Hicks homers, Yankees hang on for 3-2 win over Red Sox

You done messed up that baseball A-A-Ron! I hope some of you get that. (Those who didn’t: watch this.) The Yankees actually won a game Friday night — weird, I know — beating the Red Sox 3-2 thanks to a late home run by Aaron Hicks. Andrew Miller, with some help from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, made it stand up in the ninth inning. That was a fun game, yes? Yes. Yes it was.


Nail-Biting Time In The Ninth
Let’s recap this game backwards and start with the ninth inning. The Yankees were nursing a 3-2 lead and Joe Girardi wanted this game so badly he used Dellin Betances for the third consecutive day. Dellin threw six pitches Wednesday and ten pitches Thursday, so it’s not like he pitched a lot the last few days, but Girardi usually doesn’t use his relievers three days in a row. In fact, this is the first time he’s done it since September 2014 (David Robertson).

Betances allowed a single and got two outs in the eighth inning, and it was pretty clear Girardi had him on a pitch count. He was lifted after 15 pitches and Miller came in for the four-out save. Miller struck out Jackie Bradley Jr. to end the inning, then came back out for the ninth. And gosh, what a ninth inning. It’s never easy, is it? The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out on an infield single, a legitimate single, and a dropped pop-up in the triangle. Yuck.

The Yankees still led 3-2 but now the BoSox had the bases loaded with David Ortiz at the plate, which is pretty much everyone’s worst nightmare. Miller fell behind in the count 3-1 and we were all waiting to see how the Yankees would blow the lead. Here’s the 3-1 slider that I’m pretty sure every single one of us thought was ball four:

Andrew Miller David Ortiz

Good gravy is that a bad aesthetic. McCann got crossed up — he was expecting a fastball and got a slider — and he caught it funny, which made the pitch look a lot worse than it really was. It was a strike though. Absolutely. It caught the corner according to PitchFX. David Ortiz and manager John Farrell didn’t want to hear it though. They both argued and Farrell was tossed. Not Ortiz though. He continued the at-bat.

Miller went back to the slider for the 3-2 payoff pitch and he got a favorable call from Kulpa for strike three. Ortiz walked the dugout before running back out to give Kupla the business. To be honest, I don’t blame him. Umpires are known to hold grudges, and after Ortiz and Farrell gave him lip after the 3-1 pitch, it seemed like Kupla gave the favorable call to Miller on the 3-2 pitch. Here’s the video of the 3-2 pitch and Ortiz’s tirade:

Miller struck out Hanley Ramirez with the bases loaded to end the game after putting Ortiz away. That almost felt inevitable. I felt like once the Yankees got away with that 3-2 pitch to Ortiz, they were going to win. The call was too favorable to not win, you know?

For the sake of being thorough, here is the strike zone plot of the Ortiz at-bat, per Brooks Baseball:

Andrew Miller Davis Ortiz strike zone

The 3-1 pitch was in the strike zone. It just looked really bad because McCann got crossed up. The 3-2 pitch was down below the zone though and a robot umpire would have ruled it ball four. Luckily the #humanelement still exists and Kulpa called what should have been ball four strike three. Hey, I ain’t complaining.

An A-A-Bomb For A-A-Ron
Hicks’ tenure with the Yankees has not started well. (John Ryan Murphy was sent to Triple-A on Friday, so neither side is getting what they want from the trade right now.) He came into Friday’s game with three hits in 33 at-bats (.091), which is obviously terrible. Alex Rodriguez‘s injury means Hicks is probably going to play everyday for the next two weeks however, so this is a chance for him to show what he can do.

In the sixth inning Hicks’ usually excellent defense let the Yankees and Michael Pineda down. He let two soft fly balls drop in front of him for base hits and both probably should have been caught. The second one definitely should have been caught. The first one kinda died in the air and dropped quick. It would have been a tough play. But still, you want your defensive wiz to make those plays. Pineda put his hands up and showed up Hicks on both plays, which is total crap. Pineda finally had his first decent start of the year and he’s showing up teammates? Get real.

Anyway, Pineda got Bradley to bang into a double play to end that sixth inning and keep the game tied 2-2. Two innings later, in the bottom of the seventh, Hicks laid into a first pitch changeup from Rick Porcello that was right out over the plate. I mean, look at this thing:

Aaron Hicks Rick Porcello

That’s an 86 mph center cut changeup. It’s a batting practice fastball, basically. Hicks hit it over the bullpen and into the first row of the right field bleachers, so he got all of it. In fact, at 446 feet (per Statcast), it was the longest home run by the Yankees this season.

And boy, did Hicks need that. Hicks and the Yankees needed it. He needed something to feel good about following his rocky start, and the Yankees just needed a damn run. When Girardi gets ejected trying to get a balk call to force in a run like he did Thursday, you know the team is desperate for runs. Hicks delivered a big one Friday.


The Battle Back
The Yankees quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first inning, and it was easy to think the game was over. They’re not scoring and the Red Sox probably were not going to stop at two runs. Instead, the Yankees battled back to tie the game at 2-2, scoring one run in the first and another in the second.

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the first with a four-pitch walk, then stole second and third against Christian Vazquez, who I’m told is the fourth Molina brother. McCann cashed the run in with a two-out, two-strike double to right field. Ellsbury, by the way, got hurt in the inning. He tweaked his hip on the steal of third and was pulled from the game. An MRI showed a strained hip muscle and he is day-to-day.

McCann cut Boston’s lead in half, then, in the bottom of the second, the Yankees manufactured a run with an infield single and a sacrifice bunt. Starlin Castro beat out the single and Hicks laid down the bunt. He was trying to bunt for a hit, which is a smart play in the rain with the wet grass, but Porcello made a very nice play to get him at first. Dustin Ackley, who replaced Ellsbury, stroked a two-out single to center to score Castro and the tied the game.

The inning actually ended on that play. Ronald Torreyes drew a walk and was on first base when Ackley singled, and he was cut down at third base on the single. Bradley’s throw from center was so bad that Dustin Pedroia cut if off and threw Torreyes out at third. The ball had to have slipped out of Bradley’s hand. I’m not sure how else he fired a two-hopper to the cutoff man.

Anyway, how about that? Hicks and Ackley (Hickley or Ackicks? Did we pick one?) contributing to the offense. Good times.


Two Outs Mike
The Red Sox put eight runners on base against Pineda — six hits and two walks — and wouldn’t you know it, six of the eight came with two outs in the inning. Coming into the game opponents had a .509 OBP (!) with two outs in the inning against Pineda. It was .239 OBP with zero or one out. He’s struggled to finish innings all season.

Boston scored both their runs in the first inning. Pineda got two quick outs (of course), then allowed a two-out double to Xander Bogaerts (of course) and a two-run home run to Ortiz (of course). Hanley and Travis Shaw followed with two-out singles for good measure. It felt like another one of those games for the pitcher former known as Big Mike. He looked great after two batters then it came apart.

To Pineda’s credit, he settled down very nicely after that first inning. He retired 12 of 14 batters from the second through fifth innings before the Red Sox put some runners on base in the sixth. Hicks’ misplays in center were to blame there. Pineda finished the night with just the two runs allowed on six hits and two walks in six innings. He fanned five. The first inning was frustrating, but Pineda did settle down, so hooray for that. That’s three good to great starts in a row for the rotation.

Disturbing stat about the offense: they saw 32 pitches in the final four innings. Total. They saw seven pitches in the fifth, ten in the sixth, five in the seventh, and ten in the eighth. That is: bad. I am in favor of swinging early in the count, but geez, not that much. Starting working some counts, fellas.

Chasen Shreve and Kirby Yates tag-teamed the seventh inning. Shreve allowed a leadoff double to Vazquez, then got a gift when Mookie Betts popped up a bunt. Why he was bunting, I’ll never know. Yates then came in and got a liner to short from Pedroia and a strikeout of Bogaerts. Bogaerts did not like the strike three call:

Kirby Yates Xander Bogaerts

Kulpa bad a big strike zone, I get it, but boy do the Red Sox complain about a lot of calls. They’re like the Rasheed Wallace of baseball teams.

The Yankees only had six hits and three walks offensively. Ackley, McCann, Castro, Hicks, Brett Gardner, and Didi Gregorius had the base hits. Ellsbury, Gardner, and Torreyes drew the walks. Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran went a combined 0-for-7 with two strikeouts. Yuck. The Yankees really need those two to get going.

And finally, Ben Gamel made his big league debut as a defensive replacement for Ackley in right field in the eighth inning. Naturally, the very first ball was hit his way. Congrats to Gamel. He’s come a long way since being a tenth round pick in 2010.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game. Here are the updated standings and our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the win probably graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Red Sox will continue the series Saturday afternoon. It’ll be Nathan Eovaldi against David Price, a rematch of last Sunday’s game. Hopefully this one goes a little better. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch game or any of the other eight games left on the homestand live.

DotF: Mateo stays hot in Tampa’s loss

OF Aaron Judge and SS Jorge Mateo rank ninth and tenth in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet, respectively. The calls for Mateo to be promoted are understandable, but he’s only played 46 total games at High-A split across two seasons. At least let him go through the league twice first.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 BB — threw a runner out at third
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • LF Nick Swisher: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — first game in left field
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 5 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 54 of 79 pitches were strikes (69%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 33 of 50 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Update: Ellsbury day-to-day with strained hip muscle


10:28pm: Ellsbury is day-to-day with a strained hip muscle, the Yankees say. The MRI didn’t show anything serious.

8:27pm: Ellsbury left with a “tight right hip” and is heading for an MRI, the Yankees have announced.

7:46pm: Jacoby Ellsbury left tonight’s game with an apparent hip injury after the first inning. He drew a walk then stole second and third bases, and after the steal of third he was seen grabbing at hip right hip. Ellsbury trotted home gingerly on Brian McCann‘s single, then went to the clubhouse. Here’s the video.

The Yankees have not yet announced any updates on Ellsbury, so stay tuned. The Yankees lost Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) and CC Sabathia (hamstring) to injuries this week, and while losing Ellsbury would hurt, the team at least has plenty of outfield depth in Triple-A. Ben Gamel is on the roster now and would be a candidate to stick around, if necessary.

Ellsbury, 32, went into Friday’s game hitting .260/.315/.380 (94 wRC+) with one home runs and seven steals. He has a bit of a history of getting hurt and having the injury linger longer than expected. Hopefully that is not the case here.

Game 27: Win it for CC


Earlier today the Yankees lost CC Sabathia to a left groin strain, two days after he tossed seven shutout innings against the Orioles. It was his best start in about three years. At this point the best thing for the Yankees is probably to keep losing, but how about winning this one for CC? He’s been pretty awesome for a long time around here. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

There is no rain in the forecast tonight even though it has been raining on and off pretty much all day in New York. It is cold and cloudy though, so it’s not exactly a great night to sit up in the stands. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) has something that is slightly more severe than a Grade I strain. The hope is he will only miss the minimum 15 days, but it will probably be longer.

Chapman Update: Aroldis Chapman struck out all three batters he faced in an Extended Spring Training today, says Erik Boland. It was his final tune-up appearance before joining the Yankees Monday. A scout told Boland Chapman looks big league ready.

2016 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v2.0

Earlier today the crew at Baseball America posted their second mock draft of the season. They have the Phillies taking Florida LHP A.J. Puk with the first pick in what could be a draft pool saving selection. The Phils could take Puk, sign him quickly and below slot, then redirect the savings towards other picks. The Astros did that a few times in recent years.

The Yankees hold the 18th overall selection and Baseball America currently has them taking New York HS RHP Ian Anderson. He’s from Shenendehowa up near Albany. MLB.com ranked Anderson as the No. 11 prospect in the draft class. Here’s the nuts and bolts of their free scouting report:

Tall and projectable with the ability to add strength, Anderson throws his fastball in the 91-95 mph range with good downhill angle. His breaking ball can be plus at times, getting swings and misses. It has slurve action at this point, but could tighten up and become a true slider in time. Anderson has good feel for an average changeup as well. He’s generally around the strike zone and attacks hitters.

It’s worth noting Anderson is committed to Vanderbilt, which has a history of getting its recruits to put off pro ball and come to school. It typically takes an above-slot bonus to keep kids away from Vandy. That’s how Dellin Betances landed a $1M bonus as an eighth rounder back in 2006. He was ticketed for Vanderbilt.

The Yankees haven’t had a lot of success developing projectable high school arms like Anderson in recent years, which is why they’ve started to skew towards college players. That isn’t to say they definitely would not draft Anderson this June, just that it would be going against the grain. We’ll see.

Baseball America had the Yankees taking California HS RHP Kevin Gowdy in their first mock draft last month. Gowdy seems much more up New York’s alley. Here’s my write-up on him. The mock draft is not behind the paywall, so make sure you check it out. Good way to keep tabs on each player’s stock.

5/6 to 5/8 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox


For the first time this season, the Yankees are playing a team for the second time. The Red Sox will be in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. As I’m sure you know, the BoSox swept the Yankees in Boston last weekend. I figured I would remind you of that just in case you wiped it from your memory.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox just took two of three from the White Sox in Chicago, dropping the first game then winning the last two. They’ve won nine of their last eleven games overall. Boston is currently 17-11 with a +26 run differential on the season. They’re a half-game up on the O’s for first place in the AL East.

Offense & Defense

So far this season the Red Sox are averaging 5.25 runs per game with a team 123 wRC+, so yeah, they’re quite good offensively. Their only injured position player is 3B Pablo Sandoval, who had shoulder surgery earlier this week and is done for the season. Something tells me the BoSox are not too upset about that.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Hanley. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

DH David Ortiz (189 wRC+) remains the centerpiece in manager John Farrell’s lineup. The supporting cast includes RF Mookie Betts (94 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (140 wRC+), and SS Xander Bogaerts (125 wRC+). Those four hit in the top four spots of the lineup game after game. 1B Hanley Ramirez (103 wRC+) and 3B Travis Shaw (142 wRC+) hit fifth and sixth.

At the bottom of the lineup the Red Sox typically run LF Brock Holt (111 wRC+), C Christian Vazquez (66 wRC+), and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (126 wRC+) out there. Ex-Yankee OF Chris Young (55 wRC+) will start against southpaws, but since CC Sabathia is not scheduled to start this series, we probably won’t see him this weekend. C Ryan Hanigan (45 wRC+) and IF Josh Rutledge (126 wRC+) are the two other bench players in addition to Young. The Sawx are only carrying three reserves.

Since these two teams played just last weekend, I’m going to copy and past what I wrote about Boston’s defense in the previous series preview:

On defense, the BoSox have above-average defenders up the middle in Vazquez, Pedroia, and Bradley. Bradley and Vazquez are truly elite defenders. Bogaerts has improved over the last year or so but is still closer to average than great. Betts has looked lost at times in right — he’s made some great catches thanks to pure athleticism — and Holt’s been adequate in left. Shaw and Hanley are no bueno on the infield corners.

So yeah, nothing has changed. The Red Sox haven’t made any call-ups on the position player side over the last week.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, 27, is off to a nice start this season after his first year with the BoSox did not go so well. He owns a 2.76 ERA (3.59 FIP) in five starts and 32.2 innings with career best strikeout (28.1%) and walk (4.7%) rates. His 49.4% ground ball is also above-average, yet he has been dinger prone early on (1.38 HR/9). Porcello has historically been more effective against righties than lefties. He lives off a sinker right around 90 mph, and so far this season he’s preferred his low-80s changeup to his low-70s curveball. He’ll also throw some mid-80s cutters/sliders. Last weekend Porcello held the Yankees scoreless over seven innings.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Depending on your point of view, Price has either been really bad (6.14 ERA) or really good (2.88 FIP) in his first six starts and 36.2 innings with the Red Sox. Peripheral stats are nice, but, at the end of the day, the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. Price has has great strikeout (30.6%) and walk (5.6%) numbers, though he doesn’t get many grounders (40.0%) and you can take him yard (0.98 HR/9). His platoon split has generally been pretty small. Price, 30, is sitting around 93 mph with his four-seamer and sinker these days, and about 89 mph with his cutter. A low-80s changeup is his main secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a few low-70s curveballs per start. The Yankees tagged Price for six runs in seven innings last week, though Alex Rodriguez did a lot of that damage, and he’s currently on the DL. Life is pain.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Price. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Steven Wright (vs. NYY)
The 31-year-old Wright is in the rotation because Joe Kelly (shoulder) and Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) are both currently on the DL. He has a 1.67 ERA (3.22 FIP) in five starts and 32.1 innings this year. Early on he’s gotten a lot of strikeouts (23.0%) and a decent amount of grounders (43.5%), though his homer rate is way low (0.28 HR/9) and his walk rate (11.1%) is way high. Expect that homer rate to climb in the coming weeks. Knuckleballers are historically homer prone. Wright throws his floater about 80% of the time and it clocks in at the mid-70s. His get-me-over fastball sits around 83 mph, and he’ll flip a few upper-60s curveballs per start just to mess around with the hitters. I am not looking forward to hearing how facing a knuckleballer can screw up your swing for a few days. Gimme a break.

Bullpen Status

For whatever reason the Red Sox are carrying eight relievers at the moment. I guess they’re concerned about not getting length from some of their starters, specifically lefty Henry Owens, who lasted only three innings yesterday. Here is Farrell’s bullpen:

RHP Matt Barnes: 14.2 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 14 K, 1 HR (19 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Heath Hembree: 10.1 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (43 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Craig Kimbrel: 13 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 22 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 12 pitches Weds.)
LHP Tommy Layne: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Robbie Ross Jr.: 13 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (34 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Carson Smith: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Junichi Tazawa: 10 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 1 HR (19 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Koji Uehara: 13.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 11 pitches Weds.)

Smith, who was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, was activated off the DL the other day. He was not active for the series in Boston last weekend. Smith suffered a flexor muscle strain in Spring Training. Same thing Andrew Miller had last year.

Farrell likes to give his relievers set innings, and right now Tazawa is his seventh inning guy and Uehara is his eighth inning guy behind Kimbrel in the ninth. They’re easing Smith back into things for now, but he is expected to take over as the fireman once he gets the thumbs up. Layne is a true lefty specialist, not someone who will throw a full inning.

You can see the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. Everyone is pretty well rested. This is also the last series the Yankees will play without Aroldis Chapman. His suspension is up Monday.

Yankees place CC Sabathia on 15-day DL with groin strain, call up Phil Coke

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

3:54pm: Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon Sabathia hurt himself in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game. He didn’t say anything until after the game, however. Nova will indeed move into the rotation and start in Sabathia’s place. The timetable for Sabathia is about three weeks, says Girardi.

2:24pm: Earlier this week CC Sabathia had his best start in about three years, so, naturally, he was placed on the 15-day DL with a left groin strain today, the Yankees announced. We’re not allowed to have nice things. Phil Coke has been called up to fill the roster spot. Definitely never expected to write that sentence again.

Sabathia threw seven shutout innings against the Orioles two nights ago. I have no idea when he got hurt, but Sabathia has been known to pitch through pain, so it could have happened during that start. He’s pitched with a bone spur in his elbow, a hamstring strain, and all sorts of knee problems over the years.

In all likelihood Ivan Nova will step into the rotation to replace Sabathia. Luis Cessa and Chad Green, both of whom came over in the Justin Wilson trade, are pitching well in Triple-A and are rotation candidates as well. It’s unclear how long Sabathia will be sidelined. Hopefully it’s only two weeks and not any longer.

My guess is Coke is a stopgap. The Yankees signed him out of an independent league last week where he had been working as a starter, so he’s stretched out to 70 pitches or so. Coke will replace Nova as the long man. Aroldis Chapman is due to return Monday and that may be the end of Coke’s second stint in pinstripes.

Sabathia, 35, has a 3.81 ERA (3.51 FIP) in five starts and 28.1 innings this season. He’s been the Yankees’ second best starter overall. Sabathia’s vesting option for 2017 is based on the health of his shoulder, not his groin, so this injury doesn’t change anything.