Melky’s walk-off HR keeps the AAA season alive

Triple-A Empire State (4-3 win over Pawtucket, walk-off style) Pawtucket still leads the first round best-of-five series 2-1, but obviously a huge win
3B Kevin Russo: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
2B Corban Joseph: 0-4
LF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K
1B Luke Murton, RF Cole Garner, SS Ramiro Pena & DH Darnell McDonald: all 0-3 — Murton walked and whiffed … Garner struck out twice and committed a fielding error … Pena committed a throwing error
CF Melky Mesa: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — saved the season with a two-run walk-off homer off Pedro Beato with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, plus he threw a runner out at the plate to save a run … I guess there’s just something about Melky’s and big walk-off hits
C Gus Molina: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — started the comeback rally with a solo homer in the eighth
LHP Mike O’Connor: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 5/5 GB/FB — 56 of 84 pitches were strikes (67%) … good job, he did his part
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 21 of 32 pitches were strikes (66%)
RHP Ryota Igarashi: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 19 of 28 pitches were strikes (68%)

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Game 138: Dead Team Walking

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

I really don’t have much to say about the current state of the Yankees that I haven’t already said this week. They’ve fallen flat on their faces during the first seven games of this incredibly important ten-game stretch, and now they turn the ball over the Phil Hughes to stop the bleeding. Hughes allowed five runs in five innings to these very same Orioles last weekend, and overall he’s allowed 23 runs in his last six starts (34.1 IP). Not only does he not inspire much confidence, but neither does the bullpen behind him outside of Rafael Soriano. The Yankees are in an ugly place yet can still finish the night in sole possession of first place in the AL East. Here’s the batting order…

SS Derek Jeter
RF Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
DH Alex Rodriguez
Russell Martin
CF Curtis Granderson
LF Andruw Jones
1B Steve Pearce
3B Casey McGehee

RHP Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES.

Teixeira not in lineup today, expects to play tomorrow

Mark Teixeira (calf) once again ran sprints and the bases this afternoon, but the Yankees are going to hold him out of the lineup at least one more day. “They don’t want me to play today,” he said to Bryan Hoch, and it seems like the club is giving him the proverbial “one extra day” before sticking him back in the lineup. The Yankees miss their first baseman most against left-handed pitching, and tonight will be Teixeira’s tenth consecutive game out of the lineup.

Nova could take Garcia’s rotation spot on Sunday

Yesterday we heard that the bullpen was a “consideration” for Ivan Nova once he got over his rotator cuff tendinitis, but apparently now he is in line to replace Freddy Garcia in the rotation as soon as Sunday. George King and Dan Martin report that if Ivan doesn’t experience any discomfort in his shoulder today following his latest bullpen session, he will indeed be on the bump to start the finale of this all-important four-game series with the Orioles. Garcia has been pretty ineffective in his last three outings but it’s not like Nova was tearing it up before he got hurt. That said, if I had to pick between the two, I’d lean towards the kid if I was the Yankees.

Mailbag: Catcher, Dickerson, Nunez, Austin

We were running light on questions this week, so I opened the floor to the Twitter public yesterday afternoon and got a bunch of responses that way. Feel free to send us questions via Twitter in the future, but I can’t promise I’ll catch them all. You’re much better off using the Submit A Tip box for mailbag questions or anything else.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

From @DanFoolery: What’s the Near/Not-so-Near yet still-pretty-near plan for a MLB catcher for the Yanks? Romine? Sanchez? (Gulp) Martin?

This is the million dollar question right here and there’s no obvious answer. Austin Romine effectively lost a season due to his back injury, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a viable big league option next spring. It just means that he might not be ready for the job full-time. Gary Sanchez is still years away and is not a 2013 factor, and J.R. Murphy probably won’t enter his name into the race for another year as well. Frankie Cervelli is just a backup.

The free agent catching market boils down to Russell Martin, Mike Napoli (hasn’t started more than 70 games behind the plate since 2009), Kelly Shoppach (pretty good option on a one-year deal), and contract year A.J. Pierzynski (someone will overpay based on this season). Trade targets could include Nick Hundley (Yasmani Grandal took his job) and John Buck (no way). I want to think that Martin’s poor season has lowered his value to the point where the Yankees could bring him back on a one-year, $6-8M pact to serve as a stopgap, but I just don’t see it happening. Sanchez is the clear long-term solution here, but what happens between now and then is a total mystery to me. That’s not a good thing.

From @adakannayr: Small sample size, but could Dickerson be a suitable replacement assuming we aren’t bringing back Swisher?

I like Chris Dickerson probably more than anyone should, but I don’t see him as an everyday outfielder for a contending team. He’s always had a significant platoon split (this year in Triple-A notwithstanding) but the good news for him is that he’s the more often used left-handed half of the platoon. Dickerson can run well and play very good defense, so that’s not a problem. The Yankees would just need a platoon partner, and that means they’ll be using two roster spots to replace the production as one. If they don’t bring Nick Swisher back, I would hope they’d look for a legitimate everyday solution and use a Dickerson-based platoon as just a fall back. Not even Plan B, like Plan C or D.

From @TomHasOpinions: Wonder if Nunez could be a CF answer-Lower bar on offense, fast w/arm strength, bad accuracy could be masked in OF..thoughts?

Center field is interesting. I’ve always thought that if Eduardo Nunez was going to play one position on an everyday basis, the best bet is probably second thanks to the short throw, but center would make much better use of his speed. Now obviously the transition from the infield to center is not an easy one and something you want him to go through in Triple-A, but it’s definitely doable at his age. Nunez isn’t a great hitter but he makes a ton of contact, steals bases, and has just enough pop to be dangerous, so maybe there’s a chance he develops into a .280/.330/.390 guy who steals 25+ bases in center. That’s not a star but it is a pretty useful player if he can figure the defense thing out. Consider me intrigued.

From @rickhindle: If he continues to hit, will Tyler Austin be the Yankees everyday RF in 2014

I always tend to think conservatively when it comes to prospects having big league impact, but I do think that’s a very real possibility. Austin has done nothing but hit since the day he turned pro, and I mean hit for both average and power. His bat will have to carry him because he isn’t a great defender, but the kid can hit. Despite this late season call-up to Double-A Trenton, I think Austin will open next year back with High-A Tampa before earning a quick promotion back up to Trenton in May or June. If he continues to mash there and gets in a few Triple-A games late in the summer, he’d be right where he needs to be as far as being a big league option. Does that mean he’ll produce in the Bronx right away? No, he probably won’t, but I think there’s a good chance Austin will hit his way into consideration for a big league job by Spring Training 2014.

(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

From @HyShai: Is there another pitcher (in history, other than Mo) that had success only throwing FBs and cutters, with no off speed?

I have no idea how to look this up for all of baseball history, but we can make this work for the PitchFX era (2008-present). Looking at the 111 starters who have thrown at least 500 IP since 2008, here are the ten most fastball-heavy pitchers…

  1. Kyle Kendrick — 77.8%
  2. Aaron Cook — 77.6%
  3. Justin Masterson — 76.6%
  4. Jon Niese — 76.4%
  5. Cliff Lee — 74.6%
  6. Jon Lester — 74.0%
  7. Matt Harrison — 73.3%
  8. David Price — 72.9%
  9. Mike Pelfrey — 72.5%
  10. Chad Billingsley — 72.0%

That includes four-seamers, two-seamers, cutters and sinkers, but not splitters, which are an offspeed pitch. Kendrick, Cook, Masterson, Harrison, and Pelfrey are all sinker-ballers while Niese, Lee, Lester, and Billingsley mix it up and throw four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters regularly. Price is just a BAMF and pumps the heat all the time. Andy Pettitte is 12th on the list at 71.3% while CC Sabathia is way further down at 68th (59.9%). He’s actually right behind Hiroki Kuroda (60.1%).

Other than Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the least used fastball(s) belongs to Bronson Arroyo (27.9%). The most used individual pitch by a starter since 2008 is Clayton Kershaw’s four-seamer at 67.7%. Seems like two out of every three pitches being a fastball is the closest we’ll get to a one-pitch starter. The most used offspeed pitch is Armando Galarraga’s slider (36.0%), but among MLB-caliber pitchers it’s the sliders of Ervin Santana and Bud Norris (both 35.6%). Here are the fastball-heavy relievers (min. 100 IP for 244 qualifiers)…

  1. Mariano Rivera — 99.4%
  2. Jason Motte — 90.6%
  3. Kenley Jansen — 89.7%
  4. Ronald Belisario — 86.7%
  5. Andrew Bailey — 85.2%
  6. Matt Thornton — 85.0%
  7. Octavio Dotel — 83.6%
  8. Neftali Feliz — 81.8%
  9. Danys Baez — 81.8%
  10. David Aardsma — 80.9%

That missing 0.6% for Mo are just pitches the system was unable to classify for whatever reason. PitchFX ain’t perfect. Aroldis Chapman (80.1%) is right behind Aardsma while David Robertson (74.6%), Rafael Soriano (70.2%), Joba Chamberlain (63.0%), and Boone Logan (55.3%) rank 34th, 61st, 140th, and 192nd, respectively. The most used pitch by a reliever since 2008 is Thornton’s four-seamer (82.6%) while the most used offspeed pitch is Luke Gregerson’s slider (57.8%). This shouldn’t be a surprise, but relievers have far more success relying on what amounts to one type of pitch than starters. Mo just takes it to the extreme.

Thoughts following the latest worst loss of the year

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

This isn’t the easiest of times to be a Yankees fan, as the club seems to find new and more humiliating ways to lose on a daily basis. They’ve lost six of their last eight games and 13 of their last 18. Since the start of the four-game series in Oakland, when all this losing really started, the Yankees are just 20-25 with a +1 run differential. During that same 45-game span, the Orioles are 29-16 with a +38 run differential. Last night’s loss was the latest worst loss of the season.

1. During these seven games against the Orioles and Rays, the Yankees have scored runs in eleven different innings. Five times have they allowed the other team to score in the next half-inning, so in other words they’ve followed up those eleven innings with just six “shutdown innings.” In the last three games, they’ve scored in six different innings and have had only two shutdown innings. The Yankees just keep letting the other team stay close, it’s an epidemic.

2. This David Robertson cutter stuff has to stop. We saw Phil Hughes fall in love with the pitch before getting burned on it in the past, and now it appears Robertson is going through the same thing. The Yankees weren’t planning to sign Robertson as their 17th round pick in 2006, but they changed their mind when he went to the Cape Cod League and learned the curveball from his summer pitching coach. That pitch is his moneymaker and he needs to use it. A lot, not once or twice an appearance. His control isn’t good enough to get by on the cutter alone, and a poorly located cutter is just a batting practice fastball. Robertson would be well-served to put the cut-fastball in his back pocket and go back to the four-seamer/curveball approach that made him so effective in the past.

3. The Yankees have to skip David Phelps‘ next start. They’re in the middle of a playoff chase and can’t afford to send the kid out there again if there is a viable alternative, he just isn’t effective enough. These last two starts were classic examples of a rookie pitcher getting overwhelmed and trying to do too much in a big game, I thought. The club can use Monday’s off-day to push his next start back to September 15th, next Saturday’s game at home against the Rays. Hopefully by then Ivan Nova or even Andy Pettitte will be ready to take over that rotation spot. If they don’t skip him, Phelps would make his next start in Fenway Park in the middle of next week. Even with their trade and injury depleted lineup, the Red Sox could make that ugly in a hurry.

4. Considering that pretty much everyone in in the bullpen not named Rafael Soriano has struggled of late, I’m all for giving Cory Wade some high-leverage work. He’s appeared in just one game since being recalled from Triple-A over the weekend, retiring all five men he faced last Sunday. When the alternatives are Derek Lowe and Cody Eppley, there’s really no reason not to give Wade a shot going forward. We know he can be effective (very effective even) if his command is right, and it appears he’s moved beyond his batting practice pitcher phase given his work in Triple-A. I’m actually kinda surprised he hasn’t seen more action this week given the bullpen follies.

5. I’m going to finish up with a positive here. I’ve been encouraged by the three multi-run rallies the Yankees have put together in the last two games. They got the timely hits they needed but more importantly, they’ve had high-quality at-bats. They laid off pitcher’s pitches out of the zone and punished mistakes while also showing a willingness to take the walk if they didn’t get anything to hit. I think the return of Alex Rodriguez has helped in a big way, adding some length to the lineup and providing a sort of “here, these are the types of at-bats we need to take in these spots” example. The offensive struggles have been at the forefront of this recent downward spiral, but the Yankees have started to show some signs of life with the bats lately.