Make it 15 straight wins for the Yankees over the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium. Geez. The Jays don’t just lose in the Bronx either, they lose and get hurt. Brett Lawrie left Wednesday’s game after taking a pitch to the left hand, though x-rays came back negative. Still. Injury to insult. The Yankees clinched the series win with a 7-3 victory.
In Play: Run(s)
Brian McCann has had a few big games this season. He hit two homers off John Lackey in April, had three hits including a double against the Red Sox later that month, and picked up three hits including a homer against the Mets in May. Wednesday’s game was his best as a Yankee because of the circumstances — they were playing the Blue Jays team they are chasing in the standings. Yeah, it’s only mid-June, but these head-to-head games are crucial when you’re trying to make up ground.
McCann had the team’s two biggest hits of the night. In the fourth, he swatted a go-ahead two-run homer off Mark Buehrle to cap off an excellent ten-pitch, six-foul ball at-bat. It was a cheap Yankee Stadium homer, but hey, that’s why the signed him. The Yankees brought him on board because they believed his dead pull lefty swing would result in a lot of Yankee Stadium cheapies, and that’s what they got in this game.
Later on in the seventh inning, McCann tripled (!) into the right-center field gap to clear the bases and plate three huge insurance runs. Colby Rasmus’ dive came up juuust short. McCann came into Wednesday’s game with 4,595 career plate appearances. That was his third career triple and first since 2009. Add in a walk and he reached base three times and drove in five of their seven runs.
Against what is by far the best lineup he’s faced as a big leaguer, Chase Whitley gave the Yankees a quality outing and held the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings. They worked him hard (98 pitches) as they did Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday, but Whitley held his own and limited the damage in a two-run fourth inning that could have easily spiraled out of control. Toronto had only five singles, one walk, and one hit batsman against the rookie righty. This was not an easy assignment but Whitley got the job done. Remember, we’re talking about the Yankees’ eighth starter here.
In Play: Out(s)
Joe Girardi used five pitchers on the night (including Whitley) and all five were homegrown. Adam Warren came in and retired all six men he faced in the sixth and seventh innings — the sixth inning was three strikeouts while the seventh was three grounders to second — while the lead was still one run. Once McCann broke it open, Girardi went to Jose Ramirez, who faced two batters, allowed two hits, and was yanked. Dellin Betances cleaned up the mess and retired all three men he faced.
If you want to nitpick, you could argue Girardi should have used Betances to start the eighth inning if Ramirez’s leash was going to be so short. Betances had already warmed up and Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion were due to hit. Let Betances get through them with the five-run lead, then let Ramirez face the bottom of the order in the ninth. Instead, Ramirez allowed a run on those two hits and Girardi wound up having to use David Robertson in the ninth. Robertson retired the side in order in the non-save situation. These games are pretty important and I have no issue with using Robertson there once Ramirez and Betances pitched in the eighth. Four relievers, all homegrown, held the most powerful offense in the league to one run on two hits in four innings. Well done.
The Yankees scored their two non-McCann runs when Alfonso Soriano poked a two-out single through the shift in the first inning to score Brett Gardner and pinch-hitter Ichiro Suzuki drew a bases loaded walk ahead of McCann’s triple in the seventh. So all seven runs were driven in by the catcher and right field positions.
Gardner went 4-for-5 and could have easily been 5-for-5 — the one out was a line drive snagged by Encarnacion at first. Derek Jeter doubled off the right-center field wall and Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran also chipped in base hits. Yangervis Solarte drew a walk and Brian Roberts was the only starter who did not reach base.
For Wednesday’s HOPE Week event, the Yankees signed Quinn Ostergren (age 4), Ryan Tucker (12), and Sean Callahan (11) to one-day contracts and had them spend the day with the team. They are all battling pediatric brain cancer and going through chemotherapy. They’re with an organization called Friends of Jaclyn, which helps improve the life of pediatric brain cancer patients. Here’s the Friends of Jaclyn website, here’s more on the day, and here’s the HOPE Week video archive.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees are now only 2.5 games back of the Blue Jays for first place in the AL East. There are a ton of games left, but the sooner they catch up, the better.
According to his Twitter feed, C Luis Torrens played in an Extended Spring Training game today. He has been out with a shoulder injury since mid-April. The Yankees aggressively pushed the now-18-year-old Torrens to Low-A Charleston this year and he was pretty overmatched (.154/.353/.369), so I wonder if they will opt to keep him with one of the Rookie Gulf Coast League squads in Tampa once healthy.
Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Toledo in eight innings) completed early due to rain
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 2 BB
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 1 K — first hitless game since being sent down
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
- RHP Bruce Billings: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 6/7 GB/FB — 65 of 95 pitches were strikes (68%)
Last night’s series opening win over the Blue Jays was close to textbook. Great outing from the starting pitcher, timely hitting, excellent bullpen work. That’s how every game would go in a perfect world.
Tonight’s game figures to be a little different. Toronto is starting their de facto ace in Mark Buehrle while the Yankees are running out a rookie starter in Chase Whitley who will face (by far) his biggest test as a big leaguer. These Blue Jays can hit, man. Don’t let last night fool you. Here is the Blue Jays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- 2B Brian Roberts
RHP Chase Whitley
It is pretty hot and slightly cloudy in New York this evening. There is no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
Injury Updates: As expected, CC Sabathia (knee) threw his second bullpen session this afternoon. He threw another 25 pitches. Sabathia will throw again on Sunday and will stretch it out a bit, likely to 30-35 pitches or so.
According to Ben Badler (subs. req’d), the Yankees are projected to sign three of the top five and four of the top ten international prospects once the signing period opens on July 2nd. Those prospects are Dominican SS Dermis Garcia (ranked 2nd), Dominican 3B Nelson Gomez (3rd), Dominican OF Juan De Leon (5th), and Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray (10th).
We first heard the Yankees connected to those players (as well as several others) a few weeks ago. The team reportedly has agreements already in place with Garcia ($3.6M) and Gomez ($2.8M). In another piece (subs. req’d), Balder quotes several scouts who believe De Leon can become a true impact player down the line. “When it’s all said and done, he might be the best of all these guys,” said one scout. “He’s got five-tool potential with three of those tools (power, speed, defense) potentially plus.”
The Yankees were allotted only $2.2M for international free agency this summer, but they are going to blow right past that with their reported agreements. Reports of a international spending spree worth upwards of $30M (bonuses plus penalties) have been going around since the winter. The Yankees took higher probability pitchers in the draft two weeks ago, and it appears they’re going to balance things out with several high-upside international position players next month. · (81) ·
The Yankees welcomed Francisco Cervelli back a two-month stint on the disabled list yesterday, so all of their position players are now healthy. Three-fifths of the rotation remain out, and Ivan Nova isn’t coming back this year following Tommy John surgery. Here are updates on the other two injured starters courtesy of Meredith Marakovits and Brian Heyman:
- CC Sabathia (knee) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Monday, fastballs and changeups only. No sliders. He said he felt fine and will throw another bullpen session today. “We’ll just continue to increase the amount of pitches and the pitches that he throws. If he gets through (today), then he’ll probably throw another bullpen and we’ll increase the number there. And then if he gets through that, eventually you start to see hitters and BP and then you get the game,” said Joe Girardi, who said they have to build Sabathia back up like he just arrived to Spring Training. (It’s common for pitchers to hold off on throwing breaking balls early in camp so they can build up arm strength.)
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) is scheduled to play catch on Saturday. It’ll be his first time throwing since suffering a setback at the end of last month. Like Sabathia, Pineda is basically at the start of his Spring Training routine. Expect the Yankees to be very careful with him during the rehab process given the nature of the injury and the fact that he’s already had one setback.
The Yankees have signed fourth round pick LHP Jordan Montgomery, according to Jim Callis. The southpaw from South Carolina received the full $424,000 slot bonus for the 122nd overall pick. Montgomery is a classic pitchability lefty who complements his low-90s fastball with a curveball, a cutter, and a very good changeup. He is cut from the David Phelps/Adam Warren cloth and should carve up the low minors after three years in an SEC rotation.
In other news, the Yankees announced the signing of sixth round pick RHP Jonathan Holder. MLB.com says he received a $170,000 bonus, below the $237,600 slot value for the 182nd overall pick. Holder, who was second round pick LHP Jacob Lindgren’s teammate at Mississippi State, is a pure reliever with a low-90s fastball and big breaking curveball in the low-70s. Lots of separation between his two pitches. Like Montgomery, he’s an SEC tested guy who should climb to Double-A fairly quickly, likely in the middle of next season.
You can see all of the team’s draft picks at Baseball America and keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our 2014 Draft Pool Tracker. The Yankees’ only unsigned picks in the top ten rounds are Texas OF Mark Payton (7th round), UC Irvine 1B Connor Spencer (8th), and Vanderbilt SS Vince Conde (8th). All three are still playing in the College World Series and can’t sign just yet. They also figure to receive a below-slot bonuses and it appears the Yankees will some extra pool money left over for an above-slot payout for a player(s) taken after the tenth round. · (29) ·
“Overall, I think my stuff wasn’t really there tonight.”
That’s what Masahiro Tanaka told Brian Heyman following last night’s start. A start in which he held the most powerful offense in the league to one run in six innings while striking out ten in the Yankees’ biggest game of the season to date. His stuff “wasn’t really there.”
That’s not the first time Tanaka has been hard on himself following an excellent start — he called the beginning of his first MLB season “okay” a few weeks ago — and it won’t be the last. That’s just who he is. We heard all about Tanaka’s off the charts competitiveness when the Yankees signed him and we’ve seen it firsthand for 14 starts now.
And my gosh, what a collection of 14 starts they’ve been. Tanaka leads the league with a 1.99 ERA and his 2.70 FIP is the sixth best. His 7.06 K/BB ratio would be the fourth best in AL history among qualified starters. Two of the three spots ahead of him are 1999 and 2000 Pedro Martinez, arguably the two greatest pitching seasons in the history of the universe. His 24.5 K-BB% would be the 17th best in history.
By any measure, Tanaka has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. Not one of the best rookie pitchers. Not one of the best AL pitchers. Not one of the best Japanese-born pitchers. One of the best pitchers in all of baseball, period. No qualifiers. When friend of RAB Drew Fairservice ranked the best starters in the league recently, he ranked Tanaka first, ahead of the usual suspects. That’s coming from a Blue Jays fan.
The performance has unquestionably put Tanaka among the game’s elite. It’s everything else that puts him over the top. The fact that he’s doing it in a tiny home ballpark. That’s he’s doing it while pitching on a five-day schedule for the first time in his life. That he’s doing it while transitioning to a new league with a tougher travel schedule. And, most impressively, that he’s doing it in a new city with an entirely new culture. Oh, and he has all the pressure of pitching for the New York frickin’ Yankees on his shoulders.
The Yankees paid a handsome price for Tanaka and the contract was heavily criticized because he had never thrown a pitch in MLB. How many times did we hear that? “He’s never thrown a pitch in MLB!” More times than I care to count. Well, now Tanaka has thrown a pitch in MLB. Over 1,400 of them in fact. And at this point he is exceeding even the biggest expectations and hitting on best case scenario stuff. I don’t know how anyone could have possibly predicted he would be this good, this soon.
Tanaka has emerged as not only the team’s ace, but as a rock in the rotation, a stabilizing force that sets everything right every fifth. He has been one of the best pitchers in the game in terms of pure performance, and when you add in all the cultural adjustments he’s had to make, no pitcher has been more impressive. It would have been totally understandable if Tanaka had an inconsistent, up and down rookie year. Most Japanese imports do. He hasn’t though. Instead it looks like he’s been here for years.
The Yankees did years and years worth of homework and they landed themselves a gem in Tanaka. He’s already an elite pitcher and at only 25 years old (!!!), he is a true franchise player the team can build around going forward. Tanaka is their present day ace and will be the cornerstone of the post-Derek Jeter Yankees.
For the 14th straight time, the Yankees beat the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. Toronto has not won a game in the Bronx since August 2012 and they’ve won only two of their last 25 games in Yankee Stadium overall. Crazy. Tuesday’s series opening win came by the score of 3-1.
Second Look? No Problem
In his very first MLB start, Masahiro Tanaka allowed a solo homer to Melky Cabrera, the first batter he faced. In his second career start against the Blue Jays, Jose Reyes hit his first pitch out of the park for a leadoff homer. Two starts against Toronto, two leadoff dingers. Other than that, there was no indication seeing Tanaka once before helped the Blue Jays hitters. Maybe he should change it up and throw a first pitch splitter next time out to keep them honest.
Anyway, the Reyes homer was the only run Tanaka allowed on Tuesday night. He held the Jays scoreless over the next six innings, striking out ten while allowing two walks and five hits. It was his fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season, second most in baseball behind David Price’s six. Tanaka did not allow a runner to reach third base following the homer and only one made it as far as second. He is down to a 1.99 ERA on the season. On June 17th. In the AL East. Pitching his home games in Yankee Stadium. He could give up leadoff homers all year for all I care if he keeps this up.
Three Runs Is Enough
Brett Gardner‘s first-inning at-bat was very indicative of how rookie Blue Jays hurler Marcus Stroman’s night would go. The Yankees’ leadoff hitter grounded out to second — Munenori Kawasaki made a nice play on a ball to his right — but not before fouling off seven pitches as part of a 12-pitch at-bat. The Yankees forced Stroman to throw 98 pitches in 3.2 innings, fouling off 25 of those 98 pitches. Nineteen of those 25 fouls came in two-strike counts. Hughesian.
The Yankees made Stroman work all right, but it wasn’t until Kelly Johnson doubled into the right-center field gap with one out in the third that they recorded their first hit. Gardner followed that with a two-run homer, his second dinger in as many games. It was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie off the bottom of the right field foul pole. Gardner went deep in the final game against the Athletics and hit two balls against the Mariners that would have been out in the Bronx (one just foul, one to the wall at Safeco Field). He’s showing some pop lately. I dig it.
The two runs were all the Yankees would score off Stroman, but getting into the bullpen early in the first game of the series is a positive. They went 1-for-8 with a walk against the young righty the first time through the order and 3-for-7 with two walks thereafter. A Jeter infield single, a Jacoby Ellsbury ground ball, an Aaron Loup wild pitch, and a Mark Teixeira single back through the middle created New York’s third run of the night in the fifth inning. The Yankees did not have a hit after Teixeira drove in that run but three runs were all they needed. They even had one to spare.
Jeter continued his torrid stretch with two hits, and he’s now 12-for-27 (.444) with two walks and one strikeout since the start of the Mariners series. Johnson had two hits (why isn’t he playing more?) while Gardner and Teixeira had one apiece. The five through eight hitters went a combined 0-for-12 with three walks (Brian Roberts and two by Carlos Beltran). I don’t think three runs will be enough to beat the Blue Jays in the final two games of the series, but Tanaka is the kind of pitcher who can make that stand up.
Goliath & David
Tanaka was very good, but the Jays have a tough lineup and they did push his pitch count up to 104 after only six innings. Rather than try to squeeze another few outs out of him, Joe Girardi went to Dellin Betances for the seventh inning and it was the right move, both at the time and in hindsight. Betances retired the side on eight pitches in the seventh before doing the same on 13 pitches in the eighth. He cut right through Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, striking them both out on nine pitches combined. Those two were 1-for-7 (flare single to right by EE) with five strikeouts on the night. Mercy.
I love that Girardi stuck with Betances for the eighth inning for two reasons. One, he is the team’s best reliever and I want him facing Bautista and Encarnacion. Two, he only threw eight pitches in the seventh and has shown he can work multiple innings per outing. Use him for the two innings and leave Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley fresh for Wednesday’s game. Perfect. Loved the way Girardi used Betances. David Robertson got the ninth inning and pitching around a Gardner-aided triple for his 17th save. He struck out two and now 36 of his last 47 outs are strikeouts. Gardner slid for a Kawasaki line drive, missed it, and it rolled to the wall for the triple. A rare defensive misplay by Brett.
In addition to the awesome pitching, Tanaka also made two stellar defensive plays. They were nearly identical — hard-hit ground balls back up the middle that he slowed down with his glove, then hustled to grab from just behind the mound and fired to first for the out. The first ball literally knocked his glove off. Tanaka’s gonna end up winning Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, MVP, and Gold Glove this year. At all nine positions. He’s that good.
It appeared Brian McCann was hit by a pitch when he squared around to bunt in the fifth inning, but the Yankees elected not to review it for whatever reason. Replays made it look like it hit him on the way by. That would have made it first and second with one out, but instead McCann struck out and it there was a runner at first with two outs after the at-bat. Not sure why bench coach Tony Pena gave Girardi the “don’t challenge” signal. Maybe they didn’t see the same replay angle they showed on YES.
Jeter scored the team’s third run and it was the 1,900th run scored of his career. That is the 11th most in history. He’ll jump past Alex Rodriguez (1,919) and into the top ten relatively soon. Stan Musial (1,949) would be next and that seems like it’ll be doable before the end of the season. It’ll be close. The win was Girardi’s 600th as Yankees manager, by the way.
Last, but certainly not least, this week is HOPE Week. The Yankees honored Career Gear on Tuesday, an organization that “provides professional clothing, mentoring and life-skills to help men in poverty become stronger contributors to their families and communities.” Here’s the Career Gear website and here’s the HOPE Week video archive.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stuff and the updated standings can be found at ESPN. The Yankees have climbed to within 3.5 games of first place with five more games against the Blue Jays coming up over the next week. Plus, you know, there are still more than 90 games left in the season.
Same two teams on Wednesday night, in the middle game of this three-game set. Rookie Chase Whitley and grizzled veteran Mark Buehrle will be the pitching matchup. Head over to RAB Tickets if you impulsively want to catch the game live.
The video is OF Mason Williams making a ridiculous catch in last night’s game. Here are two quick notes:
- RHP Brett Gerritse was placed on the High-A Tampa DL with an unknown injury, according to Nicholas Flammia. LHP Ramon Benjamin was added to the roster in his place. The Yankees signed him late last month and he’s more than filler. Benjamin is an ex-Marlins prospect who is finally healthy after battling a ton of injuries the last few years.
- Thursday’s Low-A Charleston game will air on CBS Sports Network, if you want to catch the game. I’m not sure who’s starting that night. Play-by-play guy Sean Houston is going to call the game while walking on a treadmill behind home plate. Minor league baseball, man.
Triple-A Scranton (8-7 win over Toledo)
- LF Jose Pirela: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — been playing nothing but left field or first base for a few weeks now
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-5, 1 R
- CF-RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 2 BB — wonder if we’ll start seeing him in center more these next few weeks as a trade showcase
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — go ahead two-run single in the top of the ninth
- 1B Kyle Roller: 0-3, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — he’s about to lose a bunch of playing time to the just demoted C John Ryan Murphy
- LHP Jeremy Bleich: 4 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 6/1 GB/FB — 53 of 88 pitches were strikes (60%)
- RHP Heath Bell: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 10 of 19 pitches were strikes (53%)
This is the biggest game of the season. At least so far. There are still 90-something games left after tonight. The first place Blue Jays are in town for three games this week, and they currently sit 4.5 games up on the Yankees in the AL East. These two clubs will also play three games in Toronto next week. Best case scenario: Yankees win out and are in first place next week. Worst case: Yankees lose out and the braintrust makes a bunch of panic moves before the deadline.
Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound tonight and he is absolutely the guy everyone wants starting this game. This is an ace game. Home against the team you’re chasing? And they have a kid pitcher making his
first fourth career start on the bump? I know the Blue Jays have the best and most powerful offense in the league, but this is a game you want to see Tanaka control and dominant. Start the series off with a win and inch closer in the standings. Here’s the Blue Jays lineup and here’s the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- DH Carlos Beltran
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Kelly Johnson
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It’s nice and hot in New York. A few clouds too, but there’s no rain in the forecast tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on MY9. Enjoy the game.