8/17 to 8/19 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Home sweet home. The Yankees start a three-game series against the Twins tonight, and they will play their next ten and 20 of their next 26 (!) games at home in Yankee Stadium. They’ve been much better at home (32-21, +48 run differential) than on the road (32-31, +15) this season, so this 20-in-26 stretch is a golden opportunity to increase the lead in the AL East. The Yankees took two of three from the Twins in Target Field late last month, thanks in part to Alex Rodriguez‘s three home-run game.

What Have The Twins Done Lately?

The Twins are going down in flames. They had a nice little start to the season but they have lost 18 of their last 27 games, getting outscored 157-105 in the process. They are who we thought they were, as Dennis Green once said. Minnesota has fallen out of wildcard position (they’re 1.5 games back) and are 59-58 with a -24 run differential overall in 2015. Don’t overlook this series though. The AL East title is in doubt and the Twins are one of about six teams vying for a wildcard. This series as some postseason implications.

Offense & Defense

With an average of 4.22 runs per game and a team 90 wRC+, the Twins are a below-average offensive club. (They’re actually slightly better than average in terms of runs per game, but that wRC+ …. yikes.) That doesn’t mean they don’t have any individually dangerous hitters, of course. Manager Paul Molitor’s team is healthy on the position player side. No one on the DL or even day-to-day.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Right now, Minnesota’s most dangerous hitter is DH Miguel Sano (156 wRC+ in limited time), who is absolutely terrifying at the plate. I’ll be happy if he hits only one homer in the three-game series. 2B Brian Dozier (120 wRC+) is quite dangerous and both OF Aaron Hicks (105 wRC+), OF Eddie Rosario (104 wRC+), and 3B Trevor Plouffe (107 wRC+) are strong supporting players. 1B Joe Mauer (93 wRC+) and OF Torii Hunter (94 wRC+) are both on the downside of their careers.

C Kurt Suzuki (60 wRC+) is the everyday catcher and lately UTIL Eduardo Escobar (78 wRC+) and former Yankees UTIL Eduardo Nunez (92 wRC+) have been splitting time at short. C Chris Herrmann (52 wRC+) is the backup catcher and OF Shane Robinson (78 wRC+) is the other bench player. Only a three-man bench for the Twinkies these days.

The defensive stats are not fans of the Twins. Hicks and Dozier are excellent, and Rosario is fine in left, but Hunter and Plouffe are not the rangiest of fellows. Mauer’s fine around the bag at first but also doesn’t offer much range. Nunez at short? We’ve seen that movie before. (Escobar’s fine there.) Suzuki is solid behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (No vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
The 27-year-old Gibson is finally starting to settle in as a solid big league starter, pitching to a 3.75 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 23 starts and 141.2 innings this year. I thought he was going to be star coming out of Mizzou back in 2009 (22nd overall pick), so that shows what I know. Gibson has a below-average strikeout rate (17.3%), but both his walk (7.5%) and homer (0.95 HR/9) rates are good, plus he gets a ton of ground balls (52.8%). Righties (.334 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.293 wOBA), which is the opposite of what happened last year. Also, it’s worth noting Gibson has been much more successful at home in spacious Target Field (3.12 ERA and 4.15 FIP) than on the road (4.57 ERA and 4.06 FIP) this year. He works in the low-90s with two and four-seam fastballs and also throws mid-80s sliders and changeups. Gibson has used all four pitches at least 18% of the time this season. The Yankees saw Gibson last month and scored six runs in 5.1 innings.

As for the Yankees, tonight was supposed to be CC Sabathia‘s turn, but last night various Twins beat reporters said Minnesota had been informed Bryan Mitchell will start instead. Sure enough, Brian Cashman confirmed this morning Mitchell will start tonight. Sabathia will start tomorrow. The Yankees had been talking about using a spot sixth starter at some point during this stretch of 16 games in 16 days to give the rest of the rotation extra rest, and tonight’s the night.

Tuesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (vs. NYY)
Big Pelf has a 3.70 ERA (3.95 FIP) in 22 starts and 129 innings this year, though this has really been a tale of two seasons for the ex-Met. He had a 2.28 ERA (3.84 FIP) in his first eleven starts and has a 5.23 ERA (4.06 FIP) in the eleven starts since. Pelfrey has the second lowest strikeout rate among qualified starters at 11.3% — Jeremy Guthrie has the lowest at 11.1% — so he instead relies on limiting walks (6.9%), getting grounders (53.7%), and keeping the ball in the park (0.49 HR/9). Lefties (.340 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than righties (.310 wOBA). The 31-year-old Pelfrey lives off his low-to-mid-90s sinker but will also throw some straight low-to-mid-90s four-seamers to keep hitters honest. Low-80s splitters and sliders are his two offspeed pitches. The Yankees did not face Pelfrey when they visited Minnesota a few weeks ago.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Wednesday (1pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (vs. NYY)
Santana, 32, returned a few weeks ago after serving an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension to start the season. Not the best way to kick off a four-year contract, eh? Santana has a 5.66 ERA (5.59 FIP) in eight starts and 47.2 innings since coming back and he has been incredibly homer prone (1.70 HR/9). His walk rate (8.4%) is in line with his career norms but his strikeout (13.0%) and grounder (37.6%) rates are way down. Left-handed batters (.358 wOBA) have had more success against Santana than righties (.336 wOBA) this year. A low-to-mid-90s four-seam fastball is his primary weapon and he’ll also throw a ton of mid-80s sliders each time out. Santana has thrown his slider at least 33% of the time every year since PitchFX was fully put in place in 2008. He has started throwing his mid-80s changeup a bit more often in recent years but it is still a distant third pitch. Santana shows you can carve out a pretty long career as a starter as a two-pitch pitcher, as long as one pitch is mid-90s heat and the other is a wipeout slider. The Yankees did not see Santana the last time these teams played.

Bullpen Status
Molitor is stuck with one of the league’s worst bullpens (4.08 ERA/4.16 FIP) despite having a shutdown closer in LHP Glen Perkins (2.49/3.39). RHP Casey Fien (3.89/3.73) has been his primary setup man alongside trade deadline pickup RHP Kevin Jepsen (2.79/4.06). LHP Brian Duensing (4.54/4.06) is the main matchup southpaw.

RHP A.J. Achter (10.13/6.49 in very limited time), RHP Trevor May (4.15/3.26), LHP Ryan O’Rourke (3.38/3.19 in limited time), and Rule 5 Draft pick RHP J.R. Graham (4.50/4.61) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Duensing, Fien, Jepsen, and Perkins all pitched yesterday. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page, then head over to Twinkie Town and Aaron Gleeman’s site for updates on the Twins.

Yankeemetrics: Payback north of the border (Aug. 14-16)

(AP)
(AP)

Streaks are made to be broken
So this is what it feels like to be in a pennant race, eh? The Yankees stunned the scorching-hot Blue Jays with a 4-3 comeback victory at the Rogers Centre on Friday night, ending Toronto’s 11-game win streak and jumping back into first place in the AL East.

For a while it looked like the Yankees might never score against the Blue Jays again (they had been shut out in each of their last two matchups) and the Blue Jays might never lose again. But then the eighth inning happened, when the Yankees rallied from down 3-0 to take the lead thanks to an RBI double from Chase Headley and a three-run homer from Carlos Beltran.

With one swing of the bat, Beltran became the first Yankee pinch-hitter to hit a go-ahead homer when trailing in eighth inning or later on the road since Don Mattingly on July 24, 1994 against the Angels. Perhaps even more amazing is that it was Beltran’s first homer on a pitch of at least 97 mph since August 9, 2008, when he got Matt Lindstrom.

Andrew Miller locked down the win with his 26th save of the season … But not before he made every Yankee fan hold their breath for the entirety of the near-eight-minute final at-bat, which ended on the 12th pitch when Miller struck out Troy Tulowitzki with runners on second and third.

How clutch was Miller’s strikeout? Since 1988 (as far back as we have reliable pitch data), Miller is the only pitcher in the majors with a game-ending strikeout in an at-bat lasting at least 12 pitches and the go-ahead run on base.

Second place is for losers
The Yankees made sure that they’d leave Canada as a first-place team, beating the Blue Jays on Saturday 4-1 to take a game and a half lead heading into the series finale.

Masahiro Tanaka called it “one of the most important games” he’s ever pitched in as a Yankee and he delivered like an ace, throwing a complete-game five-hitter with eight strikeouts. It was his fourth complete game as a Yankee — the same number that all other Yankee pitchers have combined for since his debut last season.

Before Tanaka’s gem, the last Yankee to get a complete-game victory against the Blue Jays with at least eight strikeouts and five hits or fewer allowed was Ron Guidry on September 28, 1978.

And finally, Brett Gardner ended another streak for the Yankees when he stole second base in the top of the ninth inning. That snapped a stretch of 19 games in a row without a stolen base by any Yankee, their longest drought on the basepaths since 1963.

Not-Lucky Luis
A sweep would have been nice, but winning two of three against the team you’re fighting for the division lead isn’t bad, right?

The Yankees dropped the series finale to the Blue Jays, 3-1, despite another impressive performance by Luis Severino in his third major-league start. Severino, who allowed three runs in six innings, became the youngest Yankee pitcher with at least nine strikeouts in a game since a 20-year-old Ray Keating on May 19, 1914 versus the St. Louis Browns.

He made a couple mistakes with his off-speed pitches but otherwise dominated the powerful Toronto lineup with his dazzling fastball. The Blue Jays went 0 for 14 with eight strikeouts in at-bats ending in Severino’s four-seamer.

However, the Yankees scored just one run to support him — they’ve scored just two runs in the 17 innings he’s been on the mound — and he once again failed to get his first career win. In the last 100 years, Severino and Dave Righetti (1979) are only Yankees with at least five innings pitched and no wins in each of their first three career games.

The Blue Jays have now held the Yankees to one run or fewer in seven of their 12 matchups in 2015. The only other teams in the Divisional Era (since 1969) to allow no more than one run in at least seven games against the Yankees in a season were the 1990 Athletics — who went 12-0 against the Yankees that year! — and the 1973 Red Sox. And the Yankees still seven more games to play against our neighbors north of the border …

Fan Confidence Poll: August 17th, 2015

Record Last Week: 3-3 (22 RS, 20 RA)
Season Record: 64-52 (551 RS, 488 RA, 65-51 pythag. record) 0.5 games up in ALE
Opponents This Week: vs. Twins (three games, Mon. to Weds.), vs. Indians (four games, Thurs. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Pineda goes three innings in first rehab game

We’re getting down to crunch time in the minors. The regular season ends three weeks from tomorrow for most affiliates — High-A Tampa finishes one day earlier, Rookie Pulaski one week earlier — so let’s update the standings and see where the clubs sit in the postseason races.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Rochester in 12 innings, walk-off style) they are 69-54 with a five-game lead in the North Division

  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-6, 1 R
  • DH Gary Sanchez: 2-6, 2 K — came into the game in a 1-for-16 (.063) slump and is still hitting .303 in 27 games since the promotion
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-6, 2 K
  • C Austin Romine: 0-5, 2 K
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 55 of 92 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72%)
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 29 of 40 pitches were strikes (73%) … 57/19 K/BB in 57 innings for the guy the Yankees got in the Shawn Kelley trade
  • RHP Nick Goody: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0/3 GB/FB — 17 of 24 pitches were strikes (71%)

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

This is your open thread for the last few hours of the weekend. The Angels and Royals are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Santiago vs. Ventura) and there’s not much going on aside from that. Talk about that game, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Site Note: We’re going to be running some maintenance tonight to try to get the site working properly again after the big crash ten days ago. RAB might be down for a little while — not sure when or for how long exactly — but we should be back up for good with no problems afterwards. Thanks for being patient the last few days.

Severino strikes out nine, but Yankees fall 3-1 to Blue Jays

Winning two of three is an acceptable outcome in any series, but man, I really wanted the sweep this weekend. The Yankees dropped the third and final game of this series with the Blue Jays by the score of 3-1 Sunday afternoon. The Bronx Bombers went 3-3 on the six-game road trip.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Fastball Only
Luis Severino‘s fastball was excellent on Sunday. He was throwing serious gas, but his secondary pitches seemed to be lacking early on and it cost him. The first hit he allowed came on a two-strike changeup out over the plate to Justin Smoak, then a pair of bad sliders led to three runs in the third.

The three-run rally started with two quick outs and then a Carlos Beltran misplay — he lost a ball in the sun and allowed a routine fly ball to fall in for a Troy Tulowitzki double. I mean, it happens, outfielders will lose a ball in the sun on occasion. That’s baseball. Tulo was on second with two outs, so Severino had a chance to escape the inning without the error hurting.

Instead, Severino left a two-strike slider up to Josh Donaldson, and Donaldson poked it to right field for an RBI single. Fine, whatever. Sucks the misplay cost them a run. Sucks even more Severino couldn’t stop the bleeding there. He spun a cement mixer slider to Jose Bautista and Bautista clobbered it for a no-doubt two-run homer. It was an awful, awful pitch.

Luis Severino Jose Bautista1

Yeah, that is not a good location. Severino allowed five hits in six innings and all five came on offspeed pitches — one on a changeup and four on sliders. His fastball was electric! He averaged 96.5 mph and got eight swings and misses out of 62 four-seam fastballs (12.9%), but you can’t live on fastballs alone. Especially not against this Blue Jays lineup.

The misplay stunk, absolutely, but Beltran didn’t leave the slider up to Donaldson and he sure as hell didn’t give up the homer to Bautista. All three runs were earned — the Beltran misplay was originally called an error and later changed to a double — and four of the six batters immediately following the misplay reached base. It would have been five of six if not for a great diving grab by Chase Headley to rob Kevin Pillar of a hit leading off the fourth.

All told, Severino struck out nine — eight on fastballs and one on a slider — and walked three, retiring seven of the last eight batters he faced. The third inning totally stunk. Severino got the would-be third out on a routine fly ball, but it fell in, and he couldn’t stop the bleeding. The two mistake sliders to Donaldson and Bautista ruined an otherwise impressive start. Hard not to be excited about Severino’s future. Can’t really blame him for the Yankees being 0-3 in his three starts.

Why. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Why. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

SeveriNo Run Support
Of course, it didn’t matter what Severino did on the mound. It could have been David Price or Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels or Cy Young. Wouldn’t have mattered. The Yankees were held to one run and you can’t realistically expect that to stand up. They’ve scored seven runs total in Severino’s three starts and only two when he was actually on the mound. Luis is getting that Hiroki Kuroda run support.

The Yankees scored their one run on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s sixth inning solo home run off the facing of the second deck in right field. Pretty standard homer — Drew Hutchison missed his spot by a decent margin and Ellsbury put a good swing on it. Not sure what else to say. About as generic as homers come. Hutchison had the Yankees beating the ball into the ground all afternoon. He came into the game with a 39.9% ground ball rate and, naturally, got nine of his 20 outs on the ground. (Five others were strikeouts.)

Ellsbury singled leading off the game and was later thrown out trying to steal second to end the inning, which I hate. I’d rather just let Mark Teixeira hit with a man on base that early in the game. Their second base-runner was Alex Rodriguez‘s two-out walk in the fourth and their third was Brian McCann‘s leadoff hit by pitch in the fifth. A-Rod was stranded and McCann was erased on Beltran’s double play ball.

McCann blooped a double with two outs in the seventh — it was a bloop single that hopped over the diving Pillar and standing Bautista thanks to the turf — and Brett Gardner singled with one out in the ninth. They were New York’s only base-runners after Ellsbury’s homer. Ten of the final dozen batters they sent to the plate made outs. At the end of the day, the Yankees lost because they didn’t score, not because Severino put some sliders on a tee in the third inning.

The Blue Jays gave away two outs on the bases. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
The Blue Jays gave away two outs on the bases. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Leftovers
Chasen Shreve and Adam Warren had an adventurous seventh inning. Shreve walked Ryan Goins, gave up a single to Pillar, then got the force out at third on Ben Revere’s bunt. I didn’t think he had a chance to get the runner at third on that play. Warren came in to strike out Tulo and get Donaldson to ground out. He tossed a scoreless eighth as well.

Ellsbury (two), McCann, and Gardner had the team’s four hits. McCann was also hit by a pitch and A-Rod drew the only walk. Six base-runners in nine innings? Not good! The offense has been a bit better these last few games but it’s still not all the way back to where it was even two weeks ago.

And finally, the Yankees held the Blue Jays to 17 runs in six games these last two weekends, which I would have signed up for in a heartbeat. Too bad they went 2-4 in those six games. Gross.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game as well as the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, because I made them and do update them daily, and I’d hate for all that effort to go to waste. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The six-game road trip is over and the Yankees are heading home for a ten-game homestand. First up: three games with the Twins. CC Sabathia and Kyle Gibson will be on the mound in Monday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to attend any of those ten games in person.

Game 116: Severino’s Biggest Test

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This series has gone quite well for the Yankees so far. They won Friday’s game in dramatic come-from-behind fashion, then won Saturday’s game because their ace pitched like a damn ace. They go for the sweep of the suddenly quiet Blue Jays — where’d all the Jose Bautista sound bites go? — this afternoon.

On the mound is rookie righty Luis Severino, who will be making his third career start. This will be his first major test. Yeah, the Red Sox and Indians have okay offenses, but the Blue Jays are on a different level entirely. They’re the best offense in the game, especially at home, where they average 5.52 runs per game. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Luis Severino

It is nice and sunny in Toronto this afternoon, so the Rogers Centre roof should be open. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:07pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Ivan Nova (finger) threw in the bullpen today and everything went well. The swelling has gone down significantly after he was hit by the hard-hit grounder the other night. Nova expects to make his next start.