Considering how poorly things started on Friday night, this series against the Angels went pretty well for the Yankees. They followed up Saturday’s one-run win with another one-run win on Sunday, coming from behind (twice!) and taking the lead late. The final score was 3-2. The Yankees have now won ten of their last 14 games.



Bad Tanaka Is Still Pretty Good
For the first time in his brief big league career, Masahiro Tanaka really struggled with his command and did not appear to be on the same page as catcher Brian McCann. It got to the point that, in the fourth inning, McCann had to call pitching coach Larry Rothschild and translator Shingo Horie out of the dugout to make sure the message was clear. I thought the Angels did a good job of laying off some splitters down and out of the zone with two strikes. Here’s the PitchFX from Brooks Baseball, if you’re interested.

Tanaka walked four batters on the night after walking two total in his first four starts. He also failed complete seven full innings of work for the first time. And yet, he held the best offense in baseball (in terms of runs per game) to two runs in 6.1 innings with a season-high eleven strikouts. If that’s a bad start, I’ll take a season full of ‘em. Tanaka allowed those two runs on a J.B. Shuck ground out and a David Freese solo homer, and four of the Halos’ five hits came on the first pitch of the at-bat. It was clear they wanted to jump on something in the zone early in the count. In addition to the eleven strikeouts, Tanaka got six outs on the ground and two in the air. Not bad for a guy who labored early.



Good Starter, Bad Bullpen
Angels righty Garrett Richards was the better starting pitcher in this game. He held the Yankees to three hits and two walks in seven innings, and it wasn’t until Mark Teixeira‘s game-tying solo homer in the seventh inning that Richards actually allowed a hard-hit ball. Even Brian Roberts‘ double down the left field line in the fifth inning wasn’t hard hit, it was just well-placed. That led to the team’s first run by pushing Teixeira to third, allowing him to score on Ichiro Suzuki‘s ground out. Did you know Teixeira leads the team with has a .386 OBP? Sneaky. (Forgot about Yangervis Solarte, who has a .400 OBP.)

Anyway, the Yankees turned back the clock a few years and used the old “wait out the starter, jump on the bullpen” strategy. They took the lead in the eighth inning thanks to a no-hit rally. The inning went walk (Jacoby Ellsbury), strikeout (Derek Jeter), walk (Carlos Beltran), passed ball (runners move up), and wild pitch (run scores, runner to third). Ellsbury did try to steal second, but it was spoiled by a Jeter foul ball. Does that rally qualify as smallball? I guess so. Righty Michael Kohn faced the first three batters while lefty Nick Maronde faced McCann and uncorked both the passed ball (that was on catcher Chris Iannetta, it was awful) and wild pitch. Alfonso Soriano grounded into a double play to kill the rally, but the go-ahead run had already scored and that’s all that mattered.

Ich? (Elsa/Getty)

Ich? (Elsa/Getty)

David Robertson issued an umpire-aided walk — Iannetta took what should have been strike three, at least according to ESPN’s strike zone thing, but the ump called it a ball — but otherwise struck out a pair and shut the door in the ninth to preserve the win. He is a perfect 4-for-4 in save chances. Ninth inning ain’t no thing. Adam Warren got five pretty big outs between Tanaka and Robertson, most notably getting through Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. He gave up a single to Trout and coaxed a ground ball double play from Pujols. Just like they drew it up.

The Yankees only had three hits on the night: homer by Teixeira, double by Roberts, ground ball single through the shift by Kelly Johnson. They drew four walks, including two by Beltran and one each by Ellsbury and Teixeira. That’s all. They did a good job of clustering this stuff together for runs in the fifth and eighth innings. Timing is everything, folks.

Ichiro made a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad play in left field that resulted in a Howie Kendrick triple with two outs in the fifth. It didn’t come back to bite them because the bases were empty and Tanaka struck out the next batter, but Ichiro got twisted all around and flat out missed a very catchable fly ball. I think it was a passive aggressive dig at Tanaka because he is now the most popular Japanese player on the team.

Tanaka is only the third pitcher in history with 7+ strikeouts in his first five starts, joining Jose DeLeon and Stephen Strasburg. Hat tip to @BRefPlayIndex for that one. He is only the second pitcher ever with three 10+ strikeout games in his first five starts, joining Mark Prior. The hat tip for that one goes to @yestoresearch.

Solarte was a late scratch because of a sore shoulder, and after the game Joe Girardi confirmed he was sent for tests. Everything came back clean and they are hopeful he will be ready to play on Tuesday.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to FanGraphs has some additional stats and ESPN has the updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off on Monday and then they’ll welcome Robinson Cano back to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. Robbie will bring his new Mariners teammates for a three-game series. CC Sabathia and Chris Young is the pitching matchup for Tuesday night’s opener. If you want to see Cano’s return in person, RAB Tickets can get you in the door.

Categories : Game Stories
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(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Angels were said to be one of several teams with interest in Masahiro Tanaka this past offseason, but their financial limitations — they didn’t want to go over the luxury tax threshold and only had a few million to spend — prevented them from getting seriously involved in the bidding. Tonight they will get their first look at the right-hander, who has been everything the Yankees could have possibly imagined in his first four starts. Probably more, really.

Tanaka’s worst start of the year was his last start, though even that was pretty good (two runs in seven innings). This Angels team came into Sunday averaging 5.57 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+, the highest and second highest marks in baseball, respectively. They can mash and this will be Tanaka’s biggest test to date. With all due respect to tandems like Jose Bautista/Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Jones/Chris Davis, and Dustin Pedroia/David Ortiz, the Mike Trout/Albert Pujols duo ain’t nothin’ to mess with. Here is the Angels lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alfonso Soriano
  6. 1B Mark Teixeira
  7. 3B Kelly Johnson
  8. 2B Brian RobertsYangervis Solarte was a late scratch due to a sore shoulder
  9. LF Ichiro Suzuki
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is a cool and cloudy night in New York with no threat of rain. Nice night for baseball. The game is scheduled to begin at 8pm ET and you can watch on ESPN. Enjoy.

Categories : Game Threads
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Triple-A Scranton (6-4 loss to Durham)

  • RF Ramon Flores: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding) — 14-for-45 (.311) with four doubles, one triple, nine walks, and nine strikeouts in his last eleven games
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 0-4, 3 K
  • SS Dean Anna: 0-3, 1 HBP, 1 E (throwing)
  • LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — fifth dinger
  • C Austin Romine: 0-4, 2 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • RHP Brian Gordon: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 59 of 97 pitches were strikes (61%)
  • LHP Cesar Cabral: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — 18 of 31 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 16 of 26 pitches were strikes (62%)

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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  • Yankee place Bruce Billings on DL, recall Preston Claiborne

    The Yankees have placed right-hander Bruce Billings on the 15-day DL with a right forearm strain, the team announced. Fellow righty Preston Claiborne has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton in a corresponding roster move.

    Billings threw four innings and 76 pitches in long relief on Friday night, but he had been working as a starter in the minors, so the extended outing was not unusual. Pitchers break, I hear. Claiborne gives the club a fresh arm for tonight’s series finale against the Angels.
    · (25) ·

We’re thrilled to bring back a podcast to RAB. Because of some technical issues, we’re relaunching as the River Avenue Blues Podcast. Instead of a strict weekly show, we’ll shoot for a new podcast at the beginning of each series, so we can talk about the Yankees’ upcoming opponents. Clearly we blew that deadline this time, but we now have something to shoot for.

Mike and I will continue behind the mic, although Mike is currently on the DL. We’ll reevaluate him before Thursday’s (or Friday’s) podcast. But we have a great guest this week: ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Buster will serve as in-game reporter on Sunday Night Baseball (Angels at Yankees) alongside Dan Shulman and John Kruk at 8pm ET. Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown begins at 7pm with Karl Ravech and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

Olney is also an ESPN MLB Insider on where he writes a daily column and hosts the Baseball Tonight podcast. As many of you know, you can find him on Twitter at @Buster_ESPN.

We talk about:

  • Obligatory conversation about the pine tar incident
  • Brian Cashman‘s job security
  • The next MLB commissioner
  • How the Angels overhauled their pitching staff without splurging on free agents
  • How the first few weeks have changed thoughts and predictions about the AL East

It was a great conversation, and thanks again to Buster for coming on the show for our relaunch.

Podcast run time 46:29

Since we wanted to post this before tonight, we have limited listening options right now. Here’s the link:

River Avenue Blues Podcast: April 26, 2014, Ep. 1

In most browsers you can just click on that and it will play in-browser. You can also right click to download it. As soon as we get a few technical matters in order we’ll have it up in iTunes and all other podcast providers. (FWIW, I love BeyondPod on my Android.)

One final note: I am aware of some audio and production issues in this episode. This is something we’re going to work on for future episodes. We have the hardware and the software, so we’ll get it right before long.

Categories : Podcast
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The Yankees and Angels do not play the final game of their three-game series until 8pm ET tonight — I dislike ESPN Sunday Night Games and am anti-night game on weekends in general — so here are some spare links to get you through the day. Enjoy.

  • David Laurila at FanGraphs spoke to Carlos Beltran last week about hitting. Specifically about making adjustments from year-to-year, his approach, thriving with runners on base, stuff like that. Beltran’s an ultra-smart hitter, so, needless to say, check it out.
  • ESPN’s Jayson Stark put together the best and most thorough take on the recent Tommy John surgery epidemic that I’ve seen so far. I thought the most interesting nugget was that while the rate of elbow injuries continues to increase, the rate of shoulder injuries has actually gone down in recent years.
  • With that in mind, Eno Sarris of Sports on Earth wrote about young pitchers and their tendency to get worse through the years, not better. There is no real peak age. Guys show up in the big leagues, hopefully maintain their performance level for a seasons, then start declining. Obviously there are exceptions, but in general everything starts trending downward immediately.
  • Another post from Eno, this time at Hardball Times. He looked at the Great Ice Cream Riot of 2009, when fans and vendors in the Legends Seats were throwing free ice cream sandwiches to the fans in the slightly less rich seats. It generated some headlines and the Yankees weren’t happy. It was kind of a big deal.
Categories : Links
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Source: FanGraphs

So much for the recent run of blowouts. The Yankees played their first one-run game in nearly two weeks — the last was the 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Sunday Night Baseball — on Saturday afternoon, beating the Angels by the score of 4-3. They took the lead in the fifth and hung on for dear life. Let’s recap the win.

  • Nine-Hole Hitter: It’s always annoying whenever the Yankees get beat by the bottom of the other team’s lineup, but on Saturday it was their number nine hitter who did the most damage. Backup catcher/serial killer John Ryan Murphy drove in three runs on the day (tell me that’s not a serial killer name), including two with a two-out, two-strike single to right in the second inning. Great little piece of hitting. Lefty Hector Santiago balked in the team’s first run during the at-bat. In the fifth, Murphy clubbed his first career homer, a solo shot that turned out to be the game-winning run. Awesome day for the kid.
  • Tightrope: Not the best outing for Vidal Nuno, who allowed a solo homer to Mike Trout in the first inning (oh well, it happens) and three runs in 4.2 innings overall. Despite retiring eight in a row at one point, he surrendered five hits and two walks. A Brian Roberts throwing error on a potential double play — I don’t think they would have turned it even with a clean throw — hurt him. Nuno was removed because of his pitch count, but I’m not sure letting him face Albert Pujols a third time would have been a smart move anyway. He’ll get another start, but with David Phelps starting in place of Michael Pineda on Wednesday, Nuno has to look over his shoulder. The rotation spot isn’t his just yet.
  • Good Relief: Four relievers combined to throw 4.2 shutout innings after Nuno, including two innings by Dellin Betances. He allowed a single and a walk but struck out three, earning his first MLB win. Shawn Kelley really struggled to throw strikes early — his first six pitches were balls, resulting in a walk to Trout and a 2-0 count to Pujols — but he regrouped and retired four of the final five men he faced. Matt Thornton got Raul Ibanez to line out with the tying and go ahead runs on base, then David Robertson pitched around a Trout single (and steal) in the ninth. They didn’t exactly dominate, but the bullpen preserved that one-run lead and that’s all that matters.
  • Leftovers: Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch on the top of his left foot. He remained in the game and x-rays were negative according to Erik Boland, but there is some swelling. With the off-day on Monday, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gardner sits on Sunday to get two straight days off … Mark Teixeira was unable to catch a foul pop-up in the ninth because a fan in the first row got in his way, extending a Pujols at-bat. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but geez man, get out of the way! … everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once other than Carlos Beltran (0-for-4) and Kelly Johnson (0-for-3) … the Yankees struck out six times as a team and now have only 15 strikeouts in their last 127 plate appearances, or 11.8%. The MLB average is 20.8% in 2014. has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees and Angels wrap up this three-game series on Sunday night, in another ESPN game. Yuck. Masahiro Tanaka will give it a go against hard-throwing righty Garrett Richards. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch the game.

Categories : Game Stories
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In case you missed it earlier, RHP Jose Campos underwent Tommy John surgery and LHP Nik Turley was released. Turley could be re-signed to a minor league contract a la David Adams last year. Also, OF Aaron Judge was included in the “In The Team Photo” section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet and Matt Eddy reports OF Brandon Thomas is on the DL. Not sure what’s wrong with him.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 loss to Durham) they were no-hit by LHP Mike Montgomery (former top prospect who’s fallen off a bit) and RHP Brad Boxberger (pitched against the Yankees in Tampa last weekend) … I believe this is the first time one of the affiliates has been no-hit in a nine-inning game since Double-A Trenton got perfect gamed by RHP Jeanmar Gomez back in 2009

  • RF Ramon Flores: 0-3
  • 2B Scott Sizemore: 0-3, 2 K — 21 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances at this level (40.4%)
  • LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-3, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 0-3
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 52 of 85 pitches were strikes (61%)
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 20 of 28 pitches were strikes (71%)

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Categories : Down on the Farm
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  • Update: Yankees call up Leroux, demote Greene, release Turley

    6:22pm: I was wrong about Billings, he is still with the team. The Yankees announced that Leroux was called up, Shane Greene was sent down, and Nik Turley was given his unconditional release. Turley hasn’t pitched at all this year due to an arm problem. I’m guessing his release is like David Adams’ — released then he’ll re-sign on a minor league contract (after everyone freaks out).

    10:50am: The Yankees will call up right-hander Chris Leroux prior to today’s game, according to Erik Boland. I can’t think of another reason why he would be in the clubhouse. Bruce Billings will likely be designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot following last night’s 76-pitch mop-up outing. Tough gig. Leroux was not fully stretched out with Triple-A Scranton, but he was scheduled to start today and should be good for 75 pitches or so if need be.
    · (11) ·

That was a fun game, wasn’t it? The homegrown players did most of the heavy lifting too. John Ryan Murphy smashed his first career homer and drove in three runs, Dellin Betances got some big outs in the middle innings, and David Robertson closed it out in the ninth inning. Brett Gardner reached base three times as well. It’s always fun when the born and raised Yankees contribute to a win.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing plus MLB Network will air a game a little later on. Who you see depends on where you live. There’s also NHL and NBA playoff action on somewhere. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Categories : Open Thread
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