Game 80: Tanaka Time vs. Tampa

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

This weekend’s series with the Rays is pretty important. I mean, all games against AL East rivals will be important going forward because the division is so tight. Every single game matters. Each win in July is one less you need in September.

Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound tonight following two really shaky starts that featured six total home runs allowed. Three in each start. The Yankees might be tied for first today, but it’s hard to see them staying atop the division if Tanaka doesn’t straight himself out. Here is Tampa Bay’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Absolutely flawless weather in New York today. Beautiful blue skies, just enough clouds, temperatures in the high-70s/low-80s, and a nice cool breeze. Just perfect. This is what I want the weather to be for the rest of my life. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Rotation Update: Ivan Nova will start Sunday on normal rest, Joe Girardi told reporters. CC Sabathia is being pushed back to Wednesday to give him extra rest, and also extra time to work on things in the bullpen. Also, pushing him back means Sabathia will a) make just one start before the All-Star break instead of two, and b) not face the division rival Rays and Red Sox these next ten days.

Injury Update: Looking for a timetable for Jacoby Ellsbury‘s return? Well we’re not getting one. Girardi basically said he’ll be back when he’s back. Ellsbury (knee) has played two minor league rehab games this week but has had to sit out two others with fatigue. He is not playing for High-A Tampa tonight.

Roster Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Carlos Beltran was placed on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain. Taylor Dugas was sent down as well and both Ramon Flores and Gregorio Petit were called up.

Yankees to donate $150,000 to charity in exchange for A-Rod’s 3,000th hit ball

(Photo via @zack_hample)
(Photo via @zack_hample)

Earlier today, the Yankees announced they have reached an agreement with noted ballhawk Zack Hample for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit ball. The team will donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball, a charity Hample has been involved with for years. There will be a press conference to present A-Rod with the ball this afternoon.

Hample has caught thousands of balls over the years and literally wrote a book on the best ways to catch baseballs at games. He’s caught a lot of grief the last few weeks for saying he wouldn’t give the ball to A-Rod, but give him props, Hample used the ball to get a ton of money for a good cause, not for personal gain like I would have.

Pitch In For Baseball is a charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to kids around the country. Here’s the website. The charity gets a ton of money and A-Rod gets his milestone baseball. Win-win. Nice job, everyone.

Yankees, A-Rod agree to donate 660th homer milestone bonus to charity

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees have reached a settlement for the $6M milestone bonus stemming from his 660th career home run, MLB and MLBPA announced in a joint statement. The union was handling the matter on A-Rod‘s behalf, and a few weeks ago we heard they requested a “hold” so they could continue to negotiate without filing a grievance before the deadline.

As part of the settlement, the Yankees will donate a whole bunch of money to various charities. No money is going to A-Rod. Here are the details from the press release:

As part of this resolution, Mr. Rodriguez and the Yankees have agreed that a total of $3.5 million in charitable contributions will be made by the Club, with $1 million going to the following charities that have long enjoyed the support of one or both: the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, and Pitch In For Baseball; and $2.5 million going to the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which will use the money to further programs and initiatives aimed at increasing youth participation in baseball, particularly in urban areas. Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. will determine the initiatives to be supported by the $2.5 million contribution after consulting with Mr. Rodriguez, and taking into consideration the focus of Mr. Rodriguez’s past charitable contributions. 

On one hand, MLBPA caved and was unable to get the player the bonus in his marketing agreement with the team. On the other hand, hooray for money going to charity, even if it’s not the full $6M. The Yankees also save on the luxury tax — A-Rod’s bonus would have counted against the tax and cost the team even more cash. I’m sure Hal Steinbrenner likes that.

There are still four more $6M milestone bonuses left in A-Rod’s marketing contract with the team. He’s due a bonus for his 714th (tying Babe Ruth), 755th (tying Hank Aaron), 762nd (tying Barry Bonds), and 763rd (passing Bonds) career homers. Alex comes into today with 15 dingers on the season and 669 in his career. He’s signed through 2017 and needs 45 homers to catch Ruth and trigger the next bonus. That might be a close one. Catching Ruth and Bonds seems unlikely.

The Yankees refused to pay Rodriguez the $6M bonus claiming his past performance-enhancing drug ties had rendered the milestone unmarketable.

Yankees place Beltran on 15-day DL, recall Flores and Petit

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees have placed Carlos Beltran on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain, the team announced. Ramon Flores and Gregorio Petit were both called up from Triple-A Scranton in corresponding moves. Taylor Dugas was optioned down to Triple-A to clear the other roster spot.

Beltran, 38, left Tuesday’s game in Anaheim after grabbing his side during an at-bat. He actually stayed in to finish the at-bat before being removed between innings. Beltran told reporters his oblique had been bothering him for a few days but the discomfort was manageable. Beltran went for tests yesterday that showed the strain.

Although he is hitting an average-ish .260/.309/.430 (102 wRC+) overall this season, Beltran has been much more productive since May 1st, hitting .299/.346/.494 (132 wRC+) in his last 188 plate appearances. The Yankees will miss his bat in the middle of the order for sure. His defense? Not so much. The lineup is a little shorter now though.

Flores wasn’t called up when Beltran initially got hurt because he couldn’t be recalled — he was still in his ten-day window after being sent down last week and the team wasn’t sure if Beltran needed to be placed on the DL yet. His ten days are up now. Beltran’s injury allowed Petit to come back before his ten days were up. He was sent down last weekend.

The Yankees are currently have Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury (knee), Slade Heathcott (quad), and Mason Williams (shoulder) on the DL, so they’re running out of outfielders. Their depth has been put to the test. Ellsbury might be back soon and Williams is eligible to come off the DL tomorrow, but there have been no updates on him. Heathcott will miss several more weeks.

Chris Young and Garrett Jones have both played well of late, though Girardi has given the majority of the playing time to Young, even against righties. My guess is Flores plays left, Young plays right, and Brett Gardner mans center for the time being. Once Ellsbury comes back, they can figure out a new alignment then.

7/2 to 7/5 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

This describes Tampa's play of late. (Presswire)
This describes Tampa’s play of late. (Presswire)

Just three series left until the All-Star break, and this weekend the Yankee play a pretty important three-game set against the Rays. The AL East race is super tight and these two clubs (as well as some others) figure to be neck and neck all season. The Yankees are 6-4 against the Rays this season, though they haven’t met since mid-May. Been a while.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

Tampa Bay was just swept in a four-game series at home by the Indians. They lost yesterday’s game in extra innings after Cleveland’s starters flirted with a no-hitter in each of the first three games. Yikes. The Rays have lost five straight and nine of their last eleven games. They’re 42-39 with a -2 run differential overall, yet remain in the four-team cluster that is the AL East race. The Yankees are tied for first with the Orioles while the Rays and Blue Jays are one game back.

Offense & Defense

As nearly getting no-hit three games in a row suggests, the Rays are not very good offensively. They’re averaging only 3.59 runs per game with a team 95 wRC+ this year, so they’re solidly below average with the sticks. They are getting Yankees killer 1B James Loney (96 wRC+) back from a finger injury just in time for him to kill the Yankees this weekend — he’ll be activated off the DL today — though they’re without OF Desmond Jennings (knee) and DH John Jaso (wrist) with long-term injuries. Neither is due back this weekend.

Forsythe. (Presswire)
Forsythe. (Presswire)

Manager Kevin Cash’s lineup revolves around 3B Evan Longoria (116 wRC+), who’s having a good year but is no longer the monster he was from 2008-13. His power keeps disappearing. 2B Logan Forsythe (134 wRC+) has been a nice surprise and both OF Brandon Guyer (120 wRC+) and OF Joey Butler (140 wRC+) have been very good in platoon roles. OF Steven Souza (104 wRC+) is an all or nothing guy (14 homers and a 35.0 K%).

OF David DeJesus (103 wRC+) started great but has slowed down considerably. SS Asdrubal Cabrera (78 wRC+) hasn’t gotten going at all and OF Kevin Kiermaier (96 wRC+) is really streaky. He goes on major tears then disappears for weeks at a time. DH Grady Sizemore (76 wRC+) was just added to the roster and C Rene Rivera (33 wRC+) is a total black hole at the plate. It’s the curse of Buster Posey. The Rays haven’t been able to find a catcher who can hit since passing on Posey with the first overall pick in the 2008 draft to take IF Tim Beckham. (Posey went fifth overall to the Giants.)

Anyway, C Curt Casali (109 wRC+) and IF Jake Elmore (71 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. Kiermaier, Longoria, and Loney are all excellent defensively while Souza has a knack for great plays and hilariously bad plays. Asdrubal and Forsythe are at best average on the middle infield. Guyer and DeJesus are fine in the outfield. The Rays have a strong team defense overall, though they do miss Jennings running down balls alongside Kiermaier.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Katie did a great job breaking down the Archer matchup earlier today, so I’m going to link back to that rather than regurgitate everything here. The 26-year-old Archer has a 2.31 ERA (2.46 FIP) in 17 starts and 109 innings, and he leans heavily on his high-octane fastball/slider combination. He doesn’t use his changeup much. Archer’s really good. Any questions? No? Good. Go read Katie’s post.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (vs. NYY)
Karns, 27, has a 3.26 ERA (3.78 FIP) in 16 starts and 91 innings this year, though Cash tries to avoid letting him face the lineup a third time whenever possible. Karns has completed six full innings just three times in his last nine starts and he hasn’t once thrown more than six innings during that time. His strikeout (21.9%), ground ball (44.7%), and home run (0.89 HR/9) rates are all close to league average while his walk rate (9.4%) is a bit high. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have had a little more success against him than righties (.284 wOBA). Karns uses low-to-mid-90s four-seamers to set up his big breaking low-80s curveball, the pitch that got him to the big leagues. He also throws a mid-80s changeup. The Yankee have seen Karns three times already this year, scoring two runs in five innings twice and one run in 4.2 innings the other time.

Erasmo. (Presswire)
Erasmo. (Presswire)

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (vs. NYY)
Like Karns, Cash tries to limit Ramirez’s exposure by preventing him from facing the lineup a third time whenever possible. The 25-year-old righty has a 4.01 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 67.1 innings spread across eleven starts and seven relief appearances this season. His strikeout (20.9%), walk (7.9%), and ground ball (47.3%) numbers are all average-ish while his homer rate (0.67 HR/9) is way south of his career average (1.18 HR/9). Erasmo was incredibly homer prone with the Mariners the last few seasons. A sinking low-80s changeup has allowed Ramirez to have more success against lefties (.250 wOBA) than righties (.332 wOBA). He sets the changeup up with low-90s two and four-seamers, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s breaking balls as well. The changeup is his moneymaker. That’s his go-to pitch. Ramirez has faced the Yankees four times this year (three relief appearances and one start) and has held them to two runs in nine innings total.

Bullpen Status
The Indians did a number on the Tampa bullpen the last few days. RHP Brad Boxberger (3.37 FIP), LHP Jake McGee (0.97 FIP), and RHP Kevin Jepsen (3.94 FIP) are Cash’s primary late-inning guys and all three pitched yesterday, as did LHP Xavier Cedeno (4.10 FIP) and RHP Steve Geltz (3.19 FIP). RHP Brandon Gomes (4.18 FIP) and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser (8.45 FIP in very limited time) are the team’s other two relievers.

Although Boxberger has racked up 20 saves this year, the Rays haven’t had a set closer since McGee returned from his offseason elbow surgery a few weeks back. McGee has three saves since then, Jepsen has five, and even Geltz has two. Part of this is matchup based — Boxberger and McGee are their Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller — and I also think part of it is keeping Boxberger’s and McGee’s future arbitration salaries down by limiting their save totals. They can’t afford big money relievers. Anyway, head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers, then head over to DRays Bay and Process Report for everything to need to know about the don’t call me Devil Rays.

RAB Live Chat

How the Yankees can beat Chris Archer

gardner rays
(Getty)

The offensive numbers for the Yankees over the past week are just plain ugly: seven games, 18 runs and a .214/.286/.328 slashline. And half of those runs came in one game! The only team in the majors that can probably be jealous of the Yankees’ bats right now is the Mets.

With a matchup against the Rays’ ace Chris Archer looming tonight, conventional wisdom would suggest the Yankees have little-to-no chance of ending their offensive slump.

Archer is having a fantastic breakout campaign, ranking among the league leaders in nearly every pitching statistic, from ERA (third) to FIP (second) to strikeouts (second) to WHIP (first). He’s also dominated the Yankees during his four major-league seasons, going 5-0 with a 2.01 ERA in seven starts, and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of those games. The list of players to start their career with a streak of at least seven unbeaten starts and three-or-fewer runs allowed against the Yankees is a very short one: Chris Archer. Yup, that’s it.

Fortunately, this Yankees team has defied logic and common sense all season. This bizarro version of the Bronx Bombers has already crushed such aces as David Price, Jacob deGrom, Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer — while, of course, getting dominated by the likes of Tom Koehler and Joe Kelly. (Yes, Dallas Keuchel recently made the Yankees look silly, but you can’t win ’em all, right?)

Although Archer is arguably among the top-3 pitchers in the AL right now, he has struggled at times this season. He’s allowed at least four runs in four games, including his most recent outing when the Red Sox scored five times and hit three home runs against him on June 28.

So you're telling me there's a chance. - Imgur

Unfortunately, the Yankees biggest advantage against Archer might have been getting Jacoby Ellsbury back in the lineup, who has crushed Archer in their previous matchups. But he’s still working to get his legs back into baseball shape, so instead the Yankees will turn to the scorching-hot Brett Gardner — who has also had a ton of success against Archer in the past — to lead the hit parade against the Rays’ ace on Friday night.

ellsbury gardner

No player in baseball has dominated Archer like Ellsbury. He owns the highest batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage against Archer by anyone that has faced him at least 10 times. Gardner’s 1.172 OPS is fourth among that group of batters, and he is the only player that has four extra-base hits against Archer.

The rest of the Yankees, however, have not fared as well, going a combined 9-for-63 (.143) against the Rays’ right-hander.

rest of team

The Yankees have already seen Archer once this season: on May 12 he held them to two runs on seven hits over seven innings. Nearly all that damage came in a 32-pitch first inning during which the Yankees scored two runs on four hits and a walk. Archer threw just 73 pitches over the next six frames and retired 16 of the final 19 batters.

Getting to Archer early appears to be the best game plan in trying to beat him. Nearly half of the runs he has allowed this season (14 of 33) have come in the first two innings, during which his ERA “jumps” to 3.18; after the second inning, he has a 1.92 ERA.

The Yankees also need to lay off his nasty slider, which he often throws with two strikes and buries below the knees. Opponents have hit just .163 against the pitch this season, and 93 of his 133 strikeouts have been with the breaking ball.

The Yankees were far too aggressive against the pitch in their matchup earlier this season, swinging at 24 of the 36 sliders he threw, most of which were in the dirt or unhittable (see the red dots in the image below). It was a boom-or-bust strategy for the Yankees in that game. They they whiffed on 13 (!) of those 24 swings, but got five hits on the seven sliders they were able to put into play.

archer vs yankees 5-12

It would be smart to try and jump on his heater, which he starts an at-bat with nearly 70 percent of the time. Opponents have hit .304 when putting a first-pitch fastball in play this season against Archer. If he does decide to go with a breaking ball or something off the plate initially, the Yankees need to be disciplined and lay off the pitch. Getting ahead early might be the second-best strategy against him. Archer has allowed a .754 OPS after a 1-0 count, which is only slightly better than the MLB average in those situations.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll have success, it’s better than the alternative — if you fall behind 0-1 against Archer, you’re gonna be in trouble. His OPS allowed after an 0-1 count this season is a ridiculous .362, the second-best mark among starters.

Archer has clearly established himself as one of the elite pitchers in the game and is a leading Cy Young contender, but that shouldn’t worry the Yankees tonight. They’ve already shown that they can beat the best arms in baseball, and have been a much better offensive team at home than on the road this season.

If they can execute a game plan similar to the one outlined above and take advantage of the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, there’s a good chance we’ll see the return of the real Bronx Bombers and be able to celebrate a much-needed win over a division rival.