Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have a much-needed off-day today. The bullpen is really worn out, and the last two weeks or so have been really taxing in general. Fans could use the off-day as much as the players, I think. So, with no game tonight, I instead command you to read my buddy Paul Swydan on MLB’s knack for unintended consequences. I applaud the league and commissioner Rob Manfred for looking for ways to improve the game, but it’s okay to leave some things the way they are.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The baseball schedule is very light today. Only four games! And one was a day game! The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network is showing the Giants and Cubs. There’s also a ton of NFL preseason games on too. Apparently the college football season begins tonight too. So talk about any of those games or anything else right here. Just no religion or politics. Get that outta here.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: September 2011

Darvish. (Jeff Bottari/Getty)
Darvish. (Jeff Bottari/Getty)

The final month of the regular season has arrived, which means it’s time for another trip through the MLB Trade Rumors archives. We’re now in September 2011. September usually isn’t a big month for rumors. Both the trade deadline and the August 31 deadline to acquire postseason eligible players are in the rear-view mirror, so September usually features a lot of speculation and looking ahead to the offseason.

The Yankees entered September 2011 with an 81-53 record despite the season long concerns about their rotation. They were 1.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East and 7.5 games up on the Rays for the wildcard spot. That was the last season of the single wildcard system. The Yankees made no notable moves at the trade deadline in 2011, and all they did in August was add some scrap heap relievers. Let’s dig into the MLBTR archives.

September 1st, 2011: List Of Teams Interested In Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish apparently intends to pitch in the Major Leagues next year and it would be surprising if he doesn’t draw interest from ten-plus teams … Here’s a list of which teams have been linked to Darvish in the last calendar year:

  • The Yankees have scouted him heavily.

It’s easy to forget now given all the success he’s had, but there were a lot of questions about Darvish back in the day. There were concerns about his slider and how it would translate to MLB with the different baseballs, things like that. The fact Hideki Irabu and Daisuke Matsuzaka fell so short of expectations didn’t help matters either. Darvish was viewed as a potential ace but not a sure thing.

The Yankees did reportedly place a bid for Darvish, though obviously they did not win. It was reported at the time that the Rangers blew everyone else out of the water. Whatever the Yankees bid, it wasn’t close. In hindsight, going hard after Darvish and letting CC Sabathia leave via his opt-out was the right move. It was not so obvious at the time. Darvish was an unknown and Sabathia had a Cy Young caliber season in 2011.

September 1st, 2011: Yankees Designate Ryan Pope For Assignment

The Yankees designated Ryan Pope for assignment, according to Mike Ashmore of the Hunterdon County Democrat (on Twitter). The 25-year-old right-hander was not on the Yankees’ active roster; the club had to designate him to create 40-man roster space for Jesus Montero and Scott Proctor.

Ryan Pope! He was the team’s third round pick in 2007, and the Yankees made him the first player ever drafted out of the Savannah College of Art & Design. (SCAD has had two other players drafted since then.) Pope flamed out as a starter in the minors but showed enough in relief to be protected from the 2010 Rule 5 Draft. Eventually the bullpen didn’t work out either. Pope became a minor league free agent after the 2013 season and has been out of baseball since. He has a 4.34 ERA in 512 career minor league innings, and he did make it as far as Triple-A.

September 3rd, 2011: Front Office Notes: Beane, Cubs, Epstein, Friedman

Three AL East general managers will likely be staying put, says FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link).  The Yankees and Brian Cashman are mutually interested in continuing their relationship

For a while in 2011 there was talk Cashman would either leave the Yankees because he was fed up with ownership going over his head — they panic signed Rafael Soriano during the 2010-11 offseason — or ownership would let him go for whatever reason. Whenever Cashman’s contract is up, there’s always talk he could leave or be let go, though I think that 2011 season was the first time I believed it was really possible. Before that it always seemed like pointless sports radio talk. It seemed possible then, but nope, he signed another three-year contract. And another one after that.

September 3rd, 2011: MLB Voids Contract Of Yankees’ Paniagua

THURSDAY: Major League Baseball has voided the $1.1MM contract of Yankees pitching prospect Juan Carlos Paniagua and suspended the right-hander for one year, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. MLB hasn’t specified — even to the Yankees — why Paniagua has been suspended, but “one-year suspensions are usually reserved for a player who presents false information to teams about his age or identity,” writes Badler.

The Paniagua saga went on for several years. He initially signed with the Diamondbacks for $17,000 in 2009, but MLB voided the deal and suspended him for a year because of falsified paperwork. While suspended, Paniagua added like 10 mph to his fastball, so the Yankees gave him $1.1M. Except that deal was voided and he was again suspended for a year after MLB found he was still using falsified documents. Once that suspension was over, the Cubs gave him $1.5M. The paperwork was legitimate that time. Paniagua was a significant prospect at one point, but not any more. He’s 26 and has a 3.75 ERA (4.06 FIP) in 62.1 relief innings for Chicago’s Double-A affiliate. Meh.

September 6th, 2011: Yankees Designate Lance Pendleton For Assignment

The Yankees designated right-hander Lance Pendleton for assignment, according to’s Bryan Hoch (on Twitter). Though active roster spots are plentiful this time of year, the move opens up a spot on New York’s 40-man roster for George Kontos, whose contract was selected from the minors.

Pants Lendelton! I saw him make his MLB debut at Yankee Stadium wearing No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Three scoreless innings too. Pendleton was lost on waivers to the Astros in September 2011 but he only threw 4.2 innings for them. He spent the next season in Triple-A with the Rays and that was it. Out of baseball after 2012. Pendleton was a fringe prospect who kinda got hyped into something more, somehow. It was weird. He was like the Brady Lail of 2011.

September 7th, 2011: New York Notes: Cano, Johan, Reyes

Yankees GM Brian Cashman explained to John Harper of the New York Daily News why he was “very comfortable saying no” to the Mariners’ request to include Ivan Nova or Eduardo Nunez along with Jesus Montero in his offer for Cliff Lee last summer.  Montero’s stock is higher right now, but the debate remains open as to whether the Mariners should have chosen him over Justin Smoak.

To bad they can’t get a redo on that one, huh? The Yankees were a legitimate World Series contender in 2010 and Lee could have very well put them over the top. He would have changed everything. Remember, the Yankees lost to Lee and the Rangers in the ALCS. Imagine if they had him instead?

David Adams’ ankle supposedly threw a wrench into the trade, prompting the Mariners to ask for Nova or Nunez instead. There’s been speculation Smoak was the guy Seattle wanted all along, and once the Rangers put him on the table, they used Adams’ injury to back out of the deal with the Yankees. Who knows. Letting Nova or Nunez stand in the way of a Lee trade was not Cashman’s finest moment.

September 10th, 2011: Quick Hits: Red Sox, Iannetta, Santana, Willis

Andruw Jones has been playing all season with a small tear in his left knee, reports Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger.  The Yankees discovered the injury during Jones’ physical but signed the veteran outfielder anyway  (both Twitter links).

Andruw was awesome with the Yankees in 2011. He was their designated southpaw mashing fourth outfielder, and he hit .247/.356/.495 (132 wRC+) overall that season, including .286/.384/.540 (152 wRC+) against lefties. And he did this too:

Getting Mark Teixeira‘s face to do this …

Mark Teixeira

… was Andruw’s finest moment in pinstripes. He really was the perfect complement to Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson. The 2012 season didn’t go too well. But 2011? That was awesome. Pretty amazing Jones played the entire year with some sort of tear in his knee.

September 11th, 2011: Yankees Designate Steve Garrison For Assignment

The Yankees have cleared a 40-man roster spot for Austin Romine by designating Steve Garrison for assignment, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.

Another blast from the past. I forgot all about Steve Garrison. The Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Padres during the 2010-11 offseason and he spent most of 2011 in Triple-A. Garrison did get to pitch in the big leagues that year though. He faced Smoak and Franklin Gutierrez on July 25th, and got them both to fly out. That’s it. That’s his entire MLB career. Nine pitches. Garrison spent last season in an independent league but does not seem to be active anywhere this year.

September 12th, 2011: Pedro Feliciano’s 2012 Season, Career In Question

Pedro Feliciano underwent surgery on his left rotator cuff last week, a procedure that will threaten the southpaw’s 2012 season, reports’s Bryan Hoch and Taylor Soper.  Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he “would be surprised if [Feliciano] pitched next year” and also noted that it would be difficult for Feliciano to recover from such an operation at age 35.

Blah, what a disaster the Feliciano signing was. At least it was only $8M, I guess. Feliciano did actually pitch in the Yankees’ organization in 2012 though. He was on a minor league rehab assignment following shoulder surgery and was preparing to join the big league roster in September, but he rolled an ankle covering first base in the minors, and that was that. Feliciano never threw a meaningful pitch for the Yankees. He did appear in 25 games for the 2013 Mets though, then spent 2014 in Triple-A with the Cardinals. Hasn’t pitch since.

September 16th, 2011: Martin Expressed Interest In Staying With Yankees

A month ago, Ben Nicholson-Smith identified Russell Martin as a non-tendered player who was contributing with a new team. If Martin gets his way, he’ll be with that new team in 2012 as well. The backstop told George A. King III of The New York Post that he’s interested in staying with the Yankees beyond the season.

Was non-tendering Russell Martin a thing? I don’t remember that being a thing. Keeping him seemed like a no-brainer. I guess the thinking was non-tender Martin and make Jesus Montero the starting catcher, but nah. Martin hit .237/.324/.408 (100 wRC+) with 18 homers in 2011 and he was great defensively. Non-tendering him would have been silly, even if the Yankees had Buster Posey v2.0 waiting in Triple-A. They could have tendered and traded him, if anything.

September 21st, 2011: Rosenthal On Moneyball

Yankees GM Brian Cashman admits that the Red Sox “were having a great deal of success with players of lesser ability,” adding, “I studied what they were doing to some degree, adjusted accordingly, brought the Yankees up to speed, brought us into the 21st century.”

I remember Cashman saying this was the reason they hired Joe Kerrigan as bullpen coach in 2006. Kerrigan had been Boston’s pitching coach for a number of years and Cashman wanted to pick his brain. After all their success in the late-1990s, the Yankees fell behind the times a bit in the early-2000s. A lot changed during the 2005-06 offseason. Kerrigan was hired and Billy Eppler’s pro scouting department was created, most notably.

September 23rd, 2011: Cashman We Tried To Drive Up Crawford’s Price

When the Yankees wined and dined Carl Crawford during last December’s winter meetings, most assumed he was their backup plan to Cliff Lee. Crawford agreed to a deal with the Red Sox before the end of the meetings and Lee eventually went back to the Phillies, but GM Brian Cashman told ESPN New York he was never really interested in signing the outfielder in the first place…

“I actually had dinner with the agent to pretend that we were actually involved and drive the price up,” said Cashman. “The outfield wasn’t an area of need, but everybody kept writing Crawford, Crawford, Crawford, Crawford. And I was like, ‘I feel like we’ve got Carl Crawford in Brett Gardner, except he costs more than $100 million less, with less experience.'”

The Yankees were connected to Crawford heavily during the 2010-11 offseason — there were even reports Cashman had dinner with Crawford’s agent at the Winter Meetings — and it never really did make sense. Gardner was coming off a very good first full season and they had Granderson and Nick Swisher as well. They didn’t need another high-priced outfielder. Turns out they were just trying to make sure the Red Sox or whoever else were going to pay top dollar for Crawford.

Cashman & Co. drove up the price for Jacoby Ellsbury the same way during the 2013-14 offseason too. Wait … dammit!

September 25th, 2011: AL East Notes: Reyes, Rays, Francona, Montero

The Yankees should give Jesus Montero a chance to catch the season’s last few games to see if he’s a viable option behind the plate, argues Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News.

I agreed with Mr. Bondy’s sentiment. The Yankees made it very clear that was not going to happen though. They called up Montero on September 1st in 2011 and he caught three games the rest of the season. He was lifted for a defensive replacement in two of the three games too.

Gary Sanchez, meanwhile, has caught three games this week alone, and 13 of the team’s last 16 games overall. That tells you all you need to know about how the Yankees feel about Sanchez as a catcher compared to Montero as a catcher. Sanchez is not Yadier Molina or anything like that, but he is way better than Montero ever was behind the plate.

Yankeemetrics: The Great Escape [Aug. 29-31]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Too little, too late
The Yankees fleeting playoff hopes hit a speed bump on Monday night as their late-inning comeback fell short in Kansas City, losing 8-5 to Royals.

Following another confounding outing by Michael Pineda and another middle-relief implosion, the Yankees found themselves down seven runs after the seventh inning, and despite battling back to twice getting the tying run at the plate, they couldn’t get the decisive hit.

After a four-run rally in the eighth pulled the Yankees within three runs, Mark Teixeira grounded out to end the inning with a man on first and second. That predictable #RISPFAIL dropped his batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs to .100 (4-for-40), the third-lowest among all players with at least 40 at-bats this season.

Starlin Castro also had a chance to be the hero in the ninth inning when came up with two outs and two men on. Kelvin Herrera threw him three straight curves; Castro took the first two for strikes then whiffed on the third one in the dirt for the final out. Castro’s line on curveballs this season fell to 6-for-52 (.115), the second-lowest batting average against the pitch in MLB (min. 50 at-bats).

In what has become an all-too-familiar tale for a Pineda start, the enigmatic right-hander showed flashes of dominance but ultimately the results in the box score were disappointing. He got rocked early, giving up three runs on five hits in the first inning, then retired 15 (!) straight batters in the second through sixth innings, before being removed in the seventh after giving up singles to the first two men he faced (who both eventually scored).

Pineda’s struggles in the opening frame are nothing new; after Monday’s disaster, he was tied for the most first-inning hits allowed and the second-most first-inning earned runs allowed, and his 7.62 first-inning ERA was the second-highest in the majors (min. 20 starts).

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Just call him Chasen Houdini
The Yankees pulled off one of their most stunning and nerve-wracking wins of the season on Tuesday, edging out the Royals, 5-4, for a ginormous victory against one of the teams they’re chasing in the wild card race.

They were celebrating at the end of the game thanks to a clutch hit in extra innings by the oft-maligned Jacoby Ellsbury, and a remarkable Houdini act to seal the win by improbable closer Chasen Shreve.

Ellsbury drove in the game-winning run in the 10th with a two-out, bases-loaded infield hit. He improved to 6-for-11 (.545) with 12 RBI with the bases loaded this season, tied with Mike Trout for the best batting average in MLB (min. 10 at-bats).

Shreve notched his first career save after escaping a bases-loaded, one out jam in the bottom of the 10th by fanning Kendrys Morales on three pitches and then getting Salvador Perez to fly out to center.

Over the last 25 seasons, the only other Yankee pitcher to strike out a guy with the bases loaded while protecting a lead in extras was — unsurprisingly — Mariano Rivera. The G.O.A.T got Mark Reynolds to swing through strike three for the final out of a 6-5, 10-inning win in Arizona on June 23, 2010.

Lost in the drama of the final frame was another solid outing by Masahiro Tanaka, who was removed following the rain delay after throwing five innings of two-run ball with four strikeouts and no walks. He finished the month of August with a nearly flawless strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38-to-1 (!), with the lone walk coming on Aug. 24 against the Mariners.

Tanaka is the first Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to complete a month with at least 35 strikeouts and no more than one walk. In fact, just three other major-league pitchers in that 104-season span have struck out 38 or more guys and walked one or fewer in a calendar month: Cliff Lee (54 K, 1 BB in Sept. 2013), Hisashi Iwakuma (39 K, 1 BB in July 2014) and Javier Vazquez (39 K, 0 BB in May 2005).

Trading an out for a win
It was deja vu for the Yankees on Wednesday as they enjoyed free baseball for a second straight night and again notched a huge win in extras. It marked the first time the Yankees have ever won back-to-back extra-inning games versus the Royals, and the first time they’ve done that versus any team since Sept. 21-22, 2012 against the A’s.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With the win, the Yankees are now 22-9 in games decided by one run, the second-best record in MLB behind the Rangers (30-8!) this year. Their .710 winning percentage in one-run games would be the highest single-season mark in franchise history; the current record is held by the 1963 team, which went 36-17 (.679).

This time they rallied from a four-run deficit and finally took the lead in the top of the 13th when Brian McCann delivered a sac fly to left field, scoring Didi Gregorius to make it 5-4. It was the latest go-ahead sac fly by a Yankee since Bernie Williams lofted a walk-off fly out in the 13th inning against the Red Sox on May 3, 1995.

McCann’s heroics wouldn’t have been possible without an incredible performance by the bullpen. It was truly a team effort as six relievers combined for seven scoreless and hitless innings. This was the first time ever that the Yankees won a game where they used six different relievers who each got at least one out and allowed no hits.

How did we get this far into Yankeemetrics without mentioning Mr. Gary Sanchez? Let’s fix that. Despite going 1-for-5 on Wednesday, Sanchez still finished August with a .389 batting average and .832 slugging percentage in 24 games.

Over the past 100 years, two players in their age-23 seasons or younger have hit at least .375 and slugged over .825 in any calendar month (min. 100 plate appearances): Gary Sanchez and Joe DiMaggio in July 1937.

Thoughts before the Yankees head to Baltimore


Tomorrow night the Yankees open a crucial three-game series with the Orioles in Baltimore. The O’s sit in the second wildcard spot at the moment and the Yankees are 2.5 games back with both the Astros and Tigers ahead of them as well. Huge series. Huge. Here are some thoughts on the off-day.

1. I really don’t like the decision to use Luis Severino out of the bullpen. I understand the middle relief is a disaster right now and the Yankees need help, but he’s too important to the team long-term, and his development should be a priority. Severino clearly has work to do with his changeup and his secondary pitches in general, and the bullpen isn’t a great place to work on that stuff. Not if the Yankees intend to use him in semi-important situations, which seems likely. I’d rather see Severino stay in Triple-A and remain a starter with the RailRiders through the end of the postseason, then rejoin the Yankees in whatever role later in the month. Hopefully he has enough of an impact in relief that putting the development of his changeup on hold is worth it.

2. Speaking of Severino, the Yankees could have called him up Tuesday instead of Chasen Shreve. They knew they were going to use Severino out of the bullpen that night ahead of time, it’s not like they hatched that plan five minutes before first pitch, but they decided to keep him down there and call up Shreve. Giving him a tune-up bullpen appearance in Triple-A makes sense, no doubt about it, though I think service time may have been a factor too. Severino needed to spend 73 days in the minors this season to delay free agency. He was down 56 days earlier this summer when he came back from his injury, leaving another 17 days. The Yankees sent Severino down after his start on August 14th, so August 15th was day one of 17. Day 17 of 17 was yesterday. Calling him up instead of Shreve on Tuesday would have meant missing out an extra year of control by one stupid day. By waiting to call him up until rosters expand, the Yankees gained control of Severino’s age 28 season in 2022. That had to factor into their decision to call up Shreve over Severino, right? Important disclaimer: my math is not official. There are some quirky service time rules that may render all this moot.

3. Rosters expand today, but since the Yankees are off, they probably won’t announced their call-ups until tomorrow. My official guess for the first wave of call-ups, meaning the guys who will join the team tomorrow in Baltimore: Severino, Nick Goody, Kirby Yates, Richard Bleier, Rob Refsnyder, and the just acquired Eric Young Jr. Six guys right out of the chute. We know Severino is coming up because the Yankees have been preparing him for a relief role. Yates was sent to rookie Pulaski earlier this week specifically because their season ends today, allowing them to circumvent the ten-day rule and bring him back tomorrow. They wouldn’t do that unless they were planning to bring him right back. Young was acquired yesterday to be the designated pinch-runner. Goody and Refsnyder have been up-and-down all year, and Bleier has been working as a starter in Triple-A, so he’ll give them a much-needed long man. Others like Bryan Mitchell, Mason Williams, James Pazos, and Johnny Barbato have to wait a little longer for their call-ups, possibly until after the Triple-A postseason. (The Ben Gamel trade and Aaron Hicks’ hamstring injury could force them to bring up Williams sooner, however.)

4. The pitching staff aside from Masahiro Tanaka and the big three relievers has mostly stunk this season, so I’m not surprised to see folks on Twitter and in our comments saying it’s time for pitching coach Larry Rothschild to go. I get it. When part of the team underperforms, the first response is always fire the coach. I couldn’t disagree more though. The fingers are being pointed in the wrong place. The Yankees have placed too much emphasis on size and velocity in recent years — I get it, those are unteachable skills, which put them in demand — and not nearly enough on command and pitchability in my opinion. You needn’t look beyond Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi to see you need more than big stuff to succeed in the big leagues. Rothschild is very highly regarded within the industry and as outsiders, it’s really hard for us to evaluate a coach’s performance. All their work happens behind the scenes. I thought the Yankees made a big mistake scapegoating hitting coach Kevin Long two years ago, and firing Rothschild would be more of the same. The big stuff/bad command approach ain’t working. The players and the philosophy have to change more than anything. These guys are coaches, not miracle workers.


5. I think Adam Warren might be nursing some kind of minor injury. He hasn’t look quite as crisp lately, and when the Yankees were on the West Coast last week, Joe Girardi seemed to indicate he didn’t have Warren available for a few days. At one point he went six days between appearances, starting with the Mariners series. Then last night, in an obvious situation to use him for more than one inning, he faced two batters and threw seven pitches as the game went to extra innings Of course, Warren has made four appearances in the last five days, so chances are I’m dead wrong. And even if he is nursing something, it’s obviously not bad enough to keep him from playing. Warren stunk with the Cubs, then came back to the Yankees and was pretty awesome for a few weeks, and now he kinda stinks again. It could be those few weeks of success were just a mirage. I just wonder if there’s maybe a little something else going on, or was at some point recently.

6. We can finally close the book on all the deadline trades now that we know the return for Ivan Nova. The Yankees did really, really well. Far better than I thought they would, to be honest. They even managed to get two legitimate prospects back for Nova, a rental starter who hadn’t pitched well since returning from Tommy John surgery last year. The Yankees landed 12 prospects plus Warren for three impending free agents and one reliever. One really great reliever, but still one reliever. I’m really pleased with the talent the deadline sale fetched. Who knows if these prospects will work out. They’re all full of risk. But when you’re trading impending free agents and a reliever, getting high-end talent like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres is the way to go. The 2016 trade deadline may prove to be the most important event in the team’s history since the 2008-09 offseason.

7. The winner of yesterday’s Gamel trade is Ben Gamel. I’m glad he’s going somewhere he’ll get an opportunity to play. The Mariners figure to have at least one outfield opening next year — they’re going to decline Nori Aoki’s option, maybe Seth Smith’s too — and Gamel could get an extended look there. He was facing the very real possibility of spending a third straight year in Triple-A in 2017 had he remained with the Yankees. The team got two interesting lower level arms for an outfielder they don’t really need. (They still have so much lefty hitting outfield depth.) It made sense to flip Gamel. Hopefully he gets a chance to stick in the big leagues with Seattle now.

8. I mentioned this the other day but it’s worth repeating: I love that the kids are playing a role as the Yankees chase a postseason spot. Even if they fall short, this is a good experience. Remember, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada were around as spare part players in September 1995. It was good to soak in all those meaningful games and see what it takes to win at this level. How could this not be good experience? Gary Sanchez is hitting in the middle of the lineup, Aaron Judge is playing everyday, Severino and Ben Heller are poised to be bullpen staples in September … this is all a wonderful experience for these kids. The Yankees want these players to grow into the core of their next championship team. Well, what better time to have them get their first taste of postseason race baseball than right now?

Yanks rally from down 4-0, outlast Royals 5-4 in 13 innings

Man, what an amazing and unexpected win. The Yankees were down 4-0 in the blink of an eye Wednesday night, but the pitching staff went into lockdown mode and gave the offense not only a chance to tie the game, but win it in extras. The final score was 5-4 Yankees in 13 innings. They managed to take two of three from the red hot Royals in Kansas City. What a game. What a series.


Cessa Settles Down
Luis Cessa‘s worst Major League start was, in a way, also his most impressive. This was the first time he faced some real adversity. He dominated a weak Angels lineup in his first start, then got a ton of run support against the Orioles in his second start. This was an important game, and right away, Cessa put the Yankees in a 2-0 hole. He hung a first pitch curveball to Kendrys Morales that went for a two-run home run in the first inning.

A two-base error by Chase Headley and a double by Alcides Escobar gave the Royals a 3-0 lead in the second, then, in the third, Eric Hosmer poked a solo home run just inside the foul pole to the opposite field. Cessa didn’t even make a bad pitch. It was a changeup right where Gary Sanchez wanted it. Hosmer just went out and got it. The Yankees were down 4-0 after three innings and Cessa was looking shaky as hell. The only pitch he had working was the changeup. He couldn’t locate anything else.

The bullpen was a little short thanks to Tuesday night’s rain delay and extra innings affair, so Joe Girardi couldn’t afford to pull Cessa early. He had to stick with him and get some length, and to Cessa’s credit, he settled down and retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced. One of the two baserunners was an infield single. No, Cessa was not good overall (6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR), but he didn’t completely melt down either. He stopped the bleeding and gave the offense a chance to get back into the game. Way to grind it out, Luis.


Rally To Tie
Through five innings the Yankees could only muster three singles and one double against former Yankee Ian Kennedy. They did put runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, but Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner both flew out to end the rally. It seemed like one of those nights for the offense. They were down early and weren’t going to be able to get anything going. We’ve seen that happen enough this season.

But! The Yankees did not go quietly. They rallied for three runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to tie the game 4-4. The big blow in the sixth inning was Starlin Castro‘s booming two-run home run. Kennedy gave up a ton of long fly balls all night, balls that probably would have been home runs at Yankee Stadium, and it wasn’t until the sixth inning that he paid for one. No. 19 of the season for Castro, extending his career high.

Hicks played a huge role in the team’s fourth run of the game. He worked a one-out walk to end Kennedy’s night, then went first-to-third on Gardner’s bloop single. It looked like it might drop in no man’s land, but who knows with Kansas City’s outfield defense. Hicks read it well and was going first-to-third all the way. Jacoby Ellsbury drove him in with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. (One pitch earlier, Cheslor Cuthbert came up just short on his diving catch attempt on Ellsbury’s foul pop-up. Huge.)

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

For at least one series, the good version of Chasen Shreve returned. He recorded the final two outs of Tuesday’s nail-biting win, and in this game he chucked two scoreless innings in relief of Cessa. A scoreless seventh and a scoreless eighth. He cut right through the top and middle of the lineup too. Man, getting 2015 Shreve back these last few weeks would be huge. The Yankees need all the help they can get in the middle innings.

The two bullpens traded zeros until the 13th inning. Guys named Brian Flynn and Blake Parker and Brooks Pounders and Matt Strahm all saw action. Parker almost gave it up in the 11th on a walk, a hit batsman, and two stolen bases, but Paulo Orlando lined out to Castro to end the inning. That was pretty dicey. Ben Heller, who looked like a deer in the headlights Tuesday, threw with conviction in the bottom of the 12th and got three quick ground outs. Much, much better Ben.

The Yankees blew a bases loaded, one out opportunity in the top of the 12th, partly due to some bad luck. Sanchez ripped a line drive towards left, but Cuthbert was standing right there. Mark Teixeira swung at ball four (via Brooks Baseball) …

Mark Teixeira Chris Young

… and grounded out to end the inning. Blah. At least Chris Young gave the Yankees another chance in the 13th. Didi Gregorius singled and Castro doubled to start the frame, then Brian McCann got the run in with a two-strike sac fly. After all of that, the Yankees led 5-4 in the 13th. Unfortunately Aaron Judge struck out and Gardner grounded out, so no insurance runs scored. One-run lead it is.

Dellin Betances came on for the 13th inning save opportunity, and as he tends to do, he looked like he had no idea where the ball was going. Betances walked Cuthbert to start the inning, which is bad for many reasons. Most notably because he’s easy to steal against and the middle of the order was coming up. Things were looking ominous until Hosmer hit a tapper back up the middle that Dellin fielded between his damn legs and turned into a 1-6-3 double play. I mean, what?

Dellin Betances

Morales hit a slightly scary but ultimately routine fly ball to right to end the game as the very next batter. The bullpen: 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K. The Royals’ last hit was Salvador Perez’s infield single in the sixth. Their last hit to the outfield was Perez’s one-out single in the third. Shreve, Parker, and Heller in particular came up huge. The Yankees were long overdue for a “random relievers thrown five scoreless innings” game, and those three did it. Bravo.

The Yankees went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and of course the one hit didn’t even score a run. It was Gardner’s single in the 12th, which advanced Headley to third. Third base coach Joe Espada threw up the stop sign with one out, which made sense because Orlando has a strong arm. No one could have known Orlando would airmail the third to the backstop. Alas.

All told the Yankees had eleven hits, including three by Castro and two each by Gardner and Headley. Starlin was a monster in August. He hit .313/.333/.571 in the month. Drove in 24 runs in 28 games too. McCann and Hicks were the only starters without a hit, but McCann had the game-winning sac fly and Hicks playing a big role in the game-tying run. Contributions up and down the lineup.

And finally, in case you missed it earlier, Hicks left the game with a right hamstring strain. He hurt himself busting it down the line on a ground ball. Remember to never hustle, kids. The Yankees didn’t say anything about the severity of the injury. I imagine an MRI is forthcoming.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head on over to ESPN. The Yankees are only 2.5 games back of the second wildcard spot. Amazing. is the place for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the absolutely ridiculous win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are done in Kansas City and now they’re heading to Baltimore for yet another important series against a wildcard competitor. But first: a much-needed off-day. The Yankees don’t have a game Thursday. When the series at Camden Yards starts Friday, Dylan Bundy will be on the mound for the O’s. For some reason the Yankees have all three of their starters for the weekend listed as TBA. Okie dokie. Friday is Chad Green‘s spot, for what it’s worth.

Update: Hicks leaves game with right hamstring strain

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

12:10am: Hicks left the game with a right hamstring strain, the Yankees announced. That’s no good. Even if it’s a relatively minor strain, Hicks figures to miss some time. At least rosters expand soon.

11:08pm: Aaron Hicks left tonight’s game in the ninth inning with an apparent right leg injury. He busted it out of the box on a ground ball, put pulled up short of first base and favored his right leg. Could be a hamstring or a quad, but who knows. Aaron Judge took over in right field in the bottom of the ninth. Here’s video of the injury:

If there’s one thing the Yankees have, it’s outfield depth. Even after trading Ben Gamel earlier today. Judge is the everyday right fielder as it is — Hicks is more of the roving fourth outfielder — and the team has Mason Williams waiting in Triple-A. Rob Refsnyder can play some outfield too. Rosters expand tomorrow.

Hick is having an awful season overall, but he’s been much better of late, hitting .291/.333/.456 (112 wRC+) in August. The Yankees need all the offense they can get these days, so losing Hicks is not insignificant. The team has not yet released an update, so stay tuned.

DotF: Solano and Higashioka have big games in AAA win

Got some notes to pass long, as usual:

  • In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees are sending SS Gleyber Torres, SS Tyler Wade, 3B Miguel Andujar, 1B Greg Bird, and RHP Brody Koerner to the Arizona Fall League. They still have three pitching spots to fill. Farm system head Gary Denbo told Chad Jennings that Torres will play some second base and Wade will play some outfield in the desert. Intrigue!
  • Another in case you missed it earlier: OF Ben Gamel was traded for the Mariners for teenage pitching prospects RHP Juan DePaula and RHP Jio Orozco. Gamel was named MVP of the Triple-A International League just yesterday. It was only a matter of time until the Yankees traded one of their upper level lefty hitting outfielders.
  • Some injury updates from Randy Miller: RHP James Kaprielian (flexor) is still on his throwing program and will get back on a mound soon. The Yankees want to send him to the AzFL but won’t push it. Also, RHP Drew Finley is out with elbow fatigue, but tests showed no structural damage.
  • LHP Justus Sheffield and LHP James Reeves have been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, report Matt Kardos and Nick Flammia. Nice little late season promotions for those two. LHP Nestor Cortes, meanwhile, was sent from Triple-A to High-A, the team announced. He threw 5.2 hitless innings in his spot start with the RailRiders.
  • RHP Dillon Tate has been hitting 96 mph out of the bullpen with Low-A Charleston, reports Brendan Kuty. Tate’s velocity had been fluctuating all year with the Rangers, and it looks like it’s starting to come back. The next step is seeing whether he can hold that velocity as a starter.

Triple-A Scranton (14-2 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-6, 1 R, 4 RBI, 1 K — hitting .330/.333/.418 in his last 23 games … you’d like to see more walks, but the shoulder seems a-okay
  • LF Cesar Puello: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 1 E (fielding) — that’s his 16th hit-by-pitch of the season and it’s not even close to a career high … he has seasons with 20, 21, and 22 hit-by-pitches, plus two others 16 … dude’s a pitch magnet
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-6, 2 RBI, 3 K
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-6, 1 R, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
  • DH Donovan Solano: 4-5, 5 R, 3 2B — hitting .317/.345/.434 on the season
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 3-4, 4 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB — that’s his 21st homer of the season … his previous career high was eight back in 2011
  • RF Jake Cave: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 62 of 86 pitches were strikes (72%) … set a franchise record with a 29.2 innings scoreless streak
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 17 of 20 pitches were strikes (85%) … 20 pitches in three innings? huh … guessing this was a tune-up appearance ahead of a call-up Friday

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