Yankees lose battle of the bullpens, fall 2-1 to Blue Jays in series opener

Blah, what a gross game. Hold the high-powered Blue Jays to two runs in ten innings and still lose? Gross. Can’t think of another way to describe it. The offense will be fine, slumps happen, but limiting Toronto to two runs and losing a battle of the bullpens is rough. This the kind of game the Yankees were designed to win. Friday’s final score was 2-1.

The knuckleball is unAmerican. (Presswire)
The knuckleball is unAmerican. (Presswire)

Why Do You Hate Me, Offense?
Remember when the Yankees scored 90 runs in a ten-game span recently? As in last week? That was really cool. Well they’ve now scored four runs in their last three games, which is decidedly less cool. To put it another way, the pitching staff has allowed five runs in the last three games and the Yankees lost two. At home. To division rivals. What’s that word again? Gross? Yeah that works. Anyway, I’m not really sure how I want to recap Friday’s one-run attack, so I’m just going to list some points and we can go from there.

Patience, anyone? The Yankees saw 21 total pitches in their final three offensive innings. They even had two runners reach base, only to have both immediately erased on double play balls. The Yankees sent nine men to the plate in those last three innings and five of the at-bats were over within two pitches. Also, after forcing R.A. Dickey to throw 59 pitches in the first three innings, he did not have to throw more than 16 pitches in any of the next four innings. The Yankees started swinging at everything.

Blown chances. The Yankees could have broken this game open in the early innings. The problem was they kept getting all their base-runners with two outs. Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius singled with two outs in the second — they managed to avoid being tagged out during a hilarious rundown as well — but Stephen Drew flew out. Alex Rodriguez walked and Mark Teixeira singled with two outs in the third, then Brian McCann grounded out. The Yankees only had two at-bats with runners in scoring position and those were them. The opportunities were there but they were limited because no one got on base with less than two outs.

Stolen bases. Earlier this week I wrote a post about the Yankees not stealing bases and explaining why it wasn’t a big deal. They were still scoring a ton of runs at the time. But, in that same post, I noted the best time for the Yankees to employ the running game was in the late innings of a close game, like this one. Gregorius reached on a single in the seventh and never tried to steal. Brett Gardner singled leading off the eighth, didn’t budge, and A-Rod grounded into a double play. Beltran singled with one out in the ninth, Chris Young pinch-ran but didn’t actually run, and Headley grounded into a double play. (It was rather a rather spectacular 5-4-3 double play. The Jays deserve props for that one.) When the game is close like that and you’d got speedy runners on base, try running. Just once. You’re only looking for one run that late in the game. (Also, why was Young pinch-running and not pinch-hitting against the lefty Brett Cecil?)

Slumpin’. How much longer must we endure Stephen Drew? He went 0-for-4 on Friday with two weak ground outs and two weak pop-ups (surprise!), and is now up 322 plate appearances of 75 wRC+ ball on the season. It was cool when Drew hit for those two of three weeks last month, but clearly that was just a mirage. I’m crying uncle here. Enough. Also, Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-5 and looked like he was swinging blindfolded. Thursday night’s go-ahead home run was awesome! But otherwise Ellsbury’s been pretty terrible since coming back from the DL.

I think that about covers it. The Yankees scored their lone run on a Teixeira solo homer in the second inning. It was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie — all three runs in this game were scored on cheap wall-scraping homers — that had to be reviewed because it hit a fan who may have been reaching over the wall. That wasn’t the case and it was correctly called a home run. Other than that … did the Yankees even hit anything beyond bloop distance? It seemed like every ball in play against Dickey was a pop-up. Not much hard contact at all.

Nate the Great. (Presswire)
Nate the Great. (Presswire)

Two Runs, Ten Innings
The pitching staff gets no blame for Friday’s loss. They held the best offense in baseball to two cheap solo home runs in ten innings. I’d sign up for that in all three games this weekend if possible.

Nathan Eovaldi was the star of the show, especially after the shaky first inning in which he allowed (in order) a near-homer, a homer, a walk, and a double. He was able to escape the second and third with one out situation without allowing another run, then cruised into the seventh inning. Eovaldi allowed just the one run on five hits and two walks in 6.1 innings. He was outstanding. Nate’s been spectacular since the clunker in Miami.

Eovaldi’s night ended because of some defensive stupidness. Teixeira couldn’t reel in a throw from Drew — Teixeira had to stretch for it, but it did hit him in the glove, so… — and Headley bobbled a slow grounder that was probably going to be an infield single anyway with the speedy Kevin Pillar running. Eovaldi was yanked with two on and one out in the seventh. Justin Wilson struck out Ben Revere then Dellin Betances got Donaldson to ground out after walking Troy Tulowitzki. Inning over.

Wait, Who’s Pitching?
After Dellin’s escape act in the seventh, he pitched around a leadoff single in the eighth to hand the ball over the Andrew Miller in the ninth. Miller allowed a leadoff single and then retired the next three batters with relative ease. He threw six total pitches, yet when the game went to the tenth, Miller was removed and the rookie Brandon Pinder came in to face Donaldson and Jose Bautista.

Why was Miller taken out of the game after throwing only six pitches? Who knows. He did pitch Thursday, throwing 17 pitches, so maybe that was it. Or perhaps Girardi decided to take advantage of the six-pitch inning and save him for Saturday knowing Betances won’t be available after throwing 40 pitches the last two days. If that’s what happened … yeeesh. Gotta prioritize the game in front of you, right? Who knows what could happen tomorrow. You could be up nine runs, or down 17 runs, or little green aliens could come down in spaceships and enslave us all. Who knows?

Girardi elected to go to Pinder in the tenth, and any time you can use the kid who’s been on the Triple-A shuttle all season against two legitimately great hitters in an important intra-division game, you have to do it. Donaldson lined out to short, then Pinder put a two-strike fastball on a tee for Bautista, and he hit it out of the park for the deciding home run. What a weird decision. Was Adam Warren not available? Probably not since the threw 41 pitches Wednesday. But Bryan Mitchell? He’s still out therein the bullpen. Why Pinder before him? Bah. What a weird decision. I do not understand.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
The Yankees had eight hits total — two each by Gardner, Teixeira, and Gregorius, and one each by Carlos Beltran and Headley. Beltran and A-Rod drew the walks. The Yankees struck out only four times as a team, so that’s good, the ball was in play all night, but they also averaged only 3.65 pitches per plate appearances. They were swinging at everything.

Really can’t say enough about Eovaldi. He threw 33 pitches in that stressful first inning and didn’t throw more than 16 pitches in any inning thereafter. Know how Yankee fans were complaining they weren’t hitting Dickey? Blue Jays fans were complaining they weren’t hitting Eovaldi. Nasty Nate has a 2.42 ERA in his last nine starts dating back to the Miami game, and a 3.79 ERA in his last 14 starts, including the Miami game.

And finally, the Yankees have now homered in 13 straight games, their longest such streak since August 2009. They went deep in 14 straight games that year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for this game. You can also check out the up to the minute standings and postseason odds. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages as well. Now here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Blue Jays will play the second game of this three game series Saturday afternoon. Ivan Nova and David Price will be the pitching matchup. Head over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or Sunday’s game at the ballpark.

DotF: Refsnyder and Judge homer in Scranton’s win

OF Tyler Austin has been demoted to Double-A Trenton, reports Donnie Collins. OF Taylor Dugas was bumped up to take his place. Austin has not had a good year (.235/.309/.311 and 82 wRC+) and this will allow him to bat higher in the lineup and get more at-bats. The Triple-A Scranton lineup is stacked. Austin’s been batting ninth of late.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 win over Toledo)

  • LF Ben Gamel: 2-4
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — third homer in his last 20 games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 K, 1 CS
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — had been in an 0-for-15 slump before the homer
  • CF Slade Heathcott: 0-4, 1 K
  • 3B Jose Pirela: 1-4
  • C Austin Romine: 2-3, 1 R
  • LHP Chris Capuano: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 0/3 GB/FB — 45 of 65 pitches were strikes (69%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 24 of 38 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1/2 GB/FB — 21 of 32 pitches were strikes (66%) … 75/16 K/BB in 53.1 innings
  • RHP Andrew Bailey: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 2/0 GB/FB — nine of 15 pitches were strikes (60%)

[Read more…]

Game 108: Bring on the Jays

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It has been three years since the Yankees played a series this important, no? I think that’s fair to say. That doesn’t mean this series is life or death — there are still 52 games to play after this, you know — but it is pretty damn important. Gotta keep the Blue Jays, who are playing their most important series in about 20 years, at bay. A six-game lead in the loss column is nice but not insurmountable.

Nathan Eovaldi is on the mound tonight and he is the Yankees’ most reliable starter right now. No, he doesn’t pitch deep into games, but he’s found a way to keep runs off the board and limit base-runners — 45 hits in his last 47 innings! — on a somewhat consistent basis. The Blue Jays have baseball’s best offense and they’ll be a tough little test for Eovaldi. Here is Toronto’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Gosh it is a gorgeous day for baseball here in New York. Just a few clouds, nice blue sky, temperatures in the low-80s … pretty much perfect weather for baseball. Too bad it wasn’t a day game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy!

Injury Updates: McCann (knee) is well enough to play today, obviously. He’s wearing a brace on his knee and will for another week or so … Michael Pineda (forearm) played catch at 90 feet both Wednesday and Thursday with no issues. Today was a scheduled off-day for him. He hopes to throw off a mound Monday.

TiqIQ: Plenty of Affordable Tickets Available for Key Yankees-Blue Jays Series

There might not be a bigger series in the immediate future for the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays than the one that has the two AL East rivals facing off on August 7. New York has ridden an elite offense to the top of the division through the first half of the 2015 MLB season, but Toronto rests just 4.5 games back with an even better offense, based on the amount of runs scored by both clubs this season. When the two get together at Yankee Stadium for a three-game set this week, the aftermath could point to an eventual division winner.

There is naturally a ton on the line in this mammoth-sized clash, while bad rivalry blood and explosive offenses also add to the allure. If that wasn’t enough, the pure value of Yankees tickets in this particular matchup shoots this series through the roof when it comes to fans getting serious bang for their buck, with no games coming in at over $79 on average. Compared to the average Yankees ticket for the rest of the year (over $171), the discount is quite clear on the secondary market. On the primary market, all three games this series have discounts available for MasterCard card holders buying on Yankees.com.

The beauty of any matchup at Yankee Stadium is that power can always come in heavy doses. Combine the forces of two of the league’s most potent offenses, and fans could be in for a downright dirty pairing. Game one ($75.66 on average, $21 to get in) definitely rolls with that theme, as R.A. Dickey takes the mound for the Jays. Dickey has actually been quite good as of late, as the 40-year old knuckleballer has been fairly stingy in improving his overall numbers compared to where they stood earlier in the season. Keeping that up in Yankee Stadium won’t be easy, though, especially when he’s going up against big bats like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, both of whom own home runs opposing the right-hander.

If Toronto stifles the Yanks in the opener, the pinstripes might be in even more trouble come game two ($73.45 on average, $21 for the cheap seats), when they go up against familiar foe and former American League Cy Young award winner David Price. Toronto recently padded their pitching rotation with the elite arm and Price answered with a dominant debut against the Twins. Price will have to especially watch out for Brian McCann and Teixeira in this one, as both hitters own three career home runs off the staff ace.

Game three wraps this series up in style ($78.36, $21 to get in) with Marco Estrada slinging pitches to home plate. If the first two games don’t go as planned for the Yanks, this one is sure to, as Estrada offers up major power connection on his pitches. Estrada has followed suit of Dickey and Price with strong play as of late, but has still had some trouble with getting New York’s better bats out and could be primed for a letdown at Yankee Stadium.

The writing on the wall is evident: this isn’t a series the Yankees can afford to lose. Toronto was active on the trade market by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki to beef up a league-leading offense and Price to bolster their sluggish pitching rotation. Now fully equipped to take over the AL East, the Blue Jays will try to use this week’s three-game series to push closer to that goal. It’s up to New York’s bats to use Yankee Stadium to their advantage and keep the Blue Jays at bay.

8/7 to 8/9 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

Poor kids born into Jays fandom. (Presswire)
Poor kids born into Jays fandom. (Presswire)

So this is a pretty big series, eh? Much bigger for the Blue Jays than the Yankees, of course. They’re the team doing the chasing. The new-look Jays are coming to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set as they look to cut into New York’s division lead. The Yankees dropped two of three in each of the first two series of the season between these clubs, though they were way back in April and May.

What Have The Blue Jays Done Lately?

Win and score runs, mostly. The Jays just wrapped up an 8-2 homestand in which they outscored their opponents 59-34. They’re 13-6 in the second half. Toronto is 58-52 with a +120 run differential overall, which is the best in baseball. They are sitting in the second wildcard spot and are 4.5 games back of the Yankees in AL East, six in the loss column.

Offense & Defense

As you surely know, the Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. They’re averaging an insane 5.34 runs per game — the Yankees are averaging 4.93 runs per game, second best in baseball — with a team 114 wRC+. (The Yankees have a 111 wRC+.) Toronto is currently without 2B Devon Travis (shoulder), OF Michael Saunders (knee), and IF Maicer Izturis (shoulder), none of whom will return anytime soon.

Tulo. (Presswire)
Tulo. (Presswire)

The top of Toronto’s lineup reads like an All-Star Game lineup: SS Troy Tulowitzki (113 wRC+) has been batting leadoff since coming over in last week’s trade, 3B Josh Donaldson (155 wRC+) bats second, and OF Jose Bautista (135 wRC+) bats third. Ridiculous. 1B Edwin Encarnacion (127 wRC+) bats cleanup. That top four is a nightmare. You kinda have to hope they only score one run each time through that portion of the lineup.

1B/OF Chris Colabello (135 wRC+) and 1B Justin Smoak (111 wRC+) are platooning at first with Encarnacion at DH. Ex-Yankee C Russell Martin (120 wRC+) is the everyday catcher. LF Ben Revere (94 wRC+) just came over from the Phillies and OF Kevin Pillar (85 wRC+) and 2B Ryan Goins (73 wRC+) are the rest of the regulars. C Dioner Navarro (69 wRC+) is the backup backstop and IF Munenori Kawasaki (45 wRC+) is the backup infielder. These Blue Jays … they can hit.

In the field, Toronto has top notch defenders at short (Tulo), third (Donaldson), center (Pillar), and behind the plate (Martin). Bautista and Revere are good in the outfielder corners for different reasons — Bautista for his arm, Revere for his range — and Goins/Smoak is a solid right side of the infield. Obviously the offense gets most of the attention and deservedly so, but the Jays can field too.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
The Blue Jays are probably throwing their three best starters this weekend. Dickey, 40, has a 4.06 ERA (4.59 FIP) in 22 starts and 144 innings overall this season but has been much better of late, with a 2.70 ERA (3.73 FIP) in his 12 starts and 80 innings. His rate stats are knuckleballer-esque, with a slightly below-average number of strikeouts (14.9%), a few too many walks (8.1%), lots of fly balls (42.7% grounders), and lots of homers (1.06 HR/9). Righties (.316 wOBA) have hit him ever so slightly harder than lefties (.309 wOBA). Dickey has added velocity as the season has progressed — he recently attributed that to simply being old and needing more time to get up to full speed — and his knuckler now sits in the 77-79 mph range. He throws the pitch roughly 85% of the time with a show-me low-80s heater his only other pitch. The Yankees faced Dickey twice this season and scored one run both times, first in 6.1 innings in April and then in eight innings in May.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TOR) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Blue Jays have four series left this season including this one, and I’m guessing the Yankees will see Price in all four. The 29-year-old has a 2.45 ERA (3.00 FIP) in 22 starts and 154 innings this year with a ton of strikeouts (24.0%) and very few walks (5.0%). He is fly ball prone (39.8%) but does keep the ball in the park (0.82 HR/9). Price gets a lot of weak pop-ups. Always has. Believe it or not, lefties (.284 wOBA) have had slightly more success against the southpaw than righties (.279 wOBA). I say this every series preview: Price is the ultimate combination of power and precision. He locates his mid-90s two and four-seamers to both sides of the plate with ease and he back doors his upper-80s cutter to righties on the regular. It’s an unhittable pitch. It looks like it’s going to be in the other batter’s box then boom, it cuts the corner. It’s filthy. Price also throws a mid-80s changeup and a handful of upper-70s curves per start. The Yankees have historically had quite a bit of success against Price — they scored eight runs in 2.1 innings when they faced him earlier this year — but that doesn’t make me feel much better. He’s a top ten pitcher and a super tough assignment.

Shoulda been a Yankee. (Presswire)
Shoulda been a Yankee. (Presswire)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
Estrada, 32, started the season as the long man before moving into the rotation in May. He has a 3.40 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 111.1 innings overall, including a 3.67 ERA (4.82 FIP) in 100.2 innings as a starter. Estrada’s strikeout (18.9%) and walk (7.5%) rates are actually his worst in years, and he’s always been incredibly fly ball (32.2% grounders) prone. His dinger rate (0.89 HR/9) is way below his career norm (1.32 HR/9) and he has a very slight reverse split (.289 vs. .274 wOBA in favor of righties). Estrada is a three-pitch guy who throws his upper-80s fastball less than 60% of the time. He uses his upper-70s changeup and upper-70s curveball a ton, the change moreso than the curve. The Yankees did see as Estrada as a starter earlier this year, scoring five runs in 4.2 innings in May.

Bullpen Status
The bullpen has been something of an Achilles heel for the Blue Jays this season but they have taken some steps to improve it, including acquiring RHP LaTroy Hawkins (3.08 ERA/3.29 FIP) and RHP Mark Lowe (1.64/2.21) at the deadline. Not the sexiest moves but they were upgrades over the guys they had been running out there. Also, RHP Aaron Sanchez (3.39/4.91) was recently moved back into the bullpen, where he’s been dominant.

Rookie RHP Roberto Osuna (2.22/2.52) has taken over as closer — he’s the youngest pitcher in MLB this season — with Sanchez setting him up. LHP Brett Cecil (3.79/3.43) and RHP Aaron Loup (5.19/4.02) are the two lefties, RHP Liam Hendriks (2.47/2.04) and RHP Bo Schultz (2.25/4.00) the other two righties. Schultz was the only reliever to pitch yesterday and he threw 35 pitches in two innings. Sanchez is currently serving a suspension for throwing at some Royals last week and will be out tonight. He is eligible to return tomorrow. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen and then check out Andrew Stoeten’s site for the latest on the Blue Jays.

Yankeemetrics: The Future has arrived (August 4-6)

Luis, you're No. 1. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Luis, you’re No. 1. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Been here, done that
The Red Sox held the Yankees offense mostly in check for the first half of Tuesday’s game — but that just delayed the inevitable scoring explosion that was to come in the sixth and seventh innings. They scored 12 runs in those two frames — including nine in the seventh — en route to another blowout win.

It was the first time they scored nine runs in an inning since … oh yeah, last Tuesday against the Rangers. Time flies, eh? Less than two weeks ago, they’d hadn’t put up a nine-spot in any inning since the final series of the 2012 season against the Red Sox — and now they did it twice in a span of seven days.

Chris Young and Brian McCann were the big thumpers for the Yankees, both crushing three-run homers in the seventh to turn the game into a rout. It was the first time Yankee teammates hit a pair of three-run dingers in the same inning against the Red Sox since Melky Cabrera and Jorge Posada on August 6, 2009.

With the win over the Red Sox and their stud prospect, Henry Owens, who was pitching in his first career big-league game, the Yankees are now 9-1 over the past five seasons when an opposing team starts a pitcher making his major-league debut.

Merry Severino-mas!
Luis Severino, meet Hype; Hype, meet Luis Severino … The Yankees top prospect lived up to (and probably exceeded) all expectations in his major-league debut on Wednesday night, holding the Red Sox to just two runs on two hits with seven strikeouts in five innings.

His performance was arguably one of the most impressive by any Yankee making his first career start in franchise history. Onto the bullet points!

• Before Severino, no Yankee pitcher had ever struck out at least seven guys while giving up two-or-fewer hits in his major-league debut.
• At the age of 21 years and 166 days, Severino also became the youngest Yankee with at least seven strikeouts and no more than two hits allowed in a game.
• And he joined Mike Mussina and David Cone as the only Yankees in the last 50 years to have seven-plus strikeouts and surrender fewer than three baserunners against the Red Sox. Mussina’s gem was his near-perfect game on Sept. 2, 2001 and Cone’s effort came on Sept. 8, 1998.

And he did all of this against the Red Sox, at Yankee Stadium, in front of national television audience on ESPN. Poise, confidence, swagger, cojones, whatever you want to call it, Severino seems to have it.

Of course, this being baseball, the Yankee bats suddenly went ice-cold and Severino ended up with a loss, ruining what could have been a perfect night in the Bronx. He became the first Yankee starter to lose in his major-league debut despite allowing one earned run or fewer since Bob McGraw in 1917.

#TBT: Ace Sabathia
The Yankees took the rubber game against the Red Sox on Thursday night thanks to a vintage performance from CC Sabathia and a timely homer from a slumping Jacoby Ellsbury.

For Sabathia, it was the first time he had as many as eight strikeouts, and gave up as few as three hits and one run in a game since Sept. 21, 2012 against the A’s. When Jackie Bradley Jr. took ball four in the fifth inning, it was the first walk Sabathia had issued to a true left-handed batter this year. He entered the game having faced 108 lefties, the most of any pitcher that hadn’t walked one yet this season.

Jacoby Ellsbury — who entered the game 7-for-47 (.149) in his previous 12 games — was the unlikely offensive hero with a tie-breaking solo homer in the seventh inning. Over the last 30 years, Ellsbury and Bernie Williams (2003) are the only Yankee center fielders to hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning or later against Red Sox at Yankee Stadium

Andrew Miller sealed the win by punching out Rusney Castillo to end the game, earning his 24th save in 24 chances this season. He now has the third-longest streak of converted saves to begin a stint with a team in major-league history, behind only Brad Lidge (44 with Phillies in 2008-09) and Willie Hernandez (32 with Tigers in 1984).