Bullpen, offense pick up Sabathia for come-from-behind 8-6 win over Blue Jays

Is this team not awesome? This team is awesome. The Yankees erased a four-run deficit Wednesday night for an 8-6 win over the Blue Jays in the series finale. Just keep winning series, baby. That’s the name of the game. The Yankees are now 17-9 with a +45 run differential through the first 26 games of the season. Last year they were 9-17 with a -28 run differential through 26 games. Also, the Yankees are now 92-70 in their last 162 games. YUP.

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

Strugglin’ Sabathia
CC Sabathia started his season with three very good starts, allowing four runs (three earned) total in 18.1 innings. He’s since followed those three very good starts with three very bad starts. Four runs in five innings against the Pirates, seven runs in 5.2 innings against the Orioles, and now six runs in four innings against the Blue Jays. It hasn’t all been bad luck either, even though Sabathia seems to have a knack for giving up ground balls with eyes.

The Blue Jays struck for four runs in the first inning Wednesday night, putting the Yankees in an early hole. The first two runners reached base and Sabathia nearly escaped the inning unscathed, but Justin Smoak was able to punch a ball back up the middle for a two-out RBI single. Fine. Whatever. One run isn’t the end of the world. But Sabathia couldn’t stop the bleeding. He served up a three-run home run to Steve Pearce, the next batter. Six batters into the game, the Yankees were down 4-0.

In the second inning Sabathia allowed two more runs, including one on a bases loaded walk to Russell Martin. He had runners on the corners with one out and Jose Bautista down 0-2 in the count, but he walked him. Sabathia had a 2-2 count on Martin after that and walked him too. The put-away pitch just wasn’t there. He threw 44 pitches in the first two innings and only one resulted in a swing and a miss. The Blue Jays looked mighty comfortable in the box.

To Sabathia’s credit, he settled down a bit and got through the third and fourth inning scoreless. He was removed from the game after starting the fifth inning with a walk and a single. (Adam Warren escaped that jam.) The final tally for Sabathia is six runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings plus two batters. He did strike out five. His location was really poor early on. There were lots of pitches over the plate. At least Sabathia was able to figure out it for a few innings there, but yeah, this is three bad starts in a row. No mas, CC.

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

Answering Back
Trailing 4-0 before you bat is daunting! The Yankees have Fighting Spirit though. They put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning to answer right back. Single (Brett Gardner), walk (Aaron Hicks), three-run home run (Matt Holliday) is how Marcus Stroman, who is really short and went back to college to get his degree while rehabbing his torn ACL two years ago (just in case you hadn’t heard), started his evening. The home run was the 300th of Holliday’s career. Congrats to him.

The Yankees put two on with one out in the second inning, but were unable to score. Then, in the third, Starlin Castro planted a single into center field and Aaron Judge clobbered his Planet Earth leading 13th home run of the season. No player at any level of professional baseball has more home runs than Judge in 2017. This one landed in Monument Park and had the crack of a no-doubt home run. You can close your eyes and tell when this guy goes deep just based on the sound. That two-run home run got the Yankees to within 6-5.

Luck Biagini Tonight
Oblique/lat tightness forced Stroman out of the game after three innings, which meant the Yankees were going to get plenty of cracks against Toronto’s shoddy bullpen. And for a few innings there, they wasted a bunch of prime scoring opportunities. Runners on first and second with one out in the fourth? Holliday bangs into a double play. Bases loaded with two outs in the sixth? Kyle Higashioka stared at strike three. Sucks.

It wasn’t until the seventh inning that the Yankees rallied to both tie the game and take the lead. It all started with a Joe Girardi ejection. Home plate umpire Bill Welke had a pretty generous strike zone all night — Gardner, Hicks, and Holliday all struck out looking on borderline pitches in the sixth — and Girardi snapped after Castro took a pitch inside and off the plate for the called strike. He gave Welke the business and was ejected.

After the ejection, the strike zone did truly seem to tighten up. Welke was no longer calling those borderline pitches strikes, and the Yankees took advantage. Judge started the rally with a one-out single to left, and Chase Headley really made things interesting with a double into the right field corner. Now the Yankees had runners on second and third with only one out. An out could have tied the game.

The strikeout prone Chris Carter came to the plate, and rather than strike out, he dunked a broken bat bloop over the shortstop’s head into shallow left field to tie the game. Carter’s been piling up singles lately. What’s up with that? Didi Gregorius pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes and gave the Yankees the lead with an infield single. It was a chopper back to Biagini, who looked home before throwing to first. That hesitation was long enough for Didi to beat it out, giving the Yankees a 7-6 lead. Hicks stretched the lead to 8-6 with a bases loaded walk. The strike zone plot of the Hicks walk, via Brooks Baseball:


Yep, the strike zone definitely tightened up after Girardi’s ejection. A bloop tied the game, an infield single gave the Yankees the lead, and a bases loaded walk plated an insurance run. That had to be the most annoying game-losing rally to watch as a Blue Jays fan. I, personally, loved it.

The Unsung Heroes
Big ups to the bullpen. The Yankees have an off-day Thursday, so Girardi didn’t have to hold back. Warren replaced Sabathia in that fifth inning and escaped the two-on, no-out jam with a fly ball, a strikeout, and a ground ball. Usually you’d expect Warren to remain in the game in that situation, but he was warming up alongside Sabathia since the second inning. He wasted a lot of bullets in the bullpen, hence only one inning of work.

Tyler Clippard got five outs — he put two on with one out in the sixth, then escaped in part by blowing a fastball by Bautista — before giving way to Dellin Betances, who got four outs. Aroldis Chapman closed it out in the ninth and ended the game in the best way possible: by striking out Martin twice. Martin swung and missed at a pitch that hit him, but the umpires incorrectly ruled it a foul ball and the at-bat continued. Chapman struck him out again anyway. Perfect.

All told the four relievers combined to allow one hit and one walk (both by Clippard) in five scoreless innings of work. They struck out six. Great, great work by the bullpen. They held the Blue Jays down and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game. Sabathia needed a pick-me-up after that four-run first inning and he got it from the bullpen and the offense. What a satisfying win.

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

Judge went 3-for-5 with the home run and is now hitting .330/.433/.818 (240 wRC+). That’ll do, kid. The Yankees are a perfect 11-0 when Judge homers this year, and he’s also the youngest player in baseball history to hit 13 home runs in his team’s first 26 games. If you’ve read RAB long enough, you know I’ve been a Judge believer for a long time. Never in a million years did I expect this.

As for the rest of the offense, Gardner had two hits and two walks to raise his season batting line to .247/.354/.435 (124 wRC+). Remember when everyone wanted to put him on a rocket to the sun? Good times. Hicks drew three walks and is up to .288/.433/.615 (190 wRC+) on the year. Castro had two hits and it dropped his batting line from .360/.402/.550 (169 wRC+) to .362/.402/.543 (167 wRC+). Love this offense. It’s fun to know they’re never truly out of a game.

The Yankees showed some emotion in this one! Girardi got ejected, Sabathia let out a roar after striking out Bautista to end the fourth inning, and Gardner went all Paul O’Neill on a trash can after striking out looking on one of Welke’s borderline strikes in the seventh inning. The Yankees can be pretty uptight at times. It’s good to see some emotion every once in a while.

And finally, with Gary Sanchez expected to come off the disabled list Friday, this game was Higashioka’s last chance to get his first MLB hit before being sent down to Triple-A. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, two strikeouts, and a tough luck line drive at the third baseman. Keep your chin up, Higgy. You’ll get the first big league knock soon.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights. We have a Bullpen Workload page, which you may or may not find useful. Here’s the comeback probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
An off-day and a six-game five-game road trip through Chicago and Cincinnati. The Yankees will get a breather Thursday before opening their weekend series with the defending World Series champion Cubs — it will never not be weird typing that — on Friday afternoon. That’s a 2:20pm ET start because that’s how they roll at Wrigley Field. Gonna be kinda cool to see Starlin back at his old stomping grounds. Michael Pineda and Kyle Hendricks are Friday’s scheduled starters.

DotF: Sanchez continues rehab; Culver homers twice, Frazier once in Scranton’s blowout win

A few roster moves, per Matt Kardos and Nick Flammia: IF Abi Avelino was bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, IF Vince Conde was moved up from High-A Tampa to Trenton, and RHP Zack Littell rejoined Tampa from Extended Spring Training. That’s all one big chain reaction to Rob Refsnyder getting called up.

Triple-A Scranton (13-0 win over Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-5, 1 BB, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 K — played seven innings behind the plate again, as scheduled … he’s going to DH tomorrow, and if all goes well, the expectation is he’ll join the Yankees in Chicago for Friday’s series opener against the Cubs
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 2-6, 1 R, 1 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K — 11-for-39 (.282) with three doubles and three homers in his last ten games, so he’s starting to come around
  • CF Mason Williams: 3-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB — 10-for-28 (.357) in his last eight games
  • 1B Cito Culver: 2-3, 3 , 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — he has five homers in his last seven games, including two two-homer games … he hit four homers in 117 total games last year
  • LHP Daniel Camarena: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 4/4 GB/FB — 58 of 100 pitches were strikes … 1.91 ERA and a 23/4 K/BB  in 28.1 total innings this year
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (75%)

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Game 26: Just Keep Winning Series


Know what I love about the 2017 Yankees? Besides almost everything? They don’t take losing lightly. The Yankees are in the middle of a 15-5 stretch, and following three of those losses, they won the next game by at least six runs. They come back the next day and take out all their frustration on the other team. That’s what happened last night.

Tonight’s rubber game against the Blue Jays is an important game for the “just keep winning series” crowd, of which I am an active member. There’s an off-day tomorrow, so Joe Girardi can be aggressive with his bullpen usage tonight. Win the series, enjoy the off-day, then hit the road. Sounds like a good plan to me. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Chris Carter
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. C Kyle Higashioka
    LHP CC Sabathia

Just a gorgeous day in New York today. One of those skip work and go play outside days. It’s clear and cool tonight, and not nearly as windy as last night. I don’t think we’re going to see any pop-ups get blown over the wall in this one. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Awards!: Earlier today Judge was named the AL Rookie of the Month. Pretty cool. The big guy hit .303/.411/.750 (216 wRC+) with ten home runs in April. Judge is the first Yankee to win AL Rookie of the Month since … Gary Sanchez last August. Duh.

Early Returns on Some Former Yankees

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

One of the most frequently asked questions early in the season revolves around former Yankees. There is some measure of comfort to be had from seeing an ex-Yankee struggle in another team’s uniform, while there is an equally bothersome annoyance when those players perform well. We want to know that the Yankees made the right decision in either trading the player or letting him walk; or, at the very least, that they received back more than they sent away. The pratfalls of small sample sizes are well-known, but it is never too early to check-in on these players.

For today’s post, I’m going with any players that have been moved since the Yankees waved the white flag last season. If you would like to see any players added to this list going forward, let us know in the comments.

Johnny Barbato, Pirates – 3.2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 2.45 ERA, 4.11 FIP

The Yankees dealt Barbato to the Pirates two weeks ago, and received … basically nothing in return. This came on the heels of him being designated for assignment to make room for Jordan Montgomery, and there are still plenty of shuttle arms sitting at Triple-A, so it wasn’t surprising to see him moved.

Carlos Beltran, Astros – .250/.287/.354, 10 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, 81 wRC+ (101 PA)

Beltran has spent most of his time at designated hitter this season, which is unquestionably his best position nowadays. He has made five starts in left, though, as a means to get Evan Gattis’ bat into the lineup at DH. The Astros will live with his defense in left, though, as that means that they have one of the the best hitting lineups in baseball for that particular game.

Ben Gamel, Mariners – .227/.346/.409, 4 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 120 wRC+ (27 PA)

An injury to Mitch Haniger opened the door for Gamel to play everyday, and he has made the most of it thus far. Haniger isn’t slated to return until the end of the month, so this is probably the best opportunity that Gamel has had to demonstrate his worth at the big league level to date.

Nick Goody, Indians – 9.0 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 0.00 ERA, 2.34 FIP

Terry Francona has utilized Goody as a right-handed specialist this year, and it has worked wonders thus far. He was particularly good on Sunday, when he entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out, and escaped the inning without allowing a run by picking up a swinging strikeout and inducing a double play.

Brian McCann, Astros – .278/.369/.417, 10 R, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 0 SB, 122 wRC+ (84 PA)

The Astros are making a serious effort to keep McCann healthy and rested, as the 33-year-old catcher has already sat for six games (though, having Gattis’ bat on the bench helps that decision along), and started at DH once. He has rewarded them with a strong start to the season, which includes a dramatically sliced strikeout rate (from 20.1% last year to 12.5% this year) and an improved walk rate (up 2.8 percentage points).

Andrew Miller, Indians – 11.2 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 16 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.55 FIP

Miller was dominant throughout his second-half with the Indians last season, including a magnificent 2016 postseason (1.40 ERA and 41.1 K% in 19.1 IP). He has continued his brilliance in 2017, as Francona continues to utilize him as a ‘bullpen ace’ instead of a traditional closer. It’s difficult to quibble with the return (Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, and more), but I miss Miller more than anyone else on this list – and it isn’t particularly close.

Ivan Nova, Pirates – 36.0 IP, 26 H, 1 BB, 22 K, 1.50 ERA, 2.69 FIP

Nova has walked 4 batters in 100.2 IP with the Pirates. Over that time, 247 pitchers have thrown at least 30 IP, and only Roberto Osuna and Dan Otero have walked fewer batters at three apiece. Those two have combined to throw 67.2 IP in that stretch. Among pitchers with 80 IP or more, only Carlos Carrasco is within 10 walks of Nova (he has walked 13 batters in 86.1 IP).

Blake Parker, Angels – 12.1 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 21 K, 2.19 ERA, 0.58 FIP

Parker is currently second among relievers in WAR, tied with Kenley Jansen and Chris Devenski. It’s only May 3, and it’s obviously unsustainable – but it’s intriguing nonetheless. Angels fans are already discussing how good Parker was before injuries set-in in 2014 (he had a 143 ERA+ and 10.7 K/9 in 46.1 IP in 2013), and he was better with the Yankees than his final numbers indicate, thanks to a 0.1 IP, 4 ER affair on September 23.

James Pazos, Mariners – 12.0 IP, 10 H, 6 BB, 14 K, 3.00 ERA, 2.42 FIP

The Yankees viewed Pazos as a lefty specialist, and understandably so as he’s strictly a fastball/slider guy. The Mariners have used him as a traditional middle reliever, though, and the results of been quite good so far. It is worth noting that righties are hitting .290 against Pazos, so a correction may be forthcoming.

Anthony Swarzak, White Sox – 13.1 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 15 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.98 FIP

Would it be wrong to give the Yankees some semblance of credit for Goody, Parker, Pazos, and Swarzak all pitching so well in 2017? After all, they were members of the team’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre shuttle last year; that may be a bit unfair, considering that they have been far better away from the pinstripes. Swarzak is also one of three former Yankees (Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson are the others) pitching quite well out of the White Sox bullpen this year.

Luis Torrens, Padres – .083/.154/.083, 0 R, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, -28 wRC+ (13 PA)

The 21-year-old Torrens was selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 Draft, and the expectation was that he’d be returned to the Yankees by the end of Spring Training. After all, he had played exactly zero games above Single-A, and there was no indication that he would be ready to play at the highest-level. That didn’t happen, though, and Torrens is riding the Padres bench as the team’s third-string catcher. Whether this helps or hurts his development is an interesting question, as Torrens was (or is) a solid catching prospect.

Kirby Yates, Padres – 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 7.71 ERA, 14.59 FIP

The Padres are Yates’ second organization of the young season, as he was waived by the Angels after just one appearance. In defense of the Angels, it was an awful appearance – he allowed a two-run home run to Kevin Pillar (which plated an inherited runner) and a solo shot to Justin Smoak, with two additional Blue Jays taking him to the warning track.

Adam Eaton’s injury creates a possible trade partner for Brett Gardner


Over the weekend the World Series hopeful Washington Nationals suffered a devastating loss, and I don’t mean dropping two of three to the Mets. Prized offseason pickup Adam Eaton suffered a season-ending injury legging out an infield single Friday night. The official diagnosis: a torn ACL, a torn meniscus, and a high-ankle sprain. Yikes. His recovery timetable is 6-9 months.

Here’s video of the play, if you haven’t seen it:

The Nationals traded basically their three best pitching prospects (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning) to get the 28-year-old Eaton from the White Sox back in December. He was hitting .297/.393/.462 (128 wRC+) at the time of the injury and was a huge reason why Washington is averaging an MLB best 6.65 runs per game in the early going. (The Yankees are a distant second at 5.60 runs per game.)

As expected, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said they will stay in house to replace Eaton. They like their organizational depth in center field. Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. That’s what every GM says after losing a core player to a long-term injury. They don’t want to sound desperate. You can be sure Rizzo will keep an eye on potential trade options, however. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t.

Brett Gardner has been on the trade market for well over a year now and the Yankees have fielded offers for him the last two offseasons. Obviously Brian Cashman hasn’t received an offer to his liking, which is why Gardner remains in pinstripes. There didn’t seem to be many trade partners for Gardner over the winter. The Eaton injury may have just created one. Let’s break down the merits of a potential Gardner-Nationals deal, shall we?

1. The Nationals are a win now team. In the two games since Eaton’s injury, 26-year-old Michael A. Taylor has stepped into the lineup as the center fielder. This is the same Michael A. Taylor who hit .228/.281/.363 (71 wRC+) with a 31.9% strikeout rate in 791 plate appearances from 2014-16. The same Michael A. Taylor who prompted the Nationals to go out and get Eaton because they were tired of waiting for him to figure things out.

The Nationals have a very clearly defined window of contention with this core: 2017 and 2018. That’s basically it. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy will both be free agents following next season. Furthermore, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are in their primes right now and probably won’t be by time 2019 rolls around. Rizzo knows he has to do whatever he can to maximize his team’s chances of winning before Harper can leave. That’s why he traded for Eaton in the first place and also pursued Chris Sale and various free agent relievers.

Gardner fits the two-year window perfectly since the guaranteed portion of his contract runs through 2018. More than anything though, he’s a better player than Taylor, and it’s not particularly close either. Gardner is not as good as Eaton — he’s basically the poor man’s version of Eaton — but he’s better than Taylor and acquiring him would improve Washington’s chances quite a bit from their current situation. Extreme win now teams like the Nationals shouldn’t cut corners.

2. Gardner and Eaton have similar skill sets. Like I said, Eaton is a better player than Gardner and by a not small margin either. They do bring similar things to the table, however. Speed, the ability to grind out at-bats and get on base, and quality outfield defense. Gardner hasn’t played center field regularly since 2013 but that’s due to Jacoby Ellsbury and not his defensive shortcomings. I don’t think too many folks believe Gardner can’t play center right now. He’d step right in to replace Eaton as the lefty hitting center fielder and leadoff hitter. A seamless transition.

3. The Nationals need a left fielder for 2018. Remember that massive seven-year, $126M contract Jayson Werth signed way back when? That deal expires this year. Werth will be a free agent this offseason. Gardner could step in to replace Eaton in center field this season before sliding over to replace Werth in left next year, once Eaton is healthy. And, if the Nationals decide the injury has sapped Eaton’s range, they could put him in a corner and keep Gardner in center. Point is, Washington has an open outfield spot next season, and Gardner would help fill it.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

4. So what do the Nationals have to offer? My guess is if the Yankees do decide to trade Gardner, they’ll seek the best possible talent in return regardless of position, rather than try to fill specific needs. That’s what they did last year at the trade deadline. Just get the best possible talent and sort it out later. Obviously Gardner doesn’t have as much trade value as Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, but the thinking remains the same. Acquire as much talent as possible.

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Nationals prospects list. Washington is not trading Victor Robles or Juan Soto or Erick Fedde for Brett Gardner, so stop thinking about that right now. I’d focus on the lower half of the top 30 list. I suppose maybe the Yankees could pry a higher ranked prospect by eating some of Gardner’s salary, like they did with Brian McCann, but even then I don’t expect a huge return. This isn’t one of those “we need two top prospects to trade him” situations like it was with Miller. I’m sure the Nationals have the pieces to get a Gardner deal done if they choose to go in that direction.

5. Other teams are going to be involved too. The Yankees are not the only team with an extra outfielder to trade! The Royals are awful and could make impending free agent Lorenzo Cain available. He’d be a great Eaton replacement, no? The Nationals have interest in Royals closer Kelvin Herrera according to Ken Rosenthal (video link), so how about a Herrera/Cain package deal? Doesn’t seem unrealistic.

Washington has also been said to have interest in David Robertson dating back to the offseason, and the White Sox could offer Melky Cabrera as well. Bryce Harper in center, Werth in right, and Melky in lefty? Seems doable. What if the Blue Jays sell and put Jose Bautista on the market? Or the Braves make Nick Markakis available? Heck, the Nationals could always revisit Andrew McCutchen with the Pirates. They also have the option of putting Trea Turner in center field and acquiring a shortstop (Zack Cozart?).

The point is there are other teams with outfielders out there, meaning the Nationals have some options. They might be willing to pay big for Cain since they’re all-in right now. Perhaps they go for a cheap alternative. If the Yankees hope to move Gardner to Washington in the wake of the Eaton injury, they’re going to have some competition. There doesn’t figure to be any shortage of available outfielders in the coming weeks.

6. Are the Yankees still open to selling? The million dollar question. The Yankees are currently tied for first place in the AL East at 16-9, and their +43 run differential is second best in baseball. (The Nationals are at +45 thanks to Sunday’s 23-5 bludgeoning of the Mets.) They could very well be in the race come July! And if that is the case, would they still be open to moving Gardner?

Keep in mind Hal Steinbrenner did not want to sell last season. It reportedly took Cashman weeks to convince Hal to okay a trade deadline sell-off, and even then it only happened after Chapman declined a contract extension. If the Yankees are in the race, will Steinbrenner really okay trading away an everyday player? It seems like they might be more inclined to add pieces at that point. I don’t think selling is a given at all.

Perhaps being in a race — which would be very awesome, by the way! — means any Gardner trade would have to involve a big league player coming back to the Yankees. Someone who can help them win right away. I have no idea who that player could be with Washington. They’re not trading one of their starting pitchers, not even the lefty Michael Pineda Gio Gonzalez, so forget that. I’m not sure I see a fit in this case.

* * *

The Yankees have the outfield depth to trade Gardner — once Ellsbury’s elbow is healthy, trading Gardner likely means Aaron Hicks in left field and either Mason Williams or Rob Refsnyder as the fourth outfielder until the Yankees deem Clint Frazier or Dustin Fowler ready — so the only real question is whether they can find a trade partner. Options are limited right now. (I still think the Giants are a best fit.)

Eaton’s injury could open the door for the Nationals to get involved, though it’s a bit too early in the season for trades involving notable players. Everyone would know Rizzo is desperate and jack up the price if he were to go out on the trade market and ask about center fielders this week. Odds are the Nationals will spend the next few weeks sorting through their internal options before pursuing a trade because that’s what teams in their situation almost always do.

On paper though, Gardner does appear to be a fit to the Nationals. He could step in to replace Eaton as their speedy leadoff hitter and center fielder, then slide over to left field once Werth’s contract expires. Other teams, like the Royals and White Sox, have outfielders to offer too though, so the Yankees hardly control the market right now, like they did when they controlled the bullpen market with Chapman and Miller last summer.

Thoughts following Greg Bird’s trip to the disabled list


The baseball gods just won’t let the Yankees have all their young players at once, huh? Now that Gary Sanchez is inching closer to a return, it’s Greg Bird‘s turn to hit the disabled list. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day DL yesterday with a bone bruise in his right ankle. He’s been dealing with it since fouling a pitch off the ankle in Spring Training. Sigh. Anyway, I have some thoughts on all this.

1. The Yankees really Mets’d this one, huh? Kinda hard to believe they let Bird play on the sore ankle all those weeks — Joe Girardi said yesterday Bird went for an initial MRI when the Yankees returned to New York for their first homestand a few weeks ago, and that MRI showed the bone bruise — given, well, everything. The fact Bird is one of their prized young players. The fact he’s coming off major shoulder surgery. The fact Mark Teixeira had a bone bruise in his shin a few years ago that didn’t get better until surprise! They found a fracture. (To be fair, 24-year-old Greg Bird presumably heals quicker than 35-year-old Mark Teixeira.) What if Bird changed his hitting mechanics to compensate for the ankle injury and re-injured his shoulder? Players can change their swing or delivery or whatever to compensate for an injury and not even realize it. Remember when he tried to make that leaping catch of a line drive Monday? What if he came down on the ankle the wrong way? Oy vey. Bird hasn’t been running well for weeks now — I first mentioned it in the game recap on April 15th — which was the clearest sign the ankle wasn’t 100%. I can’t help but wonder whether this would all be in the past already had Bird been placed on the disabled list when the first MRI showed the bone bruise.

2. This stupid nagging ankle issue has turned into a stupid disabled list stint so I decided to find the stupid foul ball in the stupid Spring Training game that led to the stupid injury. Both Bird and Girardi said it happened in Clearwater on March 30th, literally the last Grapefruit League game of the spring. Bird drew a walk in all three trips to the plate that day and yep, he fouled a ball off his right foot. It was the first pitch of his third and final at-bat. To the action footage:


So that’s how all this started. That foul right there. Bird took a walk around the umpire and got right back in the batter’s box. The trainer didn’t come out or anything. There was no indication he was hurt! Bird finished the at-bat, drew his third walk, then was removed for a pinch-runner because all the regulars were being taken out of the game at that point. The Yankees played the exhibition in SunTrust Park the next day and Bird not only played in the game, he hit a home run. Again, no indication he was hurting. Blah. So anyway, that’s where all this started. A seemingly innocuous foul ball to the foot that looked like all those other foul balls to the foot we see during the season.

3. I absolutely buy Bird’s struggles at the plate being a result of the ongoing ankle injury. Maybe the ankle isn’t the only reason for tough year at the plate, but I do believe it’s a significant contributing factor. Hitting starts from the ground up. If you don’t have a solid base under you, you’re not going to be able to hit properly, and clearly Bird’s lower half was compromised. One of the YES analysts — I forget who, maybe David Cone? — recently pointed out Bird has been getting his front (injured) foot down late, which is why he’s been late on so many fastballs. His timing has not even been close to where it needs to be the last few weeks. Almost every swing looks like a defensive swing, like he’s just praying to make contact rather than looking to drive the ball. Hopefully once the ankle clears up, Bird can get his legs underneath him again and get locked back in at the plate. Spring Training was a reminder that when he’s right, Bird can be a really productive hitter. As long as he’s healthy, of course.

4. Let’s not discount the mental break Bird will get. The Yankees said he’ll be shut down entirely these next 7-10 days. He’s not going to travel with the team and will instead stay off the ankle as much as possible. Once the Yankees get back from the upcoming road trip, they’ll reevaluate him and determine the next step. Bird’s body language has been awful the last few weeks. He’s usually a pretty enthusiastic guy. Chatty at first base, always smiling, that sort of stuff. We haven’t seen that Greg Bird lately. It’s been a while since he’s cracked a smile on the field. You can tell the slump — Bird is 6-for-60 so far (ahhh!) — has started to weigh on him. How could it not? Bird has never not been a dominant hitter. He was the man all throughout high school and the minors, and he produced right away when he first got called up two years now. Now suddenly he was close to an automatic out. That had to be taking a toll mentally. The disabled list stint will allow him to clear his head for a bit and stop worrying about baseball. A clear head and a healthy ankle could do wonders whenever Bird returns to the field.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

5. Not surprisingly, Girardi confirmed Chris Carter will take over as the regular first baseman while Bird is absent. This is exactly why they signed Carter: Bird insurance. Everyone just kinda assumed that if Bird did miss time, it would be due to his shoulder or being rusty. Not his ankle. I’ve seen folks talk about playing Austin Romine or even Aaron Hicks at first base and … no. Just, no. Let’s not overthink things here. Play the first baseman who hit 41 home runs last year at first base. With any luck the regular at-bats will get Carter going and give the Yankees yet another power threat. He’s already had his Signature Yankee Moment™. Now we’re just looking for a little consistency and the semi-regular dinger. The Yankees don’t need Carter to carry them. Just contribute more than Bird, which isn’t exactly a high bar to clear.

6. That said about Carter, are you ready to see Matt Holliday at first base? It’s totally going to happen at some point soon. The Yankees have a six-game road trip through a pair of NL cities coming up, and following the series in Pittsburgh, Girardi said he wants to get Holliday more involved. “I’ll see what we do on the next trip,” he said to Dan Martin at the time. I have a hard time thinking Holliday will sit out an entire six-game road trip, especially one bookended by off-days. That’d be eight straight days on the bench. Nope. Not happening. Girardi said yesterday he’s willing to use Holliday at first even though he didn’t play the field at all during Spring Training — he has been taking grounders at first pretty much every day, for what it’s worth — and I’m betting it happens at least once during the upcoming road trip. Heck, it might happen all six games. Get three at-bats out of him, then sub him out. We’ll see.

7. Remember Tyler Austin? He came up last year and hit some dingers. It was cool. Austin broke a bone in his foot with a foul ball very early in Spring Training and he hasn’t been heard from since. At the time of the injury, The Yankees said he’d need at least six weeks to heal before resuming baseball activities. That was ten weeks ago. I suppose Austin could be getting ready and playing in Extended Spring Training games down in Tampa, but who knows? The Yankees haven’t said anything. It sure would be nice to have Austin right now. He’d give the Yankees another option at first base. Tough break for the kid. This would have been a great opportunity for him.

Judge goes deep two more times to help Yankees to 11-5 win over Blue Jays

Good game. Would watch again. The Yankees rebounded from their first set of back-to-back losses since the first week of the season by hammering the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. The final score was 11-5. Welcome back, offense. We missed you the last two days.


Splat Latos
The Yankees did not have a scoreless inning offensively until the fifth Tuesday night, which, not coincidentally, was the first inning the Blue Jays had someone other than Mat Latos on the mound. It was clear from the get-go Latos didn’t have much working. The Yankees started the game with a double (Brett Gardner), an infield single (Chase Headley), and a double (Matt Holliday) to take a quick 1-0 lead. Boom boom boom. Nice start after Monday’s game.

That first inning rally was stopped at one because Didi Gregorius managed to hit a double play grounder with runners on second and third. There was some funky baserunning involved. Didi hit a weak tapper to the pitcher and Headley wandered too far from third, then Holliday wandered too far from second, then Headley made an ill-advised break home and was thrown out. It was not pretty. And after all the RISPFAIL the last two days, it seemed ominous.

Thankfully, the Yankees hammered away at Latos after that. The wind was blowing out at Yankee Stadium and they lifted four balls up into the jet stream for home runs the next three innings. First up was Aaron Hicks, who tomahawked a high fastball …


… into the right field seats for a two-run home run in the second inning. I thought it was a pop-up off the bat. So did Jose Bautista, the right fielder, who appeared to have a beat on the ball, but kept having to back up as the wind took it. That was Hicks’ fifth homer and 59th plate appearance of the season. He hit his fifth homer in his 270th plate appearance last season, on August 12th. I approve of this new Aaron Hicks.

The Hicks homer gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and a few batters later they stretched that to 5-0 thanks to Gardner’s two-run homer. Chris Carter snuck a ground ball single through the left side of the infield, then Gardner parked one in the second deck in right field. Pretty much the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen. Gardner’s supposed to hit the seeing-eye singles and Carter the second deck dingers. Baseball is weird sometimes.

Solo home runs by Aaron Judge in the third inning and Gardner in the fourth inning gave the Yankees a 7-0 lead, all against Latos. He was: bad. The Judge home run was an opposite field shot right into the right field corner. A nice little Yankee Stadium cheapie. Gardner’s appeared to be wind-aided. He got the ball up in the air and it carried into the home bullpen. Second two-homer game on the homestand for Brett. Go figure. He went 69 games without a homer and now has four in the last four days.

Most displeased. (Elsa/Getty)
Most displeased. (Elsa/Getty)

A Strange Game For Tanaka
Bit of a weird outing for Masahiro Tanaka. He allowed a leadoff double to Kevin Pillar to start the game, but was able to strand the runner and keep the Blue Jays off the board through four innings. He looked really good. Lots of weak contact and silly swings. Vintage Tanaka, basically. The Yankees have gave him a nice big lead and he was on cruise control. Doing what a veteran does with a big lead.

Then, in the fifth, the Blue Jays started to square him up pretty good. Steve Pearce, who came into the game hitting .167/.211/.167 (2 wRC+), smacked a solo home to left, then a double (Devon Travis) and a hard-hit single (Chris Coghlan) gave Toronto their second run. Even the third out of the inning was a hard-hit liner to second. Bautista hit a booming double to left to open the sixth, and although he didn’t score, it was still another well-struck ball.

Pearce took Tanaka deep again in the seventh, and one out and one single later, Masahiro’s night was over. (The inherited runner later came around to score on Dellin Betances balk.) Tanaka’s final line: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. Meh. He was great the first four innings and crummy the final two innings plus one out. Tanaka picked a good night to throw a clunker. The offense picked him up.

The Tack-On Runs
The balk by Betances gave the Blue Jays their fourth run and cut the lead to 8-4. The Blue Jays actually loaded the bases and had the tying run at the plate with two outs in that seventh inning, but Dellin put an end to that nonsense by striking out Kendrys Morales on three pitches. Betances can sometimes get a little nibble-y — well, it’s more like can’t-throw-a-strike-y — but when he goes into FU mode, he’s untouchable, as Morales found out.

Anyway, that 8-4 lead became an 11-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh thanks to Judge’s second home run of the night. The first was a little liner into the right field corner. The second was a majestic shot high up in the air that eventually settled into the left field seats. It was a monster at-bat. Monster at-bat. Judge fell behind in the count 0-2 to Jason Grilli, worked it back to 3-2, fouled off four two-strike pitches, then put the ball into orbit.

I’m pretty sure Judge thought he just missed that ball based on his reaction. Like he got it off the end of the bat or something. I guess the wind pushed it out, which tends to happen on windy nights when you hit the ball as high as he did. Judge also made a diving catch in right and is now hitting .313/.424/.795 (233 wRC+) with an AL leading 12 home runs. He also has a 15.2% walk rate. Pitchers are scared.

The Yankees hit five home runs in the game and all five were hit by the outfielders: two for Gardner, two for Judge, and one for Hicks. It’s the first time the Yankees had all three outfielders go deep in the same game since May 17th, 2014, when Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Zoilo Almonte (!) did it. Also, this is the first time since May 30th, 1961 that the starting outfield combined for five homers. Two for Mickey Mantle, two for Roger Maris, one for Yogi Berra that day. L-O-L.

How is this guy even real? (Elsa/Getty)
How is this guy even real? (Elsa/Getty)

Tyler Clippard replaced Tanaka and faced three batters, allowing two of them to reach base. That loaded the bases with one out — the Yankees were still up 8-3 at the time — which prompted Joe Girardi to go to Betances. Good idea. That’s when you want your best reliever in the game. Tommy Layne allowed a run in the eighth inning and Jonathan Holder finished off the ninth. Things got a little dicey in the seventh, but no harm, no foul.

The Yankees had 16 hits total, including three each by Gardner and Holliday, and two each by Headley, Judge, Hicks, and Starlin Castro. Castro’s up to .360/.402/.550 (171 wRC+) on the season. Gosh. The starters in the top seven spots in the lineup went a combined 14-for-31 (.452) with four doubles and five homers even including Didi’s 0-for-4. Facing Mat Latos is good for the ol’ batting average.

Austin Romine exited the game in the seventh inning with what the Yankees called cramping in his groin. He grimaced a bit while running the bases in the sixth. Girardi didn’t seem overly concerned after the game. He did indicate they won’t activate Gary Sanchez should Romine not be available tomorrow. Sanchez will finish his rehab.

And finally, Kyle Higashioka almost picked up his first MLB hit in the seventh inning. He lifted a little bloop to shallow left that clanked off Pearce’s glove. Pearce was given an error (correctly), but I was hoping they’d give Higgy his first hit. He’s going down when Sanchez returns, and it’d be cool to get that first knock out of the way, you know?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN for the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. Here’s the ol’ graph of win probability:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Blue Jays wrap up this three-game series with the rubber game Wednesday night. That’s the final game of the homestand. CC Sabathia and Marcus Stroman are the scheduled starting pitchers. Want to catch that game at Yankee Stadium? RAB Tickets can get you there.