Friday Night Open Thread

Hooray for 90 wins! Been a while since the Yankees were this good. I know anything can happen in the Wild Card Game, but damn, this sure has been six fun months of baseball. I am grateful for that. Anyway, Jeff Passan compiled his annual All-MLB Team. Six Yankees made the three teams, including three First-Teamers. Pretty cool. The Yankees have themselves quite the foundation going forward.

Here is an open thread for the evening. The Mets are playing tonight and MLB Network will have a regional game later on. Also, the Islanders are playing a preseason game, if that’s your thing. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here, as long as it is not politics or religion. Thanks.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 0: Tanaka masterful as Yankees win 90th game of 2017

For the first time since 2012, the Yankees have won 90 games in a season. They shut the Blue Jays out 4-0 in Friday afternoon’s series opener, and they did it thanks to a masterful performance from their erstwhile ace. The Yankees are still alive in the AL East, though one more Red Sox win, and it’s over. At least the Yankees are making them earn it.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

TanaKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKa
If this was indeed Masahiro Tanaka‘s final start as a Yankee, he went out with a bang. A good bang. Not a “he gave up a lot of home runs” bang. Tanaka took a perfect game into the fifth inning and didn’t allow a hit to the outfield until the sixth inning, when Ryan Goins lined a single to center. Toronto’s only baserunner up to that point was Ezequiel Carrera, who beat out an infield single in the fifth to end the perfect game bid.

Tanaka struck out six of the first nine batters he faced and 12 of the first 18 batters he faced Friday afternoon, and only one of those 12 strikeouts was looking. Both the splitter and slider were working beautifully. Tanaka threw 103 total pitches and finished with 23 swinging strikes, most of which came on pitches that dove out of the strike zone. Here is the pitch location of those 23 swings and misses, via Baseball Savant:

masahiro-tanaka-whiffs

No pitcher in baseball is better than Tanaka at getting hitters to chase out of the strike zone. His 42.7% chase rate going into Friday’s game was far away the highest among the 58 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title this year. Corey Kluber was a distant second at 39.7%. Tanaka’s ability to get swings on pitches out of the zone is unmatched and it was on full display Friday. He had the Blue Jays fishing all afternoon.

Tanaka’s final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 15 K on 103 pitches. The 15 strikeouts are a new career high and tie Stephen Strasburg for the most in a game this season. Also, Tanaka struck out every Blue Jay at least once. A few other notes:

  • Tanaka has three 13+ strikeout games this year, tied with Kluber for the second most in baseball. Only Chris Sale has more. He has four.
  • The last Yankee to strike out every opposing batter with 13+ strikeouts in the game overall? Ron Guidry in his franchise record 18-strikeout game back in 1978.
  • A full list of Yankees with 15+ strikeouts and zero walks in a start: Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. That’s it. That’s the list.

Tanaka finishes the regular season with a 4.74 ERA (4.34 FIP) and 194 strikeouts in 178.1 innings. So close to 200 strikeouts! Only four times in franchise history have two pitchers recorded 190+ strikeouts: 1904 (Jack Chesbro, Jack Powell), 2001 (Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina), 2009 (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett), and 2017 (Luis Severino, Tanaka). Between the one-and-done nature of the Wild Card Game and the looming opt-out, this might’ve been Tanaka’s final start with the Yankees. I hope not, but it might’ve been. Heck of a way to go out. Hope to see you in the ALDS, Masahiro.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Scratch Out Four Runs
This was one of those games that felt like a blowout even though it wasn’t really a blowout. Early runs and great pitching tends to do that. The Yankees struck for two runs right in the first inning. They loaded the bases with one out on a single (Jacoby Ellsbury), a walk (Aaron Judge), and a single (Didi Gregorius). Starlin Castro opened the scoring with an infield single that I could’ve sworn was foul ball off his foot, but apparently night.

The well-placed infield single — it was a little dribbler in front of third base, Josh Donaldson had no chance for a play at any base — gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead, and Greg Bird stretched it to 2-0 with a sacrifice fly. Judge drove in the third run with a rocket single to left in the fifth inning, after Ellsbury singled and stole second. In the third inning Judge grimaced a bit as he ran through first base on a ground out — cameras caught him trying to stretch something (back? legs?) out in the dugout — which was scary, but he stayed in the game and hit a 116 mph single, so yeah. He’s fine.

The Yankees scored their fourth run of the day in the sixth inning, which featured Gregorius stealing second base twice. He stole second, but was sent back to first when the umpire ruled Castro fouled off the pitch. Gregorius then stole second again anyway later in the at-bat. Four steals in four attempts in the game for the Yankees. Blue Jays catcher Raffy Lopez is now 1-for-17 (5.9%) throwing out runners this season. Yikes. A Bird double plated Didi for the 4-0 lead.

Leftovers
David Robertson pitched around a walk in the eighth and Dellin Betances was yanked after allowing a single and a walk in the ninth, which seems completely ridiculous to me. A priority right now should be getting Betances on track, not grabbing every last win. The Yankees were up 4-0 at the time! Somehow Jonathan Holder had a longer leash in a one-run game Thursday night. Good grief.

Eight hits for the Yankees but only one extra-base hit. That was Bird’s double in the sixth. Ellsbury, Judge, Gregorius (two), Castro, Bird, and Austin Romine had the singles. Judge and Todd Frazier drew the only walks. The Yankees went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position, if that’s your thing.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com for the video highlights. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The penultimate game of the regular season. The Yankees and Blue Jays will play the middle game of this three-game season-ending series Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular old 1pm ET start. Jaime Garcia and Marcus Stroman are the scheduled starting pitchers for that one.

Yankeemetrics: Rounding third, heading home (Sept. 25-28)

(New York Post)
(New York Post)

The Dinger King
The Yankees returned to the Bronx on Monday and kicked off the final week of the season with a sweet 11-3 rout of the Royals. They improved to 17-0 in games decided by at least eight runs, a typical blowout for this year’s club. The Yankees have the most wins by that margin in the majors, and are the only team that hasn’t suffered a loss by eight or more runs.

Aaron Judge stole the statistical spotlight as he enjoyed a record-breaking day at the Stadium. He clubbed his 49th and 50th homers of the season, not only becoming MLB’s all-time rookie home run king, but also etching his name alongside a bunch of franchise legends and some of baseball’s most iconic players. Let’s recap a few of his other incredible feats:

  • Fifth player in franchise history to hit 50-plus homers, a group that includes A-Rod (2007), Roger Maris (1961), Mickey Mantle (twice) and Babe Ruth (four times)
  • Joined Mantle (1956) and Ruth (1920) as the only Yankees with seven multi-homer games in a season at age 25 or younger
  • With his 12th and 13th homers in September, he became the youngest Yankee to go deep 13 times in a calendar month since a 25-year-old Maris had 14 in June 1960.
  • Coming off his two-homer effort on Sunday, Judge became the first rookie in franchise history with back-to-back multi-homer games
  • He also got his 120th walk, making him just the second player in major-league history to hit 50 homers and walk 120 times in a season before the age of 26. The other? That Ruth dude in 1920.
(AP)
(AP)

While Judge hogged the headlines, a couple other Baby Bombers helped turn this game into a rout with both Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez adding to their 2017 homer totals. It was the first time in the majors that Judge, Sanchez and Bird each went yard in the same game.

And let’s not forget about the old guy on the mound, CC “The Stopper” Sabathia. After cruising through six scoreless innings, he coughed up a couple homers in the seventh but still finished with a win and a bare-minimum quality start. More impressively, he’s now 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 11 games following a Yankee loss, the best record and lowest ERA of any MLB pitcher with at least seven such starts this season.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Another win, another clinching
After beating the Rays on Tuesday, the Yankees locked down homefield advantage for the Wild Card game next week. Aaron Hicks was activated from the disabled list in the morning, inserted into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact with a spectacular grand-slam-saving catch in the first inning. Even Hicks was amazed by the jaw-dropping home run robbery:

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Aaron Judge didn’t homer but still contributed with an RBI double and scored his 125th run of the season. He joined Ted Williams (1939) and Joe DiMaggio (1936) as the only players in MLB history with at least 100 RBIs and 125 runs in their rookie campaigns.

Gary Sanchez also reached a nice round number, notching his 90th RBI of the year on a bloop single in the eighth. He’s the youngest American League catcher (primary position) to drive in at least 90 runs in a season since a 24-year-old Yogi Berra in 1949.

On the mound, Jordan Montgomery delivered his second straight gem, holding the Rays to one run over six solid innings. After allowing seven homers in his first eight home starts, he’s kept the ball in the park in each of his last six home starts dating back to July. How impressive that? The only Yankee with a longer single-season streak of homerless starts at the current Yankee Stadium is CC Sabathia in 2011. And through Wednesday, he was the only pitcher in the majors that had pitched at least 30 innings at home since the All-Star break and hadn’t given up a longball in his own stadium.

(USA Today)
(USA Today)

#TooManyHomers
A late-September Home Run Derby broke out in the Bronx on Wednesday as the Yankees enjoyed a 6-1 win backed by three homers and another masterful performance by Luis Severino. It improved their record to 18-7 this month, their most September wins since they went 19-9 in 2009 en route to … World Series title No. 27.

Amidst the offensive fireworks, the star of the game was the team’s 23-year-old ace. Severino rebounded from a poor start against the Twins last week to produce another typical dominant outing – nine strikeouts and one run allowed in six sharp innings – in the final performance of his historic 2017 campaign.

It was the 16th time this year he surrendered no more than one run, the most such starts in the majors, and the most by any Yankee since Mike Mussina also had 16 in 2001. He’s also youngest AL pitcher with 16 starts of one run or fewer in a season since Vida Blue in 1971, and the youngest right-hander in either league to reach that mark since a 21-year-old Dwight Gooden in 1985.

The nine strikeouts gave him 230, matching CC Sabathia (2011) for the third-highest single-season total in franchise history; the two guys ahead of him are Ron Guidry (248 in 1978) and Hall-of-Famer Jack Chesbro (239 in 1904). Oh, and Chesbro’s 1904 season is mind-boggling in the context of today’s pitching environment: he threw 454 innings while setting modern-era records in games started (51), wins (41) and complete games (48)!

Severino also lowered his ERA to 2.98, becoming the first Yankee to qualify for the ERA title with a sub-3.00 ERA since David Cone and Andy Pettitte in 1997, and the youngest to do it since Dave Righetti in 1981. Combined with his 230 strikeouts, and Sevvy is in some pretty elite company:

The last American League pitcher with 230 or more strikeouts and an ERA below 3.00 in his age-23 season or younger was Roger Clemens in 1986, the year he captured his first Cy Young award and the league MVP.

(AP)
(AP)

#NotEnoughHomers
The Yankees road to October hit a speedbump with a deflating 9-6 loss in the series finale. Let’s recap this rollercoaster-like game with a Yankeemetrics-style of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Ugly
Handed a 4-1 lead, Sonny Gray imploded in the fifth inning, surrendering five runs in the frame (six overall) before getting pulled with two outs. It was definitely not the way he wanted to cap off his regular season in the Bronx. Following the disaster outing, his final three starts at Yankee Stadium look like this: 15 2/3 innings, 15 runs, 17 hits, six homers.

The Bad:
Normally a dinger party equals a Yankee win, but somehow the Bronx Bombers managed to snatch defeat from a near-certain victory. Prior to Thursday, they were 13-0 when hitting at least four homers in a game this season, the second-best record in MLB. The last game they lost despite going deep four times was August 22, 2016 at Seattle, and their last such defeat at Yankee Stadium was more than two years ago on June 23, 2015 versus the Phillies.

The Good:
The offense got off to a fast start when Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge opened the game with back-to-back homers, the first Yankee duo to do that since Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter on April 16, 2012 against the Twins. Greg Bird invited himself to the power party with a fourth-inning solo blast, his eighth homer and 23rd RBI in 26 games since coming off the DL. By the way, that’s a 162-game pace of 49 homers and 143 RBIs.

And with his first-inning blast, Judge continued his destruction of the record books:

  • 32nd longball at The Stadium this year, tying Babe Ruth — who hit 32 at the Polo Grounds in 1921 — for the most homers hit at home in a season in franchise history.
  • 14th homer this month, the first Yankee to go deep 14 times in September since Ruth set the major-league record for September home runs with 17 in 1927.
  • The only other right-handed batters to wear pinstripes and hit 14 homers in any calendar month were A-Rod (April 2007) and Joe DiMaggio (twice).
  • 8th straight game with extra-base hit, the longest streak by Yankee rookie in the last 100 years

Game 160: Tanaka’s final start as a Yankee?

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Given the one-and-done nature of the Wild Card Game and his looming opt-out, Masahiro Tanaka may very well be making his final start as a Yankee this afternoon. CC Sabathia may have already made his, which is kind of a bummer. It’s a good thing Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery emerged this year, and the Sonny Gray trade went down, because the 2018 and beyond rotation was looking pretty sketchy as recently as six months ago.

Anyway, the Yankees begin their final series of the regular season today, and they are still alive in the AL East. They have to win out and the Red Sox have to lose out to force a Game 163 tiebreaker. That’s the only path to the division title right now. Unlikely? Very. Impossible? No! Get the 90th win of the season today and make the Red Sox sweat a little bit. Don’t give them the division title with a loss. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Aaron Hicks
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. DH Chase Headley
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

I’m kinda surprised more regulars aren’t out of the lineup. Day game after a night game and the AL East title is a long shot. Whatever. The weather is amazing in New York. Great afternoon to spend at the park. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network out of market. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Welcome back, Adam Warren. He has been activated off the disabled list, the Yankees announced. I imagine he’ll pitch today regardless of score, then once again at some point this weekend.

9/29 to 10/1 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

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

The Last Time They Met

It’s been just five days since the Yankees last played the Jays. On Sept. 22-24, the Jays took two of three from the Bombers, inching the Yankees closer to the Wild Card Game and further away from the division.

  • Masahiro Tanaka had a rough outing, giving up eight runs over 5.2 innings. The big blows were a trio of home runs, including a grand slam to nine-hole hitter Ryan Goins.
  • The Yankees clinched a playoff spot in the middle game, riding Sonny Gray and a three-run homer from Greg Bird.
  • Jaime Garcia met a similar fate to Tanaka as the Jays took the series finale. Teoscar Hernandez hit homers in all three games, but Aaron Judge had three of his own with two on Sunday.

Since They Last Met

  • After handing the Yankees two costly defeats, the Jays did them a favor with two wins against the Red Sox. They led early in the third game, too, but Marco Estrada came apart and the Sox won 10-7.
  • Josh Donaldson had one of his best series of the year. He went 8 for 13 with two doubles and three home runs. He has eight multi-hits this month and has brought his average from .253 to .272.
  • Hernandez had three more homers. He now has six in his last six games after just two in his first 17 with the Jays. That’s some impressive raking against playoff squads.

Their Story Right Now

The Jays have had a disappointing year that really got off the rails in April. At 75-84, they’re likely to finish in fourth or fifth place. If they had been able to play closer to .500 to start the year, they’d have been in contention for that second wild card. Donaldson’s late-season surge combined with efforts of Hernandez and others gives them hope for next year, especially if Aaron Sanchez is healthy. But with Donaldson’s free agency looming after 2018, the team is facing some tough decisions this offseason.

Lineup We Might See

With a ton of RHHs, this team doesn’t change its lineup up too often. Richard Urena could enter for Goins vs. lefties, plus this being the last series of the year could mean a lot of call-ups getting time.

1. Teoscar Hernandez, LF – (.282/.313/.667)
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B – (.272/.389/564)
3. Justin Smoak, 1B – (.272/.358/.534)
4. Jose Bautista, RF – (.204/.311/.370)
5. Kendrys Morales, DH – (.251/.309/.448)
6. Kevin Pillar, CF – (.256/.300/.404)
7. Russell Martin, C – (.221/.344/.389)
8. Ryan Goins, SS – (.237/.288/.357)
9. Darwin Barney, 2B – (.233/.276/.330)

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Joe Biagini
It’s an early start for Yom Kippur and Biagini will be taking the hill for the last time this season. The Yankees got to him on Saturday with Bird dealing the decisive blow. Despite that, Biagini pitched efficiently and had a low pitch count when taken out after five. The swingman is 3-12 this year with a 5.34 ERA but he has an FIP a run lower.

Last Outing (vs. NYY on Sept. 23) – 5.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 3 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Marcus Stroman
Stroman got the better of the Yankees on Sunday, although part of that was facing Garcia. He still allowed three runs in 5.2 innings. He has a 5.49 ERA with 11 strikeouts to 10 walks over 19.2 innings vs. the Yankees over four starts this year. Overall, he’s had an impressive seaaon with a 3.06 ERA over 197 innings, outperforming his peripherals in his age-26 season.

Last Outing (vs. NYY on Sept. 24) – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 2 K

Sunday (3:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Brett Anderson
Don’t let the new uniform fool you: This is the same Brett Anderson that lasted just two outs against the Yankees in May when he was with the Cubs. He gave up six hits over seven batters in his final start with Chicago. Since joining the Jays, he has a 6.04 ERA over six starts, but that mostly stems from an eight-run start over 1.1 innings against the Royals.

Be on the lookout for blisters: He left after just 80 pitches over five innings on Monday vs. Boston after his blister issues flared up.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on Sept. 25) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

Same bullpen, different week. Domenic summed up the Jays’ group pretty well last week, so check that out.  They had a day off on Thursday, so everyone should be fresh for Friday afternoon.

Who (Or What) to Watch?

These could easily be the last three games of Bautista’s career. Turning 37 in October, he’s past his prime and is becoming a liability in the outfield. He’ll have to hope for a team to give him a shot, likely as a platoon bat or designated hitter, but it could be a second straight rough offseason for Joey Bats.

As for the returning players, Hernandez is must-watch. He was acquired from the Astros in the Francisco Liriano trade and has raked over the last week. Can he bring his hot streak through the end of the year?

Mailbag: Wild Card Game, Torres, Judge, Rookie Seasons, Ruth

Only nine questions in the mailbag this week. I tried to keep it short because there’s a day game today and we’ve got a series preview coming and all that. As always, send your questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Buxton and Judge. (Presswire)
Buxton and Judge. (Presswire)

Paul asks: Given the Yankees success against the Twins and the power bullpen, is there any sense to start Tanaka or Gray in the WC Game in order to potentially match up Severino with Kluber? Not being able to match up our ace with Kluber would be terrible.

Do not underestimate the Twins. I know the Yankees have been the better team overall this season and I know the Yankees have dominated the head-to-head series since 2002 and I know the Yankees swept them last week, but do not underestimate the Twins. They absolutely could walk into Yankee Stadium and send the Yankees home Tuesday. Are they the inferior team? All signs point to yes. But any team can beat any team on any given night in this game.

Given the winner-take-all nature of the Wild Card Game, I believe you have to start your best pitcher regardless of opponent. I’d want the Yankees to start Luis Severino even if they were facing the Tigers, and the Tigers are terrible (5-22 in September!). Not being able to throw Severino twice in the ALDS stinks, but that’s life. That’s what happens when you don’t win your division and have to settle for a wildcard spot. I seem to be the only person confident in Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray, but give me Severino in the Wild Card Game.

Rubaiyat asks: Concerning the one game playoff format, Fangraphs had an interesting article on a different format. They looked at the KBO and thought that their wild card system would work. The first wild card team only has to win one game to advance to the next round while the second wild card has to win two games in order to advance. Obviously it’s not perfect, but it would give teams incentive to win the first wild card besides home field advantage. What do you think?

I like it. I wasn’t aware of that wildcard format until the FanGraphs article. It’s pretty neat. It creates much greater incentive to be the top wildcard team and would add more juice to the postseason races. Homefield advantage is important, don’t get me wrong, but it only helps so much. Having to win one game instead of two to advance would be an enormous advantage. Think about it, this year the top wildcard team in both leagues is likely to be six or seven games better than the second wildcard team, yet there’s no reward for that. The wildcard system used in Korea creates the opportunity for maximum chaos and I am cool with chaos.

Christopher asks: Seems like most have Gleyber Torres penciled in as the 3rd baseman of the future but wouldn’t Torres have more value as a 2nd basemen especially since Miguel Andujar looks like a potential above average 3rd baseman?

Yes, Torres would be more valuable at the up-the-middle position. The reason we’re all kinda penciling him in at third base is because there’s more opportunity there. Todd Frazier will presumably be gone next year and Chase Headley is as replaceable as it gets. Starlin Castro is not a great player — he’s gone backwards defensively this season, hasn’t he? — but he’s better than Headley, and he’s younger and under control longer. The Yankees figure to be much more willing to displace Headley than Castro, hence the potential opening at the hot corner. Gleyber could definitely wind up at second base long-term though, especially if the Yankees decide Starlin’s defense has slipped too much to stay on the middle of the diamond.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Erick asks: At the beginning of the year it looked like Judge would have the best rookie season of all time, then the slump happened. All things considered, where does his rookie season rank?

It is still arguably the greatest rookie season in history thanks to his power. That’s not an exaggeration. At the very least, it’s on the super duper short list of the best rookie seasons ever. Here’s where Aaron Judge ranked all-time among rookies who had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title heading into last night’s game:

  • AVG: .284 (138th)
  • OBP: .421 (8th)
  • SLG: .622 (2nd behind Rudy York)
  • OPS+: 168 (3rd behind Shoeless Joe Jackson and Jose Abreu)
  • HR: 50 (1st)
  • RBI: 113 (13th)
  • BB: 124 (1st)
  • K: 204 (1st)
  • WAR: +7.8 (4th behind Mike Trout, Shoeless Joe, and Dick Allen)

The strikeouts are the only negative in Judge’s game. Do you know who held the rookie strikeout record before Judge? Kris Bryant. He struck out 199 times in 2015 and he turned out okay. Judge is wrapping up what is easily a top five all-time rookie season for a position player, in my opinion. Possibly top three. Possibly the best! This is the kind of rookie season we’ll be talking about the rest of our lives.

Jeffrey asks: As of Tuesday, Judge and Sanchez have 83 homeruns this season and adding Didi, the trio have 108. Are they in the lead for teammate pairs/trios with homeruns this season?

They are not in the lead for either, pairs or trios. The Marlins lead both. Going into last night’s action, Miami had received 93 home runs from Giancarlo Stanton (57) and Marcell Ozuna (36). Judge (50) and Gary Sanchez (33) were second. Here are the most home runs for a trio of teammates going into last night’s game:

  1. Marlins: 118 by Stanton (57), Ozuna (36), Justin Bour (25)
  2. Yankees: 108 by Judge (50), Sanchez (33), Didi Gregorius (25)
  3. Rockies: 101 by Nolan Arenado (36), Charlie Blackmon (36), Mark Reynolds (29)
  4. Indians: 100 by Edwin Encarnacion (38), Francisco Lindor (33), Jose Ramirez (29)
  5. Blue Jays: 99 by Justin Smoak (38), Josh Donaldson (33), Kendrys Morales (28)

The fewest home runs by a trio of teammates this season is so sad I don’t even want to pass it along. It’s 45, by the Giants. Brandon Belt (18), Brandon Crawford (14), and Hunter Pence (13) are the team’s top three home run hitters. Good gravy. Judge has out-homered them by himself. The Braves have the second fewest homers by three teammates at 66, so the Giants lag big time.

Brian asks: Random question, with all the talk about Judge “First Yankee since Ruth…” I looked up Babe’s baseball reference page. Do you have any idea why he only won 1 MVP?! Seems completely insane.

The MVP award as we know it did not exist until 1931. From 1910-14, it was known as the Chalmers Award and given to the player with the highest batting average in the league. (The winner received a car from Chalmers Automobile.) There was no MVP from 1915-21, then, from 1922-29, there was the League Award, which was voted on by the writers. The League Award winner received a medal and a cash prize, and players were only allowed to win it once, which is why Ruth has only one MVP (1923). By time the current version of the MVP became a thing in 1931, Ruth was already in his mid-30s and starting to decline (though he was still ridiculously great), which is why he didn’t win any more MVPs.

Severino. (Presswire)
Severino. (Presswire)

Jason asks: If Sevy finishes 3rd in the CY and Judge is 2nd or 3rd in MVP – how rare an outcome would that be? When was the last time a team had a player finish in the top 3 in both of those (aside from when the same person won both)? How about a team having a player finish in the top 3 in CY, MVP and ROY? (maybe when Ichiro won the latter two and Felix finished high in the CY?)

The last time a team had two different players finish in the top three of the MVP and Cy Young voting was … last year. Rick Porcello (won the Cy Young … lol) and Mookie Betts (MVP runner-up) did it for the Red Sox. The last time it happened before that was 2014, when Corey Kluber (won the Cy Young) and Michael Brantley (third in MVP) did it for the Indians. Both the Tigers (Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera) and Cardinals (Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright) did it in 2013.

As for having a player in the top three of the MVP and Cy Young and Rookie of the Year, it happened twice during that 2013 season. The Cardinals did it with Wainwright (Cy Young runner-up), Molina (third in MVP), and Shelby Miller (third in Rookie of the Year) while the Tigers did it with Cabrera (won MVP), Scherzer (won Cy Young), and Jose Iglesias (Rookie of the Year runner-up). It happened in 2012 as well with Mike Trout (won Rookie of the Year, MVP runner-up) and Jered Weaver (third in Cy Young). It’s surprising how often this happens. I guess that’s because good teams tend to many really good players. That doesn’t make it any less cool, of course.

Anonymous asks: We all know that Judge has hit a ton of HRs, struck out a ton of times, and walked a ton of times, but how many times this year has he done all three in the same game? I’m curious if it’s enough of a thing where we can label a day at the plate like that as a ‘Judge’.

Judge does lead baseball in “Judges,” those games with a homer, a walk, and a strikeout. A three-true outcomes game. Here’s the Judges leaderboard going into last night’s game:

  1. Aaron Judge: 19
  2. Curtis Granderson: 13
  3. Joey Gallo: 11
  4. Khris Davis: 10
  5. Matt Carpenter: 10

Judge did it again last night, so he’s had 20 Judges this season. Those five players above are the only guys in baseball with double digit Judges. Brett Gardner is second on the Yankees with five Judges, including the one he had last night. Matt Holliday has four, Sanchez has three, and no other Yankee has more than one.

The all-time single-season leader in Judges is 21 by Mark McGwire in 1999, and the all-time career leader is Jim Thome. He had 154 Judges total. McGwire is a distant second with 133. Strikeouts are annoying, but I hope Judge racks up many more Judges. Homers and walks are cool.

Jonathan asks: How/when/why did you become a Yankee fan?

I’m pretty sure I’ve told this story on the site before, but I might as well tell it again since it’s been a while. I grew up in Brooklyn (Gravesend) and my grandparents lived literally right next door, so when I was a kid, I used to go over to their place all the time while my parents worked. Everyone in my family at the time was a Mets fan except my grandfather, who grew up a Yankees fan. He was a huge Joe DiMaggio fan. Huge. I spent my formative years hanging out with my grandfather and watching the Yankees in his den, and boom, a Yankees fan was born. My grandfather passed away a few years ago, so me and my younger brother are the only Yankees fans in the family. (My brother got it from me.)

One terrible inning dooms Gray, Yankees in 9-6 loss to Rays

A missed opportunity, this was. The Astros beat up on the Red Sox on Thursday night, but the Yankees couldn’t take advantage and trim the AL East deficit. They blew a three-run lead to the Rays and lost the series finale 9-6. Womp womp. One more Red Sox win or one more Yankees loss clinches the division title for Boston. Ain’t dead yet!

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

Special Guests On The Toe-Night Show
For the 11th time this season, the Yankees hit back-to-back home runs Thursday night. And they did it to start the game. Brett Gardner sent Jacob Faria’s second pitch of the night into the second deck in right field for a leadoff homer, then Aaron Judge followed with a home run on Faria’s seventh pitch. That one was also hit into the second deck in right field. Can’t remember the last time a right-hander batter went right field second deck like that.

Because they both went deep, Gardner and Judge got be special guests on the Toe-Night Show, the mock press conference that has invaded post-dinger dugouts in the Bronx. Ronald Torreyes and his crew have a boom mic and everything these days (pic via @MearnsPSA):

aaron-judge-toe-night-show

This is good. I enjoy this. The back-to-back home runs gave the Yankees a quick 2-1 lead, and they continued to add on in the ensuing innings. Todd Frazier drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with a single in the second inning — Ellsbury singled and advanced on a passed ball earlier in the inning — to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead, then Greg Bird visited the short porch for a solo home run in the fourth. I’m pretty sure Bird thought he missed it. He sure didn’t react like it had a chance to get out.

Judge (eight games) and Bird (six games) have the two longest active extra-base hit streaks in baseball right now, and Judge’s is the longest by a Yankee since Johnny Damon had an extra-base hit in ten straight games in May 2009. Also, Gardner’s home run a) extended his career high to 21, and b) was only his second since July 28th. He had only one homer in his last 53 games going into Thursday night. Huh. I didn’t realize that.

The Fifth Inning Meltdown
Sonny Gray labored right from the get-go Thursday night — he couldn’t hit the mitt to save his life — yet he still managed to get through four innings with one run allowed. The one run was a Corey Dickerson solo homer into the second deck in right field in the first inning. That gave the Rays a quick 1-0 lead before Gardner and Judge answered with back-to-back homers in the bottom of the first.

The wheels fell off in the fifth inning and Gray finished with the following line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 2 K on 86 pitches. The six runs are the most Sonny’s allowed in his eleven starts as a Yankee, and the five walks are the second most he’s ever allowed. (He had a seven-walk start in 2015.) Anyway, let’s recap that fifth inning meltdown with an annotated play-by-play. ESPN’s redesign is just awful, but I’m going to power through it.

yankees-vs-rays-play-by-play1(1) That was an all-around ugly play. Gray spiked a breaking ball and it got away from Gary Sanchez, and on the play at the plate, Gray slid in on his knees and tried to apply the tag. It was not pretty. His glove bent back and he slid into the plate awkwardly. I know the competitive juices are flowing and all that, but geez, just let the run score in Game 159 when you’ve already clinched a postseason spot. No need to risk injury.

(2) The wild pitch was clearly on Gray. The passed ball was most definitely on Sanchez. It can sometimes be tough to tell who is to blame on passed pitches, but on these two, it was pretty clear. Sanchez let a breaking ball scoot through his legs, allowing the run to score. It had been a while since Gary had one of those. Twelve games, in fact. He does still lead the league with 16 passed balls now. I still love him.

(3) Between the Dickerson homer and the Wilson Ramos go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth, Gray has now allowed nine home runs in six starts and 35.2 innings this month. He allowed seven homers in his previous 20 starts and 121 innings. Six of the nine September homers have come at home, so Yankee Stadium has not been too kind to Sonny these last few weeks. He’s been off a little the last few times out, and when you’re off a little in this park, the ball tends to carry over the wall. Gray’ll figure it out soon. Kinda has to with the postseason approaching.

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

(4) I don’t really get why Jonathan Holder was the first one out of the bullpen in a one-run game, even in the fifth, especially with every game a must win to have a shot at the division title. Even with Dellin Betances and Chad Green unavailable, it seemed like a spot to go to Tommy Kahnle to escape the jam and keep the deficit at one, then let the September kids start an inning clean. Instead, Holder came in, hit a batter — I have no idea why the play-by-play says he came in after the hit batter, but that’s wrong, Holder his Daniel Robertson — and allowed a run-scoring single to former Yankees farmhand Cesar Puello. Three batters faced for Holder, zero outs.

(5) The third and final batter Holder faced was Peter Bourjos, he of the .224/.276/.388 (76 wRC+) batting line. Bourjos split the left-center field gap with a rocket two-run triple. Bad. Bad bad bad. I imagine Holder’s … uh … hold on a 40-man roster is pretty tenuous. Failing to retire a batter against the bottom of the lineup in a one-run game is no way to stick around. By the way, Bourjos against the Yankees in 2017: .290/.333/.613. Bourjos against everyone else in 2017: .211/.262/.342. I hate baseball sometimes.

(6) The seven runs are the most allowed by the Yankees in an inning this season. They’d allowed six runs in an inning on only two occasions. Is it weird that seems low to me? Not that I think the Yankees stink or anything, it just seems like every team would allow six or more runs in an inning a bunch of times in a season, not twice in 158 games. Eh, whatever. If you’re going to have your worst inning of the season, after you clinch is a good time to do it. The seven-run fifth turned a 4-1 lead into an 8-4 deficit.

Leftovers
Rough game for Sanchez, physically. Gray spiked a curveball in the dirt in the second inning, and it came up and hit Sanchez in the neck, under his face mask. He was in obvious pain after that but did stay in the game. I have no idea why anyone ever catches. It looks terrible. Also, Sanchez took a Tommy Hunter fastball up high to the shoulder in the fifth inning. That one looked like it hurt. I imagine Gary will sit tomorrow in the day after after a night game. He could use it after this one. He got beat up pretty good.

Aaron Hicks pinch-hit in the ninth and smacked a home run. He’s now 3-for-5 with two homers and three walks in three games since coming back from the disabled list. And he robbed a grand slam. Ellsbury had two hits (both singles) while Gardner (homer), Judge (homer), Starlin Castro (single), Bird (homer), and Frazier (single) had one hit apiece. Gardner also drew two walks. He’s been on base 34 times in his last 19 games.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I really wish all the innings the Yankees gave Holder this year had gone to Ben Heller. I just don’t get it. Heller retired six of seven batters faced and allowed just a walk in 2.1 scoreless innings. He struck out two and has allowed one run in ten innings with the Yankees this year, and had a 2.88 ERA (3.09 FIP) with a 36.8% strikeout rate and a 9.4% walk rate in 56.1 Triple-A innings. /shrugs

And finally, Gardner and Judge combined for the first set of back-to-back homers to start a game for the Yankees since way back in April 2012, when Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson did it. The Rays, meanwhile, have allowed back-to-back homers to start a game three different times this season, including twice this month. That seems bad.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and we have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The final series of the regular season. Time flies, eh? The Blue Jays are coming to town for a three-game weekend set. Friday’s series opener is an afternoon game with a 1pm ET start. Day game after a night game with pretty much everything clinched? Something tells me we might be in for a Spring Training lineup Friday. Masahiro Tanaka and Joe Biagini are the scheduled starting pitchers.