Yankees can’t finish sweep, waste too many opportunities in 5-3 loss to Rays

Yucky way to end the six-game winning streak. But! The Yankees are still in first place. Shout out to the Royals for taking two of three from the Red Sox this weekend. The Yankees missed out on the sweep and dropped Sunday’s series finale to the Rays. The final score was 5-3. Bring on the trade deadline.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Jordan’s Not-So-Good July Ends
Why are the Yankees still pursuing Sonny Gray even after acquiring Jaime Garcia? Because Jordan Montgomery sure seems to be hitting a rookie wall. He went into Sunday’s start with a 5.13 ERA (4.78 FIP) in five starts and 26.1 innings in July, and that was before he failed to make it out of the third inning against the Rays. This was the third time in Montgomery’s last five starts that he didn’t complete five innings. Few too many short starts from the rotation lately.

Tampa Bay jumped out to a quick 1-0 first inning lead thanks to a four-pitch walk (Steven Souza Jr.) and an 0-2 single (Trevor Plouffe), which tells you where Montgomery was Sunday. He was behind in the count all afternoon. He faced 16 batters and six — six! — saw a first pitch strike. Five of the 16 saw a hitter friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count. The third inning in particular was brutal:

  • Peter Bourjos: 2-0 count
  • Steven Souza: 2-0 count
  • Evan Longoria: 1-0 count
  • Lucas Duda: 3-1 count
  • Trevor Plouffe: 0-2 count!
  • Corey Dickerson: 1-0 count
  • Wilson Ramos: 3-1 count

Dude. I like Montgomery, but he’s not going to blow anyone away, so falling behind in the count that much is a recipe for, well, pretty much exactly what happened Sunday. Bourjos (double), Longoria (infield single), and Duda (walk) all reached base in that third inning to load the bases with one out. Montgomery was able to strike out Plouffe, giving him a chance to escape the inning unscathed. Instead, he hung a two-strike curveball to Dickerson, who punched it out to center field for a two-out, two-run single. Montgomery’s lucky he held him to only a single:

jordan-montgomery-corey-dickersonGot away with three hangers in that at-bat before getting burned by the fourth. By time Dickerson stepped to the plate, Montgomery was 24 pitches into the inning, so I’m sure fatigue was a factor. Then again, given the way he was behind in the count all day, control wasn’t his strong suit to start with. Ramos lined a single to center to score another run, giving the Rays a 4-2 lead and ending Montgomery’s afternoon.

Joltin’ Toe
So it seems Ronald Torreyes is an everyday player again. I guess that was inevitable after Tyler Wade struggled and was booed off the field Thursday night. Torreyes has started all three games since then and hey, he’s played well. Sunday afternoon he was pretty much all the offense for the Yankees, clubbing a two-run home run (!) in the second inning and a run-scoring double in the fourth.

The home run gave New York a 2-1 lead and it came on the hangingest hanging slider that ever hanged. Jacob Faria threw a terrible pitch and Torreyes made him pay with a bullet into the left field seats. Chase Headley drew a walk earlier in the inning. Torreyes has three home runs this season now, you know. He hit one all of last season. Torreyes is only 24. Maybe he’s growing into some power? Or maybe Faria made a terrible pitch and the ball is juiced. Whatever.

Anyway, Toe’s run-scoring double in the fourth inning was set up by a Todd Frazier walk. Unlike the homer, the double did not come on a bad pitch. In fact, Toe went down and dug a changeup out of the dirt.

ronald-torreyes-double

No idea how he hit that. I guess having great bat-to-ball skills and being, uh, vertically challenged helped Torreyes go down and get that ball, and loop it into the left field corner. Frazier chugged all the way around from first to score and he very narrowly slid in safely. It was a bang-bang play at the plate. Torreyes went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer Sunday. The rest of the Yankees went 2-for-28 (.071). There’s yer ballgame.

Blown Chances
This game was lost in the fifth and sixth innings. The Yankees put five men on base those two innings with zero hits. Zero hits! The Rays did everything they could to give the Yankees the game. Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier started the fifth with back-to-back walks, then moved up on a wild pitch. Tampa was up 4-3 at the time, so the Yankees had the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second with no outs and the 3-4-5 hitters coming up. Good situation!

The Yankees scored zero runs. Sergio Romo came out of the bullpen, slidered Aaron Judge to death for a strikeout, and got Matt Holliday to pop up in shallow right field. Shallow enough for Plouffe, the first baseman, to catch it. Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in lefty Dan Jennings, who got Didi Gregorius to ground out to short to end the inning. All they needed from Judge and/or Holliday was a fly ball or a grounder to the right side. They got neither.

In the sixth, the Yankees got another gift when Adeiny Hechavarria threw away a potential 6-4-3 double play ball from Torreyes, giving the Yankees new life. A walk (Todd Frazier), the error, and a hit-by-pitch (Austin Romine) loaded the bases with one out. Then Gardner hit a weak ground ball to first base — Plouffe threw home for the force out — and the young Frazier flew out to right. Five free baserunners in those two innings. No runs.

Waste all the free baserunners. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Waste all the free baserunners. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees did threaten in the ninth inning thanks to a Gardner single and a Frazier walk. The tying run was on base and the go-ahead run was at the plate. Alex Colome got Judge to pop up behind first base on a hanging … something. Not sure if it was a cutter or slider or whatever. It had a little wrinkle in it. Either way, it was a hanger. Holliday then grounded out to third and that was that. Game over. The Yankees with runners in scoring position: 1-for-11 (.091).

Leftovers
Shout out to Luis Cessa for sparing the bullpen after Montgomery’s short start. He tossed 3.1 scoreless innings. Only one hit too. (But four walks.) Chasen Shreve got two big outs in the seventh — he grounded out Duda with two men on and struck out Dickerson with the bases loaded — before giving way to Chad Green. Green struck out six in 2.1 innings. He also allowed an insurance run on an infield single (Mallex Smith), a stolen base, and a booming double (Souza). All things considered, one run in 6.1 bullpen innings is pretty good.

The Judge and Holliday slumps continue. Judge went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts, and is 19-for-85 (.224) with a 36.9% strikeout rate in the month of July overall. I had a feeling the baseball gods wouldn’t let us get through the season without a month like this. Sucks. Holliday went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. He did hit a fly ball to right field in the seventh. It was the second ball he’s hit out of the infield on the homestand. Going back to the start of that nightmare West Coast trip, Holliday is hitting .137/.204/.255 in 113 plate appearances. He looks lost.

Tough day for Romine behind the plate. He took a hard foul tip to the throat — it bounced it the dirt and right up under his mask — got hit in the helmet by a backswing, and took a pitch to the left hand. He had to leave the game after that. X-rays came back negative and Romine is day-to-day. Having to scramble for a backup catcher right before the trade deadline would have been bad.

Gardner extended his hitting streak to 12 games with his ninth inning single. The young Frazier had a single and also made a great jumping catch on the warning track to help out Montgomery. Those were the only non-Torreyes hits. Lots of walks though. Seven total. Two each by the Fraziers and one each by Gardner, Judge, and Headley. Really needed to capitalize on those free baserunners, dudes.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. My Google issues are resolved, so our Bullpen Workload page is back up and running. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game series is over and the homestand continues Monday night with the first of three against the Tigers. But first, the trade deadline. The deadline is 4pm ET Monday. Will the Yankees reel in Sonny Gray? My guess is yes. Anyway, Luis Severino and Michael Fulmer are the scheduled starters for Monday night’s series opener. That should be fun. There are three games remaining on the homestand and RAB Tickets can get you in the door to all three.

Update: Romine leaves with bruised hand, x-rays negative

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

6:17pm ET: Following the game Joe Girardi said Romine is unlikely to be placed on the disabled list, though he figures to miss a few days. Gary Sanchez will have to carry the workload behind the plate until then.

4:40pm ET: Good news: x-rays came back negative. Romine has a bruised left hand. The Yankees were looking at the possibility of scrambling for a backup catcher all of a sudden. Here’s the play:

3:51pm ET: Austin Romine exited this afternoon’s game after taking a pitch to the top of the left hand. It swelled up instantly. Romine did stay in the game to run the bases, though he was removed after the inning. I’m sure he’s heading for x-rays and all that. There are so many small, easy-to-break bones in your hand.

It’s worth noting Kyle Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A disabled list with a back injury, meaning veteran journeyman Eddy Rodriguez is the No. 3 catcher on the depth chart. The Yankees would need to add him to the 40-man roster to call him up should Romine need to go on the DL. Also, the trade deadline is tomorrow, so the Yankees could perhaps swing a minor deal for a catcher, if necessary.

The Yankees have not released an update on Romine, though they usually get the x-ray results pretty quickly. We should learn if there’s a fracture reasonably soon. Stay tuned for any updates.

Game 103: Last Game Before The Trade Deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Take a good look at the Yankees roster. Chances are it’ll look a bit different next time they play a game. This afternoon’s series finale with the Rays is the Yankees’ final game before Monday afternoon’s trade deadline, and already they’ve have made one deal today. They picked up Jaime Garcia from the Twins for pitching prospects Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns. A new starter was very necessary and the Yankees landed one.

More important than the looming trade deadline right now is this afternoon’s game. The Yankees have won the first three games of this four-game series to increase their lead over the Rays from 1.5 games to 4.5 games. That’s huge. Creating some distance in the standings is always appreciated. The Yankees have won six straight games overall, so let’s take a seven-game winning streak into the deadline, shall we? Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Clint Frazier
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Chase Headley
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Pretty much a perfect afternoon for baseball in the Bronx. There’s not a cloud in the sky and the high temperature is 82 degrees. Couldn’t ask for a better day to spend at the ballpark. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the day and the game.

Roster Update: Earlier today the Yankees sent down Caleb Smith and called up Chasen Shreve, so they have a fresh arm in the bullpen and a lefty. I imagine Shreve will be sent down when Garcia reports, which will probably be tomorrow. Garcia, by the way, is tentatively scheduled to make his first start Thursday. The Yankees say they are not considering a six-man rotation at this time. Duh.

Injury Updates: Aaron Hicks (oblique) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton on Wednesday. He’s been taking full batting practice from both sides of the plate … Buster Olney says the Yankees believe Greg Bird (ankle) could be back by late-August. No offense to Bird, but I’m going to take the over on his rehab timetable. This seems like the Yankees posturing during trade talks for a first baseman more than anything.

2017 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Sunday

Gray. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Gray. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

It’s crunch time. The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline is only a day and a half away now, and already the Yankees have made two big trades and two small trades. They acquired Jaime Garcia from the Twins earlier this morning, in case you missed it. The Yankees have a new fifth starter, something they desperately needed.

On Friday and Saturday we learned the Yankees continue to discuss Sonny Gray with the Athletics, and both Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier are off the table. The two clubs are talking about other prospects now, so that’s good. We’re again going to keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here. Make sure you check back throughout the day. All timestamps are ET.

  • 11:53am: The Yankees and Athletics are “optimistic something can get done” with Gray. Other teams are involved, but the Yankees remain the favorites. [Heyman]
  • 11:23am: Depending who you ask, the Yankees either are or are not involved in the Yu Darvish bidding. I get the feeling they’re not involved, but the Rangers are looping them into the conversation to increase their leverage. [Buster Olney, T.R. Sullivan, Jeff Wilson]
  • 11:00am: The Yankees are still in the mix for another starter even after this morning’s Garcia trade, and Gray remains their top target. “Still could work but hard deal to make,” said one report. [Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Passan]
  • 11:00am: Beyond a starter, the Yankees also have some interest in a first baseman and a left-on-left matchup reliever. I don’t think that’s a big priority though. Their top bullpen righties can get out lefties. [Heyman]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Detailing Didi’s Dingers

(Getty)
(Getty)

There are few players in baseball who make it as easy to root for them as Didi Gregorius does. Rare is the time when he doesn’t have a smile on his face; his post-Aaron Judge home run antics with Ronald Torreyes are (almost) just as fun as the prodigious homers; his post-victory tweets are must-see material after a Yankee win. To top that all off, he’s become a great player on the field, having a career year after he just had one last year. Didi is on pace to post career highs in pretty much everything at the plate and has maintained great defense at short, even after missing the first month of the season.

A big part of Didi’s offensive emergence in the last two seasons has been the home run. Last year, he hit 20. This year, he’s already at 16 and all three projection systems at his FanGraphs page see him hitting seven more this year, which would leave him with 23, a new career high. This, like the rest of his game since arriving in the Bronx, really, is a justification for the trade that brought him here. He’s a lefty swinger who showed brief flashes of power in the minors and majors, which seems like a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. For all the reasons listed above–both on-field and off–Didi’s proven that right.

For the last two years, Didi has had an average home run distance of 373 feet. This year, that is the fourth shortest homer distance among players with at least 190 batted ball events. Last year, that mark was in the bottom 10 of the league with the same qualifier. Using HitTracker, 14 of Didi’s home runs between 2016 and 2017 have been labeled as just enough or lucky. Didi’s ISO at home the last two years is .199, compared to .166 Those signs seem to point to a guy taking advantage of a short porch in his home field. However if we dive a little deeper, we see that isn’t quite the case.

Of the seven just enough/lucky homers of 2017, only two of them have taken place at Yankee Stadium. He had, similarly, seven just enough/lucky homers in 2016. Again, just two of them took place in Yankee Stadium. Since this power surge started last year, Didi has 36 home runs split evenly between home games and away games, 18 apiece. While there’s a bit of a power boost at home–as evidenced by the ISO difference–it’s only partially fueled by the home runs.

Whatever Didi has been doing the last two years is working. He’s emerged as a top shortstop in the American League and that has made the trade to bring him here look more and more like a great steal with each passing day. A player like him is an absolute blessing to have on the team and I look forward to rooting for him for the rest of his time in pinstripes, which is hopefully a long, long time.

Yankees acquire Jaime Garcia from Twins for Littell, Enns

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

9:34am ET: The Yankees have announced the trade, so it’s a done deal. Officially official. The press release says the deal happened last night. Anyway, the trade is as reported. Garcia and cash for Littell and Enns.

8:56am ET: The Yankees have landed their new fifth starter. Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman report the Yankees have an agreement in place to acquire lefty Jaime Garcia from the Twins for pitching prospects Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns. Littell was scratched from his scheduled Double-A start last night, which was a pretty good indication something was up. Mark Feinsand says the Twins will eat a big chunk of the remainder of Garcia’s $12M salary. The Yankees are only responsible for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.

Interestingly enough, both Ken Rosenthal and Jeff Passan say the Garcia trade does not end the pursuit of Sonny Gray. The Yankees still want him, though now they don’t need to pursue him with as much urgency. Garcia has some bullpen experience and even though they’ve yet to admit it, the Yankees are going to have to watch Luis Severino‘s and Jordan Montgomery‘s workloads down the stretch. Getting two starters would make that much easier.

Garcia, 31, was just traded from the Braves to the Twins last week. Minnesota has lost four of their five games since the trade to continue to slip out of the postseason race, so they decided to flip the rental Garcia. That doesn’t happen too often. Garcia allowed three runs in 6.2 innings in his one start with the Twins on Friday. He has a 4.29 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 19 starts and 119.2 total innings this year. Here’s my Scouting The Market post on Garcia.

The 21-year-old Littell came over from the Mariners in the James Pazos trade last year. He has a 1.87 ERA (2.87 FIP) overall this season, including a 2.05 ERA (2.31 FIP) in seven starts and 44 innings with Double-A Trenton. The numbers are undeniably great. Littell is a command pitcher without blow-you-away stuff and the consensus is he’s a future back-end starter, and hey, that’s not nothing. You’d rather develop your own fifth starter than pay $10M for one in free agency.

Enns, 26, has a 2.29 ERA (2.73 FIP) in 39.1 Triple-A innings this season. He missed more than two months with a shoulder strain. Enns has been unreal since coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2015, throwing 239 total innings with a 1.51 ERA (2.92 FIP). Enns is another command pitcher, though he’s several years older than Littell and has an injury history. Littell ranked 29th in my lasted prospect rankings. Enns was unranked.

Last week the Twins traded righty 19-year-old rookie ball right-hander Huascar Ynoa to get Garcia from the Braves. He’s having a poor year statistically (5.26 ERA and 4.40 FIP in 25.2 innings) though he offers power stuff and is a similarly ranked prospect as Littell. A back-end of a team’s top 30 list prospect. Ynoa offers more ceiling and Littell more probability. That’s a very Twins thing to do. Trade ceiling for probability. Enns is pretty much a throw in.

It’s also worth nothing there are 40-man roster considerations here. Littell will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this coming offseason and he would have been very much on the 40-man roster bubble for the Yankees. I think they would have found a way to squeeze him onto the roster, though it wasn’t a lock. Also, the Yankees were going to have to clear a 40-man spot for Garcia, and Enns figured to be near the front of the DFA line.

The Yankees desperately needed a new fifth starter in the wake of Michael Pineda‘s elbow injury — heck, you could argue they needed another starter even before Pineda got hurt — and now they have one in Garcia. Ground ball heavy lefties are always good to have in Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees can manage to reel in Gray in addition to Garcia, suddenly the rotation looks mighty strong the rest of the way. Getting one starter was crucial though, and the Yankees have done that.

Scouting the Trade Market: Scott Feldman

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Starting pitching is the Yankees most obvious need at the moment, and they have given every indication that they will be buyers in the coming days. With Sonny Gray as the only true game-changing pitcher on the market, the focus has shifted somewhat to innings eaters.

Enter Scott Feldman.

It is worth noting, above all else, that Feldman is currently on the disabled list with a right knee injury. He’s eligible to return on August 2, though, and he threw a bullpen session last week; the expectation is that he will be activated as soon as possible. It is the Yankees dire need for a starting pitcher that has us looking at someone that isn’t full healthy at the moment – though, it isn’t unprecedented for a team in the midst of a playoff race to trade for someone on the DL.

Current Performance

Feldman spent 2016 pitching primarily out of the bullpen. He made forty appearances (five starts) for the Astros and Blue Jays, pitching to a 3.97 ERA (100 ERA+) in 77.0 IP. That was the first full-season that he spent in the bullpen since 2007, though, so the Reds brought him on-board to fill-out their rotation on a cheap one-year deal ($2.3 MM).

Despite his injury, Feldman has done more than provide a warm body in the Reds beleaguered rotation. The 34-year-old has pitched to the following line this year: 19 GS, 103.2 IP, 102 H, 34 BB, 86 K, 4.34 ERA (103 ERA+). He has pitched into the 7th inning in 8 of his starts, and was averaging just shy of 6 IP per start before he left his last start early due to the aforementioned injury.

Feldman’s strikeout (19.8%), walk (7.8%), and groundball (43.8%) rates are right around league-average, which is something of a turnaround for him. In years past, his walk and groundball rates were well above-average, while his strikeout rates were subpar. He has had success both ways, so it may not something to be terribly concerned with – but it’s something to keep in mind.

A potential issue is that Feldman’s platoon splits have been a bit start this year – he has held RHH to a .317 wOBA, but lefties have hit .266/.338/.464 (.342 wOBA) against him; he had similar issues in 2016, though that came in the bullpen and in a much smaller sample size. That’s not a good sign for someone that could be making half of his starts in Yankee Stadium. However, that does come in stark contrast to the rest of his career, as Feldman has a slight reverse platoon split (.322 wOBA vs. LHH, .329 vs. RHH) for his career.

Current Stuff

Feldman is essentially a three-pitch pitcher, with nearly 95% of his offerings coming in the form of his sinker, cutter, and curveball. He has never been a particularly hard-thrower, and his velocity has remained steadily around the low-90s for the better part of a decade. You can see his current velocity below:

feldman-velo

The dip in velocity in late-June into July has been attributed to his wonky knee, which is understandable; he was throwing 85 MPH sinkers in his last start prior to being pulled. Feldman is probably something of a junk-baller, to be sure, but he isn’t a soft-tosser, and all of his pitches move. Hopefully, the drop in velocity is due to his aching knee, and nothing else.

Feldman’s best pitch is his curveball, which has generated a 12% whiff rate, and sports a paltry .138 BAA. He locates it quite well, too, burying it at or below the bottom of the strikezone, and generating both swing-and-misses and weak contact. You can see that here:

(Statcast)

(Statcast)

Injury History

Feldman’s injury history is magnified due to his current injury, which is a bit more foreboding than the usual knee injury would suggest. He needed microfracture surgery for an injury to the same knee back in 2011, and he missed over 100 games as a result. There has been no indication that this current injury is related in any way, or that its severity could have been exacerbated as a result of the prior surgery – but it’s something that happened, and it’s the same body part.

Arm-wise, Feldman has been mostly healthy since having Tommy John Surgery back in 2003. He missed three starts in 2014 with biceps tendinitis, but that’s about it.

Contract Status

Feldman will be a free agent after this year, and is owed around $1 MM for the remainder of the season.

What Would It Take?

Mike laid out the expected cost for an average-ish rental when he discussed Jaime Garcia, and that’s worth checking out. The short version is a solid prospect or two, but nothing that’ll leave the fans up in arms.

That being said, Feldman is a special case due to his injury issue. There are already rumors swirling that he’ll end up being dealt before the waiver trade deadline instead, as teams wait for him to get healthy and prove that he can still contribute. Were the Yankees (or another team) to pounce now, throwing a bit of caution to the wind, the price would ostensibly be lower. Whether or not the Reds would make the deal now is another question entirely.

Does He Make Sense for the Yankees?

Scott Feldman is a risk, and there’s no way to argue otherwise. He’s hurt, and will still be on the DL when the deadline comes and goes. The Dodgers took that risk with Rich Hill last year, and it was both good and bad – he wasn’t able to pitch for his first three weeks in the organization, but when he did, he was awesome. Feldman is not Hill, of course, but that is the sort of risk vs. reward analysis that has to be weighed.

Given his injury, I suspect that Feldman could be had for quite cheap right now; and, given the record of returns for similarly-skilled healthy pitchers, I don’t think he would’ve cost all that much to begin with. So what we have is a pitcher that has a track record of eating innings at a league-average-ish rate with a bit more risk than usual. And I think that risk is worth taking.

The Yankees may have to deal with innings limits for Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino, and their fifth starter is currently the personification of a shrug. Feldman offers insurance for those three spots, potentially, and shouldn’t cost all that much. Moreover, given his recent experience as a swingman/long-reliever, his acquisition could be made in conjunction with another trade, with Feldman transitioning back into the bullpen unless (or until) a need arises.

Feldman’s injury cannot be ignored, but if the cost is as low as history suggests, it’s a risk that’s well worth taking – I’d just hope that it went hand-in-hand with another acquisition.