Tanaka dominates Blue Jays, Yanks snap five-game losing streak with 5-0 win

Phew. The Yankees really needed that win. The five-game losing streak is over thanks to Sunday afternoon’s 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. Toronto still won three of four this weekend, which sucks, but at least the Yankees avoided the sweep. Small victory.

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

Two Runs, One Hit
The Yankees were able to strike early Sunday afternoon, and they scored their two second inning runs despite getting just one hit, which didn’t come with runners in scoring position and didn’t leave the yard. R.A. Dickey set the whole inning up when he lost the strike zone — Alex Rodriguez sandwiched a line drive single between walks by Brian McCann and Chase Headley. The bases were loaded with no outs. Just six of Dickey’s first 18 pitches in the inning were strikes.

The big hit never did come that inning, but the Yankees did score thanks to a pair of productive outs. Dustin Ackley, who was in the starting lineup because he came into the game 6-for-17 (.353) in his career against knuckleballers (Dickey and Tim Wakefield, basically), lifted a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score McCann for the first run. A-Rod tagged up and went to third on the play, which was big because Didi Gregorius followed a fly ball to medium center field.

Off the bat, I didn’t think it was deep enough to score A-Rod, and once they sent him I was hoping for an off-line throw. The throw was pretty much perfect though, and Alex simply outran it. He slide across the plate headfirst to score the second run, then pumped his fist. Rodriguez looked better running those 90 feet than he’s looked on the bases all season. A star player doing star player things. The Yankees had an early 2-0 lead.

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

The Ace They Need, Not The Ace We Deserve
The Yankees didn’t need a good start from Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday. They needed a great start, and a great start is exactly what the staff ace delivered. Four hits and no walks in seven shutout innings against the best offense in baseball, with seven strikeouts and nine other outs on the infield. Although three of the four hits were doubles, the Blue Jays never had a runner make it as far as third base.

Tanaka threw 78 of his 111 pitches for strikes (70%) and he crushed Toronto by mixing his six-pitch arsenal. Look at this pitch distribution. Other than his trademark splitter, which he threw 47 times, Tanaka didn’t throw another pitch more than 19 times or fewer than eleven times (via Brooks Baseball):

Masahiro Tanaka Toronto Blue Jays

Tanaka pitched backwards too. He faced 24 batters and only four saw a first pitch fastball. Four! The Blue Jays took 55 swings and missed 14 times, or 25%. That’s pretty great. Tanaka retired a dozen in a row from the third through seventh innings and never once appeared to be in something less than total control. That was domination. He did what he wanted whenever he wanted.

In eight starts since August 1st, Tanaka now has a 2.78 ERA with 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 55.1 innings. That includes three starts against the Blue Jays. Tanaka held Toronto to three runs on 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings in those three starts. He struck out 20. Not an ace? Please. He’s ace incarnate. Tanaka stepped up Sunday and delivered when the Yankees desperately needed him to.

Smackley. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Smackley. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

Insurance Runs
These are the Blue Jays, of course, and two runs won’t be enough to beat them most days. Thankfully, the Yankees tacked on three more runs throughout the course of the game to make things a bit more comfortable and give Tanaka a little more breathing room. I think fans appreciated the insurance runs more than Tanaka.

Joe Girardi‘s decision to play Ackley at first base worked out pretty well. He had the sac fly in the second inning and drove in two more runs with a two-run homer in the fourth. It was a Yankee Stadium cheapie into the third or fourth row in right field, no doubt about that, but it was a clear line drive over the right fielder’s head. Extra-base hit all the way. Double in some parks, a homer in this one. That made it 4-0 good guys.

Then, in the eighth, Carlos Beltran and A-Rod teamed up for another run with an assist from Rico Noel. Beltran singled, Noel pinch-ran, then Alex doubled into the left field corner to score Noel. Ben Revere bobbled the ball a bit, and the relays were less than perfect, so Rico slid in safely. That’s why Noel is on the roster, to score from first on hits like that. The designated runner is not just there to steal bases. That gave New York their 5-0 lead.

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

Once Tanaka was done, Girardi turned to Dellin Betances for the eighth inning, and he struck out the side on eleven pitches. For the first time in about three weeks, he looked like vintage Dellin. Easy domination. James Pazos (one out) and Caleb Cotham (two outs) retired the side in order in the ninth. The stress-free nine-pitch ninth inning against the top of Toronto’s lineup was unexpected.

The top of the order didn’t do a whole bunch Sunday. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Beltran, and McCann went a combined 1-for-15 (.067) with a walk. Add in Stephen Drew and it’s 1-for-18 (.056) for the wrap around 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup. The 5-6-7-8 hitters went 6-for-11 (.545) and drove in all five runs. A-Rod and Ackley had two hits apiece.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to 17. Now here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This not very good homestand is finally over. The Yankees head to Tampa next, their home away from home, and will start a three-game series with the Rays Monday night. Both starting pitchers are officially listed as TBA right now, though CC Sabathia will start for the Yankees. Erasmo Ramirez is lined up for Tampa, though I don’t know if they have some other plans at the moment.

Game 142: Save Us, Masahiro

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

This series has been a disaster. The entire homestand has been a disaster, really. The Yankees are 3-6 in the first nine games of this ten-game homestand — they’re 8-14 in their last 22 home games, embarrassingly — and they’ve been thoroughly dismantled by the Blue Jays over the last 36 hours or so. The Yankees are officially closer to falling out of a wildcard spot (four games) than they are to catching the Blue Jays (4.5 games).

There’s nothing they can do about this series and homestand now though. It’s already a lost cause. They can save face with a win this afternoon behind their ace Masahiro Tanaka, who was both brilliant last time out and able to shut these same Blue Jays down in Toronto a few weeks ago. Scoring runs hasn’t been much of a problem this series — they’ve scored 17 runs in the first three games, that should have been enough — but geez, they can’t keep the Jays hitters in check. Let’s hope Tanaka can. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Dustin Ackley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is surprisingly nice in New York today. Every weather report I checked the last few days said it was supposed to rain today, but the sky is blue and there’s only a smattering of clouds. No rain in the forecast either. This afternoon’s series finale will begin a bit after 1pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy. Or at least try to.

A Eulogy for Mark Teixeira’s Season

This guy is good at baseball. (Jeff Haynes/AP Photo)
This guy had a great season. (Jeff Haynes/AP Photo)

“A cardinal crashed into my window;

I think he might die. 

I’ll plan him a funeral; I’ll read his last rites

‘Cause I know what he saw in that reflection of light.

On the glass was a better life.”

With the announcement on Friday that he would miss the rest of the season due to his leg injury, Mark Teixeira‘s 2015 season came to a close. While this has been lingering since he fouled a ball off his leg on August 17 against the Twins, the news still carries a bit of a shock, considering the original diagnosis wasn’t this bad, not to mention just how well Tex had hit the ball all year. The timing of the announcement–on the verge of a terribly important four game series with the division-leading Blue Jays–was a harbinger for the weekend (or at least the first three games and two days thereof). Not only was the weather miserable yesterday, but so was the baseball as the Yankees have dropped all three games of the series so far, including a double-header sweep (hopefully, Masahiro Tanaka can right the ship today) leaving them 4.5 games back of the Jays with 21 games to play. Having played the last few weeks and facing the last few weeks without Teixeira, that lead seems about as bleakly large as it can be when it comes to winning the division.

Things aren’t all bad, however, as they do have a three game lead on the Rangers for the first Wild Card spot which is obviously good, but not preferable. That idea is just a microcosm of Tex’s injury situation; it’s nice that Greg Bird has filled in about as admirably as possible, but like the Wild Card spot, he’s just not your first choice.

2015 was a renaissance year for Tex as his 30 homer power (officially) returned. He clubbed 31 homers in his 111 games this year, nine more than he did all of last year in fewer games (123) and fewer plate appearances (462 this year; 508 last year). In terms of raw OPS, Tex’s .906 mark this year is the second best of his Yankee career, bested only by 2009 and its .948 mark. Using OPS+, though, 2015 has been Tex’s best season in the Bronx, beating out 2009 by a “score” of 148-141. A similar pattern holds true with wOBA/wRC+ as 2009 was better from a raw perspective–.402 to .381–while 2015 was better from an adjusted perspective–143-142.

Tex’s last three (partial) seasons have mirrored the Yankees’ last three seasons in that there were some underlying positives despite a less-than-desirable outcome. In 2013, Tex played in just 15 games. There were some signs that he was himself–a 12.7% walk rate and a .189 ISO–but there’s no way to call that a season, let alone a successful one. He took a step forward in 2014 and displayed his usual patience–11.4% walk rate–and solid power–.182 ISO. But, it still wasn’t quite enough, just like the Yankees’ season in general. With his return to prominence in 2015, so too returned the Yankees, who’ve long been in playoff position; with Tex back where he should be, the Yankees were back where they “should be.”

This isn’t to say that the loss of Tex dooms the Yankees into bird-crashing-into-unseen-window status. They have plenty of bats, a solid (if tired) bullpen, and plenty of games to make up some ground on the Blue Jays or separate themselves from the Rangers (and Twins and Angels). Those tasks are obviously a lot harder without the team’s offensive MVP, but they aren’t impossible. Thanks to Tex, the Yankees are in a good position to make the playoffs and hopefully make a deep run therein. He helped carry the this far and now it’s up to his teammates to carry his torch as far as they can. Thanks for a great season, Mark; we’ll see you in the spring.

Blue Jays pound Nova, sweep doubleheader with 10-7 win in nightcap

Source: FanGraphs

That was an embarrassment. If there was any doubt the Blue Jays are the far superior team, they showed it Saturday, sweeping a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium and doing it convincingly. The Yankees were blown out 10-7 in the second game Saturday night. The game did not feel as close as the score indicates. No siree. The Blue Jays are 8-1 in the Bronx this season and have outscored the home team 57-26. Let’s recap with bullet points:

  • NoNoNova: Back-end guys like Ivan Nova are always hurt the most by Tommy John surgery because they have the smallest margin for error and can’t afford to lose anything. Nova’s command was never great, but now it’s nonexistent, and the Blue Jays tagged him for six runs in just 1.2 innings Saturday night. Ten of the 15 batters he faced reached base. Nova’s up to 19 runs and 36 base-runners in his last 17.2 innings. He’s getting worse as he gets further away from elbow reconstruction, not better.
  • Comeback Attempt: Not that it matters, but could Alex Rodriguez really not play the second game of the doubleheader? Put Brian McCann at first and A-Rod at DH given the magnitude of the game? It’s not like Alex had to run hard in the first game. Whatever. Anyway, the Yankees didn’t pick up their first hit until John Ryan Murphy‘s infield single leading off the fifth. They didn’t get a hit on a ball to the outfield until Brett Gardner hit a three-run homer four batters later. That cut the deficit to 6-3 and suddenly we had ourselves a ballgame. The Yankees scored another run in the sixth on Didi Gregorius‘ double, but Chris Young (popup) and Jacoby Ellsbury (line out) stranded runners at second and third.
  • Pull Away: One half-inning after the Yankees got the tying run into scoring position, the Blue Jays scored four more runs to put the game out of reach. Chris Capuano deserved better — he threw three scoreless innings after Nova with a 33-minute rain delay mixed in — than to be charged with four runs on two ground ball singles, a walk, and an infield single. The infield single was lol-worthy and led to two runs. I can’t even explain it. Branden Pinder then came in, gave up some line drive singles to Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, and that was that. Fin.
  • Leftovers: Gardner hit a garbage time three run homer in the eighth. He hit three homers on the day and is the first Yankee to homer in both ends of a doubleheader since Andruw Jones against the Red Sox in 2012 … Ellsbury went 0-for-10 with a walk in the doubleheader and is down to .259/.321/.352 (87 wRC+) on the season … the Yankees actually had 13 hits, including two each by Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Murphy, and Gregorius … and finally, the YES booth said the Yankees have never not won the division in a season in which they once had a four-game lead. The 2015 Yankees, of course, have turned their seven-game lead into a 4.5 game deficit in a touch more than six weeks.

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot remains 19 at this very moment, though that could change pending the outcome of the Twins game. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Blue Jays wrap up this mess of a four-game series Sunday afternoon. It’ll be Masahiro Tanaka and R.A. Dickey on the hill. If Tanaka can’t save them, no one can.

Games 140 & 141: Let’s Win Two Try To Win One


So yesterday sucked. That was men against boys. Thankfully, they play again today. Two games, in fact. The Yankees and Blue Jays will play a single-admission doubleheader this afternoon — there’s some rain in the forecast tonight and they want to get the second game over with as soon as possible — and if they want to win the division, the Yankees kinda have to sweep today. One win is an absolute must. It’s not a stretch to call this the most important day of the season.

Michael Pineda is on the mound in the first game this afternoon and he started the only game the Yankees have won against the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium this season. The Yankees are 1-6 against the Jays in the Bronx this year, and the one win was the result of a fluky rally. Not good. Gotta come up big this afternoon. These are two monumental games. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup for the first game of the doubleheader:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Big Mike

It’s cloudy and on the cool side in New York right now. Like I said, there is rain in the forecast, but not until this evening. It won’t impact this game. The second game? Maybe. We’ll have to see. This game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on FOX. We’re going to use this thread for both games, by the way. I’ll update this post with the lineups and whatnot prior to the second game. Enjoy the games.

Roster Moves: The Yankees have called up both Slade Heathcott and Gary Sanchez, the team announced. The Triple-A season ended last night. This is Sanchez’s first taste of MLB. Every player on the 40-man roster is now in the big leagues, either on the active roster or the DL. The Yankees have 39 active players right now. They could slide Mark Teixeira to the 60-day DL, call someone up, and carry 40 players on the active roster.

Update (5:59pm): The start time for Game Two will be approximately 6pm ET. There has been some light rain in New York and the heaviest stuff is still a few hours away. Hope for a lead after five innings then lots and lots of rain, everyone. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for the second game of the doubleheader:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Dustin Ackley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Ivan Nova

This game will air on both YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Yankees let important game slip away, drop first game of doubleheader 9-5 to Blue Jays

Source: FanGraphs

The chances of an AL East title keep getting smaller and smaller. The Yankees dropped their most important game of the season (to date!) on Saturday afternoon, losing 9-5 to the Blue Jays in eleven innings. Toronto is now 7-1 at Yankee Stadium this year. Gross. Let’s recap with bullet points, because there’s no way I’m writing two full recaps on a Saturday:

  • Small Mike: The Yankees gave Michael Pineda a two-run lead and a three-run lead, but it wasn’t enough. Three home runs did him in — Jose Bautista and Ben Revere hit solo shots, then Edwin Encarnacion hit a game-tying two-run shot in the fifth. All three landed in the first or second row, but they all count the same. Four runs on six hits and two walks in 5.1 innings for Pineda. The Yankees are now 19th in rotation ERA (4.31) and 23rd in innings (805.1). Amazing they are where they are with this starting staff.
  • Early Lead: The ball was flying in the Bronx and the Yankees built their early lead with the long ball. Brett Gardner hit a solo homer in the first, Chase Headley hit a solo homer in the second, then Alex Rodriguez lifted a two-run shot in the fourth. Gardner’s was a bomb into the second deck while Headley and A-Rod took advantage of the short porch. They had a 2-0 lead after two and a 4-1 lead after four. The Blue Jays had them right where they wanted.
  • Blown Chance: Dellin Betances served up a go-ahead solo homer to Bautista in the eighth inning, but the Yankees did battle back. Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner starting the eighth with walks, then Ellsbury moved up on a wild pitch. Gardner did not and that’s probably a good thing — if he moves up, Brian McCann probably gets nothing to hit. Instead, McCann singled to tie the game. A-Rod loaded the bases with a walk and the Yankees were in business. But then Headley popped up to second and Greg Bird was robbed of a single by Cliff Pennington’s great sliding stop. Really great play. Bases loaded, one out, bottom of the eighth … no runs. Rough.
  • Given Away: The Yankees lost this game more than the Blue Jays won it. After Andrew Miller retired all six men he faced, Joe Girardi turned to Bryan Mitchell to start the 11th. He’s been really shaky since getting hit in the face, and, sure enough, his inning went walk, hit batsman, walk, strikeout. In came Chasen Shreve, who walked pinch-hitter Russell Martin on four pitches to force in the winning run. Revere then singled in an insurance run. Then Shreve walked Josh Donaldson and Bautista to force in two more runs. Four runs in an inning in which the Blue Jays had one hit. Yankees relievers walked five (!) and hit one batter. Excruciating.
  • Leftovers: A-Rod was lifted for a pinch-runner following his walk in the eighth, which was weird. The most important run was at third and they lost Alex’s bat in a close game. It burned them when Dustin Ackley grounded out with a runner at second to end the tenth in A-Rod’s spot. This game will not go down as Girardi’s managerial Mona Lisa … Gardner and McCann went 5-for-9 (.555). The rest of the lineup went 5-for-33 (.152) … there have been 13 homers in this series so far, and apparently the new Stadium record is 20 for a single series … how about that FOX broadcast? Think John Smoltz still hates the Yankees and Yankee Stadium or nah?

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot remains 19. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages as well. The Yankees and Blue Jays will begin game two of their doubleheader in just a few minutes. Ivan Nova and Marcos Stroman will be on the mound.

Saturday Links: Sabathia, Betances, 2016 Travel

"No you idiot, I said sell! SELL!" (Janette Pellegrini/Getty)
“No you idiot, I said sell! SELL!” (Janette Pellegrini/Getty)

The Yankees and Blue Jays continue their ultra-important four-game series with a doubleheader this afternoon. It’s a single-admission doubleheader too. One ticket gets you in the door for both games. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time before the first game.

Sabathia nominated for Marvin Miller Man of the Year award

CC Sabathia has been selected as the Yankees nominee for the 2015 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, the MLBPA announced. Each team nominates one player, who is selected by his teammates, for the award. Fans then vote for one finalist per division — the voting ends midnight tomorrow, by the way — and the players then vote for the winner. Here’s the fan voting ballot.

The Marvin Miller Man of the Year award goes to the player “whose on-field performance and contributions to his community inspire others to higher levels of achievement.” Mariano Rivera won the award in 2013. He’s the only Yankees player to win it since it was created in 1997. Carlos Beltran was last year’s nominee and was voted the AL East finalist. Just being nominated is an honor. Go vote for CC.

Betances will try new protective head gear next spring

Earlier this week, a representative from the MLBPA was in the Yankees clubhouse showing the pitchers new protective head gear, reports George King. This is not the head gear Alex Torres wears. It’s something new. This model has some sort of ear flap designed to protect the temples.

“I will try it in Spring Training to see how it feels. Anything for protection,” said Dellin Betances. Adam Warren, Luis Severino, and Justin Wilson also tried it on. The Yankees had a scare when Bryan Mitchell was hit in the face by a line drive a few weeks ago, and while a protective cap probably wouldn’t have helped him, it was a reminder of how defenseless those guys are on the mound.

Yankees will travel 12th most miles in 2016

The 2016 regular season schedule was announced earlier this week, and, according to Baseball Savant, the Yankees will travel 35,252 miles next season. That’s the 12th most in baseball. As usual, the Mariners will travel the most miles (47,704) while the Cubs will travel the fewest (24,271) in 2016. That has been the case for years and years and years. The M’s are isolated up in the Pacific Northwest — their closest division rival is 800 miles away — while the Cubbies are centrally located. Their farthest division rival is 460 miles away. The Yankees are always in the middle of the miles traveled pack. They’re a little higher than usual next season because they’re making three West Coast trips, not two. Blah.