Game 53: Due For A Win

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

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses for a week now, which I guess means they’re due for a win this afternoon. Go home, nothing to see here, game is already in the bag. If only, huh? The offense has come back to life — the Yankees have scored 40 runs in their last six games — and now it’s time to get the pitching back on track.

This afternoon the ball will go to rookie Jordan Montgomery, who hasn’t pitched all that well in three of his last four starts. General baseball randomness, or the league catching up to him? Whatever it is, he and the Yankees could use a good outing today. I’m not sure how many more duds Montgomery can manage with Chance Adams looming. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

The Rogers Centre roof is going to be open this afternoon, which means it’s a lovely afternoon in Toronto. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) has been shut down. His headaches have returned. He’ll see a neurologist when the Yankees get back to New York on Monday. I guess this solves the “Hicks has to play every day” problem for the foreseeable future. This stinks though. Brain injuries are no joke. Hopefully Ellsbury is okay … Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) threw a light 15-pitch bullpen session today. Joe Girardi estimated a return date of June 15th.

Yankees can’t overcome Pineda’s rough start, fall 7-5 to Jays

Some games it seems like you’re just not meant to win, and this was one of them. The Yankees had Francisco Liriano on the ropes in the early innings of Friday night’s game, but they never capitalized, and the Blue Jays raced to a 7-5 win. Drat. The Yankees are now 12-12 in their last 24 games, which is mildly annoying. At least they’re still in first place in the AL East (by 2.5 games) and have the AL’s second best run differential (+64).

Devon Travis' life flashes before his eyes. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Devon Travis’ life flashes before his eyes. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Cursed By The RISP Gods
This game was lost in the first three innings. Well, maybe not entirely, but the Yankees wasted way too many chances. Brett Gardner was stranded at third in the first inning after a leadoff three-base error by Ezequiel Carrera — Carrera dropped a routine fly ball because (I think) he thought he was going to run into Kevin Pillar — and then Aaron Hicks was left standing at second base following a one-out double in the second.

The third inning was when it really started to feel like it just wasn’t their night. With the Blue Jays already up 3-0, the Yankees put runners on first and second via a ground rule double (Chris Carter) and a walk (Gardner). Gary Sanchez then hit a 107 mph rocket … right at the second baseman Devon Travis for a line out. After Aaron Judge worked a walk to load the bases with one out, Matt Holliday hit a 109 mph rocket … on the ground and right at Josh Donaldson for an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. SIGH. Seven hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position in the first three innings. There’s yer ballgame.

Big Mike‘s Big Dud
I suppose Michael Pineda was due for a stinker. After allowing no more than three earned runs in any of his previous nine starts, Pineda gave up three runs in the first inning Friday night, and they came on two very loud home runs. He hung the hell out of a slider to Donaldson, who smacked it over the left field wall for a solo home run. Three batters later Pineda split the plate in half with a fastball to Justin Smoak, who cranked it off the luxury box windows for a two-run shot. The pitch locations:

michael-pineda-josh-donaldson-justin-smoak

Yeah. Not great. Pineda also hung a slider that inning to Jose Bautista, who just got under it and flew out. Giving up a solo homer to Donaldson is whatever. It happens. The Smoak homer was the killer. The two-out walk to Kendrys Morales that preceded it was the accomplice. Pineda has allowed 13 home runs in eleven starts so far this season, and only twice in those eleven starts was he able to keep the other team in the ballpark. As good as he’s been overall this year, the long ball has been an issue.

The Blue Jays tacked on two more runs against Pineda with a third inning sacrifice fly and fourth inning wild pitch. Like I said, it was just one of those nights. After the home runs, there were a lot of ground balls with eyes and bloops that dunked in. Less exit velocity is more, I guess. Pineda gave up a hit to Luke Maile, a career .178/.208/.297 big league hitter, in an 0-2 count with a pitch up at shoulder level. What can you do? Some nights things don’t go well.

The most telling number about Pineda’s night: one. That’s how many strikeouts he had. And he didn’t get that strikeout until the fifth inning, against the 27th and final batter he faced (Maile). Pineda’s slider wasn’t good at all, so much so that midway through the game he started going to his changeup more than his slider. He never does that. The final tally: 5 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K. Shake it off and come back in five days, Mikey.

Not Enough Fighting Spirit
The offense tried and tried to get back into the game, but the bullpen just wouldn’t let it happen. The Yankees struck for four runs in the top the sixth to turn a 5-0 game into a 5-4 game. Judge hit a two-run home run into the second deck in right field — opposite field second deck! — and Starlin Castro hit a laser two-run home run juuust over the right field wall. A Sanchez single and a Holliday made those two-run homers possible.

Alright, one-run game! The Blue Jays answered right back with a run in the bottom of the sixth, unfortunately. Donaldson took Jonathan Holder deep and it wasn’t even a bad pitch. Donaldson went down and got a curveball.

jonathan-holder-josh-donaldsonGreat hitter does great hitter things. The 5-4 game became a 6-4 game. It became a 6-5 game in the top of the seventh with a quick strike two-out rally. Judge drew a walk and Holliday doubled into the right-center field gap. He has a knack for hitting these opposite field fly balls that just carry and carry and carry. I thought it was a routine fly out off the bat. Next thing you know, Pillar is leaping and unable to make the catch at the warning track.

Okay, great, the Yankees were back within one. That didn’t last long though. The Blue Jays scored another insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. The inning started with a Smoak ground ball deep into the shift, which Castro got to and was able to first to first. The problem? Carter gave up on the play, thinking it was a hit. He was late to first base and Smoak beat him. The Yankees challenged the play to see whether Carter’s toe touched the bag, but alas. Pretty terrible.

Troy Tulowitzki followed with a loud double to right, and Travis got the run in with a hard-hit sacrifice fly to left. Adam Warren was on the mound that inning. Every time the Yankees scored runs to get to within one, the bullpen gave a run right back. The bats let them down early with the RISPFAIL and the bullpen let them down late with all those tack-on runs. At least they didn’t go down quietly.

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

Leftovers
Every starter had a hit except Gardner and Chase Headley. Gardner drew a walk. Headley did nothing. He’s down to .232/.306/.356 (80 wRC+) on the season. Remember his great start? It feels like a lifetime ago. The Yankees are going to have to think about making a change at third base in the near future. Maybe that means Ronald Torreyes, maybe it means Gleyber Torres, maybe it means a trade. But this can’t go on forever.

Your nightly Aarons update: Judge went 1-for-3 with the homer and two walks while Hicks went 2-for-4. Judge is hitting .326/.431/.691 (198 wRC+). Hicksie is hitting .323/.438/.585 (175 wRC+). Why don’t they just make the entire team out of Aarons? Those guys are awesome. I love Sanchez, he’s the man, but I wish Hicks was hitting second.

The one reliever who didn’t allow a run was Chasen Shreve, who struck out Donaldson and Bautista as part of a perfect ninth inning. I know he gave up that moonshot to (future Yankee?) Mike Moustakas a few weeks ago, but Shreve has been pretty darn good since coming back up.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, and MLB.com has the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game weekend series continues with the third game Saturday afternoon. That’s a regular 1pm ET start. Hooray for that. Jordan Montgomery and reliever-turned-starter Joe Biagini are the scheduled starting pitchers.

DotF: Andujar extends hitting streak, Sheffield takes tough luck loss for Trenton

Here are the day’s notes:

  • So long, RHP Ernesto Frieri. He has indeed opted out of his contract. There was some confusion about that. Frieri told D.J. Eberle he’s opting out because the Yankees have too much young pitching, and he thinks he has a better chance to get back to MLB with another team.
  • Another goodbye: LHP Jason Gurka has been released, the team announced. The Yankees signed him to a minor league contract over the winter, and with all the young arms moving up, they need the roster spots. The journeyman gets the axe.
  • RHP Yefry Ramirez left last night’s start after throwing his warm-up pitches in the fourth inning, and Matt Kardos says he had a problem with his thumbnail. It’s not a big concern and he’s expected to make his next start.
  • RHP Chance Adams (fourth) and 3B Miguel Andujar (ninth) both made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Adams struck out a career-high 12 the other day. Andujar has an 11-game hitting streak.

Triple-A Scranton (7-5 win over Toledo)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — leadoff home run against the formerly good at baseball Anibal Sanchez
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • 3B Gleyber Torres: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding) — now 8-for-33 (.242) in ten Triple-A games … he also has four errors in those ten games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-4 — this is day 15 of his 20-day rehab assignment … I assume he’ll be activated off the disabled list for the start of the homestand Monday
  • RF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI
  • LF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI,  SB
  • RHP Brady Lail: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 7/6 GB/FB — 59 of 100 pitches were strikes
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 21 of 36 pitches were strikes (58%) … first walk of the season! … now has a 39/1 K/BB in 27.1 innings
  • RHP Ben Heller: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 22 of 39 pitches were strikes (56%)

[Read more…]

Game 52: Party like it’s 2010

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

Last night’s win was one of those wins that makes you feel good all day, you know? The Yankees had a tough go of it in Baltimore, but they came out and laid a beating on the Blue Jays early in the series opener. Always nice to see them turn things around so quickly. Hopefully it continues tonight.

Tonight the Yankees have a chance to do something they haven’t done since way back in 2010, and that’s win 32 of their first 52 games. At 31-20, the Yankees currently have their best record through 51 games since that 2010 team also went 31-20. Only three times this century have the Yankees won 32 of their first 52 games: 2002 (34-18), 2004 (33-19), and 2010 (32-20). Pretty cool the Yankees are where they are. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

The internet tells me it is cool and cloudy in Toronto tonight. I’m not sure whether the Rogers Center roof will be open. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:07pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) was scheduled to hit a little bit today. Joe Girardi said it is unlikely Ellsbury will be activated during this series.

Awards!: Congrats to Judge, who was named AL Rookie of the Month for the second straight month. He’s the first Yankee ever to win the award twice, and he did it back-to-back months. Sanchez won it last August, so Yankees have been named AL Rookie of the Month in three of the last four months. Is that good? That seems good.

2017 Draft: Sam Carlson

Sam Carlson | RHP

Background
Carlson, 18, hails from the noted baseball talent hotbed of Minnesota. He attends Burnsville High School in the Minneapolis suburbs, and he’s committed to Florida.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., Carlson has the ideal pitcher’s frame, and he also throws three pitches. That’s rare for a high schooler, especially one from Minnesota. Last summer in showcases Carlson sat mostly in the low-90s, but he’s come out this spring firing 93-95 mph and touching 97 mph regularly. His fastball is even better than the velocity indicates because the pitch has natural running action back in on righties. Carlson’s second best offering is a hard slider, and he also throws a quality changeup. He uses all three pitches regularly and locates well. It’s a pretty advanced repertoire for a kid from a cold weather state. Carlson is a really good athlete — his future lies on the mound, though it’s worth noting he’s a good enough hitter that he’ll also play some outfield for the Gators, should he not sign for some reason — and he repeats his delivery well, though there’s some thought he’d benefit from lengthening his stride a bit.

Miscellany
Carlson is one of the rare prospects who gets all the scouting publications to agree on his place in the draft class. Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect available while both MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 15th. Hard to get much closer than that. The Yankees hold the 16th pick. As with most cold weather state kids, one of the biggest issues for Carlson is a general lack of exposure. He was a regular on the summer showcase circuit last year, though scouts don’t have much time to see him this spring because his high school season started only a few weeks ago.

Guest Post: The Other Guy: The Yugoslavian Shortstop of 1944

The following is a guest post from Adam Moss, who goes by Roadgeek Adam in the comments. He’s previously written guest posts on Tim McClelland, Frankie Crosetti, the No. 26, Casey Stengel, Leo Durocher, Miller Huggins, Jerry Kenney, the Copacabana incident, Mark Koenig, Earle Combs, and Urban Shocker.

(Baseball Birthdays)
Milosevich. (Baseball Birthdays)

The 1944 season for Major League Baseball was a strange one when it comes to the players who were participating. Because of World War II in Europe, many Major Leaguers were overseas fighting. Famously, Yogi Berra participated in the D-Day invasion at the beaches of Normandy, France; Bill Dickey served at the Navy Hospital in Hawaii until his discharge in January of 1946; Joe Gordon served for the United States Army as a member of the Air Corps; Spud Chandler enlisted for the Army as well. At home, the war effort was also important. On June 26, 1944, the Yankees, along with the crosstown Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had a three-way baseball game to raise money in war bonds. The three-way game raised over $55 million in war bonds for the Roosevelt administration.

New players were needed to replace the players who were serving in the war effort. Aside of this writer’s favorite player, Frankie Crosetti, most of the team in 1944 was backup players. The 80-tool name that the 1944 Yankees had was infielder Snuffy Stirnweiss, who came in fourth for the Most Valuable Player Award. That season he batted .319/.389/.460/.849 and had 16 triples and 55 stolen bases (the highest in the league). He scored the most runs (125) and got the most hits (205) in the most plate appearances (723). Nick Etten, the Yankees first baseman, hit 22 home runs and was the home run king for the season. He led the league in walks with 97 and finished 23rd in the MVP vote. By 1947, Etten was out of the league after 14 games with the Athletics.

While Etten and Stirnweiss held down the right side of the infield, the other side was a platoon. Crosetti was the starting shortstop, but on a downward trend from his peak in the 1930s. With regular shortstop Phil Rizzuto out serving for the Army, the now utility infielder would have to take care of the job until the war ended. At the same time, the Yankees promoted a nine-year minor leaguer from the Kansas City Blues, their AAA affiliate.  This 30-year old rookie would end up becoming the stalwart at shortstop over Crosetti for 1944.

Michael Milosevich was born on January 13, 1915 in the city of Zeigler, Illinois, a two-hour drive southeast of St. Louis. He was one of seven kids born to Rados (“Rado”) and Kata (“Katie”) Miloseovich, natives of Slune in Yugoslavia. The Milosevich children were all very athletically-inclined. Mike, along with his siblings, George, Daniel, Paul, Nicholas and Samuel, represented the sports of Zeigler from 1929-1944. All of them would move on to colleges, such as Samuel, who attended the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and played football and basketball. Paul attended the University of Illinois and was one the varsity football team, varsity baseball team, and the varsity basketball team. (Paul died in a plane crash in Florida in 1943.)

However, Michael had a different calling. At age 20, the eldest brother decided to leave his job at a steel mill as a puddler and a soft coal miner in Zeigler to make it into professional baseball. In 1935, when he made the decision, he was playing semi-professional baseball for a team in Steubenville, Ohio (west of Pittsburgh). Milosevich decided that he would head to Washington, Pennsylvania and talked to the manager of their Pennsylvania State League team, 1927 Yankees backup catcher, Benny Bengough to get on the team. Milosevich asked Bengough to give him a chance and soon he became a shortstop. The known statistics of the Washington Generals for 1935 are limited, but Milosevich appeared in 107 games and batted .294 and slugged .383 with no home runs, five triples and 24 doubles in 112 hits.

The next season, 1936, the Yankees promoted Milosevich and his manager, Bengough to the Joplin Minors C-league team in Joplin, Missouri. In his first season at Joplin, Milosevich batted .269 and slugged .367 with 151 hits in 562 at bats during 141 games. He hit his first two professional home runs at Joplin in 1936. The numbers showed improvement during a second stint at Joplin in 1937. That season he hit .274 and slugged .363 with 22 doubles, 7 triples and three home runs in 139 games.

In 1938, the pairing of Milosevich and Bengough were split as the former was sent to the C-team in Akron, Ohio (the Akron Yankees), managed by Pip Koehler. In 107 games at Akron, he managed to attain 117 hits in 107 games with 409 plate appearances. His home run power continued to go up, reaching six in 1938, where he batted .286 and slugged .430. In 1939, he was promoted to A-league Binghamton in the Eastern League. At this time period, the Binghamton team was named the Triplets. (The name is based on the Triple Cities of Endicott, Binghamton and Johnson City in Broome County.) In the team, Milosevich batted .272/.387 (average/slugging) in 103 games and 346 at bats.

However, the Yankees tried to play Milosevich in the Norfolk Tars playoffs during the 1939 playoffs. This was a disaster. Piedmont League President Ralph Daughton ordered on September 6 that the team was eliminated for using Milosevich. This decision vacated their four wins and gave teams in Asheville, Durham, Portsmouth and Rocky Mount, North Carolina the opportunity to participate for the President’s Cup.

In 1940, the Yankees kept Milosevich with Binghamton, and he hit a bland .250/.327 with 120 hits. The 1940 season would begin to mark a decline in the minor league performance for Milosevich. In 1941, he ended up splitting time between Binghamton and Norfolk, appearing in 63 games for both teams and batted .213/.258 with no home runs and just 89 hits. Despite the lackluster performance in 1941, the Yankees placed Milosevich in the AA Kansas City Blues of the American Association. In 1942, the shortstop appeared in 153 games, batting .286/.370/.362 with 146 hits and 27 doubles with 52 runs batted in. The next season, 1943, he also returned to Kansas City as a 28-year old. Then, he only appeared in 139 games and batted a paltry .243/.285/.304. Milosevich had only 42 RBI and got 127 hits.

The Yankees entered 1944 with Oscar Grimes as their starting shortstop with Crosetti on the bench. Grimes had a horrendous start to the 1944 campaign. He managed to hit only .125/.222/.167 in seven games. (That is what you call small sample size.) On April 30, they called up Milosevich to the Yankees and benched Grimes. (To tell you the Yankees’ opinion of Grimes, he did not appear in another game until May 30 against the Tigers.) In the first game of the doubleheader against the Washington Senators on April 30, Milosevich went 0 for 4 against Mickey Haefner. In the third inning of the second game, Milosevich got his first big league hit against Early Wynn with a double.

Milosevich’s numbers after his debut were outright terrible. They were not Kyle Higashioka-terrible, but he did not reach the Mario Mendoza Line until May 19, when it peaked at .211 in batting average. By the doubleheader on May 21, he was below it again. Aside of a quick jump above .200 on May 30, Milosevich remained there until July 6, when he finally got the average above for good. His 1944 season would be considered a tale of two seasons as he managed to continue going on a rake during the latter half of the season. At the end of the 1944 season, the Yankees finished third in the American League and batted .247/.313/.308 with 77 hits, 11 doubles, four triples and 32 RBI in 94 games.

The damage was done, however. The next season, 1945, Grimes was moved to third base and Crosetti became the starter with Milosevich as the backup. Milosevich did not make his 1945 debut until May 19 and would not appear in another game until July 1. He played sporadically during the months of July and August and early September. His last appearance on the 1945 Yankees came on September 15, when he participated in a doubleheader. By that point, he hit .217/.280/.246 as the backup shortstop. His time as a major leaguer was done as in 1946, Rizzuto returned from the service and Crosetti went to the backup. His final statistics as a Major League player were a .241/.309/.297 line with 92 hits om 391 AB and 124 games.

The Yankees did not cut the infielder from their organization in 1946, but instead, he played for the Newark Bears of the International League and the Blues in Kansas City. In 103 games, his completely tanking numbers showed themselves in a .195/.308/.246 batting line with 61 hits and 23 RBIs. The next season, 1947, he joined the Red Sox organization and played for the Atlanta Crackers and New Orleans Pelicans of the Southern Association.

By 1949, Milosevich became a D-league player/manager. That season, he managed the Hazlehurst-Baxley Red Socks of the Georgia State League. In 1950, he moved onto the Lumberton Auctioneers of the Tobacco State League as a player (and not a manager). His final season as a player manager was the 1951 season with the Americus Rebels of the Georgia-Florida League. For his minors careers, Milosevich appeared in 1,566 games and had 1,475 hits, 47 home runs, 57 triples, along with 282 doubles. He managed to walk more than he struck out: 145 to 129.

Milosevich’s career was over. Milosevich moved to East Chicago, Indiana, where he died on February 3, 1966 due to heart disease. He was buried in the family plot at Zeigler Cemetery. All of the Milosevich Six have since passed away, with the final brother, Samuel, passing in 2015 at the age of 94. The story of Mike Milosevich is a short one given his short career, but the 1944 Yankee deserves air time because he was a stalwart of the 1944 team despite his poor performance. Hidden behind Etten, Stirnweiss and others, he managed to beat out Crosetti and earned his chance in 1944. While he is never remembered by anyone but the obscure Yankee historians, River Avenue Blues gets a chance to read about him.