The three-game winning streak is over. The Yankees were, once again, burned by poor defense, as a Brendan Ryan error and a Carlos Beltran misplay contributed to four Brewers runs and the 5-4 loss on Saturday night. Even the best infield defender on the team is botching plays these days. The Yankees give their opponents too many extra outs. It’s awful.
I only saw about ten minutes of the game, and in those ten minutes Dr. Dellin Betances struck out both men he faced to escape a bases loaded situation in the sixth inning. He threw seven pitches, four of which drew swings. All four swings missed. Betances overwhelmed Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez. It was awesome. Joe Girardi‘s been using him in a fireman role for a few weeks now and this was his biggest situation of the year, to date.
Other than that, CC Sabathia gave up three monster home runs, two of which came after Ryan’s two-out error. I see his 23.3% HR/FB rate and think there’s no way it can continue — that would be the all-time single-season record by a mile — but then I see homers clanking off the windows of restaurants and wonder why I should expect it to regress. Sabathia pitched well outside of the homeruns, which really means very little in the grand scheme of things. Every mistake is getting crushed and the big inning is unavoidable.
The Brewers took the lead after Beltran failed to reel in a very catchable fly ball to right, a ball that went for a double instead of an out. Beltran seems to be playing the game in slow motion right now, and I don’t mean in a Robbie Cano “he makes everything look so effortless way” either. The Yankees got a triple from Brett Gardner and solo homer from Mark Teixeira earlier in the game, and pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano knotted it up with a jam shot through the shift. Very winnable game that will go down as a loss.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees and Brewers will play the rubber game of this three-game series on Sunday afternoon, when David Phelps makes his second start of the season against old foe Matt Garza. That is the final game of this six-game, two time-zone road trip.
Minor League Update: I don’t have time for a full update tonight, but here are the box scores: Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston. Greg Bird homered and drew two walks, so he’s right back to where he left off last season. Peter O’Brien went deep too.
Before he wore pinstripes, CC Sabathia helped the Brewers to their first postseason berth in a quarter-century. Milwaukee acquired him from the Indians at the 2008 trade deadline and rode his left arm to October, starting him on three days’ rest in each of his final four starts of the regular season, then again for his first postseason start. Here’s that stretch of games:
That four starts, 28.2 innings, and 434 pitches in a 12-day stretch. That September 28th game was a must win against the Cubs, which clinched the club’s spot in the playoffs.
Sabathia was a monster during his half-season with the Brewers (1.65 ERA, 2.44 FIP, seven complete games, 17 starts) and he’s beloved in Milwaukee because of it. Robinson Cano was booed mercilessly when he returned to New York, but that won’t be the case tonight. Sabathia is going to get a huge ovation for something that happened six years ago, and that’s pretty neat. Here is the Brewers lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- LF Brett Gardner
- RF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- 2B Brian Roberts
- SS Brendan Ryan
- LHP CC Sabathia
It is cool and a little cloudy tonight, so I bet the Miller Park roof will be open again. Last night was actually the first time it was open for a game this season. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
I did not notice this during Tuesday’s game, but, according to Danny Knobler, the Yankees have stopped shifting their infielders behind Hiroki Kuroda. He simply isn’t comfortable with it. The Rays don’t shift behind David Price for the same reason. Knobler says New York’s other pitchers will groan whenever a base hit goes through the vacated hole created by the shift, but that’s normal. It’s human nature.
The Yankees went into Friday’s game with a .310 BABIP as a team, higher than the .298 AL average. That’s not really surprising, the defense has been a mess, particularly on the infield and in right field. They’re even botching plays on balls they get to. Kuroda has a .311 BABIP, so there’s no difference between how many balls are being converted to outs behind him compared to the rest of the staff. We don’t know how long they haven’t been shifting behind him though. It sounds like they were doing it earlier in the season and recently stopped. Either way, the pitcher has to be comfortable. That’s the most important thing. · (9) ·
As a team, the Yankees have one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball. They came out of last night’s game with a 19.6% strikeout rate, below the 20.5% league average and the tenth lowest rate in the game. Guys like Derek Jeter, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Brian Roberts, and Yangervis Solarte have had little trouble putting the ball in play, and that’s five-ninths of the starting lineup right there.
And then there’s Brett Gardner. He has a career 18.2% strikeout rate and last season it was 20.9%, both of which are more or less league average when you consider baseball’s perpetually increasing strikeout rate. (MLB has set a new record high for strikeout rate in each of the last seven seasons.) This season as been different though. Gardner has a 24.4% strikeout rate, by far the highest of his career. His 6.1% swing-and-miss rate is also a career-high (but still below the 9.3% league average). He’s been piling up the whiffs in 2014.
Gardner isn’t oblivious to the strikeout issues he’s had these last few weeks and he’s working to correct them. He cites a mechanical flaw and says he isn’t planning any kind of major overhaul to his game. That would be a little silly at this point. From George King:
“I have been striking out too much,’’ said Gardner, who didn’t whiff Wednesday night against the Angels in Anaheim after fanning seven times in the previous four games. “My mechanics have been a little off, rushing the swing and swinging with my head moving. I have been swinging and missing more than I would like.’’
“I have to do a better job, but I don’t want to change my game. I have to be aggressive so when I get a pitch to hit, I put the ball in play and use my speed,’’ said Gardner, whose 31 Ks were tied for 22nd among AL hitters Thursday. “I felt better [Wednesday].’’
Even if you’ve never playing anything higher than Little League, you know that too much head movement during your swing is a recipe for swinging and missing. If you can’t see the ball properly, you’re not going to hit it. Gardner isn’t chasing more bad pitches or anything like that — 23.0% swing rate on pitches out of the zone, down from 23.6% last year — he’s just coming up empty when he does swing. The swing-and-miss punishment fits the head movement crime.
Gardner struck out 12 times in his first 40 plate appearances of the season (30%) and more recently he had a stretch with 11 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances (40.7%), which is just way too high, especially for a non-power hitter. He has gotten better as the season has progressed …
… but it’s clear there is still some work to be done. It’s not like Gardner isn’t hitting at all — both his AVG (.283) and OBP (.352) are better than last season (.273 and .344), he’s just hitting for zero power (.053 ISO) — he’s just struggling to put the ball in play. It’s actually kinda amazing he’s remained as productive as he has despite the high strikeout rate.
The most important thing is that Gardner isn’t chasing more pitches out of the zone. That would be a real big concern. Since his plate discipline seems to be fine and he’s identified a mechanical issue with his head, I think it’s only a matter of time before he snaps out of his swing-and-miss funk. It’s frustrating, I know it is, but as long as Gardner is getting on base, stealing bases (7-for-7 this year), and playing high-end defense, he remains a productive player for the Yankees and worthy of an everyday lineup spot.
Just like that, the Yankees have a three-game winning streak. Things sure turned around in a hurry, huh? Just as the Yankees planned, big offseason additions Masahiro Tanaka and Yangervis Solarte carried them to a 5-3 win over the Brewers in Friday night’s series opener in Milwaukee. Let’s recap the victory:
- Money Well Spent: It’s hard to believe the Yankees are paying Tanaka $22M this season to go 0-for-3 with three strikeouts at the plate. Luckily he can pitch a little. Tanaka allowed two runs on seven hits and one walk in 6.1 innings of work, striking out seven and getting eight ground outs compared to four in the air. Things got a little dicey in the sixth and seventh innings, but a well-timed double play and the bullpen helped him escape both jams. Tanaka now has a 2.57 ERA (3.07 FIP) in 49 innings this year. That’ll do just fine.
- Minor League Contract Well Spent: It is May 9th, and a minor league journeyman leads the Yankees with 18 RBI. That would normally be bad, but Solarte has been so damn good that it’s an overwhelming positive. He swatted his second career homer on Friday night, this one a three-run shot against Yovani Gallardo in the fourth inning. It was a hanging breaking ball, pretty much right in his wheelhouse. Solarte has come back to Earth a bit but he still has a .304/.387/.461 (135 wRC+) batting line. Once again, that’ll do just fine.
- Tacked On: Brian Roberts continued his hot hitting with a double down the right field line to score Brett Gardner for the team’s fourth run of the day. Mark Teixeira drove in their fifth run of the ninth with a ground ball. Pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki scored from third after stealing third base. He replaced Carlos Beltran, who blooped a double. Tanaka was cruising early in the game, but those extra insurance runs are always appreciated.
- Leftovers: Adam Warren got a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play with men on the corners to end the seventh, then he tacked on a scoreless eighth as well. David Robertson struck out the side and allowed a solo homer in the ninth for his sixth save in six chances … everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once except Derek Jeter, Teixeira, and Tanaka. Gardner, Brian McCann, and Beltran each had a base hit and a walk.
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. For some other stats, go to FanGraphs. For the updated standings, go to ESPN. These two teams will play the second game of this three-game series on Saturday night (yes, a Saturday night game, blargh) when CC Sabathia faces off against Kyle Lohse.
Setup man Shawn Kelley is day-to-day with a back issue, Joe Girardi announced. An MRI came back clean. He’s never had any back problems in the past, only a long history of elbow injuries. Kelley threw 34 stressful pitches on Monday and another eleven on Tuesday, though who knows if that contributed to his balky back. Adam Warren pitched the eighth inning on Friday and he’ll take over as setup man for the time being, just as he did when David Robertson was on the DL a few weeks ago. · (1) ·
Some notes and roster moves:
- OF Tyler Austin (groin) will be activated off the DL and in the Double-A Trenton lineup tomorrow, according to Matt Kardos. Between the groin problem and the nagging wrist injury last month. Austin has played in only 14 of the team’s 35 games this year.
- Both 1B Kyle Roller and RHP Branden Pinder have been promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, according to Josh Norris and Chad Jennings. Roller was moved up to make room for C/RF Peter O’Brien, who was bumped up to the Thunder yesterday.
- To make room on the RailRiders’ roster, RHP Yoshinori Tateyama was released and RHP Chris Leroux was sent to Double-A Trenton, according to Donnie Collins. Leroux was in the big leagues last week. Ouch. IF Corban Joseph has been placed on the temporarily inactive list, which usually means he had to leave the team to deal with a family issue.
- In other news, RHP Luis Severino made the “In The Team Photo” section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. CF Mason Williams was in the Not So Hot section, unfortunately.
Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Durham)
- RF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 2 BB — 26/22 K/BB in 31 games
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 2-5, 1 RBI
- SS Dean Anna: 0-3, 1 RBI
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- 1B Kyle Roller: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K — nice Triple-A debut
- C Austin Romine: 2-4, 1 R, 2PB — he’s been hitting well of late, good to see
- RHP Joel De La Cruz: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 8/2 GB/FB — 50 of 77 pitches were strikes (65%)
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 15 of 26 pitches were strikes (58%)
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — eight pitches, five strikes
Today is a good day. First of all, it’s Friday, and that’s almost always great. Second, it’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s day to pitch. That is always awesome. The right-hander has been the staff ace and has somehow exceeded expectations so far. I don’t know how he’s done it, but he has. Tanaka gets his first taste of the National League tonight, which means he’ll also have to hit. My prediction: 20-strikeout no-hitter and 4-for-5 with two homers and two doubles. Mark it down.
Tanaka will have to face Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez tonight even though the appeal of his three-game suspension was heard sometime earlier today. Apparently it takes a few days to hand down a ruling and he might be available all weekend. Bummer. Gomez was suspended for his role in a brawl with Gerrit Cole and the rest of the Pirates. The Yankees won’t have to face the injured Ryan Braun this series, so I guess we shouldn’t complain Milwaukee’s other great player is playing. Whatever. Here’s the Brewers lineup and here’s the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SS Derek Jeter
- RF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- LF Brett Gardner
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RHP Masahiro Tanaka
Temperatures are in the mid-60s and it’s sunny in Milwaukee, so the Miller Park roof will probably be open for the game. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.
J.J. Schwarz | C
Schwarz attends Palm Beach Gardens High School in Florida and starred for the Team USA club that won the 18U World Cup in Taiwan last fall. He is the son of former big league right-hander Jeff Schwarz, who received two cups of coffee in the mid-1990s but otherwise bounced around the minor leagues for most of his career. Schwarz is committed to Florida.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 193 lbs., Schwarz is one of the best all-around catching prospects in the entire draft. He’s a good defender behind the plate thanks to his footwork and overall receiving skills, plus he has a strong arm. A quick, low-maintenance swing and advanced approach give him the potential to hit for both average and power down the road. He isn’t fast at all, but that is to be expected. Schwarz has gotten high marks for his makeup and feel for the game. He has clearly benefited from his father’s instruction over the years.
In their latest rankings, Baseball America, Keith Law (subs. req’d), and MLB.com have Schwarz as the 45th, 71st, and 90th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. The Yankees love to hoard catching prospects and I don’t expect that to stop even with Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, and Gary Sanchez at the upper levels. They don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) because of their offseason spending spree, but there is a chance Schwarz will still be available when their third round pick (91st overall) comes around, at which point I think he’d be a real coup.
For the first time this season, the Yankees are in a National League park for an interleague series. That means no designated hitter and lots of so-called strategy. The Yankees open a three-game set against the Brewers tonight, their first trip to Milwaukee since 2005. The last time they visited Miller Park, Alex Rodriguez hit his 400th career homerun (video). How about that?
What Have They Done Lately?
The Brew Crew come into this series with a 22-13 record and a +13 run differential. That’s the second best record in the game. They have hit the skids of late though, losing their last two games, four of their last five, and six of their last eight.
Manager Ron Roenicke’s club has a team 90 wRC+ and averages 3.97 runs per game, so it’s a below-average attack. That surprised me. For some reason I thought they were better. OF Ryan Braun (156 wRC+) is currently on the disabled list with an oblique problem and he is not eligible to return until next week. OF Carlos Gomez (147 wRC+) is healthy, but the appeal of his three-game suspension (stemming from a brawl with the Pirates) will be heard today, so he figures to miss at least one game this weekend. His rematch with Brian McCann will have to wait.
With Braun and potentially Gomez out, the Milwaukee lineup is headlined by C Jonathan Lucroy (117 wRC+), who is one of the most underrated players in the game. He’s a stud both at and behind the plate. 3B Aramis Ramirez (81 wRC+) is off to a really slow start, but you’ll hear him referred to as an “RBI Guy” anyway. Former Yankees 1B Lyle Overbay (79 wRC+) and 1B/3B Mark Reynolds (115 wRC+) are kinda sorta platooning at first, though Reynolds is seeing more and more time given his strong start (and Overbay’s poor start).
2B Rickie Weeks (78 wRC+) has been relegated to the bench in favor of 2B Scooter Gennett (97 wRC+). OF Khris Davis (75 wRC+) has a hilarious 35/1 K/BB, and SS Jean Segura (69 wRC+) simply hasn’t hit since about last June. He got off to such a great start last season but just stopped hitting all together. OF Logan Schafer (63 wRC+) has been playing regularly with Braun out. C Martin Maldonado (208 wRC+), OF Caleb Gindl (1 wRC+), and IF Jeff Bianchi (8 wRC+) fill out the bench and have been varying degrees of useful in limited time. It’s worth noting the Brewers have hit 36 homers this season, the fifth most in baseball. Miller Park is a big-time hitter’s park.
Friday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. MIL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Gallardo, 28, has rebounded from the worst season of his career wonderfully: 2.47 ERA (3.63 FIP) in seven starts and 43.2 innings, with excellent walk (2.27 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), homer (0.62 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%), and ground ball (51.8%) rates. He isn’t striking out many guys though (5.36 K/9 and 14.4 K%), and righties (.307 wOBA) are hitting him harder than lefties (.273 wOBA). Gallardo has reinvented himself as a two-seam fastball pitcher, using it more than ever before at the expense of his four-seamer. Both pitches sit in the low-90s. He also throws a mid-80s slider and an upper-70s curveball. Gallardo doesn’t have much of a changeup at all.
Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Kyle Lohse (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Many Cardinals reclamation project pitchers fail to sustain their success elsewhere, but Lohse is the exception. The 35-year-old has a 2.72 ERA (3.25 FIP) in seven starts and 46.1 innings this year thanks to strong strikeout (8.16 K/9 and 22.0 K%), walk (2.33 BB/9 and 6.3 BB%), and homerun (0.78 HR/9 and 8.3 HR/FB%) rates. The grounder rate (39.8%) isn’t anything special. Lefties have clobbered Lohse this year (.372 wOBA) and righties haven’t touched him (.210 wOBA). An upper-80s sinker and low-80s slider are his two main pitches, though he’ll also throw an upper-70s changeup and a mid-70s curve. Lohse is really good, very Hiroki Kuroda-ian. Mixes it up, throws anything at anytime. His days of trying to throw fastballs by everyone are long gone.
By the way, expect Sabathia to get a massive ovation tomorrow night. He’s beloved in Milwaukee for what he did in 2008. Dude started four games in 12 days down the stretch and threw a 122-pitch complete game against the 97-win Cubs on the final day of the season to clinch the Brewers’ first postseason berth in 25 years. Ridiculous.
Sunday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIL) vs. RHP Matt Garza (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Garza, 30, is a familiar face after all his time with the Rays. He has a 4.93 ERA (3.74 FIP) in his first seven starts and 42 innings with the Brewers, and the peripherals are okay: 7.50 K/9 (18.9 K%), 3.00 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 0.86 HR/9 (8.5 HR/FB%), and 42.6% grounders. Lefties (.366 wOBA) have roughed him up pretty good so far this year. Righties (.281 wOBA) … not so much. Garza is almost exclusively a low-to-mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider pitcher at this point. He throws a handful of mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but not nearly as many as he used to. It’s worth noting Garza has been dealing with a thumb issue (jammed it during an at-bat, hooray DH!) and has his last two starts were up and down.
The Brewers were off yesterday, so their heavily used bullpen was able to get some rest. RHP Francisco Rodriguez (1.05 FIP) has been dynamite this year, as have setup men RHP Tyler Thornburg (2.12 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (2.19 FIP). Smith might be the most dominant lefty specialist in the game right now. He’s held same-side hitters a .146 wOBA with a 46.2% strikeout rate. Crazy. K-Rod, Thornburg, and Smith are three of only 12 pitchers to appear in 18 games so far this season.
The rest of the bullpen includes RHP Brandon Kintzler (6.58 FIP), RHP Rob Wooten (4.96 FIP), and LHP Zach Duke (1.84 FIP). The Brewers are also carrying Rule 5 Draft pick LHP Wei-Chung Wang (8.81 FIP), who jumped from rookie ball (!) to MLB. Roenicke never uses him. Wang has appeared in only five games (seven innings) this year and they have all been super low leverage emergency mop-up situations. They basically roll with a six-man bullpen and a 24-man roster. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees relievers, then check out Disciples of Uecker and Brew Crew Ball for everything you need to know about the Brewers.