Well, the Yankees dropped the first series played in the 2017 season. On a bright side, the last time Yankees had a season opener in the Trop, they got swept (2012) so, uh, improvement? It was not an ideal series but they got plenty more games to go. Their losing formula tonight was simple: Michael Pineda got knocked around and the bats went silent.
Michael Pineda, like a deja vu
Mike Pineda allowed 27 homers last year, which was a 1.38 HR/9 rate. It’s not exactly dreadful but you want to see many fewer gopher balls from the starter. He started this season the way he left off. Three pitches in, Pineda left a fastball up against Corey Dickerson, and he drove the ball over the left-center wall. 1-0 Rays. At least it wasn’t after two outs, right?… alright that’s not really a consolation.
Pineda got into another jam in the second inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Steven Souza, he allowed a loud single to Logan Morrison – it was a flyball that hit the third catwalk and was automatically called a single. Aaron Judge could’ve caught it if not for that (I think). Stupid Tropicana Field. Anyways, Pineda struck out Tim Beckham for the first out of the inning. They got the second out on a force out at the home plate. However, with two outs and runners on second and third, Derek Norris hit a single to bring both of them in. 3-1 Rays. Starlin Castro got a little glove on it, but the ball was hit too hard.
Big Mike had a nice bounceback inning in the 3rd. However, naturally, he got into another jam in the fourth. Pineda’s final line: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 0 BB and 6 K’s, good for a 7.36 ERA and a 0.99 xFIP. That is the quintessential frustrating Big Mike numbers right there. He also got a decent amount of whiffs, getting 13 overall (8 of them from his slider). He got hit hard many times yet he struck out Evan Longoria twice. Enigma!
It’s only Pineda’s first start of the year. With his talent and the upcoming free agency, I’m sure he knows that he should be better than what he showcased tonight.
Cobb got’em cold
After giving up a 1-0 lead, the Yankees answered right back. Jacoby Ellsbury, leading off the second inning, hit a 91 mph fastball middle-in into the right field seats for a solo homer.
Well, that ended up being the only run the Yankees scored all game. Alex Cobb, who made a comeback last year from Tommy John surgery, had an ugly 8.59 ERA in 22.0 IP in 2016. However, the dude is talented. Prior to the surgery, he had a solid 2014 season in which he marked a 2.87 ERA in 166.1 IP. 2017 may well become Cobb’s comeback year. Not a lot of shame in getting shut down by him. Yankee hitters got flummoxed by his offspeed pitches (changeup and curve generated 12 whiffs combined). New York also went 0-for-9 in RISP chances, including 0-for-4 combined from Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. You have bad games like this. It happens.
Ellsbury got a base hit off of Rays closer Alex Colome to try to start a ninth-inning rally. However, Castro promptly grounded out into a double play to immediately kill the momentum. Chase Headley hit a single to reach the base but Judge flew out to end the game.
Another game, another scoreless outing by the Yankee bullpen. Tonight, they went 4.1 IP scoreless thanks to Tommy Layne, Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve. That’s a major silver lining from this game, if you ask me. However, if the starters don’t get it together and Joe Girardi has to run the bullpen like this frequently… it could turn ugly.
Anyways, focusing on what happened today: Adam Warren, how about that guy? He’s looked pretty awesome as a “guy to burn some innings out of the bullpen when the team is losing.” It’s not the sexiest job but it’s pretty vital to the team. Tonight, he threw 2.1 perfect innings while striking out four. He generated 8 whiffs in 32 pitches (so, hitters swung and missed on one out of every four pitches he threw), which is great. I don’t think I was ever enamored with the idea of having Warren in the rotation but he’s a blast to watch in certain bullpen roles. I’m a fan.
Gary Sanchez and Bird are combined 2-for-26 to start the season. It’s not what you want but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just one series. Just so happens that it’s also the very first of the year, which means that that’s all the numbers we have to see in evaluating their (very, very young) 2017 season. They’ll be fine.
On the other hand, Chase Headley is pretty hot to start this season. He’s 7-for-11 so far with two extra base hits (a double and a homer). I don’t think he’ll have an All-Star worthy season but it’d be good to have a solid-hitting Headley all season — just a wishful thought.
Another guy off to a hot start? Jacoby Ellsbury. He went 3-for-4 tonight, bringing his average up to .455. It’s way too early to read into this but I recall the hitting coach Alan Cockrell wanting Ellsbury to move his hitting point up front. It is something to follow and see as the season goes on. Would be a cool thing if that adjustment makes Ellsbury’s contract someone bearable for 2017.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The Yankees get another off-day tomorrow prior to their weekend series in Baltimore. If you’re going to Camden Yards to see any games this weekend, I’m jealous of you.