Pineda’s strong start, Minnesota’s mistakes allow Yanks to rally for a 2-1 win over Twins

The wins don’t come as easily as they once did, but the Yankees again beat the Twins on Saturday afternoon, this time by the score of 2-1. They’ve won five of six games against Minnesota this season and are back over .500 at 37-36. The Yankees have spent a grand total of six days over .500 in 2016.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Big Mike‘s Big Game
By any measure, this was Michael Pineda‘s best start of the season. He held the Twins to one run on two hits and a walk in six innings while striking out eight. Pineda threw 94 total pitches and got 14 swings and misses, including eight whiffs on 16 swings against his slider. That is: good. The one run came on a Brian Dozier solo homer, which was nothing more than a poorly located 3-1 fastball in the second inning. Eh, it happens. Dozier has some pop.

Pineda has now allowed ten earned runs in his last five starts and 30 innings. He had a 6.92 ERA (4.67 FIP) through his first ten starts of the season, and he’s since been able to lower that to a 5.51 ERA (3.88 FIP) through 15 starts. Progress! Last month there was talk about sending Pineda to the bullpen or the minors and it wasn’t undeserved. He was awful. Pineda’s reportedly corrected some things mechanically with the help of pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and now he’s pitching much more like the Michael Pineda the Yankees hoped to see in 2016.

Two-Out Rally To Tie
The game started so well for the Yankees. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner opened the first inning with a single and a walk, respectively, but the middle of the order couldn’t drive them in. They couldn’t even advance them another base. Ervin Santana settled down and retired nine straight after that, and it wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Yankees were finally able to break through and tie the game 1-1.

That fifth inning rally took place with two outs, when Ellsbury, Gardner, and Carlos Beltran strung together three straight hits to score the run. Ellsbury singled in a hitter friendly 2-0, Gardner singled in a pitcher friendly 1-2 count, and Beltran singled in a hitter friendly 3-1 count. Santana made some location mistakes that inning and paid. He was still able to hold the Yankees to one run on six hits and two walks in six innings. Annoying!

Battle of the Bullpens
For a while no one wanted to win this game. After Brian McCann‘s leadoff single in the sixth, Mark Teixeira hit what should have been a tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball. Instead Eduardo Escobar bobbled it and everyone was safe. Big break! Starlin Castro then banged into a 5-4 double play that wasn’t too far away from being a 5-4-3 triple play. It looked like it had a chance off the bat. The Yankees didn’t score after Escobar’s misplay anyway.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Then, in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Rodriguez led off with an infield single (!) of all things. Pinch-runner Aaron Hicks was held up by third base coach Joe Espada on McCann’s single into the right field corner, though he would have scored because the throw went into second base. I understand the hold — runner at third with no out in the eighth inning of a tie game? no reason to push it — but it looked like a missed opportunity.

Teixeira followed with a strikeout and we were all waiting for the inning-ending double play to kill the rally. Castro kinda sorta obliged, hitting a chopper to Escobar for what should have been a 6-4-3 twin killing. Except Escobar misplayed the short hop and got zero outs on the play. Hicks scored to give the Yankees the 2-1 lead. The Yankees tried to blow that rally there — McCann was thrown out at the plate trying to score an insurance run on Chase Headley‘s sac fly later in the inning — but the Twins wouldn’t let them. Minnesota Twins baseball, folks.

Leftovers
With the score tied in the late innings, Joe Girardi went to his big three relievers again, and they combined to allow one baserunner in three innings. That was Joe Mauer’s two-out single against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. Dellin Betances struck out one, Andrew Miller struck out two, and Chapman struck out one. Those guys didn’t throw many pitches the last two days (Miller leads with 26 pitches), but Girardi doesn’t like to use his relievers three days in a row, so it’s possible none of the three will be available in the series finale Sunday. We’ll see.

Teixeira went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game back from the knee injury. He wasn’t tested with any tough plays in the field. Gardner had three hits while Beltran and McCann had two each. Ellsbury, A-Rod, and Didi Gregorius had base hits as well. The Yankees had ten hits and all ten were singles. This was the team’s first win without an extra-base hit all season. They were 0-6 in such games prior to this one.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN again for the updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees will try to wrap up this three-game sweep Sunday afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi and Tyler Duffey are the scheduled starters. There are five games left on this homestand, the final homestand before the All-Star break, so head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of those five games live.

Saturday Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the day. FOX and MLB Network are showing regional games throughout the night, but it’s a very nice day here in New York, so go out if you can. Talk about whatever here in the meantime.

Game 73: Teixeira Returns

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Exactly three weeks ago, Mark Teixeira was placed on the 15-day DL with torn cartilage in his right knee. There was talk he would need season-ending surgery. Instead, Teixeira returns to the lineup today after “rehabbing” the knee. I say “rehabbing” because torn cartilage won’t repair itself. (I’m no doctor. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) He’s going to need surgery at some point. Teixeira is receiving treatment and lubrication injections to make the injury manageable for the time being.

If nothing else, Teixeira’s return will instantly improve the team defense. He’s still an all-world defender at first base. Will he help the offense? That’s another matter. Teixeira was hitting only .180/.271/.263 (47 wRC+) at the time of the injury, and he hadn’t homered in nearly two full months. He had a fantastic season a year ago, so it’s not like you have to look back real far to see the last time he was a productive player. Hopefully the little break gets his bat on track. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 1B Mark Teixeira
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a lovely day in New York. Sunny, not many clouds, and temperatures in the low-80s. Good afternoon to spend at the ol’ ballyard. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network if you’re out of market. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Ike Davis was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot for Teixeira, the Yankees announced. He can elected free agency if he clears waivers because he has more than five years of service time. Do any other teams offer a greater opportunity though? Teixeira is playing with torn cartilage, so it wouldn’t take much for Davis to return to the big leagues. He might stick around.

King: Yankees to hold private workout for Yulieski Gurriel in the coming days

(Donald Miralle/Getty)
(Donald Miralle/Getty)

According to George King, the Yankees will have Cuban infielder Yulieski Gurriel in Tampa for a private workout either this weekend or early next week. He also has private workouts scheduled with the Dodgers and Mets, among other teams. Gurriel will not hold an open showcase for scouts. He’s doing private workouts only.

The Yankees have brought pretty much every big name Cuban player to Tampa for private workouts in recent years, including Yoan Moncada and Aledmys Diaz. Obviously they didn’t sign any of those guys. Bringing Gurriel to Tampa does not necessarily mean the team has serious interest in signing him. They could just be doing their due diligence.

I wrote about Gurriel and the Yankees last week, so check that out. I’m not going to repeat it all here. He projects to be an impact bat and gosh, the Yankees sure could use one of those. There are three main questions here: one, where does he play? Two, how much will his age (32) work against him? And three, what’s is going to cost? Lots, probably.

Dave Cameron wrote a interesting post yesterday explaining why Gurriel may not command a huge contract like Rusney Castillo and Hector Olivera, who received six-year deals worth $11M+ annually. I’m not so sure. It only takes one team to love the talent and pay huge. We’ll find out soon enough. Gurriel could sign soon and make his MLB debut in second half.

Yankees come from behind for 5-3 win over Twins in series opener

There’s nothing quite like a game against the Twins to make you feel good about the Yankees, is there? The Yankees rallied from behind to beat Minnesota in game one of their three-game series Friday night. The final score was 5-3. New York is, once again, a .500 ballclub. They’re 36-36. It would be cool if they got over .500 and stayed over this time.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

A Shaky Tanaka Start Is Still A Quality Start
For only the fifth time in his 15 starts this season, Masahiro Tanaka allowed more than two runs Friday night. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings and it definitely could have been worse; Tanaka stranded a leadoff double in the second inning and runners on first and second in the third inning. The first inning was his only 1-2-3 inning.

There has been plenty of talk this season about Tanaka’s performance on normal rest versus his performance with an extra day of rest, and for good reason. He’s pitched way better with an extra day (like most pitchers). Tanaka was making this start with two extra days of rest thanks to the off-days Monday and Thursday, and I wonder if he was a little too strong because of it. He was up in the zone a lot and wasn’t commanding his fastball as well as he usually does.

Either way, Tanaka struck out a season high tying seven batters. He generated 14 swings and misses as well, though that’s nothing special by his standards. He’s had 14+ whiffs in eight of his 15 starts. This was one of those “he’s not at his best but he’s still good enough to win” games for Tanaka. He bent a little but did not break. Tanaka’s one of those guys who doesn’t have disaster games. Even when he’s bad, he’s still pretty good.

Come From Behind
The Twins took a 2-0 lead on Eduardo Nunez‘s third inning single, and the Yankees answered right back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Austin Romine reached on error before being erased on Brett Gardner‘s fielder’s choice. Carlos Beltran doubled into the left field corner to score Gardner, then Alex Rodriguez pulled a ground ball single through the left side of the infield to score Beltran.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Watching the play live, I thought Beltran was going to be out at the plate. Luckily Robbie Grossman’s throw was well off-line, allowing Carlos to score and A-Rod to take second base. This was just the Twins being the Twins. Lefty Tommy Milone faced six hitters that inning and four of the first five saw a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count. Beltran was the lone exception, and that was only because he doubled on the first pitch. Bad teams find a way to lose, and the Twins and Milone found a way to let the Yankees back into the game that inning.

Minnesota took a 3-2 lead in the fourth thanks to a walk (Byung-Ho Park), a double (Kurt Suzuki), and a ground out (Byron Buxton). The Yankees again answered right back, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth. They loaded the bases with no outs on a walk (Chase Headley), a bunt single (Didi Gregorius), and a Joe Mauer error (Aaron Hicks). Romine plated the first run with a sac fly, then Rob Refsnyder came through with two-out single to score the second run, giving New York a 4-3 lead.

Game Over
Once Tanaka got through six innings, it was time to turn things over to the big three relievers. They retired all nine batters they faced. Dellin Betances struck out one and threw an 88.7 mph curveball, which is a) nuts, and b) not even his fastball curveball of the year. He threw an 89.4 mph bender in his last appearance. Andrew Miller fanned one in the eighth.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth and holy crap, that was easily his most dominant outing of the season. He threw eleven pitches, all of them for strikes, and ten of the eleven clocked in at 101.3 mph or above. The one “slow” pitch was the 91.1 mph changeup he threw to end the game. Here’s his pitch-by-pitch velocity, via Brooks Baseball:

Arodlis Chapman velocity

That changeup looks like he dropped the mic and walked off the stage. It was a ridiculous inning. Chapman’s fastball averaged 103.2 mph and topped out at 104.3 mph on the night. It was the first time he hit 104+ since last August. The weather is starting to warm up and it looks like Aroldis is really starting to cut it loose. That was a fun inning.

Leftovers
Gardner and Gregorius went 1-for-9 combined — the one was Didi’s bunt single — but man, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Gardner nearly beat out an infield single in the first and later hit two line drives right at infielders for outs. Gregorius sent a ball to the right field warning track and pulled a would-be double just a few inches foul. Those two had way better swings than the 1-for-9 would lead you to believe.

Every starter had a hit except Gardner and Romine, though Romine had the sac fly, which was well struck to deep left field. It looked like it had a chance to go out off the bat, but alas. A-Rod was the only player with two hits. Hicks swatted a solo homer in the bottom of the eight for a much appreciated insurance run. I’m sure that felt good against his former team. It was Hicks’ third homer of the season overall and his first against a lefty.

And finally, the Yankees struck out only six times as a team. It was their 31st game with six or fewer strikeouts this season. Only the Angels (38), Giants (36), and Athletics (33) have more. The offense hasn’t been great this year, but the Yankees don’t get enough credit for putting the ball in play as much as they do. Their team 18.5% strikeout rate is fifth lowest in MLB this season.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, you want to go over to ESPN. MLB.com is the place to go for the various video highlights. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Twins will continue this three-game series Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular 1:05pm ET start. Hooray for that. Michael Pineda and Ervin Santana are the scheduled starters. This is the last homestand before the All-Star break, so if you want to catch tomorrow’s game or any of the other five games on the homestand, head over to RAB Tickets.

DotF: Judge, Sanchez, and Austin combine for five homers in Scranton’s win

Both OF Aaron Judge (No. 3) and RHP Vicente Campos (No. 14) landed on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, so check that out.

Triple-A Scranton (8-5 win over Pawtucket in ten innings)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • 2B Donovan Solano: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 CS — he’s easily been the best of the various scrap heap infielders the Yankees signed for Triple-A depth (Pete Kozma, Jonathan Diaz, etc.)
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — fifth homer in his last six games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — hit back-to-back-to-back homers with Solano and Judge in the tenth inning
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-5, 3 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding) — all three homers came against on-and-off big leaguer Roenis Elias … second three-homer game in the farm system this year … Chris Gittens did it last week
  • CF Jake Cave: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Luis Severino: 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HB, 7/2 GB/FB — 70 of 97 pitches were strikes (72%) … easily his worst Triple-A outing of the year
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 22 of 45 pitches were strikes (49%)
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — nine pitches, seven strikes

[Read more…]

Game 72: The Twins, Again

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Is there ever a bad time to play the Twins? Not for the Yankees, who have dominated this rivalry for more than a decade now. They took three of four from Minnesota last week, and while that can be considered a success, it’s always disappointing when you have a chance to sweep and fall short. The Yankees need all the wins they can get right now, so go take care of business this weekend. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. CF Aaron Hicks
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It has been nice and sunny all day in New York, so we’re in for a clear night tonight. The game will begin shortly after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: CC Sabathia (ankle) feels better and is expected to make his next start. He rolled the ankle throwing a pitch Wednesday afternoon.