Yankees swat five home runs, take series opener 6-3 from Royals

The Bronx Bombers are back! For one night, anyway. The Yankees hit five home runs en route to a 6-3 win over the Royals in Monday’s series opener. It was their first five-homer game of the season. I hope there are many more. The Yankees have won four of their last six games too. Are things turning around? I hope so.

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

Five & Fly
The Yankees went into Monday’s game next to last in the AL with 25 home runs. Only the Royals hit fewer. They had 23. After two innings and change against Chris Young, the Yankees jumped from 14th in the AL to ninth with 30 home runs. Young faced 14 batters and five (five!) took him deep. That’s … bad. Young is the first pitcher to allow five homers to the Yankees since Clay Buchholz back in 2012.

The tater mashers: Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and then Beltran again. Gardner and Hicks went back-to-back in the third. (First back-to-back homers of the season for the Yanks.) All five home runs were solo shots, which is kinda lame, but hey, I’ll take it. Young is an extreme fly ball pitcher and his fastball averages 88 mph on a good day, so when he misses his spot, the ball tends to go a long way. The Yankees haven’t been hitting many home runs this year. It was fun to watch them do some yard work Monday.

Four and Two-Thirds & Fly
Ivan Nova probably cost himself a win in the fifth inning. Not because he pitched poorly, but because he made some defensive no-nos. First he fielded a chopper from Cheslor Cuthbert, then turned and rushed the throw, pulling Mark Teixeira off the bag. Replays showed Nova had a little more time than he probably realized. Also, Chase Headley was right there too and could have made the play without the difficult throw.

Then, later in the inning, Nova reached out with his barehand and slowed down a Jarrod Dyson chopper back up the middle. Had he let it go, it would have gone right to Didi Gregorius near second base for a possible double play, even with the speedy Dyson running. It would have been catch, step on the bag, throw. Bang bang bang. Gregorius did get the out at second but nothing more because Nova slowed the ball down.

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

And finally, Nova missed first base on Alcides Escobar’s ground ball to Teixeira at first. The flip was perfect and Nova did make the catch, he just missed the bag. It happens, but man, Nova did himself no favors that inning defensively. The Yankees were up 5-1, and he was pulled with runners on the corners and two outs in the fifth inning because his pitch count hit 81, six more than Joe Girardi said Nova was scheduled to throw. One out short of a win. Sucks.

Most importantly, Nova’s first start in place of the injured CC Sabathia went well. One run on six hits and a walk in 4.2 innings is serviceable, especially since he was on a pitch limit. The run came on a long Alex Gordon homer. Nova wiggled out of trouble in the second and Phil Coke bailed him out in the fifth. Pretty much exactly what the Yankees needed from Nova. Don’t meltdown, basically.

Bullpen Machinations
Girardi managed his four-run lead like it was a one-run lead. Coke got Eric Hosmer to end the fifth — he fell behind in the count 3-0 before rebounding to get a fly out — then got the first out of the sixth. After Coke walked Gordon, Kirby Yates came in to finish off the inning. Dellin Betances was warming behind him much of that inning, just in case things got really hairy.

Rather than bring Betances into the seventh, Girardi managed to steal another inning’s worth of outs from Yates, who had some help from Gregorius and Teixeira. Didi and Tex made two great plays in that inning — both times Gregorius made the backhanded snag, fired to first, and Teixeira made the scoop — and Kirby retired all three batters he faced. Yates seems to be this year’s “who is this guy and why is he pitching effectively out of the bullpen?” guy.

The Yankees were able to tack on a sixth run in the seventh inning on two singles (Headley, Ronald Torreyes), a productive ground out (Gardner), and a sac fly (Hicks). That meant Chasen Shreve and not one of the big three relievers handled the eighth inning. On his first pitch, Shreve gave up another homer. Hosmer got him. That was the fifth dinger he’s allowed in his last 5.2 innings. So much for Chasen being fixed, huh?

Andrew Miller was on the bullpen mound warming up before Hosmer’s home run landed, it seemed. Shreve did get through the rest of the inning unscathed though, so Miller did nothing but warm up. Aroldis Chapman then made his Yankees debut in the ninth. The first batter he faced:

Aroldis Chapman Omar Infante

That’ll do. Chapman topped out at 102.1 mph and did actually allow a run. Paulo Orlando hit a booming double to center and Escobar drove him in with a single through Gregorius. Didi should have had that one. He played the hop weird. One inning, two hits, one run, two strikeouts. Good to get Chapman in there in a low-leverage spot for his first first game of the year.

Nitpick Time
Allow me to nitpick, because it’s what I do best. Why warm up Betances and not bring him in? Girardi had Dellin ready to go in case Yates ran into trouble in the sixth and seventh, which he didn’t. Then, when Shreve gave up the homer, it was Miller who warmed up, not Betances. Why not just go to Betances since he was already warmed up and avoid getting both hot?

Pitchers will tell you warming up and not pitching is almost like appearing in the game. It’s not nothing. Dellin and Miller didn’t pitch, but they kinda did, you know? The Yankees had a four-run lead (and temporarily a five-run lead), yet six of the seven relievers either warmed up or pitched. Overkill. Girardi was like a kid on Christmas morning. He didn’t know which toy to play with.

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

Leftovers
The offense went pretty silent after Young left the game. The Yankees did add that sixth run in the seventh, but they still had only three hits and one walk in their final 5.1 offensive innings. They managed to score six runs while having only two at-bats with runners in scoring position. Hooray dingers! Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except Texeira and Gregorius. At least they played some mean defense.

Speaking of warming up and not pitching, Chien-Ming Wang was getting hot in the Kansas City in the bullpen in the eighth inning. He didn’t enter the game, unfortunately. Hopefully he pitches at some point in the series, preferably in a blowout loss. Wanger deserves a nice big ovation at Yankee Stadium.

And finally, congrats to Ben Gamel for picking up his first big league hit in his first at-bat. It was a soft ground ball single through the left side of the infield. It hit off Escobar’s glove and scooted away. Line drive in the box score, my man.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score and updated standings, then go to MLB.com for the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages that may be of some help. Here’s the ol’ win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Royals will play the second game of this four-game series Tuesday night. Masahiro Tanaka and Kris Medlen are the scheduled starting pitchers. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any other home game this season.

DotF: Judge homers again, Refsnyder extends hit streak in Scranton win

Some notes:

  • RHP Domingo Acevedo has been placed on the Low-A Charleston DL with a lower body injury, reports Josh Norris. At least it’s not his arm. Acevedo has a 2.43 ERA (2.35 FIP) with 37 strikeouts and only five walks in 33.1 innings this season.
  • Both C Gary Sanchez and SS Jorge Mateo were including in MLB.com’s Prospect Team of the Week. Those two went a combined 23-for-45 (.511) with three doubles, two triples, and five home runs in ten games last week. That is: good.
  • LHP Nestor Cortes was including in Baseball America’s daily prospect report today, so check that out. It’s not behind the paywall. Cortes has been one of the best pitchers in the system statistically since being a 36th round pick in 2013.
  • OF Carlos Vidal, OF Mark Payton, and RHP Brody Koerner were all placed on the High-A Tampa DL, per Nick Flammia. RHP Travis Hissong and OF Cesar Diaz were moved up to fill roster spots.
  • The Yankees have signed RHP Jean Peralta, reports Matt Eddy. I can’t find any information about him, and usually that means he is an amateur player signed as an international free agent.

Triple-A Scranton (6-0 win over Pawtucket)

  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — fifth homer in his last nine games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 K
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — hitting streak is up to 13 games
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 2-4 — first multi-hit game in 15 days
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 2 WP, 6/2 GB/FB — 69 of 103 pitches were strikes (67%) … 24.3% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year after a 20.9% strikeout rate in Double-A last year
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 16 of 21 pitches were strikes (76%)

[Read more…]

Game 30: Chapman Arrives

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time this season, the Yankees have the three key components of their potentially historically great bullpen available. Aroldis Chapman‘s 30-game suspension is over — he only served 29 games due to a rainout — and he is on the roster today and ready to pitch. He’s the closer, says Joe Girardi. If the Yankees have a save situation in the ninth tonight, Chapman will get the call.

Of course, getting leads and save situations has been awfully tough for the Yankees this season. Just when it looks like they’re starting to come around, they go and get nearly shutout by a knuckleballer. Adding Chapman will be a big time help, assuming the rest of the roster does its job first. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. RF Dustin Ackley
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Ivan Nova

That weather has been okay in New York today. The sun was out earlier, but now it’s hiding behind a bunch of clouds. The good news is there is no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Starlin Castro (oblique) is feeling better and is available off the bench. Girardi is giving him a day off as a precaution, basically … Jacoby Ellsbury (hip) is not available, however. Doesn’t sound like he will be available tomorrow either.

Roster Updates: Johnny Barbato was optioned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot for Chapman, the team announced. I thought it would be Nick Goody, but nope. Branden Pinder (Tommy John surgery) was transferred over to the 60-day DL to clear 40-man roster space.

Schedule Update: The April 10th rainout against the Tigers has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 2nd, both teams announced. That means tonight is now the seventh game of a 40 games in 41 days stretch for the Yankees. Blargh. The Yankees will be in Toronto on June 1st and Baltimore on June 3rd, so at least the travel will be easy.

5/9 to 5/12 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

Wanger! (Presswire)
Wanger! (Presswire)

Welcome to the year 2016, where the Yankees are in last place and the Royals are the defending World Series champions. The baseball world is a strange place these days. The Royals are in the Bronx this week for a four-game series. This is their only visit to Yankee Stadium this season.

What Have They Done Lately?

Things have not gone too well for Kansas City lately. After starting the season 8-2, the Royals have gone 7-13 in their last 20 games. They’re 3-9 in their last 12 games after losing two of three to the Indians over the weekend. The Royals are 15-15 with a -13 run differential overall this season. They’re six back of the White Sox in the AL Central.

Offense & Defense

Believe it or not, there is an AL team that has struggled to score runs even more than the Yankees this season. That team is the Royals. They are averaging 3.40 runs per game while the Yankees are at 3.48. That said, the Royals have a team 88 wRC+. The Yankees have an 84 wRC+. Sigh. Kansas City’s only injured position player is an important one: 3B Mike Moustakas (136 wRC+). He was placed on the DL with a broken thumb Saturday, so he’s out for the series.

Hosmer. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Hosmer. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

With Moose Tacos out, the regular No. 2 hitter, manager Ned Yost has simply slid everyone else in the lineup up a spot. SS Alcides Escobar (65 wRC+) continues to lead off — hey, they won a World Series doing that, so why not? — and is now followed in order by CF Lorenzo Cain (80 wRC+), 1B Eric Hosmer (157 wRC+), DH Kendrys Morales (56 wRC+), and LF Alex Gordon (86 wRC+). That’s the standard batting order. Yost doesn’t mix things up much.

C Salvador Perez (95 wRC+) doesn’t do anything well according to the numbers, but he strikes me as the type of player who would really benefit from a “works with pitchers” metric. I believe his intangibles are off-the-charts good. 2B Omar Infante (67 wRC+) and RF Jarrod Dyson (66 wRC+) are the other regulars. IF Christian Colon (75 wRC+) and IF Cheslor Cuthbert (2-for-8) are tag-teaming third base for the time being. C Drew Butera (4-for-10) and OF Paulo Orlando (42 wRC+) are the other bench players. The Royals are currently carrying eight relievers, which seems to be a thing around the league now.

Defensively, there is no better team in baseball than Kansas City. They do take a hit at third with Moustakas out, but they’re no worse than average everywhere else. Check out their projected defensive runs saved visualization from Sean Dolinar:

Royals defense

That’s a lot of blue! The Royals catch everything, especially the Gordon-Cain-Dyson outfield. Opponents have a 0.293 BABIP on fly balls and live drives against Kansas City this season. The league average is .357. Yeah.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. KC) vs. RHP Chris Young (vs. NYY)
Five years ago it appeared Young’s career was over. He had surgery to repair an impingement in his shoulder in 2009, missed almost the entire 2010 season with a shoulder sprain, then had surgery in 2011 to repair a torn labrum. Young went through all the rehab and is still out there slingin’. Good for him. Young, 36, has a 5.76 ERA (5.74 FIP) with a good strikeout rate (22.0%) and a walk rate (8.3%) in line with his career average. He’s an extreme fly ball pitcher (32.2%) who has always been home run prone, though not as homer prone as this season (2.43 HR/9). Lefties have historically hit him much harder than righties. Young is as unique as any pitcher in baseball. He’s 6-foot-10 and he pitches up in the zone with a fastball that averages 88 mph, which results in a ton of pop-ups. He also mixes in a low-80s slider and very rarely throws his low-80s changeup. The Royals have Young on a short leash. He’s averaging only 90 pitches per start and three times in six starts has he failed to complete five innings. After all those shoulder problems he doesn’t have the stamina to pitch deeper into games.

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. KC) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (vs. NYY)
Medlen, 30, missed all of 2014 and the first half of 2015 following his second Tommy John surgery. This year he has a 6.85 ERA (4.91 FIP) in five starts and 22.1 innings, and, like Young, the Royals typically don’t let him go through the lineup a third time. Medlen’s grounder (48.6%) and homer rates (0.81 HR/9) are fine, and you can live with his strikeout rate (17.1%), but walks are a big problem (16.2%). To be fair, he’s issued 13 of his 17 walks in two of those five starts. He has four walks in the other three starts. Medlen has been a bit better against righties than lefties throughout his career, and these days his primary fastball is a low-90s sinker. A mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his go-to secondary pitches, though he’ll also mix in some low-80s sliders too.

Duckface Ventura. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Duckface Ventura. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (vs. NYY)
The 24-year-old Ventura is a reminder that not every live-armed prospect makes it big. He has a 4.65 ERA (5.24 FIP) with exactly as many walks as strikeouts (17.6%) in six starts and 31 innings this year. His grounder (42.2%) and homer numbers (0.87 HR/9) are a bit more normal, and throughout his career his platoon split has been small. Ventura sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker nowadays — he hasn’t hit triple digits since last September — and he’ll throw a ton of upper-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. He’s about 50/50 with fastballs and non-fastballs. Ventura can dominate on his best days. On others he’ll leave the Royals pulling their hair out.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. KC) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (vs. NYY)
For the first time since being traded as part of the package for Curtis Granderson, Kennedy returns to Yankee Stadium as a visiting player. In fact, this will be his first career pitching appearance in the new Stadium. He pitched in only one game with the 2009 Yankees and it was on the road. Kennedy, now 31, has a 2.13 ERA (3.60 FIP) six starts and 38 innings into his Royals career. His strikeout (23.2%), walk (8.6%), and ground ball (35.7%) numbers are right in line with his career norms, though his homer rate (0.71 HR/9) is much lower than usual. His platoon split has been negligible. Kennedy used to be one of those guys who would mess around with six pitches, but at this point of his career he’s scaled it back to four: low-90s four-seamer, upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball. IPK has turned into exactly what he was projected to become when the Yankees drafted him in 2006, and that’s a mid-rotation workhorse.

Bullpen Status

The Royals are credited with making elite bullpens popular — did everyone not realize good relievers are better than bad relievers before 2014 or something? — but their relief crew this summer has been short of outstanding. They rank in sixth in ERA (2.75), ninth in FIP (3.51), and 13th in fWAR (+0.8). Hangover from two straight deep postseason runs? Maybe. Here is Yost’s relief crew.

RHP Wade Davis: 10.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
LHP Danny Duffy: 16 IP, 16 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 19 K, 1 HR (23 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
LHP Brian Flynn: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
RHP Dillon Gee: 15.1 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 13 K, 4 HR (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
RHP Kelvin Herrera: 14.1 IP, 11 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 19 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Sun., 13 pitches. Sat)
RHP Luke Hochevar: 12.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 12 K, 2 HR (10 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)
RHP Joakim Soria: 15.1 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 8 BB, 13 K, 2 HR (13 pitches Sun., 11 pitches. Sat)
RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 10.1 IP, 13 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 8 K (0 pitches Sun., 0 pitches. Sat)

Man, I want Wang to pitch this series so much. He has never been the same since the foot injury in Houston back in 2008. It sucks. Wanger has found some success as a long man this season, partly because he’s throwing harder than he has at any point since blowing out his shoulder in 2009 …

Chien-Ming Wang velocity… so that’s great to see. Nothing but love for CMW. He was a damn good Yankee for a few years. I hope he gets a big ovation this week. And hopefully he’s coming in to mop-up a blowout loss. Best of both worlds.

As for the rest of the bullpen, Soria has really struggled as the replacement for Ryan Madson in the team’s late-inning trio with Herrera and Davis. Those two are still really great in the eighth and ninth innings, so if the Royals have a lead after seven, the game is probably over.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are getting Aroldis Chapman back today. Well, not back. He’s joining them for the first time. You know what I mean. So just like that, the Yankees have a new closer. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers.

Aroldis Chapman and the changing dynamic of the bullpen

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Later today, the Yankees’ prized offseason addition will finally join the active roster. Aroldis Chapman‘s 30-game suspension is up — he only served 29 games thanks to a rainout — and he’ll be in the bullpen tonight ready to close. Joe Girardi has already confirmed Chapman will take over the ninth inning. He’s the closer.

The Yankees are not exactly one reliever away from turning things around, but Chapman will no doubt help. He is arguably the best reliever in the world and adding an elite player like that instantly makes the team better. Chapman’s return — is it really a return if he’s never been here before? no, right? — has a trickle down effect on the rest of the bullpen and the pitching staff in general. Let’s run it all down.

The Roster Move

Might as well start here. Chapman did not count against the 40-man roster during his suspension, so the Yankees had an open spot for much of the first five weeks of the season. That open spot went to Phil Coke the other day, however, so the Yankees have to clear a 40-man spot for Chapman today.

That’s not a problem though. The Yankees have four 60-day DL candidates: Greg Bird (shoulder), Mason Williams (shoulder), Bryan Mitchell (toe), and Branden Pinder (Tommy John surgery). My guess is Pinder gets transferred to the 60-day DL because the Yankees know for certain he’ll miss the rest of the season, but it could be any of the four. Doesn’t matter who it is, really. Point is, the Yankees don’t have to designate anyone for assignment to make room for Chapman.

As for getting Aroldis on the active roster, Nick Goody seems like the obvious candidate to be shipped down to Triple-A. The Yankees could dump Coke, but with Ivan Nova in the rotation for the time being, they need a new long man, and Coke is stretched out after working as a starter in an independent league. Keeping Coke around and sending Goody down makes the most sense given the current roster situation.

New Roles

Girardi loves to assign his relievers set innings, so it stands to reason Andrew Miller will now take over as the eighth inning guy with Dellin Betances sliding back into the seventh inning. That pushes Chasen Shreve back into a lower leverage middle innings role with Johnny Barbato joining Kirby Yates, where he belongs at this point give his recent bout of longballitis.

The Yankees and Girardi have talked about using only two of the three big relievers per game to ensure one of them is always fresh the next day, which is sounds great, but it may be tough to pull off. Could you imagine losing a game because, say, Barbato is on the mound in the late innings while Miller is available in the bullpen and not being used? Wait, yes I can. Dammit to hell.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Anyway, the “only use two per day” plan only works if the starter gives enough length and the lead is big enough. You’re going to have a tough time convincing me Girardi should not use the three big relievers if the starter is out of the game after six innings and the Yankees are tied or nursing a small lead. The Yankees are not in any position to prioritize tomorrow over today at the moment.

I would like to see Betances and Miller match up in the seventh and eighth rather than be assigned a specific innings, though I’m not sure it really matters. Those two are great against batters on both sides of the plate. Still, if the other team is sending their best lefty hitters to the plate in the seventh, why not use Miller there instead of Betances simply because it’s his inning? I’m actually hopefully this will happen. We’ll see.

Either way, Chapman’s return means everyone in the bullpen gets knocked down a peg and that’s a good thing. Miller is an overqualified eighth inning guy. Betances is an extremely overqualified seventh inning guy. Shreve is now the No. 4 instead of the No. 3. The added depth is going to help a lot. The Yankees will automatically have an advantage on the mound in any close game in the late innings.

About The Ninth Inning

No, Andrew Miller does not deserve to lose the closer’s job. He’s been outstanding in that role since the start of last season. It is an undeserved demotion. No doubt about it. I also don’t it matters at all. Miller has been talking about doing whatever the team needs since the day he signed and it seems sincere. Here’s what Miller told Chad Jennings yesterday:

“What do you want me to do?” he said. “You want me to throw a fit? The goal here is to win. I think if you go around and ask, there’s 25 lockers in here and I think everyone is going to say that. We haven’t gotten off to the start that we want to. I think we’ve played well in the last couple of days, and the goal is to keep that going. Wins are what’s fun at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re saving games for a last-place team.”

It’s refreshing to hear that. Drew Storen complained and sulked after the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon last year. Kenley Jansen said he wanted to close after the Dodgers almost acquired Chapman over the winter. Closer is a prestigious job and every reliever wants it. Miller would have every right to be upset, but he truly seems okay with it.

I would be surprised if Miller’s performance suffered at all following the move into the setup role. Same with Betances, though he’s going from eighth inning setup man to seventh inning setup man. If one of those two — or Chapman, for that matter — blows a game at some point in the next few days, the new roles are going to be talked about a lot. It’s unavoidable. I’m not worried about this at all though. Chapman’s been closing for a long time and Miller and Betances seem perfectly happy with their roles.

Spread The Workload Around

The Yankees don’t seem to win blowout games anymore. Saturday was an outlier. Seven of the team’s eleven wins have been by three or fewer runs, meaning Miller and Betances have worked a lot. Through 29 games Miller has 12 appearances and 11.2 innings. Betances has 15 appearances (!) and 14 innings. The other day Miller was asked to get a four-out save and Betances recently pitched in three consecutive days. He was the first Yankees reliever to do that since David Robertson in September 2014, when he had one foot out the door as a free agent and the team wasn’t all that invested in his long-term future.

Girardi has had to lean on Miller and Betances and awful lot early on, and adding Chapman means the late-inning workload can be spread out a bit going forward. Like I said a bit earlier, this is easier said than done because it’s going to be tough to stay away from those guys in the late innings, but having that third high-end bullpener will lighten the load a bit. Whenever the starter gets through seven Girardi won’t have to use all three. The Yankees now have three guys soaking up high-leverage innings, not only two. That’s huge.

Trade Bait

Even if the Yankees completely turn things around and claw their way back into contention, trading Chapman is the best thing for the team long-term. The Yankees were able to get him at a very discounted rate because of the uncertainty surrounding his potential suspension, and now the suspension has been served. The mystery is gone. Chapman is back today and is a game-ready pitcher.

Chapman is a Grade-A piece of trade bait as a rental elite closer. Literally every team in the league could use someone like him — including the Yankees! — though obviously contenders figure to show the most interest. Any team with championship aspirations will check in, so the Yankees have an opportunity to create a bidding war to maximize their return. The Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Tigers, Mariners, Rangers … they’ll all get involved.

As I said last week, I think the Yankees should look to trade Chapman sooner rather than later. The sooner they trade him, the longer his new team gets him, meaning the Yankees can ask for more in return. There’s also the injury factor. Pitchers get hurt, and the longer the Yankees wait, the more risk they’ll assume. It takes two to tango, another team has to be willing to make a trade right now, but I think the Yankees should be shopping Chapman right now. Put him out here and start the process.

* * *

For now, the Yankees are adding another dominant reliever to their already dominant end-game bullpen. They’re a better team today than they were in the first 29 games of the season because Chapman is back. He can help them climb back into the playoff race in the short-term and accumulate young assets via trade in the long-term. Even though his time in pinstripes may be limited, it’s not a stretch to call Chapman one of the most important Yankees in 2016.

Yankeemetrics: Two out of three ain’t bad [May 6-8]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

”Hicks hit one to the sticks! Aaron hammers one!”
In a season where we’ve come to expect the unexpected, the Yankees got a much-needed victory — and jolt of optimism — after toppling the Red Sox, 3-2, on Friday night. The win might have been one of the most unlikely in this long and storied rivalry, for a few reasons.

It was the first time ever that the Yankees allowed at least 13 hits and held the Red Sox to no more than two runs in a game at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The last time it happened in a game in New York between these rivals was Sept. 24, 1919 at the Polo Grounds.

Yet, even before the first pitch was thrown, this game already carried the “rare and unusual” label. The last time theses teams entered a series matchup where the Yankees were in sole possession of last place in the AL East while the Red Sox were in sole possession of first place (at least one month into the season) was Aug. 31, 1990.

The improbable theme continued when Aaron Hicks — who had three singles in his first 34 at-bats this season — delivered the game-winning shot when he led off the seventh inning with a solo homer to break a 2-2 tie. Two other Yankee center fielders in the last 30 years have hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium: Jacoby Ellsbury (2015) and Bernie Williams (2003).

That might not have even been the game’s most dramatic moment, though. Fast-forward to the ninth inning when Andrew Miller found himself protecting a one-run lead with the bases loaded and one out and Big Papi at the plate. Miller prevailed in that epic showdown with Ortiz, striking him out looking, and then sealed the win after getting Hanley Ramirez to whiff for the final out.

The only other Yankee pitcher in the last 75 years to strike out the final two batters of any game with the bases loaded and while protecting a one-run lead was David Robertson on Aug. 12, 2013 against the Angels. That day, D-Rob whiffed Mark Trumbo and Chris Nelson to earn the save and clinch a 2-1 win for the Bombers.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Back-to-back (and belly-to-belly)
Breaking news: The Yankees have a win streak.

Less than 24 hours after perhaps their most emotional win of the season, the Yankees notched one of their most emphatic wins of the season on Saturday afternoon.

Nathan Eovaldi wrote another chapter in his Hekyl-and-Jyde season as he went eight innings and allowed two runs on six hits against the nearly the same Red Sox lineup that had torched him for six runs and 10 hits less than a week ago.

Eovaldi dialed up the heat, averaging 97.8 mph on his four-seam fastball — matching his season-high — while hitting triple digits five times. The only other pitcher to throw more than three 100-plus mph pitches in a single game this season was Noah Syndergaard on April 18 against the Phillies. Eovaldi also got an impressive 10 swings-and-misses with his four-seamer, his most in any start as a Yankee.

Austin Romine had a career day with three hits, including two run-scoring doubles. The list of Yankee catchers to produce at least three hits, two doubles and two RBIs in a game against the Red Sox is a pretty good one: Romine, Jorge Posada (1999), Yogi Berra (1962), Bill Dickey (1936, 1943), Steve O’Neill (1925).

No sweep for you
Sunday night’s finale might not have been sweet, but at least it was short. The Yankees lost 5-1 and the game lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes, the shortest nine-inning game in this rivalry since May 19, 1999 (a 6-0 loss in 2:27 at Fenway) and the shortest at Yankee Stadium since May 2, 1995 (a 8-0 loss in 2:25).

The Yankees avoided the shutout thanks to Brett Gardner‘s ninth-inning home run, but it was just one of three hits against Red Sox starter Steven Wright, who baffled the Yankee lineup all night with his knuckleball. He became the first Boston pitcher to allow three hits or fewer in a complete-game win against the Yankees since Pedro Martinez’s epic 17-strikeout, one-hitter in the Bronx on Sept. 10, 1999.

How do you evaluate Luis Severino‘s outing, during which he tied a career-high with nine strikeouts (great!) but also allowed a career-high three homers (not-great!)? The good news is that he is the youngest Yankee (at the age of 22 years and 78 days) with that many strikeouts against the Red Sox in the last 100 seasons. The bad news is that he also became the first pitcher to give up three or more homers and have nine or more strikeouts in a Yankee-Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium.

David Ortiz continued to torment the Yankees, crushing two more homers — his 51st and 52nd career home runs versus the Yankees — and tying Carl Yastrzemski for the fifth-most all-time against the franchise. It was also his 30th and 31st hit in the Bronx, matching Mickey Vernon for the second-most by any visiting player at Yankee Stadium; Hall of Famer Goose Goslin (32) holds the record.

Fan Confidence Poll: May 9th, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-3 (20 RS, 14 RA)
Season Record: 11-18 (101 RS, 126 RA, 11-18 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. White Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

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