Every day should be like this. A few hours after shutting out the Cubs in the first game of the doubleheader, the Yankees did it again on Wednesday night, blanking Chicago by the score of 2-0 to sweep the quick two-game series.
Blanked By Big Mike
Even though he threw six shutout innings, I thought this was Michael Pineda‘s worst start of the season so far. He fastball velocity was down a tick or two and his stuff just wasn’t as crisp as it has been. There were a few cement-mixer sliders throughout the night. The career-low five swings and misses wasn’t much of an accident. Pineda was not as sharp as he was in his first two starts and Wednesday was more of a grind.
And yet, six shutout innings. Four hits, one walk, three strikeouts, and a bunch of weakly hit fly balls. That’s Pineda’s thing. He allows a lot of fly balls but they are usually popped up, not well-struck. With this outfield defense, those are close to automatic outs. Pineda’s biggest jam came in the fifth, when the Cubs put runners on second and third with one out. He stranded both with a strikeout and a weak fly ball. A runner was also stranded at third in the sixth.
Here is the PitchFX data from Brooks Baseball. I think it’s worth noting Pineda threw the same number of changeups as sliders (17 each) and also got the same number of swings and misses with each pitch (two). He’s really been using that changeup quite a bit so far, and some of them have been really good too. There are still a few hangers though. Pineda threw only 89 pitches in his six innings as the Yankees continue to take it easy on him following shoulder surgery. That this was his worst start of the season so far tells you how dominant he was the first two times out.
The Yankees did not have a great offensive game — they left 12 runners on base, including five in the first three innings– but they did come through with two big two-out hits to score their only runs. Brett Gardner did the honors in the fourth inning, pulling a single through the right side to score Scott Sizemore from second base. Sizemore beat out an infield single earlier in the inning, then moved up on John Ryan Murphy‘s single to left. They were the first hits of the season for Sizemore and Murphy, both of whom were added to the roster just yesterday.
One inning later, Sizemore drove in the second run of the game with a soft little bloop single to left. I thought he broke his bat on the play. Alfonso Soriano scored from second after reaching on a single earlier in the inning. Yangervis Solarte also picked up a base hit in the inning to help things along. The Yankees really scattered their 12 hits — I was surprised to see it was that many after the game, to be honest — and they only struck out three times as a team. This could have been a real frustrating loss if the pitching hadn’t been so good.
Three Shutout Innings
Even with David Robertson on the DL, the bullpen has not allowed a run in the last six games now. The trio of David Phelps (1.1 innings), Matt Thornton (0.2 innings), and Adam Warren (one inning) chucked the final three frames on Wednesday, though they weren’t the easiest innings. Phelps put the first two men he faced on base before retiring the next three, then two of the first three batters in the ninth reached base. The tying run moved into scoring position on Warren’s wild pitch. Thankfully, the Cubs are just too futile and they were unable to capitalize.
This was the first time a team was shut out in both ends of the doubleheader since June 1988, when the Twins did it to the Athletics. The Yankees threw their first back-to-back shutouts since August 7th and 8th in 2009, against the Red Sox. I think that was the four-game series with the 15-inning game and the back-to-back homers off Daniel Bard. You remember that, right? Of course you do.
Carlos Beltran, Soriano, Ichiro Suzuki, and Sizemore all had two hits, though Beltran picked up the only extra-base hit of the night (a double). Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Solarte all had one hit apiece. Kelly Johnson went 0-for-4 and was the the only starter who failed to reach base. He’s still slugging .533, by the way.
The Yankees have won four straight games and five of their last six. Since dropping those first two games of the season to Astros, they’ve won eight of 12. Only the Athletics have a better record in the AL right now.
The Yankees are heading out on a seven-game, eight-day road trip, which will begin in Tampa on Thursday. Former Cy Young winning left-handers CC Sabathia and David Price will meet in the first of four games.
Mark Teixeira will play three innings in Tampa tomorrow according to Bryan Hoch. He is on track to be activated off the DL on Sunday, the first day he is eligible. Tomorrow will be Teixeira’s first game action since he hurt his hamstring roughly two weeks ago, though I don’t know if he’ll play in Extended Spring Training or with High-A Tampa. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. · (14) ·
As expected, both RHP Chris Leroux and UTIL Ronnie Mustelier were activated and added to the Triple-A Scranton roster, according to Chad Jennings. Leroux was getting stretched out in Extended Spring Training and Mustelier was out with a hamstring injury. C Luis Torrens was transferred to the Short Season Staten Island roster according to Josh Norris. That’s a paper move. He’s reportedly under the weather and this allows them to replace him on the roster without putting him on the DL for a week. Torrens is not actually going to Staten Island or anything.
Triple-A Scranton (8-2 loss to Buffalo)
- CF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K
- 2B Jose Pirela: 1-5, 1 K
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 2-5, 1 E (fielding) — threw a runner out at second … 8-for-17 (.471) in his last four games
- 1B Corban Joseph: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K
- LF Ronnie Mustelier: 0-4, 1 K
- C Austin Romine: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 2 PB
- RHP Chris Leroux: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP, 4/0 GB/FB — 34 of 61 pitches were strikes (56%)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 10 of 18 pitches were strikes (56%)
- RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 11 of 14 pitches were strikes (79%)
The Yankees shut out the Cubs in the first game of today’s doubleheader earlier this afternoon, and now they will try to finish off the quick two-game sweep before hitting the road for a seven-game, eight-day road trip through Tampa and Boston. The Yankees have played seven doubleheaders at the new Yankee Stadium and they’ve swept five, splitting the other two.
Derek Jeter and his sore quad return to the lineup tonight, and Michael Pineda returns to the mound for the first time since his whole pine tar incident. It’s a no-win situation. If he pitches well, it’s because he’s hiding the pine tar somewhere else. If he pitches poorly, it’s because he wasn’t able to use the pine tar. The columns and blog posts practically write themselves. Once again, here is the Cubs lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Carlos Beltran
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 2B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Scott Sizemore
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- C John Ryan Murphy
RHP Michael Pineda
It was sunny but cold for this afternoon’s game and it’ll be even colder tonight. Clear skies, otherwise. Both the Yankees and Cubs will wear #42 jerseys in honor of Jackie Robinson tonight since yesterday’s game (when everyone else wore #42) was rained out. There will be a little pregame ceremony honoring Robinson and Nelson Mandela as well. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. First My9 game of 2014. It’s officially baseball season. Enjoy the game.
Roster Move: The Yankees have recalled right-hander Shane Greene as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader, the team announced. I didn’t think they were allowed to call anyone up because the doubleheader was not scheduled 48 hours in advance. Whatever. By rule, Greene has to go back to Triple-A following the game.
That was worth the wait. After Tuesday night’s game was rained out, the Yankees won the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs by the score of 3-0 thanks to a dominant pitching performance and some timely hitting. Pretty much a textbook win.
He’s Ours And You Can’t Have Him
The Cubs reportedly pursued Masahiro Tanaka very aggressively this winter, and at times it appeared they were the front-runner to sign him. Instead, Tanaka wound up in New York with the Yankees, and on Wednesday afternoon he faced the team that tried so desperately to sign him.
In his third big league start, Tanaka held the admittedly unimpressive Chicago lineup to two bunt singles in eight scoreless innings. The first had to be reviewed because it was a bang-bang play, the second was a bunt to beat the shift by Anthony Rizzo. Tanaka struck out ten, walked one (his second walk of the season), and at one point he retired 14 batters in a row from the second through seventh innings. This was pretty clearly the best we’ve seen him in his three starts.
Of his 107 pitches, Tanaka threw 76 strikes (71%), including 16 swings and misses. Twenty of 27 batters saw a first pitch strike and only two saw a three-ball count. Just dominant. Here is his PitchFX breakdown from Brooks Baseball, though it appears to be missing eight pitches somewhere. I do want to point out that of the 29 splitters Tanaka threw, the Cubs swing at 17. They missed ten times. That is pretty nuts.
The Yankees limited Tanaka to 97 pitches and 101 pitches in his first two starts, though they sent him back out for the eighth inning with his pitch count at 97 on Wednesday. He only threw ten more pitches in that inning, but even if he had thrown 15-20 more, I don’t think it would have been a big deal at all. Tanaka was pitching on two extra days of rest — he was scheduled to start on one day of rest on Tuesday, but the rainout pushed him back another day — and his next start will be on an extra day as well. He was on cruise control all afternoon. Basically a no stress outing. What a stud.
A Swing And A Slide
Thanks to Monday’s off-day and the rainout, the hot-hitting Carlos Beltran had two straight days off. If there was any concern about him losing his swing during the longer than usual layoff, he put it to bed right in the very first inning, clubbing a hanging changeup from Jason Hammel out to right field for a solo homer. His swing is just so, so sweet. From both sides of the plate too. The quick strike gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
The team nursed that lead until the fourth inning, when they loaded the bases on a single (Brian McCann, over the shift), a walk (Yangervis Solarte), and another single (Kelly Johnson) with one out. The not-so-fearsome duo of Dean Anna and Scott Sizemore were due up, and Anna took care of business with a sacrifice fly to shallow right-center field. McCann chugged home and slide under the tag. I think he would have been awarded the plate anyway because catcher John Baker was pretty clearly blocking it, which is now against the rules. One homer, one extended rally. Something for everyone.
Wait, How Did That Run Score?
I’ve watched an embarrassing amount of baseball in my life, but I have never before seen what happened in the fifth inning of this game. With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Baker was called for catcher’s interference on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s swing. The ball bounced off the plate and into the infield, allowing Gardner to score while Ellsbury was tagged out. However, because of the catcher’s interference, Gardner had to stay at third and Ellsbury was awarded first base. Except that’s not what happened.
Apparently managers are allowed to decline a catcher’s interference call and accept the outcome of the play. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Here is the applicable rule, Rule 6.08(c):
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when — The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.
Since Gardner scored on the play, Joe Girardi declined the catcher’s interference and took the run. Instead of having men on the corners with one out, the bases were empty with two outs and a run in. I’d make that trade too. Give me the sure run in a reasonably close game every time. That’s so weird though. Who knew you could decline penalties in baseball? Here’s the video.
Tanaka’s eight innings spared the bullpen for the second game of the doubleheader. Shawn Kelley was the only reliever used and he allowed a soft single to right in an otherwise uneventful ninth, throwing 22 pitches. No idea if he’ll be available for tonight’s game. Worry about that when the time comes, I guess. Kelley has somehow saved four games already.
The Yankees only had five hits themselves, one each by Gardner (double), Beltran (homer), Ellsbury (double), McCann (single), and Johnson (single). Beltran and Ellsbury drew walks — Ellsbury stole second after his walk in the eighth — while Solarte drew two. Alfonso Soriano and Sizemore were the only guys to not do anything productive at the plate. The bases loaded situation in the fourth inning was the only time they had multiple runners on base at the same time.
The ten strikeouts give Tanaka 28 strikeouts in his first three starts, breaking Al Leiter’s old franchise record of 25 strikeouts. Believe it or not, Tanaka is the only pitcher in history to throw at least seven innings and record at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three starts. Pretty cool.
Let’s play two! The Yankees will look to complete the doubleheader sweep in a few hours. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and will feature Michael Pineda against lefty Travis Wood. Derek Jeter and his sore quad will return to the lineup in that game.
Via Christian Red: Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he is “pretty content” with the team’s current roster situation, though that doesn’t mean he is unwilling to consider adding players. “You know me, I will consider anything … I will always analyze options,” he said. “Right now, I think I’m pretty content with where we’re sitting. So far so good.”
The Yankees have received excellent production from their outfield (136 wRC+) so far, plus Kelly Johnson (161 wRC+) and Yangervis Solarte (162 wRC+) have been insanely productive. Derek Jeter’s been solid as well (110 wRC+). With Brian McCann starting to coming around and Mark Teixeira due back from the 15-day DL relatively soon, the only obvious area in need of an upgrade right now is second base. I wish they’d just sign Stephen Drew, but aside from second base and maybe another reliever, the Yankees don’t have many needs right now. · (28) ·
The Yankees and Cubs were rained out last night, so they will play both games of their two-game series today. There’s something about these little two-game interleague series getting rained out, it seems. Remember last season when the first game against the Dodgers at Yankee Stadium was rained out and they played a doubleheader the next day? Weird. The Yankees will be visiting Wrigley Field later this summer, if you’re wondering.
Derek Jeter is not in this afternoon’s lineup, but don’t worry. He and his sore quad are fine. Joe Girardi confirmed the Cap’n will play the second game of the doubleheader against left-hander Travis Wood. They weren’t going to play Jeter in both games today, so playing him against the southpaw makes sense. Both Girardi and Jeter said the quad is a non-issue at this point. I guess four straight days off really helped. Here is the Cubs lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- RF Carlos Beltran
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Brian McCann
- 2B Yangervis Solarte
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- SS Dean Anna
- 3B Scott Sizemore
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
With Tanaka starting today and Michael Pineda starting tonight, I’m not sure we’re going to see a more exciting pitching day all season. It’s like baseball Christmas morning.
It rained all day yesterday and I even saw some snow flurries last night, but it is sunny out today. Just really cold. There is no threat of rain or anything, so they’ll get both games in without a problem. The first game of the doubleheader is scheduled to start at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
David Robertson Update: Robertson (groin) is scheduled to throw off a mound on Thursday, his first time doing so since getting hurt. He still plans on being activated when eligible next Tuesday. [Sweeny Murti]
Matt Imhof | LHP
Imhof, 20, is a Bay Area kid from Fremont. He was not drafted out of Mission San Jose High School, mostly because he started out as a full-time first baseman and didn’t seriously get into pitching until his sophomore year. Imhof was a swingman as a freshman at Cal Poly (3.04 ERA in 47.1 innings) before moving into the rotation as a sophomore (2.74 ERA in 101.2 innings). This spring he has a 2.07 ERA with 88/22 K/BB in 61 innings across nine starts. He currently leads Division I in strikeouts and is second with 12.98 K/9.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs., Imhof usually sits in the low-90s with his fastball but will occasionally touch 95 mph. The pitch has some natural cutting action in on righties even though he delivers the ball almost straight over the top. An upper-70/low-80s slurve — not quite a curve, not quite a slider — is his go-to secondary pitch. Imhof has been working on a changeup since last year but it is still nascent. The coaching staff at Cal Poly has helped him smooth out and develop consistency with his mechanics, and that has allowed him to better command his pitches, especially down in the zone.
Baseball America (no subs. req’d) and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Imhof as the 35th and 43rd best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. This draft is very deep in college pitching and while 6-foot-6 lefties usually don’t get lost in the crowd, Imhof’s lack of a third pitch could cause him to slide a bit in favor of more polished arms. The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) this year and while Imhof is risky, he also offers quite a bit of upside as a high-strikeout southpaw.
Before they played their first official game in their new home, the Yankees opened the current version of Yankee Stadium with a pair of exhibition games against the Cubs. I went to both and I couldn’t tell you anything about either game. Completely forgot. The Lovable Losers are returning to the Bronx for the first time since 2005 for a quick little two-game series to wrap-up the homestand. Since yesterday’s game was rained out, they’re playing a day/night doubleheader today.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Cubs were bad last year (66-96), they were bad the year before that (61-101), they were bad both years before that (146-178), and they’re bad this year. The north siders are 4-8 with a -8 run differential this season after dropping two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend.
With a team 78 wRC+ and an average of 3.91 runs per game, the Cubs are a below-average offensive team. They also have the sixth highest strikeout rate in baseball at 24.1%. Rookie manager Rick Renteria’s lineup is completely healthy. They don’t have any position players on the DL.
Chicago’s early-season offense have been driven by UTIL Emilio Bonifacio (141 wRC+), who is off to a crazy start and has seven of the team’s nine stolen bases. He leads off and splits his time between second base and center field. 1B Anthony Rizzo (138 wRC+) and OF Nate Schierholtz (67 wRC+) are staples in the middle of the order with SS Starlin Castro (107 wRC+) usually slotted in somewhere around them. OF Justin Ruggiano (23 wRC+) will occupy a prime lineup spot against lefties.
3B Mike Olt (109 wRC+) and 3B Luis Valbuena (73 wRC+) are platooning at the hot corner, ditto OF Junior Lake (128 wRC+) and OF Ryan Kalish (32 wRC+) in left field. C Welington Castillo (88 wRC+) is the regular catcher whenever he’s not busy at the yacht club. C John Baker (-77 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (34 wRC+), and OF Ryan Sweeney (41 wRC+) fill out the rest of the bench. It should go without saying that it is still super early and the stats you see are all subject to small sample size noise.
There’s no word on who will start which game for the Cubs today, but here are the pitchers who lined up to pitch in the series for both teams. They could be flipped between the day and night games.
Day Game: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jason Hammel (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
First interleague game of the year and we’re stuck watching a pitcher who’s been pitching against the Yankees for years. Hammel, 31, spent the last two years with the Orioles and was with the (Devil) Rays earlier in his career, but he signed with the Cubs in the offseason. Last summer he had a 4.97 ERA (4.93 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (6.20 K/9 and 15.7 K%), walk (3.10 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%), and ground ball (40.1%) rates in 139.1 innings for Baltimore. Hammel has reinvented himself with the Cubs, throwing his low-90s two-seamer way more than ever before while cutting back on his mid-to-upper-70s curveball. A hard low-to-mid-80s slider is now his top breaking ball. He also throws the occasional mid-80s changeup. It’s early, but Hammel has crushed right-handed batters (.091 wOBA!) while having less success against lefties (.291 wOBA), though his career split is far less pronounced. He has made two very good starts this year (one run in six innings, three runs in seven innings), both against the Pirates.
Night Game: RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP Travis Wood (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wood, 27, was Chicago’s token All-Star last summer, when he had a 3.11 ERA (3.89 FIP) in exactly 200 innings. His walk rate was fine (2.97 BB/9 and 8.0 BB%), but the strikeout (6.48 K/9 and 17.5 K%) and ground ball (33.2%) numbers were okay at best. He didn’t have much of a platoon split, however. Wood’s pitch mix is pretty basic: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s cutter, upper-70s slider, and upper-70s changeup. He allowed four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings to the Phillies in his first start and one run in six innings to the Pirates in his second start.
Like the Yankees, the Cubs were off Monday, so Renteria’s bullpen is rested. Former Yankees RHP Jose Veras (9.68 FIP) has already lost the closer’s job, so they’re now using a committee. RHP Pedro Strop (7.02 FIP) and RHP Hector Rondon (1.85 FIP) have since nailed down saves. LHP James Russell (8.59 FIP) and LHP Wesley Wright (7.50 FIP) are the two lefties, and RHP Justin Grimm (2.28 FIP) and RHP Blake Parker (3.14 FIP) are the extra arms. This bullpen is very beatable.
The Yankees sent Shane Greene to Triple-A Scranton yesterday, so they are back down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Both Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley got a much-needed day off yesterday and David Robertson is eligible to come off the DL one week from today. Whether he will be healthy in time is another matter entirely. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage details, then check out Bleacher Nation for more on the Cubs.
According to Donnie Collins, it seems likely RHP Chris Leroux and UTIL Ronnie Mustelier will soon join Triple-A Scranton. Leroux was in Extended Spring Training getting stretched out while Mustelier is returning from a hamstring injury. He’ll presumably fill the spot vacated by the just called up IF Scott Sizemore.
Meanwhile, Triple-A Scranton‘s doubleheader was not rained out today. It was snowed out instead. Seriously. One game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday, the other in early-July. They’re up to ten games played and eight postponements now.
Double-A Trenton‘s game was postponed due to wet grounds. They will make this up as part of a doubleheader tomorrow.
High-A Tampa (8-7 loss to Clearwater)
- CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- SS Cito Culver: 1-5, 1 R, 3 K, 1 E (fielding) — already six errors on the season
- 3B Eric Jagielo: 2-4, 3 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 13 hits in his last 40 at-bats (.325) with two doubles and four homers
- DH Dante Bichette Jr.: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — up to .333/.500/.472 in 12 games … yep
- C Peter O’Brien: 1-3, 1 R, 3 RBI
- 2B Angelo Gumbs: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 9-for-17 (.529) in his last four games
- LHP Eric Wooten: 4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 8/2 GB/FB
- RHP Phil Wetherell: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 6/0 GB/FB
Low-A Charleston (6-2 win over Greenville)
- SS Abi Avelino: 2-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB, 1 E (missed catch)
- DH Tyler Wade: 4-5, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB – had four hits in his previous 31 at-bats
- RF Aaron Judge: 3-5, 1 R, 2 RBI — 7-for-16 (.438) in his last four games
- 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
- LF Michael O’Neill: 2-4, 1 BB, 1 SB
- C Luis Torrens: 0-1 — left the game in the third inning for an unknown reason, so he either got hurt or traded in all likelihood … UPDATE: Josh Norris says Torrens was just under the weather, no big deal
- 2B Gosuke Katoh: 0-3, 2 BB, 3 K — no contact kinda day
- RHP Luis Severino: 3.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 4/3 GB/FB – 40 of 67 pitches were strikes (60%)
- RHP Jaron Long: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 6/0 GB/FB — 57 of 80 pitches were strikes (71%) … the hitting coach’s kid can pitch a little, it seems