The Yankees are a good team. However, this game was a microcosm of the team’s weaknesses – their ace slumping and the struggling hitters failing to deliver in big spots. They did show some of that Fighting Spirit towards the end, gathering a few runs against the Sox bullpen, but came up short. The Yankees are only up by one game in the division – the Red Sox and Orioles trail by 1.o and 2.5 games respectively.
Bad Tanaka, again
The fall of Masahiro Tanaka so far in 2017 can be described as “mystifying.” After a great 2016 season and Spring Training, Tanaka just hasn’t looked like himself at all this season. Of course, I might have said this before – players go through slumps, but what Tanaka is going through seems more than that. It is now more than two months into the season and a pitcher who was supposed to be the ace has been a liability.
As David Cone suggested during the broadcast, the Yankees are probably going to keep Tanaka in the rotation. Maybe that’s the solution. Maybe not. It is a finicky situation that the Yankees have with Tanaka right now. You take a guy with a big contract who’s been pretty great for the past three seasons, see him in an unseasonable slump… what do you do? Many on Twitter have pointed out that Chance Adams is lined up perfectly with Tanaka in starts but would the Yankees call him up? I don’t know. It’s only June, but I don’t know how worse Adams would pitch than Tanaka right now. As Jack Curry said, I don’t think it is going to be right now.
Again, the downfall of Tanaka came with the home runs. He has allowed 11 home runs in the past 22.2 IP, which is extremely not what you want. It also didn’t help that he wasn’t exactly fooling a lot of hitters tonight, generating only 3 whiffs all night (one on fastball, two on splitter) per Brooks Baseball.
The backbreaker happened in the top of the fourth inning. With a 1-1 tie, Tanaka walked Xander Bogaerts to begin the inning. Mitch Moreland followed it up with a massive 434-feet home run off a hanging 85-mph slider to give Red Sox a 3-1 lead. Hanley Ramirez, not to be outdone, hit a 90 mph fastball down the middle just over the left field fence to extend the lead to 4-1. At that point, Yankee fans were collectively thinking somewhere in the line of “not again” and “what the heck is really going on with Masahiro??” That didn’t improve when Tanaka, once again, gave up another Red Sox dinger in the fifth – this time, to Andrew Benintendi, on a 90 mph fastball inside.
While Tanaka did finish the fifth inning, he left the game with another bad line: 5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 1 BB and 2 K’s. His season ERA has risen to 6.55 and so has his FIP (5.60). He has a HR/9 rate of 2.32. His 2017 implosion has been something to behold, but in a very painful way.
Failed rally attempts
To the Yankee offense credit, they did make Drew Pomeranz work. The lefty battled and threw 123 pitches in only five innings Meanwhile, the Yankees squeezed only 2 runs off of him. In fact, in 10 AB’s of RISP chances, the Yankees failed to gather a base hit. The only time that they got something out of a runner in scoring position was in the eighth inning, when Craig Kimbrel struck out Didi Gregorius, but the ball got past Christian Vazquez and Matt Holliday scored. It didn’t help that the ball was in the court for two coldest hitters in the lineup – Chase Headley and Chris Carter – twice each. Had they came through at least once, we could be talking about a different ballgame. The Yankees had opportunities to break open several times but they merely gathered four runs. That is annoying.
While Headley and Carter have been futile (well, Carter did have a solo HR), it also doesn’t help when the first two hitters of the lineup also becomes quiet. Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez combined for 0-for-9 with 5 strikeouts. While the no. 3 to no. 7 hitters each had at least a base hit and helped engineered the rallies, the top and bottom of the lineup failed to cash in. Gardner and Sanchez have flashed offensive brilliance this season but Headley and Carter… man, they have continually become liabilities.
How about Chad Green? He kept the Yankees in the game coming into relief for Tanaka and looked pretty strong. Green went 3.1 IP, allowed zero baserunners and struck out six out of ten hitters – not an easy feat against that Red Sox lineup. Always makes me wonder if Green keeps it up, if the Yanks will look at him at the rotation again or they’ll stick him there as a solid relief arm.
In a frustrating day for the lineups, Aaron Judge continued to shine, hitting 2-for-4 and drawing a walk. The current AL All-Star voting leader is hitting .328/.433/.683 for the season.
Box score, standings and WPA graph
The Yankees will have C.C. Sabathia on the mound against last year’s AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. Hopefully a new win streak starts tomorrow. If the Yanks lose, then the Sox will claim tie with New York atop the AL East 1st place. Imagine that. The Red Sox are a good team and their surge isn’t unprecedented. It’s up to the Yankees to try to hold them off.