DotF: Garcia homers, Charleston clinches a postseason spot

In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees acquired C Erik Kratz from the Indians for cash. He’s been assigned to Triple-A Scranton. Two other catcher notes from Conor Foley: C Wilkin Castillo (knee) was placed on the Triple-A disabled list and C Kyle Higashioka (shoulder) was healthy enough to take batting practice today. That’s good.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Rochester)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 K — so I guess whatever led to him being pulled from last night’s game was no big deal
  • DH Matt Holliday: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB — 7-for-35 (.200) in ten rehab games … no surprise here, but manager Al Pedrique told Conor Foley that Holliday will rejoin the Yankees tomorrow
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 2B — here’s video of the double, which might’ve been into the short porch in the Bronx
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-2, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Billy McKinney, RF Jake Cave & CF Mason Williams: all 0-3 — McKinney struck out twice, Cave once, Williams zero times
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 65 of 102 pitches were strikes (64%) … this was his final start of the regular season … he finishes the year with a 2.45 ERA and a 135/58 K/BB in 150.1 innings … he had a 144/39 K/BB in 127.1 innings last year

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Game 133: The Biggest Series of the Season (For Real)

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

So this is it. The most important series of the season. Truly. These four games with the Red Sox will determine whether the Yankees have any chance at winning the AL East, or will have to shift gears and begin focusing on the wildcard. And, truth be told, the Yankees probably need to sweep this series to have a shot at the division title. They’re 5.5 games back. A split accomplishes nothing. Winning three of four gets the Yankees to within 3.5 games with 26 to play, but no head-to-head games against the Red Sox. One game at a time though.

The Yankees just got swept by the Indians and it was abundantly clearly which team went to the World Series last year and which team is hoping to get to the postseason for only the second time in five years. The Yankees have to treat these four games like postseason games. They really do. Because this is their postseason. The wildcard race is tight and the division title is becoming more and more unrealistic. Win tonight, move on to the next one. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. DH Chase Headley
  8. 1B Greg Bird
  9. 3B Todd Frazier
    LHP CC Sabathia

Cool and cloudy in New York today. Damn near autumnal. Tonight’s series opener will begin a little after 7pm ET And you’ll be able to watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Clint Frazier (oblique) continues to progress and started throwing today. Now that he’s throwing and swinging a bat, I imagine it won’t be too long before he begins a minor league rehab assignment.

Roster Moves: The Yankees have sent Caleb Smith and Jordan Montgomery to Triple-A Scranton, and called up Gio Gallegos, the team announced. Gallegos replaces Smith. Montgomery was the 26th man for yesterday’s doubleheader and had to go back down after the game.

Appeals Update: MLB has scheduled Sanchez’s and Austin Romine‘s appeal hearings for tomorrow, reports Mike Mazzeo. The ruling will not necessarily come tomorrow, however. Hunter Strickland had to wait six days between the hearing and the ruling after throwing at Bryce Harper earlier this year, though that was unusually long. Sanchez and Romine probably won’t have to wait that long. Either way, the Yankees picked up Erik Kratz earlier today for extra catcher depth.

8/31 to 9/3 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Yankees opened this week a mere 2.5 games back of the Red Sox; with a bit of luck, they could have entered these next four days with a chance to regain control of the AL East. They dropped all three games to the Indians instead, while the Red Sox swept the Blue Jays. So it goes.

The Last Time They Met

Boston took two of three from the Yankees two weekends ago, opening up a five-game lead in the process. Some notes:

  • This was the series that led to Aroldis Chapman losing the closer’s role, as he allowed the Red Sox to add a couple of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning of first game. It was his fourth-straight appearance in which he allowed at least one earned run.
  • The Yankees bullpen had an awful series on the whole, allowing 10 runs (all earned) in 9 IP. Tommy Kahnle was the worst offender, pitching to the following line – 0.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.
  • Chris Sale was utterly mortal in the Yankees lone win of the series, allowing 7 hits and 4 runs in 7 IP. Tyler Austin and Todd Frazier both took him deep as the Yankees won 4-3.
  • CC Sabathia came out ahead of Sale that night, allowing 2 runs and just 5 base-runners in 6 IP in his first start back from the disabled list.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

The Red Sox are still banged-up, with Jackie Bradley Jr., Dustin Pedroia, David Price, and Carson Smith on the disabled list with a vague “September” return date, and Josh Rutledge, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright done for the season. Both Bradley and Pedroia are hoping to return for this series, but neither Price nor Smith is expected back in time.

Their Story So Far

Boston is in first in the AL East at 76-57, and their +93 run differential places them seventh in all of baseball. They’ve won three in a row, and have an 18-8 record in the month of August. They’re within striking distance of the best record in the American League, with just 3.5 games separating them from the semi-struggling Astros.

Given that these teams have met multiple times within the last four weeks, it doesn’t seem like much else needs to be said.

The Lineup We Might See

The injury status of Bradley and Pedroia throws a wrench into the Red Sox lineup machinations. That being said, they have been trotting out this lineup with those two on the mend:

  1. Eduardo Nunez, 2B (.312/.341/.460)
  2. Andrew Benintendi, CF (.275/.354/.436)
  3. Mookie Betts, RF (.263/.341/.437)
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B/DH (.257/.341/.452)
  5. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.273/.335/.405)
  6. Rafael Devers, 3B (.294/.354/.546)
  7. Hanley Ramirez, DH/1B (.249/.335/.443)
  8. Chris Young, LF (.236/.324/.396)
  9. Christian Vazquez, C /or/ Sandy Leon, C (.294/.335/.413 and .235/.299/.367)

When healthy, Pedroia generally bats and plays second; Bradley is the center-fielder, and bats fifth.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez started against the Yankees on August 11, and had his best start of the season; he went 6 shutout innings, and allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 7. He has been underwhelming in his three starts since then, and largely average on the season (108 ERA+ in 105.1 IP), but he’s still just 24-years-old. Rodriguez did spend about a month and a half on the disabled list, but he’s been healthy since the All-Star break.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 8/26) – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 7 K

Friday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Doug Fister

It has been a strange season for Fister, who didn’t even sign with an MLB team until May 20 … when he signed with the Angels. The Angels waived him about a month later, and he latched on with the Red Sox shortly thereafter. The 33-year-old journeyman has a 4.53 ERA (100 ERA+) in twelve games (nine starts) with the Sox, and has been more than competent in helping patch-up their rotation.

Fister has always been something of a junkballer, and not much has changed. He throws four different fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter, sinker) in the upper-80s, and a curveball in the low-70s. He’ll mix in a slider and a change-up, as well, but those are few and far between.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 8/27) – 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

This will be the Yankees fifth time seeing Pomeranz this year, who has mostly kept them at bay. He has thrown 21.0 IP in those four starts, allowing 23 hits, 8 earned runs (3.43 ERA), and 7 walks, while striking out 23. That isn’t all that far off from his season totals on the whole, as he has a 3.23 ERA (139 ERA+) in 142 IP.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 8/28) – 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 4 K

Sunday (7:35 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Chris Sale

As was the case with Pomeranz, Sale will be making his fifth start of the season against the Yankees this weekend. On the off-chance that you’ve forgotten, Sale has dominated the Yankees on the whole, tossing 29.2 IP of 2.12 ERA ball, and allowing just 27 base-runners while striking out 44 batters. They did score four runs the last time they met, though, which, if we’re optimistic, could bode well for this match-up.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 8/29) – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K

The Bullpen

Craig Kimbrel – he of the 1.58 ERA (290 ERA+) and 16.6 K/9 – showed signs of mortality this week, laboring through an inning against the Blue Jays. He walked two and allowed a home run before slamming the door, and he looked just as shaky as that line suggests. He redeemed himself the next night, though, and is still the best reliever in the American League.

The rest of the bullpen has been up and down this month. They have a 107 ERA+ in August, as compared to a 128 ERA+ on the season, and they’ve been prone to the longball. Joe Kelly has been the worst offender, pitching to a 6.75 ERA this month, and newcomer Addison Reed (4.38 ERA/107 ERA+) has been a bit of a disappointment. It’s still a solid group, but it seems as though its tenure as best bullpen in the game has ended.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Severino versus Sale has the potential to be must-see TV; I’ve jinxed the Yankees before by praising a pitching match-up, though, so perhaps this should be disregarded.

This series as a whole feels incredibly important – and not just for the obvious reasons. In a broader sense, the Yankees need to show that they can beat good teams again. With the exception of the Mariners, who they’ve taken two series from in the second-half, they have not taken a series from a playoff-caliber team since sweeping the Orioles from June 9 through June 11. They did split a couple of series with the Red Sox and the Indians, so maybe I’m being a ‘glass half empty’ type here – but a strong showing to open up September would set a completely different tone.

Yankees acquire Erik Kratz from Indians for cash

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have brought in some extra catcher depth. The team announced this afternoon they’ve acquired veteran journeyman backstop Erik Kratz from the Indians for cash considerations. He is not on the 40-man roster and I assume he’s heading to Triple-A Scranton for the time being.

Kratz, 37, hit .270/.359/.472 (132 wRC+) with 13 homers in 326 Triple-A plate appearances with the Indians before the trade. He has MLB time with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Royals, Astros, and Pirates, and is a career .200/.248/.362 (62 wRC+) big league hitter. Twenty-four homers in 647 plate appearances is nothing to sneeze at though.

At some point Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine will have their appeals heard and serve their suspensions stemming from last week’s brawl with the Tigers. Kyle Higashioka, the third catcher, is currently on the Triple-A disabled list with a shoulder injury. Also, Triple-A backup Wilkin Castillo left last night’s game with a knee injury, so yeah. The Yankees needed another backstop.

Midnight tonight is the deadline for teams to acquire players and have them be eligible for the postseason roster, and that’s a hard deadline. The player doesn’t have to be in the big leagues or even on the 40-man roster, but he has to be in the organization by midnight, otherwise no postseason. No exceptions or loopholes. Kratz is postseason eligible for the Yankees.

Yankeemetrics: Rocked and rolled by Cleveland (Aug. 28-30)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Kluber’d
Monday’s lackluster 6-2 loss to the Indians was not the way the Yankees wanted to kick off perhaps the toughest week of their schedule so far – a grueling seven-games-in-seven-days stretch against two first-place teams.

Cleveland’s ace, Corey Kluber, put on a masterful performance in silencing the Yankee bats, which is hardly surprising given his history of shutting down the Bombers (and the way he’s dominated the rest of the league this year).

He’s made two starts against the Yankees this year, and in each of those games has pitched eight-or-more innings while allowing no more than three hits. Before Kluber, the last pitcher on any team to have two such outings in a season against the Yankees was Roger Clemens in 1991. Kluber’s success goes back further than this year, too. He’s riding a streak of five straight starts against the Yankees with at least seven strikeouts and two earned runs or fewer. The only other pitchers in baseball history to do that are Roy Halladay (2001-02) and Nolan Ryan (1973-75).

Kluber has also won each of those five starts, earning an Obscure Yankeemetric award for this stat: he is the only guy ever to win five consecutive starts against the Yankees, while striking out at least seven and allowing no more than two earned runs in each game.

The Yankees had their ace on the mound, too, but Luis Severino was ultimately outdueled in the matchup of Cy Young contenders. It was a confusing performance by Sevvy, who mixed some good (9 strikeouts), a little bad (3 walks) and too much ugly (3 homers).

The only other time in his big-league career he allowed three longballs in a game was May 8 last year vs the Red Sox, and it’s just the ninth time in 59 career appearances that he’s allowed more than one home run. The Yankees are now 0-9 when Severino surrenders multiple homers in a game.

via GIPHY

The good news is that there’s some statistical evidence that this was just a rare blip in what has been a fantastic season for Severino. He did a reasonably solid job of limiting hard contact and dangerous flyballs, aside from the three that went over the fence, indicating some random bad luck.

  • Per statcast, only five of the 108 pitches he threw (4.6%) were hit with solid contact. This season, he allowed a higher rate of hard contact in 18 of his 25 other starts.
  • His average exit velocity on batted balls was 85 mph, his sixth-lowest mark in a game this year.
  • He gave up only three flyballs that were hit beyond the infield; and somehow all three of them went over the fence!
  • According to ESPN’s Hit Tracker, Jose Ramirez‘s first-inning homer to right-center would have been a home run in only three other ballparks besides Yankee Stadium.

Bad luck aside, the three home runs were real, and the freezing-cold Yankee bats couldn’t overcome those three mistakes.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

One is the loneliest number
Did I mention freezing-cold bats? Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen kept the Bronx Bombers’ bats on ice in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader and the Yankees added to their growing list of frustrating games lost by one run.

The tally is now at 23 one-run losses, the most in the American League and the third-most in baseball. They fell to 15-23 (.395) in 1-run games, putting them in danger of posting just the fifth sub-.400 record in such games in a season in franchise history (also 1981, 1966, 1935, 1925).

Jaime Garcia (with some help from Gary Sanchez) put the Yankees in an early hole when he gave up two runs on three singles and a passed ball in the first inning. While Sanchez has been above-average in framing pitches and throwing out baserunners this season, he continues to struggle with his blocking. This was his 13th passed ball (in 699 innings caught), the most by a Yankee since Jorge Posada also had 13 in 2007 (1,111 innings caught).

While Garcia threw his best game so far in pinstripes, Chad Green was the true pitching superstar on Wednesday afternoon. He replaced Garcia in the sixth and then tossed 2⅔ scoreless innings, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts.

Green has been a strikeout machine all season, and in this game he etched his name in the franchise and MLB record books:

  • His seven strikeouts are the most for any Yankee who pitched fewer than three innings in a game.
  • He is the only major-league pitcher ever to strike out at least seven guys in an outing where he faced eight or fewer batters.
(AP)
(AP)

A new low
The Yankees capped off a miserable day in the Bronx with another uninspiring loss, 9-4, as the Indians completed a rare series sweep of the pinstripers.

This was just the third time in the last 50 years that the Yankees were swept by the Indians in a series of at least three games – it also happened April 7-9, 1989 and September 11-13, 1970. And entering this week, the Yankees had only been swept once the entire season, which was the second-fewest in the majors; the Dodgers are the lone team that hasn’t yet been swept in a series this year.

It was deja vu all over again for the hometown team to start the nightcap of the twinbill. Before they even swung a bat, the Yankees faced another insurmountable deficit, as Jordan Montgomery coughed up four runs on five hits in the opening frame. That snapped a streak of 16 straight games in which Yankee starters had allowed no more than three earned runs, their longest such streak since June/July of 1988.

Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks were a two-man offensive show, with Bird driving in all four of the Yankees runs and Hicks getting half of the team’s eight hits. There was little to celebrate from this game (and the series), so let’s end with a couple #FunFacts:

  • Hicks is the first Yankee since Bernie Williams on October 5, 1991 with at least four hits and a run scored in a loss to the Indians.
  • Bird’s three-run homer in the bottom of the inning kept them from getting “blown out” and preserved this obscure stat: the Yankees are still the only team in the majors that hasn’t lost a game by a margin of eight or more runs this season.

Cashman heads to Japan as Otani scouting frenzy heats up

Part-time pitcher, part-time hitter, full-time fun as hell. (Getty)
Part-time pitcher, part-time hitter, full-time fun as hell. (Getty)

The 2017 regular season is fast approaching the stretch run, meaning rosters will soon expand and postseason races will really start to heat up. Four weeks and three days. That’s all that remains in the regular season. I swear, the season goes by a little faster each year. I guess that’s a function of getting old.

Anyway, even with the final month of the regular season on tap, clubs are already starting to look ahead to the offseason, either because they’re rebuilding and want to reshape their roster, or they’re contending and want to bring in more help. All 30 teams, regardless of whether they’re rebuilding or contending, figure to be interested in Nippon Ham Fighters ace/slugger Shohei Otani, who may or may not be posted this winter.

According to David Lennon and Erik Boland, Brian Cashman headed to Japan this week to get a firsthand look at Otani, and he is only the latest big name executive to do so. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman recently went to see Otani as well. Otani has been hampered by an ankle injury all season, though Jon Morosi reports he will make his first start today, so I imagine more talent evaluators are going to see him.

It’s unclear whether Otani will actually be posting this offseason, though, for what it’s worth, Jon Heyman suggests the Yankees and Red Sox could be gearing up for bidding war. (Morosi says the Yankees are among Otani’s most serious suitors.). I say a “bidding war” because Otani will be limited to the international hard caps, so the bids can only go so high. Heyman says both the Yankees and Red Sox have traded for the maximum allowable additional hard cap space, giving them $8M to spend internationally during the 2017-18 signing period.

Both teams have, of course, already spent a lot of that money. They both loaded up on Latin American amateurs when the 2017-18 signing period opened on July 2nd. It’s impossible to know exactly how much of their $8M bonus pools they’ve spent so far because so many international deals go unreported. Here’s the little we know:

Based on that, the Yankees can make Otani a much larger offer than the Red Sox. That’s great. The problem is if Otani does come over this year, it won’t be because he’s chasing top dollar. If securing top dollar was the priority, Otani would spent 2018 and 2019 in Japan, make more than he’d make here as a pre-arbitration player, then come over once he is no longer subject to the international hard cap.

(The Dodgers, by the way, are limited to $300,000 bonuses this signing period as a result of previous international spending. The same is true for other potential Otani suitors like the Cubs, Nationals, Astros, Cardinals, Braves, Padres, and Giants.)

If Otani does come over — and I still think this is a pretty big if — chances are his decision will come down to factors other than money. Example: who will let him hit? That seems like a potential big one. The team that gets Otani very well may be the one that agrees to let him DH on days he doesn’t pitch. Location, chances to win, and things like that figure to be considerations as well. Point is, if Otani does come over, it won’t be strictly for money. Being able to offer more doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

Cashman going to Japan is a pretty good indicator the Yankees are very interested in Otani. Cashman isn’t flying halfway around the world for nothing. I’m curious to know who went with him. Cashman is not a scout. He’s an administrator, not a talent evaluator. Very few general managers these days came up through the scouting ranks and even fewer played once upon a time (Jerry Dipoto is the only former MLB player turned GM in baseball right now). Times have changed.

Anyway, Mike Mazzeo says Cashman brought assistant general manager Jean Afterman on the trip, which makes sense. She has worked with Japanese players for a long time, both on the team side and agent side. I’m sure Cashman also brought a few of his top lieutenants on the trip. Vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring, vice president of player development Gary Denbo, pro scouting director Kevin Reese, special assistant Jim Hendry, senior advisor Gene Michael, and so on. The Yankees had eyes on Masahiro Tanaka for a long, long time before he became available. I’m sure they’ll have (and have had) many different folks see Otani, though the ankle issue threw a wrench in things this year.

For now, the next several weeks are all about the end of the season and the postseason races, and then hopefully a long postseason run as well. We still don’t know whether Otani will come over to MLB this winter. The only thing the Yankees and every other team can do is prepare. Scout him, analyze the numbers, the whole nine. The Yankees have international money to spend, at least in theory, though I suspect money will not be the deciding factor for Otani.

DotF: Andujar stays red hot in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique was named the Triple-A International League Manager of the Year for the second straight season, so that’s cool. Also, SS Tyler Wade named to the IL end-of-season All-Star Team. Congrats to both.

Triple-A Scranton (8-4 win over Rochester)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-3, 1 2B — got picked off second … left the game in the sixth inning for an unknown reason … Conor Foley says Wade remained in the dugout after coming out of the game, so I doubt he’s hurt
  • DH Matt Holliday: 1-3, 1 R, 2 BB
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — he’s hitting .335/.381/.531 with a 13.4% strikeout rate in 53 Triple-A games
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB — here’s video of the homer
  • LF Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-2, 1 BB — got picked off first and was ejected for arguing the call
  • C Wilkin Castillo: 1-2, 1 RBI, 1 CS — he was removed in the sixth inning as well, at the same time as Wade … hmmm … update: D.J. Eberle says Castillo left the game with a knee injury
  • RHP Domingo German: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 4/3 GB/FB — 51 of 87 pitches were strikes (59%)
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (74%) … chances are he’ll be in New York when rosters expand Friday
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 21 of 41 pitches were strikes
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 0.1 IP, zeroes, 0/1 GB/FB — eight pitches, five strikes

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