Game 143: Half-Game


Following that nightmare series over the weekend, the Yankees sit 3.5 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East. That annoying extra 0.5 goes away tonight. The Blue Jays have an off-day today, so both clubs will have played 143 games by the end of the night.

It goes without saying the Yankees are in “win every damn game” mode right now. There are only 20 games left in the season counting tonight. That’s not much time! Winning the AL East isn’t impossible, it’s just unlikely. Tonight’s game against the Rays is just as important as those games against Toronto. Crunch time. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s hot and humid in St. Petersburg and a climate controlled 72 degrees inside Tropicana Field. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Calf issue not expected to impact Severino’s next start


After getting roughed up by the Blue Jays on Friday night, Luis Severino walked around the clubhouse with his right calf wrapped, and seemed to indicate he hurt himself at home, away from the field. “There’s a little pain,” said Severino to Chad Jennings while adding the calf issue had no impact on his pitching.

It’s unclear how or what exactly happened — as Jennings noted, the “hurt at home” thing could have been the result of the language barrier — but it’s worth noting Severino caught a spike mid-delivery Friday night and slipped on the mound. Perhaps he poked himself in the calf with his cleat. Here’s the play:

“I’m still not sure what happened,” said Girardi to Jennings on Saturday. “He said he felt that it was bruised, it hurt to touch. It didn’t hurt to walk or anything. It might have been when he tripped. I’m going to have to watch the tape, that first inning when he tripped because it wasn’t a ground ball that hit him or anything so it’s gotta be in that first inning when he fell. Maybe he hit his spike on his leg and that’s what happened.”

Regardless of what happened, the injury is not expected to have any impact on Severino’s next start. The 21-year-old is lined up to start Wednesday night’s series finale against the Rays at the moment, though the Yankees might try to squeeze in a sixth starter at some point or something. Who knows. Severino has a 3.35 ERA (4.63 FIP) in 37.2 innings across seven starts for the Yankees this year even after getting smacked around by the Blue Jays last week.

The Yankees are already without Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) for the rest of the regular season, plus they want to give Masahiro Tanaka extra rest whenever possible, so losing Severino for even one start with a calf problem would be bad news. Heck, even pushing him back a few days would create a headache Wednesday night. Thankfully the calf issue is minor and won’t affect Severino’s pitching schedule.

9/14 to 9/16 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays


Technically, the Yankees are starting a nine-game road trip today. The middle three games are against the Mets though, so the Yankees will be right back in New York following this three-game series in Tampa Bay. The Yankees are 10-6 against the Rays this season, including 4-2 at Tropicana Field.

What Have The Rays Done Lately?

The Rays dropped two of three to the Red Sox at home over the weekend — they had three hits and no runs in yesterday’s 13-inning loss — and they are currently 69-73 with a -13 run differential overall this season. Tampa is 13.5 games out of first place — they’re in third place and nine games behind the Yankees — and six games out of a wildcard spot. They haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet, but they’re out of it. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at under 1%.

Offense & Defense

Manager Kevin Cash’s offense is complicated. They’ve scored the fewest runs in the AL (546) yet have a team 99 wRC+. Runners in scoring position (91 wRC+) is an issue, especially when the bases are loaded. The Rays have a .275 OBP with the bases full in 2015. That’s crazy. Tampa’s only injured position players are OF Desmond Jennings (88 wRC+) and C Curt Casali (145 wRC+ in limited time). Both could return this series. Jennings has a knee problem, Casali’s out with a hamstring issue.

Kiermaier. (Presswire)
Kiermaier. (Presswire)

Cash still builds his lineup around 3B Evan Longoria (114 wRC+) and his declining power. UTIL Logan Forsythe (128 wRC+) has had a breakout season and others like SS Asdrubal Cabrera (104 wRC+), OF Steven Souza (100 wRC+), OF Kevin Kiermaier (98 wRC+), OF Brandon Guyer (118 wRC+ in limited time), and DH John Jaso (128 wRC+) have been strong complementary players. 1B James Loney (85 wRC+) usually kills the Yankees, though he’s have a poor year overall.

C Rene Rivera (33 wRC+) is catching regularly with Casali out, but he’s in there for his glove, not his bat. OF Joey Butler (103 wRC+), OF Daniel Nava (63 wRC+), OF Grady Sizemore (88 wRC+), and OF Mikie Mahtook (132 wRC+ in very limited time) are among the platoon outfielders at Cash’s disposal. C J.P. Arencibia, C Luke Maile, IF Nick Franklin, IF Tim Beckham, and IF Richie Shaffer are among the September call-ups. Since these two teams played a little over a week ago, I’m going to copy and paste the defense section from the last preview:

Overall, the Rays have a strong team defense with excellent defenders in center (Kiermaier), on the infield corners (Longoria and Loney), and behind the plate (Rivera). Asdrubal and Forsythe are serviceable on the middle infield and everyone in that outfield rotation other than Guyer is a weak spot. Back in the day the Rays would catch everything. It was annoying. Now? Not so much.

The only difference now is Souza, who recently returned from a wrist injury. He’s a good but not great defender who seems to have a knack for jumping and sliding catches. It’s weird. Souza will rob extra base hits at the wall and slide to rob bloopers. His routes are weird though.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (vs. NYY)
The Rays, who always seem to be loaded with young pitching, acquired the 25-year-old Ramirez at the end of Spring Training because they were short on starters. Injuries robbed them of depth. Ramirez has a 3.96 ERA (4.02 FIP) in 136.1 innings across 23 starts and seven relief appearances, though his last nine starts have been rough (4.64 ERA and 4.35 FIP). His strikeout (19.0%), walk (6.6%), grounder (47.9%), and homer (0.99 HR/9) rates are all in the neighborhood of average. Give or take a few percentage points in either direction. Righties (.343 wOBA) have hit Erasmo much harder than lefties (.256 wOBA) because he’s an upper-80s/low-90s fastball guy whose best pitch is a low-80s changeup that isn’t quite as effective against same-side hitters. Ramirez also throws a mid-80s slider and low-80s curveball that are show-me pitches more than anything. The changeup is his moneymaker. The Yankees have faced Ramirez four times this year, twice as a reliever (two runs in three total innings) and twice as a starter (one run in eleven total innings).

Tuesday (7pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
Once again, it’s Odorizzi. He’s turning into the new version of David Price in that the Yankees see him every damn time they face the Rays. Anyway, Odorizzi has a 3.21 ERA (3.31 FIP) in 24 starts and 145.2 innings this year, and he pairs a very good strikeout rate (22.0%) with a very good walk rate (6.0%). His grounder (38.9%) and homer (0.60 HR/9) rates don’t seem to match up, but Odorizzi is a pop-up pitcher. That said, the Yankees took him deep three times last week. Righties (.311 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.267 wOBA). Odorizzi, 25, lives and dies with his mid-80s splitter, which he learned from teammate Alex Cobb. It gave him the swing-and-miss pitch he needed to be something more than a back-end starter. He also throws low-90s four-seamers, mid-80s cutters, and a few slow upper-60s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Odorizzi three times this year: three runs in six innings in April, four runs in 6.1 innings later in April, and five runs in 6.2 innings last week. So maybe it’s just me that feels like the Yankees face Odorizzi every time they play Tampa.

Archer. (Presswire)
Archer. (Presswire)

Wednesday (7pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Archer, 26, has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the game this year, putting up a 2.95 ERA (2.68 FIP) in 30 starts and 192.1 innings. Great strikeout rate (30.5%), great walk rate (6.6%), very good grounder rate (46.3%), very good homer rate (0.80 HR/9), no platoon split (.266 vs. 256 wOBA in favor of righties). Domination. Archer uses mid-90s two and four-seamers to set up his upper-80s slider, which is arguably the best slider in baseball. He also throws a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. The slider is what makes him an ace though. Archer has started three times against the Yankees this year. One went well (five runs in 6.1 innings last week), one went poorly (6.2 shutout innings in July), and one went okay (two runs in seven innings in May).

The Yankees have not officially announced their starters for Tuesday and Wednesday, though Joe Girardi said yesterday the plan was to start Adam Warren on Tuesday as long as they didn’t need him out of the bullpen in the series finale against the Blue Jays. So I guess it’ll be Warren tomorrow. Wednesday is Luis Severino‘s day. They were probably waiting to see what happened with Warren before announcing anything beyond tonight’s game.

Bullpen Status
Thanks to yesterday’s 13-inning game, Cash needed to get seven innings from his bullpen, and he used all his key late-inning guys. RHP Brad Boxberger (3.21 ERA/3.91 FIP) is the closer and lately RHP Alex Colome (3.54/3.71) has been setting him up. RHP Steve Geltz (3.78/3.94) will also see some high-leverage work. The hard-throwing LHP Jake McGee is done for the season with a knee problem.

LHP Xavier Cedeno (2.16/3.34) is Cash’s primary left-on-left matchup guy. RHP Matt Andriese (4.45/4.29) and RHP Brandon Gomes (3.31/4.10) are the other regular bullpeners. RHP Andrew Bellatti, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, LHP Enny Romero, and RHP Kirby Yates are the extra September arms. Geltz, Colome, Boxberger, Gomes, Romero, and Bellatti all pitched yesterday.

Head over to our Bullpen Workload page to check up on the status of Joe Girardi’s bullpen, which, despite running 13 pitchers deep, is somewhat taxed right now. Doubleheaders are dumb. Anyway. DRays Bay and The Process Report are the places to go for the latest on Tampa Bay.

Yankeemetrics: Not done yet in the Bronx (Sept. 11-13)

A win, finally! (AP Photo)
A win, finally! (AP Photo)

You probably could not have drawn up a worse start to the Most Important Series of The Season. Luis Severino allowed five of the first six batters to reach base and each of those guys scored, putting the Yankees in a 5-0 hole after the first inning and setting the tone for the eventual 11-5 blowout loss on Friday night.

The Blue Jays finished with 16 hits, including five homers — the first time ever they’ve had that many hits and home runs in a game at Yankee Stadium (old or new).

I think its safe to say that David Price would have no problems pitching at the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium (you know, if he was ever to somehow do that more than a few times per season). He is now 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA in his last eight starts at Yankee Stadium.

He’s the first visiting pitcher to go undefeated in eight straight road starts against the Yankees since Bret Saberhagen from 1985-99. And Price is also the first visitor to win six straight decisions at Yankee Stadium since David Wells from 1987-1991.

Didi Gregorius was a one-man show on offense, going 2-for-4 and driving in four of the team’s five runs, the third time he’s had at least 4 RBIs this season. Gregorius is the first Yankee shortstop to have three games of four-or-more RBIs since Frankie Crosetti in 1936.

Nightmare on 161st Street, Part I and II
There are many words to describe Saturday’s doubleheader and none of them are good. The Yankees allowed 19 runs combined, and were swept in a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium by the Blue Jays for the first time in franchise history. The only other time the Blue Jays took both games of a doubleheader against the Yankees was August 2, 1983 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.

The Blue Jays hit four homers in the slugfest — and combined with their five-homer outburst on Friday — this is the first time ever that the Yankees have allowed at least four home runs in back-to-back games at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last time they gave up at least four dingers in consecutive games to the same opponent anywhere was in 1977 to the Red Sox.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for the Yankees after the demoralizing loss in the first game … then the second game of the doubleheader happened. It was another embarrassing loss as the Blue Jays won their seventh straight game at Yankee Stadium, their longest win streak in the Bronx ever. (Remember when the Yankees won 17 games in a row at home against the Blue Jays, spanning the 2012-14 seasons? Yeah, good times.)

The two losses dropped the Yankees to 1-8 against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. That’s their most home losses to any opponent in a single season in the Divisional Era (since 1969).

Ivan Nova had a miserable outing in the nightcap, allowing six runs on seven hits and also squeezed in two wild pitches and hit two batters in his 1 2/3 innings. He is the first Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years to throw multiple wild pitches and hit at least two batters in fewer than two innings pitched.

Once again in the second game, the Yankees offense was a one-man show, this time starring Brett Gardner. He hit two three-run homers, driving in six of the Yankees seven runs in the 10-7 loss. Gardner is just the third player in franchise history with at least six RBIs in a loss at Yankee Stadium. The others were Bernie Williams on June 17, 2000 vs. the White Sox and Mike Stanley on August 10, 1995 against the Indians.

This is what aces do. Masahiro Tanaka was masterful in shutting down the powerful Jays lineup on Sunday afternoon, throwing seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts as the Yankees avoided the sweep with a 5-0 shutout.

Tanaka — who gave up one run and struck out eight in a complete game win in his last start against Toronto — joined David Cone (1997) as the only Yankees with consecutive games of at least seven innings pitched, no more than one run allowed and at least seven strikeouts against the Blue Jays.

Dustin Ackley went 2-for-2 and drove in three runs with a homer and a sac fly, giving the Yankees a huge boost against the knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Ackley is now 6-for-13 (.462) with two homers in his career off Dickey, the second-highest batting average by any lefty with that many at-bats vs. Dickey.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 14th, 2015

Record Last Week: 2-5 (34 RS, 43 RA)
Season Record: 78-64 (693 RS, 615 RA, 79-63 pythag. record) 3.5 GB in ALE, 4.0 games up on WC spot
Opponents This Week: @ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, @ Mets (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the evening. The Sunday Night Baseball game is the Royals at the Orioles (Cueto vs. Chen) and the late NFL game is the Giants at the Cowboys. That’ll be fun. I need a break from baseball after these last few days. Talk about those games, the A-Rod ceremony, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.

Minor League Update: No DotF tonight because there are no games on the schedule. Short Season Staten Island is waiting to begin the NY-Penn League Championship Series. They’ll play the winner of tonight’s Williamsport vs. West Virginia game. The season is over for all the other affiliates.

Tanaka dominates Blue Jays, Yanks snap five-game losing streak with 5-0 win

Phew. The Yankees really needed that win. The five-game losing streak is over thanks to Sunday afternoon’s 5-0 win over the Blue Jays. Toronto still won three of four this weekend, which sucks, but at least the Yankees avoided the sweep. Small victory.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Two Runs, One Hit
The Yankees were able to strike early Sunday afternoon, and they scored their two second inning runs despite getting just one hit, which didn’t come with runners in scoring position and didn’t leave the yard. R.A. Dickey set the whole inning up when he lost the strike zone — Alex Rodriguez sandwiched a line drive single between walks by Brian McCann and Chase Headley. The bases were loaded with no outs. Just six of Dickey’s first 18 pitches in the inning were strikes.

The big hit never did come that inning, but the Yankees did score thanks to a pair of productive outs. Dustin Ackley, who was in the starting lineup because he came into the game 6-for-17 (.353) in his career against knuckleballers (Dickey and Tim Wakefield, basically), lifted a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score McCann for the first run. A-Rod tagged up and went to third on the play, which was big because Didi Gregorius followed a fly ball to medium center field.

Off the bat, I didn’t think it was deep enough to score A-Rod, and once they sent him I was hoping for an off-line throw. The throw was pretty much perfect though, and Alex simply outran it. He slide across the plate headfirst to score the second run, then pumped his fist. Rodriguez looked better running those 90 feet than he’s looked on the bases all season. A star player doing star player things. The Yankees had an early 2-0 lead.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Ace They Need, Not The Ace We Deserve
The Yankees didn’t need a good start from Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday. They needed a great start, and a great start is exactly what the staff ace delivered. Four hits and no walks in seven shutout innings against the best offense in baseball, with seven strikeouts and nine other outs on the infield. Although three of the four hits were doubles, the Blue Jays never had a runner make it as far as third base.

Tanaka threw 78 of his 111 pitches for strikes (70%) and he crushed Toronto by mixing his six-pitch arsenal. Look at this pitch distribution. Other than his trademark splitter, which he threw 47 times, Tanaka didn’t throw another pitch more than 19 times or fewer than eleven times (via Brooks Baseball):

Masahiro Tanaka Toronto Blue Jays

Tanaka pitched backwards too. He faced 24 batters and only four saw a first pitch fastball. Four! The Blue Jays took 55 swings and missed 14 times, or 25%. That’s pretty great. Tanaka retired a dozen in a row from the third through seventh innings and never once appeared to be in something less than total control. That was domination. He did what he wanted whenever he wanted.

In eight starts since August 1st, Tanaka now has a 2.78 ERA with 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 55.1 innings. That includes three starts against the Blue Jays. Tanaka held Toronto to three runs on 12 hits and three walks in 22 innings in those three starts. He struck out 20. Not an ace? Please. He’s ace incarnate. Tanaka stepped up Sunday and delivered when the Yankees desperately needed him to.

Smackley. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Smackley. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

Insurance Runs
These are the Blue Jays, of course, and two runs won’t be enough to beat them most days. Thankfully, the Yankees tacked on three more runs throughout the course of the game to make things a bit more comfortable and give Tanaka a little more breathing room. I think fans appreciated the insurance runs more than Tanaka.

Joe Girardi‘s decision to play Ackley at first base worked out pretty well. He had the sac fly in the second inning and drove in two more runs with a two-run homer in the fourth. It was a Yankee Stadium cheapie into the third or fourth row in right field, no doubt about that, but it was a clear line drive over the right fielder’s head. Extra-base hit all the way. Double in some parks, a homer in this one. That made it 4-0 good guys.

Then, in the eighth, Carlos Beltran and A-Rod teamed up for another run with an assist from Rico Noel. Beltran singled, Noel pinch-ran, then Alex doubled into the left field corner to score Noel. Ben Revere bobbled the ball a bit, and the relays were less than perfect, so Rico slid in safely. That’s why Noel is on the roster, to score from first on hits like that. The designated runner is not just there to steal bases. That gave New York their 5-0 lead.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Once Tanaka was done, Girardi turned to Dellin Betances for the eighth inning, and he struck out the side on eleven pitches. For the first time in about three weeks, he looked like vintage Dellin. Easy domination. James Pazos (one out) and Caleb Cotham (two outs) retired the side in order in the ninth. The stress-free nine-pitch ninth inning against the top of Toronto’s lineup was unexpected.

The top of the order didn’t do a whole bunch Sunday. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Beltran, and McCann went a combined 1-for-15 (.067) with a walk. Add in Stephen Drew and it’s 1-for-18 (.056) for the wrap around 9-1-2-3-4 portion of the lineup. The 5-6-7-8 hitters went 6-for-11 (.545) and drove in all five runs. A-Rod and Ackley had two hits apiece.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is down to 17. Now here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This not very good homestand is finally over. The Yankees head to Tampa next, their home away from home, and will start a three-game series with the Rays Monday night. Both starting pitchers are officially listed as TBA right now, though CC Sabathia will start for the Yankees. Erasmo Ramirez is lined up for Tampa, though I don’t know if they have some other plans at the moment.