The Yankees didn’t just beat the Rangers in the series opener on Tuesday, they beat them in a very un-Yankees-like way. Well, at least a very un-2013 Yankees-like way. New York actually hit the ball out of the park in the 4-3 victory.
Too Many Homers
Homers? Homers! Oh how much I’ve missed them. Sweet, glorious dingers. Did you know that prior to Tuesday’s game, the Yankees had hit a total of four (!) homers in their last 15 (!) games? That’s ridiculous. Four homers used to be a bad series for this team, but these are much different times. Thankfully, the Yankees went back to their roots and hit the ball out over the fence en route to beating the Rangers.
The first of the four homers was a Travis Hafner solo shot in the fourth, which came against a hanging Yu Darvish breaking ball. It was on a tee and gone off the bat. Very little doubt about that one. The second was a Brett Gardner solo homer in the fifth, off another hanging breaking ball. This one wasn’t hung as badly, though. Gardner actually hit the ball farther out than Hafner, believe it or not. The third was yet another solo shot, this one off the bat of Jayson Nix in the sixth. And yes, it was another hanging breaking ball. Unlike Hafner and Gardner, Nix hit his out to left field.
The fourth of the four homers came after it looked as though the Yankees were going to squander a prime scoring opportunity. Chris Stewart drew a four-pitch walk to leadoff the ninth, but he was erased at second on Gardner’s fielder’s choice. Gardner was then thrown out trying to steal, his sixth caught stealing in 17 attempts. That 64.7% success rate is way, way too low for a player like him. He came into the year with an 82.2% success rate and that’s where he needs to be. Hopefully Gardner improves that in the second half.
Anyway, Ichiro Suzuki picked up his teammates with a two-out, two-strike solo homer off reliever Tanner Scheppers. It was a 97 mph two-seam fastball according to PitchFX, so Ichiro had to really get his bat around quick to hit it out. Scheppers tried to put the ol’ Bartolo Colon for the called strike three, throwing the two-seamer inside and hoping it would dart back across the corner. Instead, he caught way too much of the plate and Ichiro turned it right around for no-doubter. It was New York’s first walk-off win of the season.
Coming into the game, Darvish was center of attention. That’s no surprise — he’s one of best and certainly one of the most fascinating pitchers in the world. When a guy like that comes to the Bronx, all eyes are on him. Until the Yankees started playing Homerun Derby in the middle innings, he had lived up to the hype as well.
Hiroki Kuroda, meanwhile, chugged along with little fanfare, as he tends to do. He outpitched his countryman by quite a bit, putting up a 59 Game Score to Darvish’s 46. Kuroda did surrender a pair of solo homers to Leonys Martin, Texas’ number nine hitter, but otherwise he struck out six, walked one, and allowed just three singles in 6.2 innings. He had plenty left in the tank (99 pitches) to record the final out of the seventh, but Joe Girardi pulled him in fave of Boone Logan to get the left-on-left matchup against Martin. Kuroda wasn’t great but he was damn effective, stealing the show from Darvish.
Big ups to the bullpen for 2.1 scoreless innings, even if they did put three men on base. Logan struck out Martin to end the seventh, then David Robertson pitched around a single and a walk in the eighth. Mariano Rivera pitched around a single in the ninth. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but they got the job done and gave the offense a chance to win in the late innings after being down 2-0 and 3-1 earlier in the game.
Ichiro and Hafner were the only Yankees with two hits, yet the top four hitters in the order did go 6-for-17 (.353) with three homers. The bottom five spots went 2-for-18 (.111) with the one homer. Lyle Overbay (0-for-4 with three strikeouts) and David Adams (0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts) were particularly dreadful. Overbay contributed to a blown bases loaded opportunity in the first and a blown first-and-third opportunity in the fifth, both times with less than two outs. The Yankees need to start thinking about finding a new first baseman given Mark Teixeira‘s continued wrist problems.
Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in the world, but he botched two plays in this game. First he pulled the first baseman off the bag with an errant throw on a pretty routine grounder, then he had a line drive hit right off his glove and deflect into the outfield. That play wasn’t routine, but it was hit right at him and it hit the mitt. A big leaguer has to make that play. Beltre was charged with two errors for the first time since June 7th, 2010. Neither led to a run, so no harm, no foul.
And finally, I’ll close with this: the walk-off blast was only the second walk-off homer of Ichiro’s career. The other? It came against Mo back in September 2009. Symmetry, or something.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has the standings. The Orioles and Red Sox won while the Rays beat the Blue Jays, so the Yankees are one back of Boston, one up on Baltimore, three up on Tampa, and four up on Toronto in the loss column.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, when Andy Pettitte gets the ball against Justin Grimm. Grimm is 86.2 innings into his big league career and Pettitte might only have 86.2 left in his. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum with that matchup. RAB Tickets is the place to go if you want to see that one live.
Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Syracuse)
- CF Corey Patterson: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — threw a runner out at third
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — 13-for-33 (.394) with three doubles, two homers, four walks, and four strikeouts in his last nine games
- RF Fernando Martinez: 3-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI
- LF Thomas Neal: 1-4, 1 K
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 37 of 63 pitches were strikes (59%) … easily his best outing at this level
- RHP Yoshinori Tateyama: 2 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 18 of 23 pitches were strikes (78%)
In his latest minor league rehab start for Double-A Trenton, right-hander Michael Pineda allowed two singles and two walks in six scoreless innings. He struck out four (all swinging) and threw 52 of 77 pitches for strikes (68%). Mike Ashmore says scouts had him sitting 92 and topping out at 95, which is consistent with what we’ve heard in recent weeks. Ashmore also has a ton of video, if you’re interested.
Pineda, 24, has now made three real rehab starts to go along with one simulated game. His 30-day rehab window expires on July 8th, at which point the Yankees must activate him off the DL and either add him to the big league roster or option him to the minors. It seems inevitable that he’ll go down for the two or so weeks necessary to delay his free agency by a year, but things could change between now and then. No word on when or where Pineda will made his next rehab start, but both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton will be on the road in five days. · (9) ·
Tuesday: Brignac has indeed elected free agency, reports Bryan Hoch. Would have been nice to keep him in Triple-A, but it’s not the biggest loss in the world obviously.
Monday: Via Jon Heyman: Reid Brignac has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment last week. He has yet to accept a minor league assignment and can instead elect free agency. The Yankees swapped Brignac for Alberto Gonzalez in an attempt to upgrade the backup backup backup infielder spot, and it would be nice if he accepted the Triple-A assignment. As bad as Brignac was in pinstripes, having a legitimate shortstop stashed in the minors is kinda important. · (8) ·
Two winters ago, the Rangers blew everyone away by bidding over $50M for the right to negotiate with right-hander Yu Darvish. The Yankees submitted a token $15M bid with the idea that they’d take him if he fell into their laps, but otherwise they weren’t terribly interested because they were concerned how his stuff and makeup would translate to the big leagues. Obviously those concerns look foolish now, as the former Nippon Ham Fighters ace has handled the transition just fine. More than fine, really.
Tonight, the Yankees will face Darvish for the second time since deeming him not fit for New York some 18 months ago. He manhandled them his first time out — a ten-strikeout masterpiece in which he held the team scoreless through 8.1 innings — which was his fourth MLB start and something of a coming out party. With a much inferior lineup tonight, the Yankees will have to hope Darvish truly can’t handle Yankee Stadium and the Big Apple in order to have a chance to win. Here’s the starting lineup:
- CF Brett Gardner
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Travis Hafner
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- LF Zoilo Almonte
- SS Jayson Nix
- 3B David Adams
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is Darvish’s countryman, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. This is the 11th matchup between Japanese-born starting pitchers in baseball history. These two met last April as well, number seven out of those eleven.
It is pretty gross in New York right now — hot with just enough humidity to make everything feel sticky. Some showers are expected later tonight, but much later. Not anything that is a real threat to the game as long as they don’t go into extra innings. The game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET, and you can watch on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist) is seeing the doctor tonight and Joe Girardi said he is concerned about the lingering discomfort. They should have an update later on … Eduardo Nunez (ribcage) had some simulated at-bats while Frankie Cervelli (hand) hit off a tee and soft-toss today … Girardi also said he isn’t expecting any of the team’s injured players to return before the All-Star break in three weeks.
5:41pm: Conflicting reports! Bryan Hoch says the WBC is not on the hook for Teixeira’s salary since the Yankees activated him off the DL. The team will, however, recoup some insurance money while he’s hurt. Either way, someone other than the Yankees are paying part of Teixeira’s salary while he is injured. So there.
12:30pm: Via David Waldstein: The World Baseball Classic is indeed responsible for Mark Teixeira’s salary during his current DL stint because he went back on the shelf with the same injury. Ken Rosenthal originally reported that would be the case in March, but there was some confusion after the Yankees activated the first baseman off the DL.
Teixeira, 33, is still feeling discomfort in his right wrist after receiving a cortisone shot last week. Even if he doesn’t need season-ending surgery, it seems clear he isn’t particularly close to returning right now. Teixeira earns close to $140k per game, so the Yankees are saving a ton of money due to the injury. They reinvested the portion they saved during his first DL trip on Vernon Wells, so hopefully they make a better move with the savings if he is indeed out long-term. If Tex misses the rest of the year, the Yankees are going to have something like $12.5M extra to play around with at the deadline. That’s huge. · (52) ·
Via K. Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees have signed seventh round pick Nick Rumbelow to a $100k bonus. Slot money for the 224th overall pick was just under $161k, so the junior right-hander from LSU saves the team a little bit of draft pool space.
Rumbelow, 21, pitched to a 3.31 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 32.2 relief innings for the Tigers this spring. “He flashes a quick arm with 94-95 mph heat … his top secondary pitch is a curveball that is inconsistent but at times shows power and comes out of the same release point as his fastball,” wrote Baseball America (subs. req’d) before the draft. LSU was eliminated from the College World Series just a few days ago, so the Yankees and Rumbelow had to wait for that to happen before hammering out a deal.
Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page. Sandwich rounder Fresno State OF Aaron Judge is the team’s only unsigned player from the top ten rounds. Slot is just over $1.67M and New York has $1.989M worth of draft pool space remaining. · (2) ·
While speaking to reporters this afternoon, Joe Girardi confirmed Ivan Nova will not be sent to Triple-A Scranton today and will instead remain with the team for the time being. The right-hander will throw his regular between-starts bullpen session today, and Girardi indicated Nova could make another spot start at some point before the All-Star break. When? Who knows. Until they figure out a plan, the team will be playing with a three-man bench. Not ideal. · (83) ·
The Yankees have played every AL team this season except for three, and they’ll cross one of those off the list this week: the Rangers. The Twins and White Sox will come along eventually. New York and Texas have some recent history, dating back to the playoffs in the late-1990s playoffs as well as the 2010 ALCS.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rangers have been very hot and cold of late, and they’re coming off five straight wins. Not long before that, they lost six straight. Overall, they are 44-32 with a +26 run differential this season, the best record and fourth best run differential in the AL.
At 4.4 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, the Rangers can score some runs even though they do not have the same kind of high-powered offense we’re used to seeing. They are without southpaw masher UTIL Jeff Baker (288 wRC+ vs. LHP) and CF Craig Gentry (64 wRC+), who are both on the DL with hand problems. Baker actually sprained his thumb high-fiving a teammate, in case you need to laugh at someone else’s injuries for once.
Manager Ron Washington has a deep lineup with seven regulars who are producing at a league average rate of better. 2B Ian Kinsler (126 wRC+) is fresh off the DL and the leadoff hitter, SS Elvis Andrus (52 wRC+) bats second, former Yankee DH Lance Berkman (104 wRC+) bats third, and 3B Adrian Beltre (121 wRC+) cleans up. OF Nelson Cruz (124 wRC+), C A.J. Pierzynski (111 wRC+), 1B Mitch Moreland (129 wRC+), and CF Leonys Martin (100 wRC+) usually follow the top four in some order. OF David Murphy (72 wRC+) is the final regular. Those are the nine guys Washington runs out there pretty much everyday.
The Rangers are actually carrying three catchers, though C Robinson Chirinos (37 wRC+ in limited time) can play a bunch of other positions as well. C Geovany Soto (76 wRC+) is the traditional backup. OF Engel Beltre was just called up and has yet to get into a game. Whenever he does, it will be his big league debut. IF Jurickson Profar (83 wRC+) is baseball’s top prospect and something more than a part-time utility infielder. The starting nine can mash overall, but guys like Pierzynski, Cruz, Murphy, Moreland, and Martin are worse off against same-side pitchers. The switch-hitting Berkman has traditionally fared worse against lefties than righties.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Texas was nice enough to rearrange their rotation a bit so Darvish could start tonight’s game rather than their last game against the Cardinals on Sunday. Thanks for that. The 26-year-old has dominated this year, pitching to a 2.84 ERA (2.83 FIP) with an insane strikeout rate (12.17 K/9 and 34.2 K%). He also doesn’t walk many (2.75 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%) and gets a decent amount of ground balls (46.0%). You can take him deep (0.98 HR/9 and 13.8% HR/FB) on occasion, however. Darvish is a true six-pitch pitcher, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with his two- and four-seamer and in the upper-80s with his cutter and splitter. A sharp low-80s slider is his top strikeout pitch, and he’ll also mix in a floating upper-60s curveball. He can varying the break on the slider — one goes side-to-side, another breaks hard and down — so he’s really a seven-pitch pitcher. Sounds like fun. Darvish struck out ten Yankees in 8.1 scoreless innings the only time he’s faced them, and that came early last year when New York had a much, much better lineup.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Justin Grimm
The Rangers have almost a complete rotation on the DL, so the 24-year-old Grimm has been forced onto the staff for most of the year. His 5.57 ERA (4.32 FIP) is backed by decent peripherals: 7.18 K/9 (17.9 K%), 3.10 BB/9 (7.7 BB%), 1.24 HR/9 (11.6% HR/FB), and 42.7% grounders. Grimm sits in the low-90s with his four-seam fastball, which he uses to set up his upper-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. The curve is his go-to secondary pitch; he throws it almost 30% of the time and it keeps him from showing a platoon split. The Yankees have never faced Grimm, who has 86.2 career innings to his credit.
Thursday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Derek Holland
Holland, 26, is very quietly having an excellent year now that he’s gotten his homer problem under control (0.56 HR/9 and 6.3% HR/FB). Well, he’s probably at least a little lucky with the homers given that HR/FB rate, which is especially low given his home ballpark. Holland has a 3.43 ERA (2.80 FIP) with very good strikeout (8.35 K/9 and 22.2 K%) and walk (2.32 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) totals. He gets a ground ball on 42.5% of balls in play. Working off a sinker that sits in the low-to-mid-90s, Holland uses low-80s sliders and changeups as his primary offspeed weapons. A mid-70s curveball will also make an appearance. The Yankees have faced him a bunch of times over the years and have typically hit him very hard — 41 runs and 75 base-runners in 39.2 innings.
Like the Bombers, Texas was off on Monday and they have a rested bullpen. Closer RHP Joe Nathan (2.90 FIP) has never met a big game he can’t blow, especially against the Yankees. Unfortunately this series really doesn’t qualify as “big.” RHP Tanner Scheppers (3.84 FIP) and LHP Robbie Ross (2.32 FIP) are the primary setup men while RHP Jason Frasor (4.07 FIP) and LHP Neal Cotts (2.23 FIP in limited time) do the middle relief thing. RHP Ross Wolf (3.43 FIP) and RHP Kyle McClellan (5.33 FIP) are the extra arms.
Both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson have had two straight days off, so they’re in good shape. Pretty much every middle reliever appeared in Sunday’s game, though that’s no real biggie. The Yankees are in fine bullpen shape going into tonight’s series opener. Our Bullpen Workload page has all the details. Now that Baseball Time In Arlington is defunct, Lone Star Ball is my (Texas) Rangers blog of choice.
It will be three weeks before the Yankees enjoy another day away from the park — yesterday’s was their last scheduled off-day until the All-Star break. The annual 20 games in 20 days stretch is always brutal, so hopefully the Yankees can weather the storm before getting some of the injured guys back. Hopefully that will start to happen right after the break. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts.
1. Assuming Ivan Nova goes back to Triple-A before tonight’s game — “I don’t view Nova right now as a threat to [Phil Hughes],” said Brian Cashman to Andy McCullough yesterday, so it seems likely he goes down — I have absolutely no idea who the Yankees will call up to fill the roster spot. I would think it would be a position player so they can get back to normal 12-man pitching staff, but the only player in the minors who is both on the 40-man roster and not on the DL is outfielder Ramon Flores. He’s not coming up from Double-A. They do have an open 40-man spot after cutting Chris Bootcheck last week, so I guess someone like Dan Johnson or the recently acquired Brent Lillibridge could be the guy. Lillibridge can play all over the field and Johnson (gasp!) might actually hit the ball out of the park on occasion. We’ll find out soon enough, I guess.
2. Even though David Adams has been brutal for about a month now, I like that the Yankees installed him at third base full-time and put an end to the rotating left side of the infield. Playing part-time is tough and something Adams has never done before, so maybe getting back in the lineup on an everyday basis helps get his back going. I do think his at-bats have looked better of late, particularly when he drew two walks in Saturday’s win, but at some point the results will have to come. The Yankees have gotten nothing out of their third basemen this year and it’s unclear how much Alex Rodriguez will provide if/when he rejoins the team. Giving Adams a chance to sink or swim right now is the lesser of multiple evils and gives the team some more time to evaluate him before the trade deadline.
3. Zoilo Almonte won’t continue to hit to a 345 wRC+ the rest of the way, but his recent emergence has made the need to add a corner outfield bat a little less of a priority. Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees should still add one if the right deal comes along, but it’s no a longer absolutely imperative. If anything, a corner infield bat is the bigger hole now. Lyle Overbay stopped hitting about 40 games ago, and it’s sounding more and more likely that Mark Teixeira is heading towards season-ending wrist surgery. Maybe getting back in the lineup everyday will bring Overbay’s bat back to life, but I’m not optimistic. First baseman aren’t the toughest thing to find, and if the Yankees can drum up someone better than Lyle, I’d make the switch in a heartbeat. Hell, maybe Johnson is that guy. I appreciate what Overbay did earlier in the year, but goodwill never won anyone anything.
4. How awful have the catchers been this season? They’re hitting a collective .225/.290/.326 (67 wRC+) despite Frankie Cervelli‘s insane start to the season (141 wRC+), something that probably wasn’t going to continue anyway. Even the most ardent Cervelli backers can acknowledge that. Austin Romine had been a disaster (-17 wRC+), and since taking over as the number one guy following Frankie’s injury, Chris Stewart is hitting .233/.299/.291 in 119 plate appearances. He has thrown out eight of 20 attempted base-stealers (40%), which is awesome, but overall I’ve felt his glovework behind the plate has really lagged behind his reputation. No amount of pitch framing can makeup for the offensive black hole and blah defense. The Yankees really dropped the ball by not addressing their catching situation this winter; it’s such an incredibly important position yet they completely ignored it. Hard to believe a self-proclaimed championship-caliber team thought this lot of catchers was a viable solution behind the plate.