Hughes handles Tribe as Yanks win 4th straight

The 6-4 score makes the game seem a whole lot closer than it actually was. The Yankees cruised to their second straight win over the Indians and fourth straight win overall on Tuesday, continuing what is now a month-long stretch of excellent play.

Stew. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

RISP BABIP Correction: Activate

I made a point to mention the team’s BABIP with men in scoring position on Tuesday morning, telling you to just enjoy the homers for the time being because at some point the hits will start dropping in with runners on second and/or third. All those hits seemed to fall in in the second inning against Justin Masterson in this game. First Jack Hannahan came up empty diving after a soft line drive from Chris Stewart, knocking the ball into foul territory and allowing Nick Swisher to trot home with two outs. Then birthday boy Derek Jeter grounded a ball off Masterson that ricocheted into the infield version of no man’s land. That loaded the bases for Curtis Granderson, who stroked a two-strike, two-out, two-run single the other way.

BABIP correction is a wonderful thing. Balls bounce off gloves, grounders deflect away from infielders, all sorts of neat stuff happens. That said, Granderson’s single was the key to that inning. It was his 11th hit to left field this year, already three more than all of last season. I first noticed the opposite field trend when the Yankees were out in Oakland, though we’re still a long way away from knowing if this is just a fluke or a conscious effort on Grandy’s part to shorten up and go the other way. Either way, hooray for getting the runs in with two outs. Those two-strike hits are killers.

Two runs or less in seven of his last nine starts. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Two Curves

After getting tagged for four homers in less than five innings against the Braves last week, Phil Hughes rebounded in a big way against the Indians. He struck out four across eight scoreless innings, getting some timely ground ball double plays (!) when he needed them, and overall just being pretty awesome. The only extra base hit he allowed was a Michael Brantley double that may have been a single had Dewayne Wise not taken a circuitous route. It was good to see him right the ship after getting shellacked last time out.

What I noticed more than anything from Phil was that he seemed to be throwing two different curveballs. One was a straight 12-to-6 number but the other had a little more 11-to-5 break (from the catcher’s point of view). The PitchFX data at Brooks lumps them all under one curveball umbrella, so maybe I’m just imagining things. It just seemed like he was throwing more of a slurvy breaking ball at times, and it was effective. Perhaps it was just dumb luck and unintentional. I’ll keep my eyes open going forward to see if it happens again. Regardless, great start from Hughes. He was money.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Leftovers

So, how about Dewayne Wise’s flying into the stands catch to end the seventh? The best part was the replay showing that he climbed out of the stands with no ball in his glove and they still ruled it a catch. It looked fantastic live, but man was that a brutal call. In fairness, ump Mike DiMuro owned up and admitted his mistake to the media after the game. Hooray for accountability.

Cory Wade has been pretty bad for about a month now, though I thought it was a pretty good idea to use him in the ninth inning with a six-run lead. They gotta get him sorted out, you know? Anyway, Wade blew up again, allowing a run on a double and a bloop single before serving up a three-run jack to Jose Lopez. It seems to be the same pitch whenever he serves up a long ball, a changeup that hangs out over the plate. Cory has about three weeks to get himself straight before David Aardsma comes calling for a roster spot.

Alex Rodriguez sat out Monday’s game and he is now 17-for-42 (.405) with six homers in 11 games immediately following a day off. His seventh inning solo homer to left landed in the second deck, and we don’t see too many balls hit up there. Unfortunately, Alex’s blast also robbed the Yankees of just their second homer-less win of the season. Boo.

Jeter had a pair of knocks, as did Swisher and Stewart. Every hitter reached base at least once — including pinch-hitter Andruw Jones — except for Raul Ibanez. Jeter (two singles), Granderson (single and walk), A-Rod (homer and walk), Swisher (two singles), and Stewart (two singles) all reached base twice. As a team, they went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Hooray for that.

MLB.com won’t let me embed it, but here’s the video for Tuesday’s HOPE Week event. The Yankees visited Jorge Munoz, the “Angel in Queens” who runs a non-profit organization dedicated to serving hot daily meals to those in need in New York. Pretty awesome.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has a box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings. With both the Orioles and Rays losing, the Yankees are now four games up in the division in the loss column. They’re six up on Tampa, and that’s the more important number as far as I’m concerned.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees will look to complete the sweep on Wednesday afternoon when Andy Pettitte gives it a go against Ubaldo Jimenez. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the matinee.

Aune & Breen debut in GCL win

Notes!…

  • RHP Dellin Betances headlined today’s Minor League Update but obviously not in a good way. Kevin Goldstein didn’t offer up any scouting notes or anything, just said it’s time for the Yankees to take him out of the rotation and either put him in the bullpen or have him work on things on the side. It’s a subscriber-only piece but the Betances blurb is above the pay wall.
  • Fifth rounder 2B/OF Rob Refsnyder was named the College World Series MVP after his Arizona Wildcats won the National Championship last night. He hit .476 during the tournament. Last week we heard that Refsnyder was likely to sign as soon as his CWS run was over.
  • UTIL Kevin Russo (sore right hamstring) was placed on the DL while OF Cole Garner was activated to take his roster spot.
  • RHP Michael Dubee was released to free up a roster spot for the recently signed RHP Jon Meloan.

Triple-A Empire State (3-1 win over Gwinnett)
CF Chris Dickerson: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
2B Corban Joseph: 3-3, 1 R, 3 2B, 1 BB — got picked off first, but otherwise it was an excellent night for CoJo
LF Ronnie Mustelier, 1B Brandon Laird, RF Cole Garner & 3B Doug Bernier: all 0-3 — Mustelier drove in a run, walked, and struck out … Garner and Bernier struck out
DH Russell Branyan: 1-4, 2 RBI, 2 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 0-2, 2 BB — stuck in a 2-for-20 rut (.100)
SS Ramiro Pena: 1-3, 1 R
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 8/5 GB/FB — 67 of 103 pitches were strikes (65.0%) … he needed a strong start like this, he’s been struggling bad of late
RHP Jason Bulger: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eight of 13 pitches were strikes
RHP Ryota Igarashi: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 11 of 15 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 73: A Big Test(s)

Dewayne Wise’s bunt turned the season around. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)

Tonight’s game will be an interesting test for both the offense and Phil Hughes. The homer-happy offense will have to deal with Justin Masterson and his turbo-sinker, which is the reason why he has the lowest homerun rate (0.52 HR/9) in the AL since the start of last season. Hughes will have to face an Indians’ lineup featuring seven left-handed batters and two switch-hitters. Phil has held righties to a .308 wOBA in his career but lefties have gotten him for a .337 wOBA. It’s worth noting that he has a (quiet massive) reverse-split this season. Here’s the starting lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
LF Dewayne Wise
C  Chris Stewart

RHP Phil Hughes

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.

HOPE Week: Chad Jennings has the details on today’s HOPE Week event, which focuses on 48-year-old Jorge Munoz and his non-profit organization that distributes hot meals to New Yorkers in need.

Russell Martin Update: Martin (back) is going to take batting practice today and if that goes well, he’ll start behind the plate tomorrow. Hooray for that.

Brett Gardner Update: Gardner (elbow) will take some dry swings next week when the team is in Tampa to play the Rays. Joe Girardi said a return before the All-Star break is unrealistic and that late-July is more likely.

Feliciano throws 25 pitches in first full bullpen session since surgery

Via Erik Boland, forgotten left-hander Pedro Feliciano threw 25 pitches in Tampa today, his first full-mound session since having surgery to repair his rotator cuff last September. The 35-year-old still has a long way to go in his rehab and really the Yankees shouldn’t count on him to contribute anything this year. If he gets healthy in time to serve as a third lefty specialist when the rosters expand in September, great. Whatever they get is gravy, if anything.

The Return of Pull-Happy Mark Teixeira

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Mark Teixeira has been under the microscope since the moment he spurned the Red Sox for the Yankees in December 2008. He responded with an MVP caliber season in 2009 but saw his performance suffer in 2010 and further in 2011. Through the first 38 team games of the 2012 season, Teixeira’s batting line sat at a meager .228/.283/.386, well below even his normal slow start standards. It appeared as though his offensive decline was continuing even further.

At the same time, Teixeira was battling what was ultimately diagnosed as nerve damage to his vocal cords. Joe Girardi decided to give his first baseman three days off in mid-May in an effort to get his cough under control, a three-game series against the Reds. Since that little rest, Teixeira has hit .291/.396/.564 with nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (20) in 134 plate appearances. It’s obviously not the biggest sample in the world but it is vintage Mark Teixeira, a glimpse of the guy we were all hoping to see this season.

“I had a moment where I had to tell everyone I am who I am,” said Teixeira to Joel Sherman over the weekend, referring to the calls for him to hit the ball the other way. During those three games on the bench he decided just to give up on his efforts to beat the shift and get back to being the guy that was so successful in the past. “I am going to swing hard, strike out a bunch* and pull stuff.”

The funny thing is that when you look at his spray charts against right-handed pitchers — before the Reds series, after the Reds series (per Texas Leaguers) — it’s tough to see much of a difference. Most of the balls Teixeira put in play before the three days rest were to the pull side with a handful out to left, ditto the balls he’s put in play since those three games off against the Reds. He says his process is different and the results certainly have been, so I’m not going to argue with him. At the end of the day, I really only care about what he produces. I don’t want to get picky about how he does it after these last two years.

The offense’s general inability to hit with runners in scoring position has masked some otherwise stellar production of late, and I’m not just talking about Teixeira. Robinson Cano has hit .333/.411/.714 in his last 45 games and Nick Swisher has hit .345/.415/.672 in his last 17 games. Yes these are arbitrary end points, though you all know that those three weren’t hitting earlier in the season and now they are. They’re a big part of the reason why the Yankees have won 23 of their last 30 games, especially the pull-happy Teixeira.

* This continues to be the most misunderstood part of Teixeira’s game, and apparently even he buys into it now. You’d expect him to strike out a bunch as a power hitter, but his strikeout rate is just 12.9% (!) this year. The league average is 19.6%. His career average is 17.0%. The guy simply doesn’t strike out that much, especially compared to other power hitters.

Yankees claim right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers

The Yankees have claimed right-hander Danny Farquhar off waivers from the Athletics and optioned him to Double-A Trenton. Brett Gardner was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Farquhar, 25, is very well traveled. He was drafted by the Blue Jays, traded to the Athletics for Rajai Davis, traded back to the Blue Jays for David Purcey, then claimed off waivers by the Athletics before coming to New York. He has two career big league innings to his credit, both coming with Toronto last season. Back in 2010, Baseball America said he threw a 92-94 mph four-seamer and an 88-92 two-seamer in addition to both a slider and curveball. Here’s some old video. Farquhar is strictly a reliever and one without much success above the Double-A level.

Kuroda makes a month-long statement

No matter his performance, Kuroda always displays an A+ pitchface. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Why did fans label Hiroki Kuroda as an inconsistent pitcher? Mike and I discussed this on The RAB Radio Show last week, but it bears further mention. It seems that after poor starts mixed with some very good ones, fans started to call Kuroda inconsistent. This persisted while his numbers and performances improved following his poor outing against the Twins, and it gained further steam with his implosion against Toronto. But perhaps inconsistent wasn’t the best term.

While Kuroda did turn in some phenomenal performances early on, overall he had not pitched that well. Though his first nine starts he threw just 53.1 innings, or a hair under six per start. In that time his ERA was a bit over 4.50, and opponents were hitting .281/.345/.481 off him. His strikeout rate was under 6 per nine, and he had a K/BB ratio of less than 2:1. Those are not the marks of a quality pitcher, never mind the guy expected to be the No. 2 for the Yankees.

In Oakland things started to turn around. On May 27th he pitched eight innings of shutout ball, leading the Yankees to a 2-0 victory. That might not seem like much, shutting out the A’s. Keep in mind, though, that they have scored more runs than any other AL team in June. So Kuroda got to them just as they were heating up. After that he turned in another three excellent starts before giving up four runs against the Braves — the first time he’d done that in over a month. Last night he redeemed himself, though, allowing just one run in seven innings against the Indians.

In the last month Kuroda has started six times, averaging seven innings per start. He has struck out 7.5 per nine and has a K/BB ratio of 3.5:1. His ERA is just 1.93, and opponents have a .589 OPS against him. That is, they’ve gone from being nine Mike Moustakases to being nine Sean Rodriguezes. Might the first nine starts of his season been an introduction to the American League, and we’ll start to see more of this Kuroda in the future?

While I’d love to believe that, there are problems with that statement. He has, for instance, faced two National League teams during that span, covering three games. They weren’t bad NL teams, not at all — the Braves rank third in runs per game and sixth in OPS, while the Mets rank fifth in runs per game and eighth in OPS. But the competition is simply different, as evidenced by the AL’s dominance over the NL in interleague play (142-110). At the same time, the Indians rank 11th in the AL in OPS, while the A’s, while hot in June, rank dead last.

The last month has certainly been a revelation for Kuroda. He is a big reason why the Yankees have gone 17-5 in June. Going forward, though, it’s tough to expect such stellar performances. That’s a pretty obvious statement, of course, since few pitchers today can sustain a 1.93 ERA. Unfortunately, any dip from here could again raise the accusations of inconsistency. It’s not that, though. Every pitcher goes through stretches. The only real complaints about Kuroda will come when the bad stretches start to outweigh the good.