something, but A-Rod and Headley both flew out in two pitches, which was, well, anticlimactic. Gregorius struck out in three pitches to give a fitting end to recent offense tone. 5-2 A’s win.

Leftovers

So this is not really a Yankees thing but in the top fifth, Kendall Graveman became the first pitcher to bat in the current Yankee Stadium, thanks to the A’s having to sub Valencia out and move Lowrie off DH to the second base. It was also his first ever ML plate appearance. He’s never had a minor league at-bat either. He struck out in three pitches (predictably so) but it was a moment, to say the least.

Ivan Nova came into the game in the ninth and… actually pitched well. He threw a 1-2-3 inning – two ground outs and a fly out. Tonight’s outing improved his season ERA to, well, 6.00. Kirby Yates also came into the game today, throwing a scoreless inning in the seventh. For a guy who made one of the last roster spots out of ST, he’s been decent: 4.15 ERA in 4.1 IP with 2 walks and 6 K’s.

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Updated Standings

If you dare to look back to this game, here’s the box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will attempt to not get swept by the A’s in the home tomorrow. Luis Severino will take the mound against Rich Hill on another 7 pm game. Sleep well, folks .

DotF: Wade and Amburgey stay hot in losses

IF Thairo Estrada earned a write-up in Baseball America’s daily prospect report today following last night’s two-homer game. It’s not behind the paywall, so check it out. Estrada now has six dingers in 146 career games.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Buffalo)

  • LF-CF Ben Gamel & 2B Rob Refsnyder: both 0-4 — Gamel struck out once and threw a runner (Jesus Montero!) out at the plate
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 2 K
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-1, 1 R, 1 HBP — left the game two innings after taking a pitch to the hand … manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan that Heathcott’s hand stiffened up, and he will be re-evaluated tomorrow
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-3, 1 BB
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 5 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 64 of 91 pitches were strikes (70%)
  • LHP Tyler Olson: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 2/2 GB/FB — 22 of 35 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes … allowed another homer, so that’s eight in 16.1 innings between the regular season and Spring Training

[Read more…]

Game 13: Score Some Runs This Isn’t Funny Anymore

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have lost five of their last six games and they’ve scored 13 runs total in those six games. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in the five losses. The Yankees have a .317 OBP as a team in their last four games — the MLB average is a .314 OBP in 2016 — so they’re getting guys on base, but man, they can’t drive them in to save their lives.

Eventually the Yankees are going to bust out of it and score like six runs a game for a week. Remember when they scored 100 runs in a 12-game span last summer? That was cool. Do that again. Winning with run prevention is for suckers. Give me dingers and runs. Lots and lots of runs. Here is the Athletics’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. DH Alex Rodriguez
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Yet another great weather day in the New York. It’s supposed to rain maybe later in the week, but right now it’s gorgeous outside. Love it. Tonight’s game will begin just after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES, as always. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner was scratched from tonight’s starting lineup with a stiff neck, the Yankees announced. Apparently this may have been lingering since he fell backwards into the stands making that catch in Toronto.

YES Update: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a currently dealing with the Comcast nonsense. Here’s the Sling TV link.

2016 Draft: Kevin Gowdy

Kevin Gowdy | RHP

Background
Gowdy, 19 in November, is a Southern California kid from Santa Barbara, and this spring he has a 1.12 ERA with a 63/2 K/BB in 37.1 innings for Santa Barbara High School. He did not have a strong showing with the Team USA 18-and-under team last fall, and despite the impressive numbers, Gowdy has been a bit up and down this spring. He’s committed to UCLA.

Scouting Report
After sitting in the 91-93 mph range last year, Gowdy’s velocity has fluctuated anywhere between 87-93 mph this spring. He has the prototypical high school pitcher body (6-foot-4, 170 lbs.) and the belief is he will add velocity as he fills out, though that’s never a guarantee. Gowdy’s out pitch is a low-80s slider he can locate very well. He also throws a nascent changeup and is generally considered to have good command and a refined approach on the mound. Gowdy has an old school drop and drive delivery, but he sometimes flies open early, which hurts his location.

Miscellany
Baseball America, MLB.com, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Gowdy as the 14th, 22nd, and 25th best prospect in the 2016 draft class in their most recent rankings, respectively. If he can gain some consistency with his velocity and delivery these next few weeks, he’ll land comfortably in the middle of the first round. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick and not only does scouting director Damon Oppenheimer gravitate towards SoCal prospects, the team also likes pitchers with some smarts to go along with their raw stuff. Gowdy is not Drew Finley in that regard, but he’s among the more advanced prep arms in the 2016 draft.

Dustin Ackley is getting the Garrett Jones treatment, and there’s nothing the Yankees can do

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As part of this ongoing on-the-fly rebuild process, the Yankees have been targeting talented young players who have worn out their welcome for whatever reason. That led them to Dustin Ackley last July. The Yankees picked up Ackley, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, for two fringe 40-man roster players because he was an upgrade over Garrett Jones with the potential to be much more.

Ackley hit his way into regular at-bats late last season and gave the offense a nice little shot in the arm. So far this year he’s assumed the role Jones filled last summer, meaning the bench player who fits the roster well but rarely plays. Jones gave the Yankees lefty pop and depth at first base, right field, and DH, three positions where the team had injury concerns. Ackley does the same, and adds second base to the mix as well.

So far this season Ackley has started two of the team’s first dozen games: one at first base and one at DH. He also came off the bench to play three innings in the field at the end of a blowout. That’s it. Ackley is 0-for-7 with a walk at the plate in the regular season after putting together a strong Spring Training in which he hit .298/.313/.404 in 48 plate appearances, seventh most on the team.

The Yankees haven’t been able to get Ackley much playing time thus far and it does not appear he will get much in the immediately future either. Not with all those lefties coming up. And here’s the thing: this is the right move. Aaron Hicks has the outfield covered, Starlin Castro‘s production has kept him into the lineup, and it’s hard to sit Mark Teixeira given what he does on both sides of the ball. Where does that leave Ackley?

On the bench, for now. It won’t necessarily stay that way all season. One injury can change everything, and even if everyone stays healthy (fingers crossed), Joe Girardi and the Yankees insist they will rest their regulars more often this season. They had four off-days in the first two weeks of the season. They have two in the next five weeks. Ackley is going to come into more playing time as the regulars rest.

The Yankees have Nick Swisher sitting in Triple-A as a possible alternative should Ackley not get it together at some point — Swisher reportedly has an opt-out in his contract, though I don’t know when it is — and need to be replaced. I’m not sure anyone would be able to produce in the Jones role given the lack of playing time though. Ackley is only 28 and he has talent, and at some point I’d like to see him get a chance to play, but there’s no obvious spot to do it.

The offense has struggled these last six games, and while the natural reaction is to change the lineup, Ackley’s a band-aid more than a solution. Teixeira, Castro, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran are the Yankees’ four best hitters right now, so Girardi can’t take one of them out of the lineup to play Ackley. I supposed he could sit Alex Rodriguez, but getting A-Rod going is more important than getting Ackley at-bats.

The Yankees could really use some kind of a spark at the plate right now. I just don’t think Ackley can provide it. He’s stuck in a very difficult position. The Yankees need him because he plays positions where they have some age and injury concerns, but they also don’t want to sit the guys they have at those positions if at all possible. Perhaps Ackley can figure out a way to thrive in this role. That will be a big challenge, however.

Changeup was a big help for Pineda against the Athletics

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Tuesday night Michael Pineda turned in his best start of the young season, holding the admittedly offensively challenged Athletics to two runs in six innings. He had a long second inning thanks to some grounders that beat the shift, but otherwise the A’s didn’t put too much pressure on him. Big Mike had to grind through his previous starts against the Astros and Blue Jays.

“I thought he threw the ball pretty well tonight,” said Joe Girardi to Mark Feinsand after the game. “I thought he mixed his pitches. I thought his slider had good depth tonight. Sometimes too much, but that’s okay. I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”

As usual, Pineda attacked hitters with (cut) fastballs and sliders last night. That’s Pineda. He’s a fastball/slider guy. They’re his bread and butter. But, for the first time this season, Big Mike also leaned on his changeup Tuesday night, throwing eleven of them overall. He threw 12 changeups total in his first two starts.

“I’m feeling pretty good today on the mound,” said Pineda to Chad Jennings following his start. “I have better command today with my pitches. I’m doing good. The changeup is working good tonight and my slider too.”

Pineda threw ten of those eleven changeups to left-handed batters and he threw it to both start at-bats (two first pitch changeups) and finish hitters off (six when ahead in the count). The A’s put three of the eleven changeups in play (all outs) and only one went for a ball. That all sounds good, but look at the location (via Brooks Baseball):

Michael Pineda location

That’s a lot of blue dots out over the plate, and while it’s natural to think pitches in the zone are bad, that’s not necessarily the case. The entire point of the changeup is to disrupt timing. As long as the hitter is out in front and unable to square up the pitch, the changeup is effective. Sometimes they make contact and get a ball to dunk in for a hit. That’s just baseball being baseball.

Pineda threw those 12 total changeups in his first two starts and hitters took seven of them for balls. (Carlos Correa smashed another one off the damn restaurant in center field.) That’s not great. The changeup doesn’t help much if it doesn’t entice hitters to swing, not unless the plan is to sneak it by everyone for a called strike. I can’t imagine that would work long-term.

There is a balance to be struck here. Ideally Pineda would continue to use his changeup regularly and be able to get hitters to chase after it without throwing it over the heart of the plate. That’s hard! Command is not easy. If it was, everyone would have it. Pineda’s been working on his changeup since the Yankees acquired him — the shoulder injury threw a wrench into things — and he’s still working on it. It’s hardly a finished product.

After barely throwing his changeup in his first two starts, Pineda leaned on the pitch against the A’s last night, and it helped him have his best outing of the season. The change is never going to become his No. 1 weapon, his fastball and slider are too good, but using it often enough to keep hitters guessing could help Big Mike find some sustained success, something he continues to chase in pinstripes.

The Yankees are about to learn a lot about their ability to hit left-handed pitching

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Late last season, when the Yankees were struggling to get much going offensively, they were shut down by left-handed starters seemingly every other night. As a team they hit .248/.320/.345 with only eight homers in 470 plate appearances against southpaws last September. They dropped nine of 13 games when the opposing starter was a lefty in that final month.

“I think we struggled against left-handers,” said Joe Girardi after the wildcard game loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros. “We lost a big bat (in Mark Teixeira), and he was one of the guys we counted on to do a lot of damage to left-handers. And Greg Bird had one of our hits tonight and had a tremendous season for us, but we struggled against left-handers.”

So far this season the Yankees are 0-3 when facing an left-handed starter. They replaced Chris Young with Aaron Hicks and the lefty hitting Stephen Drew with the righty hitting Starlin Castro (you could argue Castro replaced the righty hitting Rob Refsnyder), but so far the team owns a .226/.320/.321 (86 OPS+) batting line against southpaws. The struggles of late 2015 have carried over into early 2016.

Of course, we’re talking about a sample of three games here, so you can’t make too much of this. The Yankees are about to begin a stretch that will tell us much more about their ability to hit southpaws though. Based on the upcoming schedule and pitching probables, the club has just started a stretch in which they will face six left-handed opposing starters in nine games. Here’s the list:

Tuesday, April 19th: LHP Eric Surkamp (loss)
Wednesday, April 20th: RHP Kendall Graveman
Thursday, April 21st: LHP Rich Hill
Friday, April 22nd: RHP Erasmo Ramirez
Saturday, April 23rd: LHP Matt Moore
Sunday, April 24th: LHP Drew Smyly
Monday, April 25th: LHP Cole Hamels
Tuesday, April 26th: RHP A.J. Griffin
Wednesday, April 27th: LHP Martin Perez

Obvious caveat: the upcoming starters may change for a variety of reasons. The further out you go, the more likely it is the opposing starter changes. We’re looking at a nine-day span here — we’re on day two already — so we aren’t looking that far ahead, but yeah, things can change. As always, pitching probables are just that. Probables.

With five lefties coming in the next eight games, Hicks is going to see a lot of playing time and for good reason. He’s a career .258/.347/.425 (139 OPS+) hitter against lefties. Hitting lefties is why the Yankees went out and got him. Well, that’s not true. The Yankees hope he develops into an everyday player at some point. At a bare minimum, they want Hicks to mash southpaws. They’ll be able to get him in the lineup consistently this next week or so, something they’ve been unable to do yet this year.

“We’re going to see a lot of lefties in the next nine or ten days,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings prior to last night’s game. “So Hicksie’s probably going to get a lot of at-bats because he’s been so good against left-handers in his career. It’s a day to keep those guys fresh and to keep him involved. I think he’s important to this team, especially against the left-handers.”

Castro didn’t hit lefties much last year (80 OPS+) — he didn’t hit anyone last year — but he is 3-for-11 (.273) with three doubles against southpaws in the early going. Even if he was 0-for-11, he would still be in the starting lineup every time the Yankees face a lefty this season. He batting second last night, after all. I supposed we could see the right-handed hitting Ronald Torreyes at some point, maybe to give Didi Gregorius a breather, but that’s about as far as lineup changes go.

More than anything, the Yankees need the regulars to step up and produce if they want to right the ship against left-handers. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Teixeira … those guys. They have to carry the offense regardless of whether there’s a righty or lefty on the mound. It hasn’t happened these last six games overall but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen going forward.

These next nine games will be a good litmus test for the offense’s ability to handle left-handed pitchers. They can’t be as vulnerable against southpaws as they were late last year. Not if they want to stay in the race and possibly return to the postseason. Castro and Hicks figure to help to some extent. Bottom line, it’s up to the regulars to lead the way.