Hundreds of players have already been passed through revocable trade waivers this month, but the Yankees have yet to run Alex Rodriguez though the process according to Ken Davidoff. A-Rod is currently sidelined with a broken hand and given the five years and $114M left on his contract, no team would claim him anyway. We can dream about the Dodgers taking on his contract, but I suspect they’ve already satisfied their quota for nine-figure commitments this month.
The Yankees won last night’s game over the Blue Jays thanks primarily to their pitching staff, as David Robertson and Rafael Soriano combined for two dominant innings at the end of the game even though both were pitching for the third consecutive day. Phil Hughes stepped up and handled the first seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. It was his thirth straight start of at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs, continuing a stretch of really strong pitching that started back in mid-May (3.44 ERA and 4.46 FIP in 128.1 innings).
That stretch started when Hughes decided to scrap his cutter, a pitch that helped him earlier in his career but had essentially transformed into a batting practice fastball. He started varying the break on his curveball soon thereafter to give hitters a look at two different breaking pitches, and in his two starts prior to last night, he really started emphasized his changeup. Last night against the Blue Jays, Hughes broke out another pitch, this one a little slider.
“I was working on a little cutter/slider hybrid deal in the bullpen and I figured this would be a good team to use it against because they have a lot of right-handed bats in that lineup,” said Hughes after last night’s game. “I was just kind of messing around with it during catch, threw a few at the end of a bullpen one time and it was decent, so I just kind of started to mix it a little more in. In our scouting report meetings before today’s game, [pitching coach Larry Rothschild] said, ‘Do you feel comfortable going to it if you need to? Not a whole lot obviously, but just something?’ I said, yeah. The first one was a 3-2 to (Yorvit Torrealba) that I threw. After that, (Russell Martin) and I found a few more spots to use it.”
According to the PitchFX data at Brooks Baseball, Hughes threw this cutter/slider hybrid thing about ten times against Toronto. Six of the ten went for strikes, including a trio of swings and misses. It has slider velocity in the low-80s, with more break than a cutter but less than a slider. I’ve heard of these being called “loaded cutters,” which are thrown with the fingers more off to the side of the ball and with less velocity by design. It’s a baby slider more than a cutter, really. Regular old cutters are thrown just like a fastball with a slightly different grip and finger pressure, but I digress.
Hughes threw all ten of his cutter/sliders to right-handed batters as you’d expect, and the pitch helped him hold the Blue Jays’ righties to four hits and two walks in 22 plate appearances. Same-side hitters went into last night’s game with a .327/.359/.622 batting line (.415 wOBA) against Phil, so he was doing something right against Toronto. The fact that half their regulars are injured and that this is a one-start sample certainly work in his favor, so we’re stuck in wait-and-see mode as far as whether this new pitch can actually help against righties.
Although he has been maddeningly homer-prone this season, Hughes has remained effective because he does a good job of limiting the damage to solo shots. He’s struggled against left-handed hitters in the past but for whatever reason that platoon split has been reversed this summer, so hopefully this new cutter/slider thing will help even it out. Phil seemed to make it clear after last night’s outing that it will remain his third or fourth offering, not something he’ll rely on heavily for the time being. He did throw a slider in high school, so this isn’t an entirely new experience, and working the pitch into game situations will be the next challenge.
The Yankees suffered a really brutal loss on Monday night, but good teams turn the page in a hurry and move on to the next day. New York rebounded well on Tuesday night, with a tight but very well-pitched 2-1 win over the Blue Jays in game two of their three-game set.
Hughes Steps Up
The middle relief has been shaky and the offense sometimes nonexistent, but Phil Hughes really stepped up on Tuesday to throw seven strong innings against a team that smacked him around the park a little more than two weeks ago. After emphasizing his changeup the last two times out, Hughes broke out a slider against Toronto and used it to hold their right-handed batters to just four hits and two walks in 22 at-bats with five strikeouts. One of those four was the requisite solo homer, but otherwise he held those guys in check after they battered him around for most of the season.
Phil didn’t do it alone though, he got some huge help from Robinson Cano in the form of an inning-ending double play in the sixth. Cano jumped to snag Yunel Escobar’s line drive before firing to third to double off Colby Rasmus. It was an insane play, he got rid of the ball in a heartbeat. Hughes allowed just one run in seven innings, his third consecutive start of at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs. The Yankees needed some length out of their young right-hander after the beating the bullpen took last night, and he really responded with exactly what they needed.
With runs proving difficult to come by these last few games (Monday night notwithstanding), the Yankees went back to the drawing board and scored their two runs the old fashioned way: they manufactured them. Jayson Nix got it all started with one out in the third, singling through the 5.5 hole before moving up to second on Ichiro Suzuki’s infield single. A Derek Jeter sacrifice fly got him over to third, then Nick Swisher came through with yet another big two-out run-scoring single. He’s had quite a few of those lately.
The Yankees did it again the next inning, thought this time it started with a Steve Pearce leadoff walk. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, slid over to third on Russell Martin’s ground out, then came in to score on Curtis Granderson’s sacrifice fly. The first rally needed three base hits to score one run while the second had zero hits to score that same one run. Baseball! Those were the only two runs the Yankees would get and ultimately need.
Rafael Soriano was out of his mind good in the ninth despite pitching for the third straight day. He ran his fastball up to 96 and got swings and misses on all three sliders he threw. You can tell there was some anger behind those pitches, he was absolutely filthy. David Robertson, also pitching for the third straight day, chipped in an easy and efficient eighth inning. Those two retired all six men they faced and Soriano whiffed a pair. Between them and Hughes, ten of the last eleven Blue Jays made outs.
Pearce became the first player to made his Yankees debut as the cleanup hitter since Glenallen Hill back back in 2000. He went 0-for-2 with the walk and a strikeout. The three through seven hitters went a combined 0-for-17 with Pearce’s walk and four strikeouts. The 8-9-1-2 cycle of hitters went 5-for-13. The Yankees didn’t have a single extra-base hit on the night, instead opting for some timely singles.
I thought home plate ump Ed Hickox had a pretty tight strike zone, particularly the outside corner to right-handed batters. PitchFX confirms that I’m not crazy, but the zone wasn’t as severe as I expected. Anyway, Hughes struck out the final batter he faced for his 500th career strikeout. Congrats to him.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles won while the Rays lost, so those two clubs are now three and five games back in the AL East, respectively. The magic number to clinch the division is 31.
CC Sabathia will make his second start off the DL in the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon, when he’ll be opposed by fellow southpaw J.A. Happ. I gotta think Soriano and Robertson will be unavailable, so lots of innings from the big guy and lots of runs from the offense will be appreciated. Check out RAB Tickets for some last minute deals if you want to catch the matinee.
Congrats to Triple-A Empire State manager Dave Miley, who was named the International League Manager of the Year today. His club owns the second best record in the circuit and is one win away from clinching their sixth division title in the last seven years despite playing what amounts to nothing but road games this season. Congrats to Miley, he’s earned it.
Double-A Trenton (7-4 win over New Britain) the win clinches a playoff spot, so congrats to them
CF Adonis Garcia: 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI
C J.R. Murphy: 1-5, 1 R, 1 PB
3B-2B David Adams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — eight hits in his last 23 at-bats (.348) with three doubles and two homers
RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
1B Luke Murton: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
SS Addison Maruszak: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — left the game after fouling a ball off his calf
PH-LF Shane Brown: 0-2, 1 K
2B-SS Kevin Mahoney: 2-4, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI — five hits in his last ten at-bats with three doubles and a homer
LF-3B Rob Segedin: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
DH Jose Gil: 2-4, 1 K
LHP Vidal Nuno: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 6/5 GB/FB — 58 of 78 pitches were strikes (74%)
RHP Graham Stoneburner: 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB
LHP Pedro Feliciano: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/0 GB/FB — five pitches, one strike … had a little more on him earlier
RHP Ryan Pope: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 15 of 23 pitches were strikes (65%) … he’s been nails since moving into the closer’s role
For the first time as part of his rehab from shoulder surgery, left-hander Pedro Feliciano pitched in back-to-back days and entered a game in the middle of an inning tonight. With men on second and third and no outs, Feliciano got a ground ball to second (run scored) and walked a right-handed batter. Only one of his five pitches was a strike, and a passed ball by the catcher allow the second runner to come around to score. He was pitching for Double-A Trenton. Here’s video.
Yesterday we heard that the 36-year-old southpaw is likely to make another rehab appearance on Thursday before potentially joining the big league bullpen when rosters expand on Saturday. That assumes he comes through these last two appearances as well as the next one with no problems. Either way, he’s close.
The Yankees have split four games against the lowly Indians and Blue Jays, and they’re essentially a .500 team since the All-Star break. Mark Teixeira now joins Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez in the position player infirmary, so the club is really short-handed on offense. Add in a taxed and somewhat ineffective bullpen, and the current outlook isn’t looking so rosy for the Bombers. No one feels bad for them though, so just win. Here’s the lineup…
SS Derek Jeter
1B Nick Swisher
2B Robinson Cano
DH Steve Pearce
C Russell Martin
CF Curtis Granderson
RF Andruw Jones
3B Jayson Nix
LF Ichiro Suzuki
RHP Phil Hughes
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy, or at least try too.
To make room on the 25-man roster for the recently-acquired Steve Pearce, the Yankees have optioned Casey McGehee all the way down to Low-A Charleston. The River Dogs have already been eliminated from postseason contention, so McGehee can return to the big leagues when their regular season ends next Monday rather than wait the full ten days. I thought they would make a similar move with David Phelps since he just started last night and Thursday’s off-day would allow them to shuffle the rotation, but they opted to play with a short bench instead. Weird.