Heyman: Yankees have checked in on Denard Span

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees have checked in with the Twins about the availability of Denard Span. Minnesota is unsurprisingly “asking for a ton.” The Yankees will be without Brett Gardner for the rest of the season and Nick Swisher recently went down with a left hip flexor, so the outfield is thin. Heyman reiterated that New York looked into both Shane Victorino and Justin Upton, which is old news.

Span, 28, is a very similar player to Gardner. He’s a left-handed swinger, doesn’t have any power (career .102 ISO), draws walks (career 9.8 BB%), and is a true center fielder with above average defense. Gardner will steal about twice as many bases and is probably better with the glove, but Span will put the ball in play more often (career 12.2 K%). He’s also signed very reasonably — the Twins owe him just $11.25M through 2014 with a $9M club option for 2015. Span would be a great replacement for Gardner this year but replacing Nick Swisher next year? Eh, they’d be lucky to get ten combined homers out of two outfield spots.

Yanks drop another one-run game in Oakland

Source: FanGraphs

Three games, three one-run losses. It is the Yankees’ first three-game losing streak since mid-June, when they lost two straight to the Braves at home then one on the road at CitiField. Let’s recap…

  • Philbert: Phil Hughes pitched very well, but he made two mistakes and they both went for solo homers. That was enough to cost him the game on this night. Pretty ridiculous. Phil allowed just two hits through seven innings before Brandon Inge blasted a solo homer to kickoff the eighth. Yoenis Cespedes launched a dinger in the fourth. I thought Hughes actually had a pretty good changeup too, particularly the one he threw to strike out Josh Reddick in a 3-2 count with two outs and the go-ahead run on second and Cespedes on deck in the sixth. Hughes did his part, he was pretty awesome.
  • No Runs: The Yankees have done nothing to dispel the myth that they can’t hit rookie pitches in this series even though they came into it with a 26-11 record against pitchers they’ve never before since 2010. Alex Rodriguez was the only consistent offense, reaching base and coming around to score the only run before leading off the ninth with a single and stealing second to put the tying run in scoring position. He also laced a first inning line drive that Jemile Weeks grabbed at the apex of his leap. Raul Ibanez plated the only run with a hard-hit ground ball back up the middle.
  • Leftovers: Robinson Cano‘s hitting streak came to an end at 23 games :( … Curtis Granderson drew a walk, the team’s first of the series … six of the New York’s first 23 plate appearances lasted just one pitch, which is terrible … the bottom five hitters in the lineup saw a total of 51 pitches in 16 plate appearances, which is also terrible … seemingly the entire infield botched a routine rundown in the eighth, but Coco Crisp bailed them out by getting picked off again a few batters later.

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs a bunch of other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles and Blue Jays won, the Red Sox and Rays lost. The lead in the division shrunk to seven games over Baltimore but is at least nine games over everyone else. CC Sabathia will look to salvage the series against former teammate Bartolo Colon on Sunday afternoon.

Update: Swisher day-to-day after MRI reveals strain

11:48pm: Joe Girardi confirmed that Swisher has a mild strain of … something. Groin, quad, who knows. He should be able to avoid the DL and the Yankees are just going to play shorthanded for the final four games of the West Coast trip.

6:32pm: Via Marc Carig, outfielder Nick Swisher went for an MRI on his left hip flexor and will be out at least until the Yankees get to Seattle on Monday. The results of the MRI aren’t available yet. Hopefully he can avoid the DL, the last thing the Yankees need is to lose another outfielder.

Heathcott goes deep in Tampa win

CF Ravel Santana is day-to-day with some soreness in his ankle. No idea if it’s the same ankle he shattered last summer, but I would assume so.

Triple-A Empire State (13-8 win over Gwinnett)
CF Chris Dickerson: 1-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB
3B Kevin Russo: 4-6, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — 18 hits in his last 35 at-bats (.514)
2B Corban Joseph: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — seven hits in his last 23 at-bats (.304) with four doubles
DH Jack Cust: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
1B Brandon Laird: 3-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB — 16 hits in his last 39 at-bats (.410) with four doubles and two homers
LF Kosuke Fukudome: 0-5, 3 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
RF Cole Garner: 2-4, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — the grand slam was his second homer in the last six games
SS Ramiro Pena: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 5 IP, 8 G, 6 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 6/4 GB/FB — 61 of 87 pitches were strikes (70%)
RHP Cory Wade: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 31 of 50 pitches were strikes (62%)
RHP Danny Farquhar: 2 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 11 of 14 pitches were strikes

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Game 94: Walks

The A’s will charge you for wasting that water, Jarrod. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The best the Yankees can do now is split this four-game series with the Athletics, who are throwing yet another rookie pitcher tonight. The good news is that Jarrod Parker isn’t a soft-tossing lefty like Tommy Milone or a guy with a 60 mph curveball like A.J. Griffin, he’s just a pure power pitcher who will attack with fastballs and finish with sliders and changeups. Parker’s having a nice under-the-radar rookie campaign but will walk himself into trouble, something the Yankees must take advantage of after drawing zero walks in the first two games of the series. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
LF Raul Ibanez
DH Eric Chavez
Russell Martin
RF Dewayne Wise

RHP Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game will start at 9:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Saturday Night Open Thread

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

I used to think that Saturday night games were the worst, but it turns out Saturday night games on the West Coast are my own personal baseball hell. I guess the good news is that they give you all day to do whatever, but I’d rather spend the day watching baseball and the night doing social stuff. Eh, one game won’t kill me.

Anyway, now that you’re sufficiently bored, use this as your open thread for the night until the game starts. MLB Network is airing a game tonight but the teams depend on where you live. You can talk about whatever you like here though, have at it.

Getting beat by Yoenis Cespedes

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

If you didn’t stay up late enough to catch the end of the game last night, the Yankees suffered a walk-off loss to Athletics when Brandon Moss singled off Cody Eppley with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth. Yoenis Cespedes scored the winning run and started the rally with a solid line drive single to center, his fourth hit of the game. He also hit a two-run homer off Freddy Garcia in the series opener and so far has gone 6-for-8 during these two games.

Cespedes has been molten hot since coming out of the All-Star break, going 17-for-29 (.586) with two doubles and three homers in the seven games. He’s been terrorizing everyone lately, not just New York. I do want to make a point about how the Yankees have been pitching to him these last two days, however. With some help from Texas Leaguers, here’s a look at the location of the pitches he’s swung at during this series (all plots are from the catcher’s perspective)…

That’s an awful lot of pitches — I unofficially count eight — right out over the plate and down the middle. You don’t need to know much about baseball to understand why he’s mashed against the Yankees when you see where these pitches have been. Furthermore, here are the pitches he didn’t offer at and instead took for a called strike (or ball)…

More pitches in the happy zone, he just didn’t bother to swing at these. Cespedes has seen 31 pitches in his nine plate appearances against the Yankees and approximately a dozen of them have been over the heart of the plate, at the middle of the zone and below. If you’re unconvinced this is a problem, check out his run value heat map courtesy of Baseball Heat Maps

You can read the nuts and bolts of what this graphic means right here, but in English the heat map shows that compared to the league average batter, Cespedes does most of his damage on pitches … wait for it … over the heart of the plate and at the middle of the zone and below. The darker the green (or red), the more damage he does on pitches in that location. Up-and-away is another happy zone. Combine this hitter with the pitches he’s been getting and well, you get a guy who’s gone 6-for-8 in the first two games of a four-game set.

Now I don’t think the Yankees have been intentionally pitching Cespedes over the plate like this; both Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova were pretty shaky with their command these last two nights. Eppley lives down in the zone with his sidearm sinker and he just caught too much of the plate. These guys just have to do a better — much better, really — job of pitching the A’s slugger on the edges of the zone or even outside of it. Cespedes has swung at exactly one-third of the pitches he’s seen outside of the zone this year, the 43rd highest rate among the 203 hitters with 240 plate appearances. He’s a bit of a hacker and will expand the zone, but so far the Yankees haven’t given him anything to chase this series.

The problem now is just the team’s pitching staff and timing. Phil Hughes is pitching tonight and he’s a fastball-curveball guy, not someone who can run a slider away from a righty. Maybe that new 11-to-5 curveball can do the trick. CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow and he’ll have to rely on changeups away to Cespedes. Hiroki Kuroda is probably best equipped to deal with a guy like this, but he’s not scheduled to start this series. Garcia and Nova can bust out sliders to right-handers but they didn’t do a very good job of it in the first two games. Even if the Yankees can’t get Cespedes to chase those breaking balls off the plate, they have to get the ball out of the middle of the zone. They’ve given him entirely too many good pitches to hit.