Three long balls lift the Yankees to a 7-3 win over the Royals

Al Bello/Getty Images

The Yankees won a four-game series! Against the reigning World Champs Kansas City Royals! Nathan Eovaldi threw another so-so start but the Yankee bats provided some big hits at the right times to help defeat the Royals 7-3. Story of the game? Chase Headley actually getting an extra base hit and Chien-Ming Wang‘s return to the Yankee Stadium.

Long Balls From Infielders

Through the first five innings, the Yankees scored five runs on three home runs – those long balls happened to be the only their only hits at the time. A neat thing about them is that they were all hit by infielder – Starlin Castro, Headley (!!!) and Didi Gregorius all went yard to drive in five.

Castro got the scoring started in the first inning. He drilled the third pitch of the at-bat from Ian Kennedy into right field to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. It was his fourth home run of the year. He’s having a nice hitting season so far with a .300/.343/.483 line after the game. Castro also had another RBI later in the game in the seventh. With the bases loaded and Yankees leading 5-3, he blooped a single between second baseman and right fielder to drive one in. Not a shabby day for Starlin.

The next dinger came from none other than Headley, whose lack of extra base hits has been a subject of ridicule by many for awhile. In the bottom of second, with Carlos Beltran on base, Headley drove a 93-mph fastball from Kennedy the opposite way out for a two-run homer, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Headley’s teammates seemed understandably pumped, who was in a big time hitting funk for a long while. It took him about a month and half, but Chase finally has an extra base hit this season, raising his ISO to .032 and his SLG to .226. He’s got nowhere to go up (you’d hope).

The Yankees didn’t stop there with homers. Eovaldi gave up two runs in the fourth to narrow the lead to 3-2. In the bottom of fifth, Didi widened it back with a two-run homer. He uppercutted a hanging curveball into the right field seats. All these dingers came against the former Yankee top prospect Ian Kennedy, who was actually having a nice season prior to tonight’s start (2.13 ERA/3.61 FIP in 6 starts coming in), but still giving up a lot of fly balls in general (35.7 GB%, which is quite low).

Al Bello/Getty Images

Wang’s Return

Chien-Ming Wang, who was ace-like for the Yankees back in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, made his return to Yankee Stadium as a Kansas City Royal. Ever since the unfortunate baserunning incident in Houston in 2008, he struggled to regain his form. He bounced around different organizations (Nationals, Blue Jays, etc.), once signed with Yankees for a MiLB deal, etc. but it wasn’t until 2016 that he reportedly got his velocity back in the low-to-mid-90’s. The Royals liked what they saw in him in ST and gave Wang an ML roster spot.

He relieved another former Yankee Ian Kennedy in the seventh inning with one out and two runners on. He walked Brett Gardner to load the bases and allowed a RBI single to Castro for a 6-3 Yankees lead. Wang did strike out Mark Teixeira but walked Brian McCann to force in a run, 7-3 Yankees. Beltran popped out to end the inning and Wang’s outing for tonight. His sinker was up to 93 mph tonight in the YES broadcast gun but he noticeably had trouble commanding the zone.

I don’t know about you guys but seeing Wang pitch in the Bronx was something sentimental for me. His career as a Yankee ended prematurely because of a freak accident, which is quite unfortunate. I’ve always felt bad for Wanger and hoped that he’d rebound into having a nice ML career. We’ll see how he goes from here. After tonight’s game, he has a 3.27 ERA/2.81 FIP in 11.0 IP. Best of luck, Wang.

Betances – Miller -…Shreve?

The Yankees had a 5-3 lead heading into the seventh. At that point many people, including the YES Broadcast, thought this would be the first time that the trio in the back of the bullpen would each throw a scoreless inning to close out the game. Dellin Betances started off with a scoreless inning, striking out one. In the bottom of the frame, Yankees scored two off of Kennedy and Wang, extending the lead to 7-3. Joe Girardi, who already had Andrew Miller warming up, put him to take care of the eighth and he did what was pretty much expected – a nice one-two-three inning with a strikeout.

Instead of going with Aroldis Chapman in a non-save situation, Girardi put Chasen Shreve in to close out the game. Chasen hadn’t been great this season, carrying a 5.25 ERA with 7.08 FIP in 12.0 IP coming into tonight’s game. Tonight, however, he managed a scoreless inning to not make it dicey for the Yankees.

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Updated Standings

Here’s box score, video highlights, standings and WPA.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees welcome the White Sox for a three-game series in Bronx this weekend. I’m guessing that it will be a challenging one – the ChiSox have one of the best record in ML with 23-12, leading AL Central by five games.

Hennigan: Gary Sanchez promoted to Yankees


Looks like the Yankees are adding another bat for the weekend. Top catcher prospect Gary Sanchez has been called up to the Yankees, reports Shane Hennigan. The team has not yet announced the move. They probably won’t until a few hours before the game Friday. No reason to think Hennigan’s report is bonus though.

My guess — and this is only a semi-educated guess — is the Yankees want Sanchez’s right-handed bat in the lineup against lefties Chris Sale and Jose Quintana this weekend. I think they’ll call up Sanchez and send down eighth reliever Tyler Olson, then send down Sanchez on Monday in favor of an extra reliever (James Pazos?) until Alex Rodriguez comes off the DL, hopefully when he’s eligible to be activated Thursday. We’ll see.

Sanchez, 23, was hitting .290/.339/.551 (162 wRC+) with five home runs in 26 games with Triple-A Scranton this season before going 2-for-4 on Thursday, so those numbers are only going up. I would bet on Sanchez serving as the DH against Sale and Quintana, not catching. Then again, Sanchez and Luis Severino are familiar with each other, so maybe they’ll be paired together as a battery Friday.

At this point Sanchez has been in the minors long enough to delay his free agency. (Monday was the earliest they could have called him while still pushing free agency back a year.) Austin Romine has been pretty good as Brian McCann‘s backup in the early going. I would be surprised if they were to cut bait on Romine at this point and go with Sanchez as the backup.

DotF: Refsnyder, Sanchez extend hitting streaks in Triple-A win

Make sure you check out Tim Casey’s article on 1B Nick Swisher. Swisher spoke about trying to stick around and get back to the big leagues, and, as you’d expect, it’s chock full of bro quotes.

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 win over Pawtucket)

  • LF Jake Cave: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI — threw a runner out at third … does he automatically go back to Double-A with Ben Gamel on his way back down?
  • DH Aaron Judge: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 PB  — 16-for-40 (.400) during his nine-game hitting streak
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 K, 1 SB — back in right field … hitting streak is up to 16 games and on-base streak up to 20 games
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-4
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 69 of 98 pitches were strikes (70%) … this is his ninth career Triple-A start, and it’s only the second time he had more strikeouts than walks
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 20 of 38 pitches were strikes (53%) … first appearance since being set down
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 19 of 26 pitches were strikes (73%) … so I guess the move to the bullpen was not a one-time thing despite all the pitching injuries

[Read more…]

Game 33: Teixeira Returns

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

After two days on the bench with neck spasms, Mark Teixeira returns to the lineup tonight for the series finale against the Royals. His defense has been missed, for sure. His bat? That’s been a problem this year. It’s May 12th and Teixeira is slugging .298. Yikes. The Yankees need him to start hitting some home runs and soon. Hopefully a few days on the bench will recharge the batteries. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

It’s another really nice day in New York. Just a few clouds and a nice breeze. Pretty good night to spend outside. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) did some light running and hit off a tee. He’s eligible to be activated one week from today … Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) is still on track to return this weekend.

Roster Move: Lefty Tyler Olson was called up and outfielder Ben Gamel was sent down today, the Yankees announced. Olson, who last pitched Saturday (45 pitches), will take over as the long man on a temporary basis following Phil Coke‘s extended outing last night.

TiqIQ: Yankees Host First-Place White Sox This Weekend, Tickets Start From Just $17 on Primary Market

The Yankees have been the latest beneficiaries of the Royals’ supposed World Series hangover, taking the first two games in a four-game stint at the Stadium this week. While the starting pitching has been less-than stellar in the series, emphasized by Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda’s respective six-earned-run outings, the bats have woken up to give the Bombers an edge over the defending champions.

With a series win over the Royals on the horizon, they’ll need to keep the offense alive as they welcome the red-hot White Sox to the Bronx this weekend. It will be a telling series for the Yankees, who continue to climb the stairs out of the basement of the A.L. East. Navigating around the pitching tandem of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana will be no easy task, but with momentum slowly building, there is hope that the wins will continue to come this weekend.

And for fans heading out to the ballpark this weekend, relatively inexpensive Yankees tickets on Ticketmaster will keep the wallet fluffed to provide extra sitting support at the game. The opening game of the series on Friday night will feature the struggling Luis Severino against Chris Sale, and tickets start from just $17 in the outfield bleachers. Sale has recorded seven wins over his first seven starts of the season and owns a 1.79 ERA. Severino has posted polar opposite numbers; he sits at 0-5 with a 6.12 ERA.

Ivan Nova gets the nod for the Yankees on Saturday against the streaking Quintana, who has won in each of his previous four starts. The matinee game will also feature outfield bleacher tickets starting from $17 while upper deck outfield seats can be found from $21. Nova enters Saturday’s game at 1-1 on the season and gave up just one run in 4.2 innings in his last start against the Royals on Monday.

Sunday afternoon’s finale will see Tanaka take the mound against the White Sox’s Miguel Gonzalez. Tickets are still available in the outfield bleachers for $17 with upper echelon seating starting from $21. Tanaka looks to recover after being tossed around by the Royals on Tuesday, where he allowed three home runs and six runs in seven innings. He sits at just 1-0 with a 3.11 ERA on the season. Gonzalez makes his third start for the White Sox and is in search of his first win of the season.

Should the Yankees continue their hot-hitting ways, their weekend series with the White Sox will be the latest checkmark in their quest to flee from the divisional cellar. The true test will be getting to Sale and Quintana, however, as the two aces have produced All-Star-caliber results through the first month of the season.

2016 Draft: Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson | RHP

Anderson, 18, attends Shenendehowa High School up near Albany. He impressed with Team USA’s 18-and-under team last summer, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that he was able to pitch in an official game this spring. Poor weather, a bout with pneumonia, and a minor oblique problem delayed the start of Anderson’s season. He’s committed to Vanderbilt.

Scouting Report
Anderson is one of those high-upside prep arms who checks all the right boxes. He has size and a projectable frame (6-foot-3 and 180 lbs.), good velocity (sits 91-94 mph and has touched 96), an out pitch (power curveball), and enough command to pitch effectively on both sides of the plate. Anderson is very athletic with a smooth delivery, and because he has a high arm slot, the curve consistently drops off the table. His changeup lags as a third pitch, which isn’t uncommon for high schoolers. Anderson is bringing two above-average pitches to the table with the makings of a third pitch, an athletic delivery, and a projectable frame. That’s the good stuff right there.

Baseball America and ranked Anderson as the 11th best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings. Keith Law (subs. req’d) had him a bit lower at No. 14. The Yankees pick 18th. On merit, Anderson is a top ten caliber prospect, but the fact his season started so late means scouts don’t have much time to see him in action this spring. That’s good for the Yankees. Not many teams will be willing to use a top 10-15 pick on a kid they’ve only seen a handful of times. Anderson probably represents the best case scenario for the Yankees as a high-upside player who may slide due to extenuating circumstances. Whether they have the draft pool space to buy him away from Vanderbilt is another matter. That’s historically been a tough commitment to break.

Drifting release points costing Betances deception, but it hasn’t mattered yet

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

After 122 starts and parts of eight seasons in the minors, the Yankees finally pulled the plug on Dellin Betances as a starting pitcher in Triple-A four years ago. His control problems were not going away — he walked 99 batters in 131.1 innings in 2012 — and there’s only so long you can wait for a guy to figure things out. It was time to make a change, so to the bullpen Betances went.

Dellin has been a revelation out of the bullpen. He dominated Triple-A as a reliever in 2013, made the Yankees out of Spring Training in 2014, and has remained a mainstay in the Circle of Trust™ ever since. His numbers over the last three seasons are just insane: 1.53 ERA (2.09 FIP) with 40.3% strikeout rate. Betances leads all relievers in strikeouts (293) — Andrew Miller is second with 226 (!) — and is second in bWAR (+7.5) behind Wade Davis (+7.8) since 2014. He’s been phenomenal.

Betances dominates hitters with an upper-90s fastball and a curveball that is the very definition of a knee-buckler. We’ve seen more than a few hitters jelly leg at the pitch only to watch it dart down the middle for a called strike. The fact Betances is also 6-foot-8 and releasing the ball that much closer to the plate helps things as well. As does the way he “tunnels” his pitches, meaning he throws the fastball and curve from the same spot.

That deception has been an underrated part of Dellin’s dominance these last few years. That deception, the ability to tunnel pitches from the same release point, has been fading, however. Here are his vertical and horizontal release points by month, via Brooks Baseball:

Dellin Betances vertical release point Dellin Betances horizontal release point

See how nice and tight together Dellin’s release points were back in 2014? The fastball and curve came from the exact same spot. So not only was the heater coming in at 98+ mph and the curveball breaking like mad, it was close to impossible to read the pitch out of his hand. Betances released both pitches from the same spot and hitters basically had to guess whether it would stay true (fastball) or break (curve). That’s why so many hitters buckled against the curve. It looked like a high fastball.

Last year Dellin’s release points started to gradually drift apart, and that has continued early season. He releases his fastball from one place and the curveball from another. Here’s a GIF showing his release points by year.

Dellin Betances release points

Again, back in 2014 his release points where right on top of each other. That’s good! Last year Dellin’s release point on the curve started to fade a little towards the third base side. This year the two release points don’t overlap at all. Astute hitters will pick up on this and have a better idea of what’s coming. (I’m not saying it’s easy to read his release points, but it’s possible.)

The called strike rate on Betances’ curveball dropped from 26.1% in 2014 to 22.2% last year. In the super early going this year his curve has a 25.2% called strike rate, so while it has ticked up from last season, we have to keep in mind this is a small sample. He’s thrown 143 curves this year. One outing could chance that 25.2% drastically in either direction.

Betances has thrown his curveball for a strike roughly 41% of the time since the start of 2014 and that rate has held steady. So has the rate of misses when hitters swing. That number is right around 50%, which is out of this world. Even with his release points drifting apart, Betances is still insanely good because his stuff is so overwhelming. He could tell hitters his curveball is coming and lots of them still wouldn’t be able to hit it.

As long as Betances isn’t hiding an injury, and there’s no reason to think he is, the change in release points is not an issue right now. And it might never be. I do think this is something to keep an eye on going forward though. Most pitchers gradually drop their arm slot over time because of wear and tear, but Betances is only doing it with his curve, not his fastball. He’s a guy who has fought his mechanics his entire career, remember. If Betances’ release points continue to drift apart, it could give hitters that much more of a fighting chance against him.