Pineda flirts with perfection, Judge homers again as Yankees beat Rays 8-1 in home opener

That was very nearly a magical home opener. Instead, it was merely a great home opener. The Yankees rode Michael Pineda‘s utter dominance to a 8-1 win in the first game of the 2017 season at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon. This game was satisfying. Yes, yes it was.


The Biggest of Mikes
We have gotten the full Michael Pineda experience in his first two starts. Last week in Tampa, Pineda allowed four runs on eight hits and couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning. In the home opener Monday, Pineda was Big Mike in every way, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and finishing the afternoon with eleven strikeouts and two hits allowed in 7.2 innings. It was complete and total domination. The Pineda we don’t see nearly often enough.

Through six innings and two outs the Rays had nothing particularly close to a hit — Brett Gardner made a nice running catch near the foul line for the second out of the seventh, which was the closest thing to a hit at the time — and only one of the first 20 batters they sent to the plate saw a three-ball count. Heck, Tampa didn’t see a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count until the sixth inning, when Tim Beckham got a 2-0 count with two outs. Pineda bounced back to strike him out.

All told, Pineda faced 25 batters Monday and threw a first pitch strike to 20 of them. Of those 25 batters, only six hit the ball out of the infield. Want to know why? Look at Pineda’s location, via Baseball Savant:


Almost everything was in the bottom half of the strike one. Pineda’s a big dude delivering the ball from way up high, so pounding the bottom of the zone like that means he was throwing with some serious downhill plane. It’s hard to get the ball airborne when a 6-foot-7 pitcher is pitching to the knees all afternoon. Twenty-three outs, eleven strikeouts, seven ground balls. That’ll do.

Pineda lost the perfect game with two outs in the seventh inning on a legitimate double by (who else?) Evan Longoria. There wasn’t much to it. Pineda missed his spot a bit and Longoria yanked a line drive to left field. Gardner had no chance to run it down. Tampa’s only run came in the eighth inning, on Logan Morrison’s solo home run to right field. It snuck over the wall and was initially ruled a triple before replay confirmed the dinger.

As good as Pineda was Monday, Joe Girardi got him out at exactly the right time, with two outs in the eighth inning and his pitch count at 93. Four of the last five batters he faced hit the ball hard, plus taking him out mid-inning gave the fans a chance to give Pineda a nice ovation. Well done, Big Mike. I hope to see you more often. That other guy we saw last week is no fun.


Building A Lead
It looked like it was going to be another one of those games after the first inning. Singles by Gardner and Matt Holliday put runners on the corners with one out, but the Yankees failed to push a run across because Chris Carter struck out and Starlin Castro grounded out. Hate wasting first inning rallies like that. You’ve got a chance to take a quick lead and put the other team on the defensive right out of the gate. Alas. No runs.

Thankfully, the Yankees did not waste the opportunity the next time Gardner reached base. He struck out with one out in the third inning, but the ball bounced away from catcher Derek Norris, allowing Gardner to reach first on a wild pitch. He chugged all the way around to score on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s rocket double into the right-center field gap. Ellsbury’s been pretty awesome so far this year. We give him a hard time, but props dude. He’s played very well in the early going. The Ellsbury double gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

In the fourth, the Yankees’ large adult son Aaron Judge made it a 2-0 lead with a solo home run to left field. Just like the home run he hit Sunday, this one came in a two-strike count. Cobb left a curveball up and Judge unloaded. It was not deep — Statcast measured it at modest 397 feet — but it was crazy high. The home run came after Cobb thought he rung Judge up with a little comeback two-seam fastball on the outside corner. Home plate ump Bill Miller said it was off the plate (it was), the at-bat continued, and Judge went deep.

With the way Pineda was pitching, two runs felt like plenty. The Yankees added a few more just to be safe. Chase Headley lined a home run to right field on the very first pitch of the seventh inning. It was a classic Yankee Stadium cheapie. In most parks it’s a double off the wall — the ball sail over right fielder Steven Souza’s head — but in this ballpark, it lands in the first row for a home run. I’ll take it. So will Headley, who now has two home runs in seven games. He didn’t record his first extra-base hit until the team’s 33rd game last year, remember.

The blast gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead at the time. A Brad Miller error opened the door for New York’s fourth run of the game in the eighth inning. He booted Gardner’s leadoff grounder. Gardner stolen second and third (!), then scored on Holliday’s rocket into the left-center field gap to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead. A Carter triple (!!!), a Castro homer, and a Ronald Torreyes fielder’s choice stretched the lead to 8-1. The Yankees have score 15 runs in their last 12 offensive innings dating back to Sunday.


Cobb was charged with five runs in 7.1 innings, though he pitched better than that, I thought. He gave up three runs in the first seven innings, including two on solo homers. The bullpen made a mess of things after Cobb was out of the game in the eighth. He did a nice job keeping the Yankees off-balance overall though. Not sure why I’m mentioning this, but here we are.

The Yankees scored eight runs and seven different players drove one in. Six different players scored runs too. Austin Romine and Torreyes were the only starters without a hit, though Romine reached base on an error in that five-run eighth inning and Torreyes plated a run with a fielder’s choice. A total team effort by the offense. Roughly 26 hours ago it looked like this team couldn’t buy a hit. Go figure.

Easy afternoon for the bullpen. Tyler Clippard replaced Pineda in the eighth inning — Dellin Betances pitched Saturday and Sunday, so I’m guessing Girardi didn’t want to use him three days in a row so early in the season — and needed one pitch to record the third out. Chasen Shreve handled the ninth with ease.

And finally, congrats to Kyle Higashioka. He made his Major League debut in the ninth inning. He caught the final three outs. Higashioka spent parts of ten seasons in the minors and dealt with Tommy John surgery along the way. Pretty cool to see him get in a game. He’s waited a long time for this.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and for the video highlights. ESPN also has the standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day, unfortunately. Third one in the first nine days of the season. The Yankees and Rays will reconvene at Yankee Stadium for the second game of this three-game series Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 1pm ET start for some reason. Luis Severino Jordan Montgomery (he’s being called up) and Blake Snell are the scheduled starters. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other seven games remaining on the homestand.

Yankeemetrics: Baltimore Chopped (April 7-9)

Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)
Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)

Leads are for wimps
The season-opening road trip headed north to Camden Yards, a house of horrors recently for this Yankees team. They entered the weekend with a 7-20 record at the ballpark since 2014, the second-worst mark by any AL team in that span, and were 1-8 in nine series openers there over the previous three seasons.

Make that 7-21 and 1-9 in road series openers against the Orioles after Friday night’s 6-5 loss.

Luis Severino got a no-decision, extending his winless streak to 13 starts dating back to his final start of 2015. Over the last 15 seasons, that’s tied with Phil Hughes (2013) for the most consecutive starts without a win by any Yankee pitcher.

The big blow came off the bat of Manny Machado, who drilled a 96-mph fastball for a three-run homer into the left field bleachers to cut the Yankees lead to 5-4 in the fifth inning.

Of the 21 homers Severino has allowed in the majors, more than half (14) have come on pitches 95 mph or faster. Since the start of last season, opponents have slugged .522 on his 95-plus mph four-seam fastballs, the fourth-highest mark among major-league pitchers in that span (min. 75 at-bats).

Gary Sanchez broke out of his early slump with a 2-for-3 effort that included a monster 426-foot home run in the top of the fifth. Since August 1 of last season, Sanchez has four homers of at least 425 feet, and the rest of the Yankees have combined for three such bombs.

It was his 21st career homer in his 59th career game – the second-most homers for any player in major-league history before their 60th game. Boston Braves outfielder Wally Berger had 22 homers in his first 59 games in 1930.

Brett Gardner sparked the offense with three hits, three runs scored and two stolen bases. He’s the first Yankee to reach those totals since … Gardner did it six years ago (July 17, 2011) vs Toronto. The only other Yankees to have multiple games with at least three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in their career are Rickey Henderson (3), Snuffy Stirnweiss (2) and Chuck Knoblauch (2).

Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)
Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)

Another painful loss
It was deja vu for the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, as they once again built an early multi-run lead, coughed it up in the middle innings, resulting in yet another frustrating one-run loss. It also clinched yet another losing road series to the Orioles, the 10th consecutive set they’ve lost at Camden Yards.

How long has it been since they actually won a series in Baltimore? When they clinched their last series win there on Sept. 11, 2013, Mariano Rivera posted the 651st save of his career and Andy Pettitte tossed a quality start; Curtis Granderson, A-Rod and Robinson Cano each homered in the 5-4 victory.

For the third time in the last five seasons, the Yankees are 1-4 through five games. They are the only MLB team to start 1-4 or worse three times since 2013.

Masahiro Tanaka looked solid through the first four innings before unraveling in the fifth. He really struggled with his command, hitting a guy and walking two others while giving up two runs. Adam Warren relieved him in the sixth inning, making it the fifth time in five games that the team’s starter didn’t go more than five innings.

This is just the second time in the last 100 years that no Yankee starting pitcher recorded an out in the sixth inning in the first five games of the season. It also happened in 2007, with a rotation of Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner.

Milestone Alert! Matt Holliday provided one of the few highlights, notching his 2,000th hit with a single in the first inning. He joined Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as the only active players with at least 2,000 hits and a .500-or-better career slugging percentage.

Rally Time
The Yankees flipped the script in the final game of the series as they avoided the sweep with a much-needed comeback win. On Sunday they fell behind early, rallied late and left Baltimore with a 7-3 victory.

And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)
And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)

Starlin Castro delivered the game-winning hit with a tie-breaking RBI single in the ninth inning. Since the start of last year, Castro has seven go-ahead RBIs in the seventh inning or later — that’s two more than any other Yankee over the last two seasons.

Before Castro’s heroics, Aaron Judge tied it up with a solo blast leading off the eighth inning. He’s the third Yankee with a game-tying home run in the eighth inning or later at Camden Yards, joining the legendary duo of Travis Hafner (2013) and Roberto Kelly (1992).

The Orioles pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone all afternoon — issuing 11 walks, including seven by starter Wade Miley — and Holliday took advantage. He walked five times, tying a franchise single-game record. It had been done nine times prior to Sunday, with the two most recent being Mark Teixeira in 2009 and Roger Maris in 1962.

Besides Holliday, two other Yankees drew five free passes in five plate appearances and didn’t score a run: Hersh Martin in 1944 and Lou Gehrig in 1935. #FunFact: Martin and Holliday both went to high school in Oklahoma, and Martin attended Oklahoma State University in Holliday’s hometown of Stillwater.

Miley was effectively wild, giving up seven walks, one hit and zero runs in five innings. It had been more than 80 years since a pitcher had that many walks, allowed no more than one hit and held the Yankees scoreless — Washington Senators lefty Earl Whitehall achieved the feat on May 30, 1934. The No. 3 and 4 hitters in that lineup were Gehrig and Babe Ruth, who both went 0-for-2 and drew two walks each.

Game Seven: Home Opener

Yay baseball. (RAB)
Yay baseball. (RAB)

After six months and six road games, baseball returns to Yankee Stadium today. Can you believe this is already the ninth year of the new Stadium? It still feels like the place just opened. Based on the way teams are going through ballparks these days, the Yankees are due for a new park in eleven years or so. The Yankees are 4-4 in home openers at the current incarnation of Yankee Stadium.

“You feel like the season is in full swing once you come home,” said Joe Girardi this morning. “Obviously you’re aware that it starts. I think everyone always looks forward to their home opener. You feel that there’s that advantage playing at home. You feel that your team is built for ballpark. You get to sleep in your bed and do those types of things. You feel like the season is underway.”

The Yankees are coming off a pretty excellent win over the Orioles yesterday and now they’re sending Michael Pineda to the mound, and gosh, who knows what he’s going to do from start-to-start. His first start last week did not go well at all, but Pineda is the kind of guy who can get hammered one day and strike out ten in seven scoreless innings five days later. Hopefully the good version of Big Mike shows up this afternoon. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Chris Carter
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

The weather is spectacular in the Bronx today. Bright blue sky and temperatures in the mid-70s. Can’t beat it. The pregame ceremonies will being at roughly 12:40pm ET and I’m sure YES will have them. Joe Torre, Willie Randolph, and Tino Martinez are throwing out the ceremonial first pitches and will be honored for their roles in Team USA’s World Baseball Classic championship. Torre was the general manager and Willie and Tino were on the coaching staff. I wonder whether Tyler Clippard, who was in the USA bullpen, will be honored too. We’ll see. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle, illness) is available off the bench today, if necessary. He was available yesterday too, but Girardi said once the lead stretched to four runs, they decided to take it easy on him. Girardi also said Bird is sitting today more because of the illness than the ankle … Gary Sanchez (biceps) will see a doctor today and the Yankees will get a better idea about his timetable then. Girardi said Sanchez is feeling better and he’s more optimistic about the injury now than he was at the time it happened.

4/10 to 4/13 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays


Welcome back, baseball. The Bronx has missed you. The Yankees open the Yankee Stadium portion of their schedule this afternoon with the first of three games against the Rays. The same Rays they played in Tampa last week. The Yankees may be out of Florida, but the Florida has followed them back to New York. Figures. They dropped two of three at Tropicana Field last week, as you know.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays come into this series, their first road series of the season, riding a three-game winning streak. They took three of four from the Blue Jays over the weekend. Tampa Bay is 5-2 on the young season, which, believe it or not, is the best start in franchise history. This is the first time the Rays (or Devil Rays) have ever won five of their first seven games. They also have a +7 run differential.

Offense & Defense

Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Tampa currently ranks fifth in baseball with 33 runs scored, and they’re hitting .271/.356/.411 (126 wRC+) as a team so far. OF Colby Rasmus (hip), C Wilson Ramos (knee), and SS Matt Duffy (Achilles) are all on the disabled list, just like they were last week, when these clubs played in St. Pete. Here are the early season numbers and projections:

2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS Projection
C Derek Norris 4-for-18 (.222) .229/.302/.382 (80 wRC+)
1B Logan Morrison 8-for-24 (.333), 1 HR .242/.318/.399 (96 wRC+)
2B Brad Miller 5-for-26 (.192), 1 2B .248/.313/.440 (104 wRC+)
SS Tim Beckham 3-for-21 (.143), 1 2B .236/.286/.388 (82 wRC+)
3B Evan Longoria 6-for-26 (.231), 2 HR .266/.318/.485 (113 wRC+)
LF Mallex Smith
4-for-26 (.250), 1 2B, 3 SB .231/.296/.322 (71 wRC+)
CF Kevin Kiermaier 8-for-27 (.296), 1 2B, 1 3B .258/.316/.426 (101 wRC+)
RF Steven Souza 10-for-24 (.417), 3 2B, 1 HR .242/.314/.419 (101 wRC+)
DH Corey Dickerson
9-for-25 (.360), 2 2B, 2 HR .251/.300/.461 (103 wRC+)
C Jesus Sucre 2-for-7 (.286), 1 HR .236/.263/.292 (51 wRC+)
IF Daniel Robertson 3-for-10 (.300) .241/.316/.340 (83 wRC+)
OF Peter Bourjos 0-for-4 .230/.286/.361 (71 wRC+)
UTIL Rickie Weeks 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B .213/.299/.374 (85 wRC+)

Manager Kevin Cash has been platooning Morrison with Weeks, Bourjos with Smith, and Robertson with Dickerson. The Yankees are throwing all righties this series though, so if we see those guys, it figures to be off the bench. Longoria, Miller, and Souza always seem to crush the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Hopefully they can keep them in park this week. I’ll set the over under on their combined homers for the series at 3.5.

Since we just previewed the Rays last week, I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote about the defense before the series in Tampa:

The Rays started sacrificing defense for power a few years ago, leading to Souza in right and Miller at second. Both are liabilities in the field. Kiermaier is excellent, probably the best defensive center fielder in baseball, and Longoria is very good at the hot corner. The Smith/Bourjos platoon will save runs in center field. Beckham and Morrison are solid defenders, and while Norris doesn’t have much of an arm, he rates as a very good pitch-framer. So, overall, the Rays are good defensively, but not otherworldly like they were three or four years ago.

Tampa Bay looked better than that last week, so maybe I sold them short. Or maybe it was just a random three-game sample. Eh, whatever. We just saw the Rays a few days ago. You remember what they’re all about, right?

Pitching Matchups

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Monday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
It only took seven games for the Yankees to face a pitcher for the second time this season. They saw Cobb last week in Tampa and he held them to one run on four hits and a walk in 5.2 innings. He struck out four. Cobb returned from Tommy John surgery at midseason last year and was pretty terrible, throwing 22 innings with an 8.59 ERA (5.60 FIP). He’s better than that though. We saw it last week. Cobb sets up his knockout mid-80s splitter with a low-90s four-seam fastball. He’ll also throw an upper-70s curveball. Hopefully the Yankees will have more success against him the second time around.

Wednesday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
Yes, this is a 1pm ET start for some reason. Weird. There’s also an off-day Tuesday, the token off-day after the home opener in case it rains. (It won’t rain today.) Anyway, my lasting memory of Snell last season was his eight-out, 88-pitch grind against the Yankees on September 9th. The Yankees were not a good offensive team last year but they worked Snell hard that night. Aside from that though, he handled New York pretty well in 2016. Three runs in 15.1 total innings in three other starts. Snell had a tough time with the Blue Jays in his first start of the season last week, allowing five runs (four earned) in 6.2 innings. Last year he had a 3.54 ERA (3.39 FIP) with 24.4% strikeouts and 12.7% walks in 89 innings. His ground ball (36.5%) and home run (0.51 HR/9) rates don’t match up. One of those numbers figures to climb going forward. Snell has a mid-90s fastball and a good mid-80s changeup, and his breaking ball is more of a slurve than a true curveball or slider. It sits in the 78-82 mph range.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (vs. NYY)
The Rays opted to go with Andriese as their fifth starter, though from what I understand he’s basically keeping the rotation spot warm for top pitching prospect Jose DeLeon, who came over from the Dodgers in the Logan Forsythe trade. DeLeon was just placed on the Triple-A disabled list with a flexor mass issue though, so he might not be coming up anytime soon. Anyway, if Andriese’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the guy who gave up the back-to-back home runs to Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge last season. Here’s the video. I’ll post this video any chance I get from now through the end of time:

Andriese had a tough go of it in his first start of the season last week, allowing five runs (four earned) in four innings against the Blue Jays. Last season he posted a 4.37 ERA (3.78 FIP) in 127.2 innings overall, including a 4.80 ERA (3.95 FIP) with 20.2% strikeouts and 4.9% walks in 19 starts and 105 innings. Andriese is a cutter pitcher. The low-90s cutter is his main fastball, and he also throws a mid-80s changeup and a curveball right around 80 mph. I could go for some more back-to-back dingers Thursday, couldn’t you?

Bullpen Status

Cash has gotten nice work from his relievers so far. They’ve combined to allow only five runs (four earned) in 22 total innings, and the Yankees are responsible for two of those five runs. (Including the unearned run.) The personnel has not changed since last week. Here is Tampa’s current bullpen:

Role 2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS
RHP Alex Colome Closer 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 2.93 ERA (3.18 FIP)
RHP Danny Farquhar Setup 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K 3.79 ERA (3.92 FIP)
LHP Xavier Cedeno Setup 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K 3.40 ERA (3.45 FIP)
RHP Tommy Hunter Middle 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 3.81 ERA (3.70 FIP)
RHP Jumbo Diaz Middle 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 3.82 ERA (4.20 FIP)
RHP Erasmo Ramirez Middle 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K 4.08 ERA (4.61 FIP)
RHP Austin Pruitt Long 1.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 R, 2 BB, 1 K 4.69 ERA (4.51 FIP)

Pruitt, a 27-year-old rookie, is the only reliever who has had a tough time for the Rays early this season. This group collectively doesn’t miss a ton of bats — Colome typically does and I’m sure he will as the season progresses — which is preferable to a bullpen that comes in and blows everyone away. They’ll give you a chance to put the ball in play.

The Rays bullpen is in good shape going into the series. Diaz threw two innings and 32 pitches yesterday while Hunter threw one inning and eleven pitches. Everyone else got the day off. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.

Fan Confidence Poll: April 10th, 2017

Record Last Week: 2-3 (22 RS, 18 RA)
Season Record: 2-4 (25 RS, 25 RA, 3-3 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Rays (three games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Cardinals (three games, Fri. 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 Features tab in 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?
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DotF: Fowler and Andujar both go deep twice in big day in the farm system

There were a series of roster moves in the farm system today, most as a result of the C Gary Sanchez injury. Here’s a recap before we get to one of the most exciting days in the system in recent memory:

  • C Wilkin Castillo has been bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton to replace C Kyle Higashioka, who was called up to replace Sanchez. Also, LHP Jordan Montgomery has officially joined the RailRiders.
  • C Jorge Saez went from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to replace Castillo. And, as expected, RHP Chad Green went from Tampa to Trenton as well. He and Montgomery are lined up for April 16th, the next time the Yankees need a fifth starter.
  • RHP Josh Roeder, RHP Christian Morris, and C Wes Wilson all went from Extended Spring Training to High-A Tampa. They’re replacing Montgomery, Green, and Saez on the roster. Got all that?

Triple-A Scranton Game One (4-3 loss to Buffalo in seven innings, walk-off style) make up of Thursday’s Opening Day rainout

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
  • RF Clint Frazier: 0-2, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 SB — he also reached on an error, so three times on base without a hit
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 0-4, 1 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 HBP
  • LF Mason Williams: 0-3 — threw a runner out at second
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB, 7/4 GB/FB — 57 of 93 pitches were strikes (61%) … he’ll inevitably get called up as part of the bullpen shuttle at some point, though since he’s in the rotation, the timing will have to be right … they’re not going to call him up when he’s still a day or two away from being available
  • RHP Ben Heller: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight of 14 pitches were strikes (57%) … gave up the two-run walk-off homer

[Read more…]

Yankees come back late to avoid sweep, beat Orioles 7-3

The Orioles are no longer the only undefeated in baseball. The Yankees rallied in the late innings for a 7-3 win in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. They needed that. I think fans needed it more.

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

Six Solid From Sabathia
For the first time this season, the Yankees had a starter record an out after the fifth inning. Three outs, in fact. CC Sabathia chucked six workmanlike innings Sunday afternoon, holding the Orioles to three runs on six hits and four walks. He struck out three and threw 98 pitches. Pretty? No way. Effective? Yeah, effective enough. Starts like this have become the norm for Sabathia at this point of his career.

Also the norm for Sabathia at this point of his career: weak contact. He was second among all starters in soft contact rate (24.0%) and first in average exit velocity (85.3 mph) last season. We saw that again Sunday. I’m not sure any of the six hits Sabathia allowed were well-struck. Most were soft liners to the shallow outfield. The O’s scored their first run on a Chris Carter misplay — they had runners on the corners with one out, Sabathia got the weak grounder to first, and for some reason Carter threw to second rather than throwing home. Mark Trumbo was running and Carter had a clear lane to throw and plenty of time, yet he threw to second. I do not understand.

That all happened in the second inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. They scored another run later that inning on J.J. Hardy’s (yup) soft single to right, then, in the fifth, Trumbo gave the O’s a 3-0 lead with another soft single, this one to center field. For some reason the Yankees had their outfielders deep all afternoon. I know the O’s have a lot of power, but maybe bring them in a few steps when Sabathia is pitching? He gives up a ton of those soft line drive singles in front of the outfielders.

Off The Hook
Orioles starter Wade Miley came out and walked four of the first eight, and six of the first 12 (!) batters he faced Sunday, and the Yankees let him off the hook. None of those walks runs scored. There’s two ways you can look at that, I suppose. One, the Yankees are terrible and they didn’t capitalize on the walks because the offense stinks. Or two, Miley was never around the plate, so the Yankees didn’t get anything to hit. I’m feeling optimistic after this win, so I’ll go with the latter.

Matt Holliday worked a two-out walk in the first inning, then was immediately erased on a pickoff. Holliday wasn’t going anywhere, Miley just has a really great move and got him. So it goes. Miley then walked the bases loaded in the second inning, only to have Ronald Torreyes bail him out with what was easily the worst at-bat of the day:

ronald-torreyes-wade-mileyThat purple dot way outside the zone? That’s the one Torreyes swung at for strike three. He looked like a young kid trying to hit a five-run homer in a big spot. Miley threw a purpleball out of the zone and got him swinging to escape the jam. Nine batters, four walks, no runs through two innings.

It wasn’t until there were two outs in the fifth inning that the Yankees recorded their first hit. Aaron Hicks managed to find a hole back up the middle with a hard-hit ground ball. Miley threw away a pickoff throw and walked Holliday one last time for good measure before getting out of the inning. His final line: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 5 K. Good grief. Amazingly, this is the second time Miley has walked seven and not allowed a run in his career. He did it back in 2013 as well. The last time someone did that against the Yankees was 2000. Dan Reichert walked nine in eight scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium. The 2000 Yankees had no heart!

Gavel: slammed. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gavel: slammed. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Comeback
Fighting Spirit! Turns out all the Yankees had to do to score some runs Sunday was get the pitcher who was walking everyone out of the game. In the sixth inning the Yankees struck for two runs with two outs courtesy of a Torreyes triple. That second inning at-bat was terrible. No doubt about it. Torreyes made up for it with the two-run triple in the sixth. Aaron Judge and Austin Romine strung together back-to-back singles to set that two-out rally up.

The Torreyes triple brought the Yankees to within 3-2. They tied the game 3-3 in the eighth inning, on Judge’s first home run of the season. It came in a two-strike count too. The at-bat went called strike, ball, called strike, ball, foul, dinger. I’m pretty sure Judge got it off the end of the bat too. He definitely didn’t square it up:

Either way, squared up or off the end of the bat, Judge hit the ball out to tie the game. Big fan of Judge hitting homers. Would watch again.

The comeback did not end there. This wasn’t one of those “rally to tie the game but lose anyway” games. The Yankees struck for four runs in the top of the ninth inning and boy oh boy did the Orioles help them out. The inning started with Holliday’s fifth walk of the day. Fifth! He’s the first Yankee to draw five walks in a game since Mark Teixeira back in 2009. Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-ran and stole second, though it didn’t really matter because Carter walked as the next batter. Carter’s walk was the team’s tenth of the day. Ten walks. Geez.

Based on that ninth inning, Darren O’Day is bad now. Remember when he used to chew up Alex Rodriguez? He couldn’t buy an out in that ninth inning. Following the back-to-back walks, O’Day left a pitch up that Starlin Castro sent back up the middle for a go-ahead single. Ellsbury crossed the plate to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead. They didn’t stop there either. Chase Headley drew yet another walk to load the bases with no outs. The Yankees had the lead and they were in business.

Judge, who tied the game in the eighth inning, drove in an insurance run with a weak ground ball to first base. Chris Davis scooped it and was readying to throw home for the force, but he tripped over his own feet and tumbled to the grass. He recovered in time to get the out at first, but the run was in. It’s about time the Yankees scored a run like that. We’ve seen them make some hilarious errors already this year. This was the first time they benefited from one.

The Judge grounder pushed the lead to 5-3. Romine made it 7-3 with a two-run sac fly. He hit the ball deep to right field, deep enough for Headley to tag up from second and go to third, and the throw eluded Manny Machado. It hopped into foul territory, far enough away that Headley was able to chug home. Back-to-back silly plays to score runs. Yay. Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the ninth inning. Judge made a diving catch for the 27th out. Love this team, you guys.

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

All told, the Yankees drew eleven walks in this game. It’s the first time they’ve walked eleven times in a nine-inning game since, well, last September. I thought it would be a much longer time ago. Holliday had the five walks and Carter had two. Brett Gardner, Headley, Judge, and Romine had the others. The Yankees had eleven walks Sunday after drawing 16 walks total in their first five games of the season.

The 7-8-9 hitters (Judge, Romine, Torreyes) went a combined 6-for-12 with a triple, a homer, two walks, and one strikeout. Very nice production from the bottom of the lineup. Gardner went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts. He was the only Yankee to hit safely in each of the first five games this season. In the ninth inning, after Pete Kozma pinch-ran for Carter, Joe Girardi opted to slide Headley over to first rather than use Greg Bird. Bird is nursing an ankle issue and he’s sick. Seems like he wasn’t available at all today.

The unsung heroes: Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances. Six up, six down for those two in the seventh and eighth innings, paving the way for the comeback. Clippard faced the top of the lineup — Machado took a big ol’ hack in a 3-0 count and hit a ball to the warning track, which was scary — while Betances handled the middle, including Trumbo and Davis. Nice work holding the O’s down those two innings.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and for the video highlights. ESPN has the standings, if you’re paying attention to them already. (It’s too early.) Also, don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph. It’s nice to see one of these bend in favor of the Yankees for a change.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The home opener, finally. Glad to have baseball back in the Bronx. The Yankees open the Yankee Stadium portion of their schedule Monday afternoon against the Rays. That’s a 1pm ET start. Michael Pineda and Alex Cobb are the scheduled pitchers. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to go to that game, or any other game on the nine-game homestand.