Although the Yankees aren’t playing one of their AL East rivals, this four-game series against the Rangers in Texas has some pretty big playoff implications. New York is three back of the second wildcard spot and the Rangers are two games ahead of them, so this is a chance to leapfrog one of their wildcard competitors. Jumping over multiple teams in very hard to do, so winning these head-to-head games is crucial.
What Have They Done Lately?
Quite a bit of losing, actually. The Rangers got swept by the Orioles this weekend and have lost seven of their last eight overall. They’ve gone 22-27 their last 49 games as well. Texas sits in second place in the AL West at 54-44 with a +16 run differential, three games back of the Athletics.
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 96 wRC+, the Rangers are pretty close to a league average offense. They certainly aren’t the same run-scoring juggernaut they’ve been for the last decade or so. Texas has a full five-man starting rotation on the DL but just one position player: former Yankee DH Lance Berkman (98 wRC+). He’s out with a hip issue and won’t return this week.
Manager Ron Washington’s lineup structure will be a little different than what we’re used to seeing. 2B Ian Kinsler (116 wRC+) still leads off and 3B Adrian Beltre (138 wRC+) cleans up, but SS Elvis Andrus (58 wRC+) now hits in the bottom third of the order. OF Nelson Cruz (121 wRC+) bats third and one of OF Craig Gentry (75 wRC+ in limited time), CF Leonys Martin (96 wRC+), or IF Jurickson Profar (78 wRC+ in limited time) bats second.
C A.J. Pierzynski (98 wRC+), 1B Mitch Moreland (107 wRC+), and OF David Murphy (74 wRC+) usually fill out the rest of the lineup. UTIL Jeff Baker (190 wRC+ in limited time) will sub in against southpaws. Backup C Geovany Soto (68 wRC+) and OF Engel Beltre (53 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. The Rangers are a top five homer-hitting club (113) and a middle of the pack stolen base team (60).
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Texas took advantage of the All-Star break to manipulate the roster and give their ace a little extra rest. The 26-year-old Darvish will be activated off the DL for tonight’s start (technically, it was a trap strain), and he brings with him a 3.02 ERA (3.21 FIP) and a dynamite strikeout rate (11.84 K/9 and 32.5 K%). His walk rate (3.09 BB/9 and 8.5 BB%) is good and his ground ball rate is okay (43.9%), but he is homer prone (1.13 HR/9 and 15.2% HR/FB). Darvish is primarily a four-pitch pitcher who will mix in two other offerings as well. He sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his two- and four-seam fastballs and in the upper-80s with his cutter. His trademark slider — he throws it nearly 40% (!) of the time — comes in around 80 mph. A mid-80s splitter and a slow, mid-60s curve are those rarely used fifth and sixth pitches. He’ll throw two or three of each per start. The Yankees have faced Darvish twice before — he dominated them early last year and they tagged him for three solo homers in 5.1 innings a few weeks ago.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Alexi Ogando
Like Darvish, Ogando will come off the DL for this start. He was actually hurt though — shoulder inflammation has had him on the shelf since early-June. Ogando, 29, owns a 2.93 ERA (4.26 FIP) in ten starts with unspectacular peripherals: 6.99 K/9 (18.7 K%), 3.58 BB/9 (9.6 BB%), 0.98 HR/9 (8.8% HR/FB), and 37.9% grounders. He’s using his mid-80s changeup far more than ever before (nearly 20% of the time), so he’s no longer that two-pitch, low-to-mid-90s fastball/low-80s slider guy. His velocity is down a tick or two across the board this season. It’s a small sample, but Ogando has a massive reverse split this year (.360 wOBA vs. RHB and .255 vs. LHB). That’s the exact opposite of the rest of his career. The Yankees have seen Ogando plenty over the last few years, sometimes good and sometimes not so good.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Derek Holland
Very quietly, the 26-year-old Holland is having an excellent season (3.10 ERA and 2.93 FIP) thanks to his newfound ability to limit the long ball (0.61 HR/9 and 6.6% HR/FB). He doesn’t have a great ground ball rate (40.2%), so he’s probably due for some HR/FB regression considering his home ballpark. That doesn’t mean it will actually happen, of course. Holland has very good strikeout (8.55 K/9 and 22.8 K%) and walk (2.63 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) numbers. He’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher but will show three others as well. A low-to-mid-90s sinker and low-80s slider are his top two weapons — he throws them more than 80% of the time combined — but he’ll use the occasional low-to-mid-90s four-seamer, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. He’ll throw a handful of each per start. The Yankees have hit Holland very hard in the past, but he dominated them earlier this year. Surely you remember that 92-pitch complete-game shutout in late-June.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. TBA
The Rangers have not yet announced their starter for this game. They have a trio of internal candidates — righties Ross Wolf, Josh Lindblom, and Justin Grimm — but they’ve been working the trade phones hard and may or may not be close to landing Matt Garza. Grimm, 24, is currently in the bullpen after pitching to a 6.37 ERA (4.79 FIP) in 17 starts, though he did hold the Yankees to three runs in five innings a few weeks ago. The 26-year-old Lindblom has been up-and-down several times this year, and he has a 5.46 ERA (4.42 FIP) in five starts and three relief appearances for the big league club. Wolf, 30, has a 3.79 ERA (4.54 FIP) in three starts and eleven relief appearances. Obviously the Yankees would be better off facing any of those three guys rather than Garza, who is scheduled to start for the Cubs tonight. If he pitches for Chicago, you can forget about him for Thursday even if the two teams do swing a trade.
Washington’s bullpen now features two former All-Star closers. RHP Joe Nathan (2.42 FIP) handles the ninth inning while RHP Joakim Soria (2.30 FIP in limited time) handles the eighth. RHP Tanner Scheppers (4.23 FIP) and LHP Robbie Ross (3.33 FIP) are the late-inning matchup tandem, then there’s LHP Neal Cotts (2.21 FIP) and RHP Jason Frasor (3.20 FIP). RHP Cory Burns (4.32 FIP in limited time) and LHP Joe Ortiz (4.29 FIP) are likely to be sent down when Darvish and Ogando are activated.
The Yankees are in decent bullpen shape following yesterday’s extra-innings loss, but both Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne are unlikely to be available tonight. David Robertson has appeared in two straight games as well. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact recent reliever usage info. Now that Baseball Time in Arlington is defunct, Lone Star Ball is my Rangers’ blog of choice.
Prior to last night’s walk-off loss to the Red Sox, the Yankees announced Alex Rodriguez would not be returning to the team this week due a Grade I quad strain. He is their latest player to not just get hurt, but to suffer some kind of setback or new injury while coming back from the initial injury. It’s been happening all year and is a major problem.
The Yankees have been trying to tread water until their lengthy list of injured players return, but none have returned. Well, none have returned and stayed returned. They’re all getting hurt again almost immediately. All of them, not like one or two guys. This isn’t the one-year thing either; the Yankees dealt with so many setbacks last summer I dubbed it the Year of the Setback. Turns out that was only the start.
At this point, after all these injuries and re-injures, it is fair to question the club’s medical staff. Why can’t they keep anyone healthy? Now, obviously some of these injuries are total flukes. Curtis Granderson‘s broken forearm and broken hand? Flukes on hit-by-pitches. Frankie Cervelli‘s broken hand? Fluke on a foul ball. Cervelli’s elbow injury while rehabbing the hand? That’s not a fluke — he reportedly altered his throwing motion to compensate for the hand.
By no means is this complete, but here’s a list of the most significant injuries and re-injuries over the last two seasons (in roughly chronological order):
- Michael Pineda (right shoulder): Diagnosed with inflammation in Spring Training last year, then suffered a torn labrum during an April rehab game. Had season-ending surgery last May.
- Brett Gardner (right elbow): Hurt his elbow making a sliding catch last April, suffered three (!!!) setbacks before having surgery in July that effectively ended his season. Three setbacks!
- Andy Pettitte (left leg): Hard-hit ground ball fractured his leg near his ankle, then he suffered a setback because he pushed his rehab too hard.
- Derek Jeter (left ankle, right quad): Played through a bone bruise in his left ankle last September, suffered a fracture in October. Wasn’t ready for Opening Day, then had a setback (a new, smaller fracture) in May. Returned from the DL and suffered a Grade I quad strain the very same day.
- A-Rod (left hip, left quad): Hip surgery in January before suffering the Grade I quad strain on Friday, three days before he was tentatively scheduled to return.
- Granderson (left forearm, right hand): Two fractures, both flukes. Bad luck.
- Cervelli (right hand, right elbow): Foul ball broke the hand, then he suffered a stress reaction in his elbow during rehab.
- Mark Teixeira (right wrist): Injured his tendon sheath taking batting practice in March. Returned to the team in late-May following three months of rehab, needed season-ending surgery roughly two weeks later.
- Kevin Youkilis (back): Came to the Yankees with a history of back problems, hit the DL with a bulging disc in late-April. Came off the DL in late-May and was hurt again less than two weeks later, this time with (likely) season-ending surgery.
I feel like I might be missing someone, but that list gets the point across. We could even extend this to the minor league system if we want. Manny Banuelos missed a few starts last April with a back problem before being shut down with a bone bruise in his elbow in May. He eventually had Tommy John surgery in September. Injuries and setbacks have become the Yankees way.
Evaluated a training staff is one of those things that is nearly impossible to do from the outside. We have no idea who is responsible for what, who monitors rehab work in Tampa, none of that stuff. All we know is that Steve Donohue is the head trainer at the big league level and Mark Littlefield is his assistant. Both were promoted after Gene Monahan retired following the 2011 season. That’s pretty much it.
Regardless of who does what on the medical staff, the circumstantial evidence says they aren’t doing a very good job. Not at all. That circumstantial evidence is pretty damning. If one or two guys get hurt and have a setback … yeah it happens. It sucks but it happens. When five or six or eight have setbacks in such a relatively short period of time, you have to ask why. The team has to self-evaluate.
The elephant in the room here is the age of the roster. The Yankees have an old roster and conventional wisdom says older players both get hurt more often and take longer to recover than young players. It comes with the territory. Remember though, the old roster is completely intentional. The Yankees decided to plug every last roster hole with an aging veteran at some point in the last 18 months for whatever reason. That’s tempting the injury gods.
If you’re going to build a roster out of old players — to be fair, the Yankees have had a ton of success doing that before this season — shouldn’t a little alarm go off that says “we need to make sure we have a top notch medical staff to watch over these old players?” That’s a logical step to take, right? The Yankees appear to have missed that memo and now their players are dropping like flies. Then re-dropping like flies.
Are Donohue and Littlefield the reason every Yankee is getting injured and re-injured (and re-re-injured in some cases)? Maybe, but we have no what of knowing. Like I said before, a medical staff is a tough thing to evaluate from the outside. It could just be a coincidence all of this started happening when Monahan retired, but it would be foolish to outright dismiss his replacements as the cause of all these injury problems without further investigation. The team owes it to themselves to get an answer.
On average, the Yankees lost more games to injury than any other team from 2010-2012. They lost the second most games to injury last season and they probably sit atop that same list this year. Health and durability isn’t a market inefficiency per se, but there has been a greater emphasis placed on keeping players healthy in recent years. Teams are so well run — especially in the AL East, the division is brutal — that it isn’t just about having the best players anymore. It’s about have the best player on the field for the most amount of time. The Yankees are losing that battle in a big way and it’s costing them, both wins and dollars.
Record Last Week: 1-2 (14 RS, 14 RA)
Season Record: 52-46 (387 RS, 389 RA, 49-49 pythag. record), 7.0 GB ALE/3.5 GB WC
Opponents This Week: @ Rangers (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Rays (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- Mariano Rivera got the hold in his final All-Star Game as the AL held on for a 3-0 win. Robinson Cano is fine after taking a Matt Harvey fastball to the knee in the first inning of the game.
- The traditional second half started with a three-game set in Boston, but the lineup couldn’t support Andy Pettitte in the series opening loss. Hiroki Kuroda led the team to a win on Saturday, but they dropped the rubber game in extra innings yesterday.
- Injury Updates: Alex Rodriguez (quad) will not return this week due to a Grade I strain. Both Derek Jeter (quad) and Zoilo Almonte (ankle) were placed on the DL. Curtis Granderson (hand) has started taking batting practice. David Phelps (forearm) and Jayson Nix (hamstring) will start rehab assignments soon. Tyler Austin (wrist) has a bone bruise. Gary Sanchez is day-to-day after tweaking something while running the bases. Ian Clarkin (ankle) has started throwing off flat ground.
- Stephen Drew passed on an offer from the Yankees and took less money from the Red Sox this past offseason. The Tigers have interest in Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees have gotten calls from teams asking about Robinson Cano. They inquired about Chase Headley but don’t like Marlon Byrd.
- Following Almonte’s injury, New York recalled outfielders Melky Mesa and Thomas Neal. Alberto Gonzalez was designated for assignment as well. Brennan Boesch was released.
- The Yankees signed left-hander Artur Strzalka, the first player born and raised in Poland to be signed by an MLB team. They also have interest in Cuban righty Dalier Hinojosa.
- Sanchez snuck onto Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list.
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That had a chance to be the best win of the season, but instead it was just another frustrating loss in a year full of them. The Yankees battled back from a four-run deficit (miracle!) and watched their bullpen hang tight for more than five innings, but that still wasn’t enough. Mike Napoli’s walk-off blast sends the Yankees out of town on the heels of an 8-7, 11th inning loss. Some quick notes:
- At least Mariano Rivera will be nice and fresh for Monday. Adam Warren has been awesome as the long man, but he had no business facing Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Napoli in extra innings. White flag.
- The Red Sox hit three homers, the same number the Yankees have hit in their last nine games. All three were bombs too. They each traveled farther than any two of New York’s hits out together. Maybe even three hits put together. The
BombersSinglers had 13 hits but none for extra-bases.
- At -.580 WPA, Lyle Overbay had the worst game by a position player this season. That’s all of baseball, not just the Yankees. Eight outs in six at-bats will do that. Neil Walker now has the second worst game (-0.555 back in April).
- CC Sabathia has to be better. Whenever he stunk in the past, he usually kept the Yankees in the game. That’s part of why he was so great; even his bad starts were still pretty good. These days he’s just non-competitive. It’s a miracle he got a no decision.
- Brett Gardner became the first Yankees center fielder to reach base five times in Fenway Park since Mickey Mantle. Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez had three hits apiece as well. The Yankees drew seven walks as a team. Twenty-one base-runners and seven runs in 11 innings still wasn’t enough.
- The Yankees are now 35-2 when scoring five runs or more in 2013. Hooray?
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are six back of the Red Sox in the AL East and three back of the Orioles for the second wildcard spot, both in the loss column. Management seems very content to let this team fade completely out of the race before getting help. Yu Darvish and Ivan Nova (fun!) will be your pitching matchup in Texas on Monday night.
7:41pm: The MRI showed a Grade I quad strain, the team announced. A-Rod will not meet the team in Texas and will instead go to Tampa for rest and treatment. The Yankees didn’t give a timetable for his return, but Derek Jeter has a Grade I quad strain and is expected to miss more than 15 days.
12:39pm: Sherman says A-Rod is going for an MRI on the quad, and obviously the results will dictate pretty much everything going forward. Fingers crossed.
12:34pm: Via Joel Sherman: Alex Rodriguez will not play in what was supposed to be his final minor league rehab game with Triple-A Scranton today due to his tight left quad. He will instead receive treatment and meet the team in Texas on Monday. A-Rod then figures to work out for the coaching staff prior to tomorrow’s game against the Rangers, and if all goes well, he’ll be activated either Monday or Tuesday.
“I didn’t think it was that bad. They all know. We called them right before the game and told them we would be DH-ing today and they said, ‘Do whatever you need to do, as long as you get up here,’” said A-Rod to Dan Martin following last night’s rehab game. It doesn’t sound like this quad problem is as significant as Derek Jeter’s, but we have to see how Alex comes through today and tomorrow first. The Yankees definitely need his right-handed bat though; it would really suck if this quad injury delayed his return any further. · (77) ·
The Yankees did exactly what they were supposed yesterday: they took advantage of a(nother) Hiroki Kuroda gem, which was important because they dropped the first game of this three-game series. Tonight’s rubber game is rather important for both clubs — New York can’t afford to lose any more ground in any race and the Red Sox don’t want to fall into a tie with the Rays atop the division. Obviously, the Yankees’ situation is a little more dire.
Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against right-hander Ryan Dempster, who is starting in place of the worn-down Jon Lester:
- CF Brett Gardner
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Travis Hafner
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- C Chris Stewart
- 3B Luis Cruz
And on the mound is left-hander and birthday boy CC Sabathia. He turns 33 today. Happy birthday, big man. Go toss a gem.
It’s cloudy in Boston and it rained this afternoon, but there are no showers in the forecast tonight. It’s pretty cool as well, low-70s with just a little humidity. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on ESPN. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: Derek Jeter (quad) has not resumed any baseball activity, but he did stand in the box and track pitches while Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes threw their between-starts bullpens … Curtis Granderson (hand) has started taking batting practice … Frankie Cervelli (hand, elbow) is taking dry swings.
RHP Jose Ramirez was activated off the Triple-A DL, according to Donnie Collins. He wasn’t actually hurt, they just took advantage of the All-Star break to free up an extra roster spot between his starts.
Triple-A Scranton (4-1 loss to Louisville)
- 2B David Adams: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 12 hits in his last 35 at-bats (.343) with four doubles
- RF Adonis Garcia: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 SB, 1 HBP
- 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K — first hit in four games off the DL
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 HB, 4/5 GB/FB — 54 of 80 pitches were strikes (68%), plus he picked a runner off first
- RHP Dellin Betances: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 16 of 23 pitches were strikes (70%) … the bullpen dominance continues
Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed Polish left-hander Artur Strzalka. He is the first player born and raised in Poland to sign a professional contract with one of the 30 MLB clubs. No word on his signing bonus, but I assume it is relatively small. There would have been a ton of reports had it been significant.
Strzalka, 18, will report to Instructional League in the Dominican Republic after the season according to Mister Baseball. He will come stateside next year. Strzalka will play in the B-Level European Championship in Germany later this month before heading to the MLB European Academy (also in Germany) in August. I can’t find a scouting report anyway, but chances are this is a signing that has more to do with establishing a presence in Poland than landing a legitimate big league prospect. As with Dan Vavrusa (the Czech catcher the team signed two years ago) or the two Chinese players they signed in 2007, the Yankees are getting their foot in the door. Pretty neat. · (56) ·
Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman acknowledged the trade market for bats has yet to come together. “Certainly we’ve been actively busy making phone calls, worked through the break, but we have not completed anything. The phone calls were taking place, but nothing to show for it … It’s an offensive offense market,” said the GM.
The Yankees just lost both Derek Jeter (quad) and Zoilo Almonte (ankle) to the DL, and there’s a chance Alex Rodriguez’s return will be delayed due to his recent quad injury. The Phillies are surging and remain hesitant to deal guys like Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz, so really the only active seller right now is the Cubs. Nate Schierholtz (117 wRC+) makes a ton of sense for New York, especially now with Almonte hurt, but otherwise it just doesn’t seem like many bats are available. Something is going to have to give a some point; the Yankees are on borrowed time with this lineup. · (60) ·
That play you see above has to be the Yankees defensive play of the year, no? It’s either that or one of Brett Gardner‘s catches against Daniel Murphy and the Mets. Give it up to Chris Stewart, that was both a great play and a huge play at that point of the game. Instead of having Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz bat as the tying run in the eighth, the inning was over. Huge props for that.
Oh, by the way, the Yankees got a much-needed 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon. No disrespect to Stewart, but that’s the bigger story of the day. Let’s recap the victory:
- HIROKstar: It was a day that ended in y, which means Hiroki Kuroda gave his club (at least) seven innings of (no more than) two-run ball. It’s the tenth time he’s done that in 20 starts this year. Kuroda limited the best offense in baseball to those two runs on five hits, one hit batsman, and one walk in those seven innings, and the two runs didn’t score until his final inning of work. What more can you say? Kuroda was outstanding yet again.
- Scratch: Five runs qualifies as a great day for this offense, but for a while it looked their fifth inning run on Gardner’s two-out hit would have to last. They broke things open with a three-run seventh thanks to run-scoring singles from Luis Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Lyle Overbay. The Cano and Overbay hits came with two outs. Cano plated a fifth run in the eighth with a sac fly. The Yankees didn’t draw a single walk, but they strung together 12 hits (eight singles, four doubles) and got some big two-out knocks. Bravo.
- The Three-Hit Club: Nine of those dozen hits came from three players — Gardner, Overbay, and Eduardo Nunez had three apiece. Overbay and Nunez had two doubles apiece. It’s the third time New York has had three players record at least three hits in a game this year and the first time in April. They only did it twice last year, believe it or not.
- Leftovers: David Robertson and Mariano Rivera closed things out in the eighth and ninth, though Robertson needed some help from Stewart’s great play … Cano, Cruz, and Vernon Wells had the club’s other hits … Cruz scored three runs … Wells threw Daniel Nava out at the plate in the first inning, though Nava slipped coming around third and that surely helped … New York had runners on base in every inning but the third and eighth.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the WPA graph, and ESPN the updated standings. The Rays won and the Orioles are destroying the Rangers, so the Yankees are five back in the division and will be two back of the wildcard in the loss column. Jon Lester had his start pushed back due to general “wear and tear,” so it’ll be Ryan Dempster against CC Sabathia in the rubber match on Sunday night.