Here’s the open thread for the rest of the day. The Cubs and Astros are the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (Arrieta vs. Fiers) plus there’s all the week one NFL action. Talk about all that or anything else on your mind right here.
The Yankees are red hot right now, having won seven straight games and 13 of their last 17. There is still much work to be done before a postseason spot is secure, of course. After today, the Yankees play 17 of their final 20 games against good to great teams, so the schedule is about to get really difficult. Get the win today and worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- C Gary Sanchez
- DH Brian McCann
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 3B Chase Headley
- RF Aaron Judge
- 2B Ronald Torreyes
RHP Luis Cessa
It’s a little cloudy in New York today, but otherwise it’s just a splendid day for baseball. Good day for a sweep. Today’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
Coming into today, Masahiro Tanaka ranks third in the AL in ERA at 3.04, and has more innings pitched than the first place (Michael Fulmer–2.76) and second place (Aaron Sanchez–2.92) pitchers in front of him. He’s also third in ERA- at 71. His 3.23 FIP is second only to Corey Kluber’s 3.18 mark; despite that, though, Tanaka leads the AL in fWAR at 5.0 (over Kluber’s 4.7) and FIP- at 73. At 1.07, his WHIP is sixth in the league. WPA? 4th at 2.31. Long and repetitive story short, if there is an important pitching category this year, Tanaka is top-ten in that category.
There are plenty of good candidates this year and given that, it’s not likely that TANAK takes home the hardware this year. However, this is obviously his best chance to garner votes for the award, something he hasn’t done in his first three years of service to the Yankees. Thanks to this big year, there’s been talk lately of Tanaka’s place among the game’s best pitchers and to what degree he’s been underrated by Yankee fans or the league at large.
Since 2014, he ranks tied for fourth in the American League in ERA at 3.11; 11th in FIP at 3.42; and 8th in fWAR at 10.4. As an added bonus, he’s also fourth in K-BB% at 19.0 and fifth in WPA at 5.15. There’s not a whole lot anyone could say–with a slight exception for durability concerns–that could convince me that Tanaka hasn’t been one of the American League’s top pitchers since he moved over from Japan.
If you were to ask a handful of random baseball fans about where Tanaka ranked among they game’s best, I doubt they’d have him up where he belongs. Maybe that’s because the Yankees haven’t been as prominent in the last few seasons. Maybe that’s because he hasn’t pitched as many innings. Maybe that’s because he doesn’t always appear to be completely dominant. But regardless of that, Tanaka is, no doubt, a top pitcher in the AL. He’s able to change up his game seemingly from start-to-start to suit his opponent and is able to battle even without his best stuff thanks to his creativity and array of pitches. It’s not always worth it to get into the underrated/overrated debate because it’s so subjective, but this one feels different. There’s a part of me that thinks Yankee fans haven’t, in general, been as appreciative of Tanaka and his performance as they could or should have been over the last three years. It’s likely due to those same issues above, but it still bothers me. Since CC Sabathia was his old self in 2012, the Yankees haven’t had anyone pitching at the level Tanaka has been for a while now.
More than two years ago, over at IIATMS, I wrote a piece about the anticipation behind and ahead of the acquisition of Masahiro Tanaka. Not for the most part, but in totality, Tanaka has lived up to the hype.
Some notes before we get to today’s postseason action:
- RHP Dillon Tate and RHP J.P. Feyereisen have been added to the Scottsdale Scorpions roster, according to the Arizona Fall League transactions page. Tate needs all the work he can get right now, so it’s good to see he’s going. The Yankees have one open AzFL roster spot and the hope is it will go to RHP James Kaprielian, assuming his elbow heals up in time.
- Speaking of Tate, Grace Raynor wrote about the right-hander and not just his tough 2016 season, but his rise from unknown high school hurler to fourth overall pick in the draft. “I’m like, ‘Are you sure (you want to trade me)? Because I’m gonna come back,'” he said when asked about the deal.
- 2B Nick Solak and OF Billy McKinney both made today’s Prospect Report. I’m curious to know if the Yankees changed anything mechanically with McKinney. He hit one homer in 88 games with the Cubs and has four in 38 games with the Yankees, including playoffs.
Triple-A Scranton swept their first round postseason series. They’ll play either Gwinnett or Columbus in the best-of-five International League Championship Series. That series doesn’t start until Tuesday, so they’ve got the next few days off.
Double-A Trenton (3-2 win over Reading) they won the best-of-five series in four games … they’ll play either Akron or Altoona in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series starting next week .. Akron is up two games to one in that series
- SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — went 2-for-15 (.133) in the four games
- CF Dustin Fowler: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K — went 5-for-16 (.313) in the four games
- 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — alternated no-hit games with two-hit games in the series
- 1B Dante Bichette Jr.: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — he went 5-for-13 (.385) and drove in five runs in the four games
- RF Billy McKinney: 2-3, 1 BB — three straight two-hit games to close out the series
- LHP Caleb Smith: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1/5 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 65 of 95 pitches were strikes (68%) … only his eighth start of the season after spending most of it in the bullpen
- RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 12 of 17 pitches were strikes (71%) … allowed one hit and no walks in four innings in the series … he struck out six
- Ma-Cy-hiro: At this point Masahiro Tanaka has to be on the short list of AL Cy Young candidates. Tanaka held the Rays to one stupid little run — a solo homer to the second-to-last batter he faced — in 7.1 otherwise dominant innings. He actually ran his pitch count up in the first and second innings before settling down. Tanaka retired 18 of 20 at one point, and one of the two baserunners was an infield single. One run, five hits, no walks, ten strikeouts. Domination.
- Belly to Belly: Tanaka was excellent and the Yankees need him to be, because they didn’t muster anything against Chris Archer until the sixth inning. Brett Gardner singled, then Jacoby Ellsbury launched a two-run home run to right field for the 2-0 lead. Gary Sanchez followed with a solo homer. The back-to-back blasts gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and with the way Tanaka was pitching, that felt mighty comfortable.
- The Late Innings: Tampa’s best chance to make this a game was in the seventh. Tanaka gave up the solo homer to Bobby Wilson, then grazed Logan Forsythe with a pitch. Adam Warren took over, hit Nick Franklin in the foot with an 0-2 pitch, then got Evan Longoria to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. That was that. Sac flies by Sanchez and Didi Gregorius stretched the lead to 5-1 in the eighth. Easy peasy.
- Leftovers: As you can see in the video above, Sanchez’s eighth inning sac fly was no ordinary sac fly. They were trying to intentionally walk him, but he shuffled over and drove the ball to the damn warning track. Unreal … Rob Refsnyder saved a run in the sixth with a running catch in right and an accurate throw home, forcing the runner to stay at third … Gardner and Ellsbury each had two hits … the bottom four hitters in the lineup went a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts … Richard Bleier and Tyler Clippard nailed things down in the ninth.
Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees will be one game back of the second wildcard spot regardless of who wins tonight’s Orioles-Tigers game. They have climbed to within three games of first place of the AL East though. How about that? Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the win probability graph:
The Yankees will try for their eighth straight win in the series finale Sunday afternoon. That’s a normal 1pm ET start. The Yankees have not won eight straight games since their ten-game winning streak in June 2012. Luis Cessa and Matt Andriese will be on the mound for the finale. Fun fact: Andriese served up the back-to-back homers by Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge in their debuts last month.
Here’s the reality of today: the Yankees can not gain ground in the wildcard race. They can only lose ground. The Orioles and Tigers are tied for the second wildcard spot, and since they’re playing each other, one is guaranteed to win. The Yankees can, at best, keep place in the wildcard race today. That’s a bummer, but it is what it is.
The Yankees can only control their games. No sense in worrying about the Orioles and Tigers. The Bombers are trying for their seventh straight win this afternoon, and even though they have their ace on the mound, it would behoove the offense to score early and often. The bullpen is in a perpetual state of being worn down these days, and several end-game relievers figure to be unavailable. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- C Gary Sanchez
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 2B Starlin Castro
- DH Brian McCann
- RF Rob Refsnyder
- 1B Tyler Austin
- 3B Ronald Torreyes
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It’s hot, humid, and a bit cloudy in New York today. There’s no rain in the forecast, thankfully. None of us want to see Mike Everitt jump the gun and call for the tarp again. This afternoon’s game will begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.
Update (3:40pm ET): The internet lied to me. Can you believe that? It’s raining right now. It’s not supposed to be a long shower though, so the game will begin soon enough.
Update (3:59pm ET): The Yankees say the game will begin at 4:30pm ET or so.
Later this afternoon the Yankees and Rays will continue their four-game series with the third game at Yankee Stadium. First pitch isn’t until 4pm ET, so here are some miscellaneous links to help you pass the time.
A-Rod expected to appear at Instructs
According to Brendan Kuty, Alex Rodriguez is expected to make an appearance at Instructional League later this month. As a special instructor, of course. Not as a player. “I’m very pleased to have somebody with Alex’s experience and time in the game to be able to share those experiences with our young players. Our best young players are all going to be part of Instructional League,” said farm system head Gary Denbo.
This year’s Instructs roster hasn’t been released yet but it’ll come out soon enough. It’s usually a collection of top prospects, recent draftees, and players who missed time due to injury. Greg Bird will face live pitching for the first time since shoulder surgery in Instructional League, for example. My guess is A-Rod will wind up spending a bunch of time with the team’s small army of middle infield prospects, specifically Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo.
Rowson joins Yankees
Minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson joined the Yankees earlier this week and has been with the team since, reports Dan Martin. Rowson has worked with Aaron Judge a ton over the years. “He’s trying to get comfortable here. Everything is new to him and he’s had his battles before and made the adjustments,” said Rowson. “He’s been through rough times, especially with the punch outs and he’s always come out on the other side. So I feel like he’s going to do that again.”
This is not all that uncommon, really. A handful of minor league coaches will join the big league team for a homestand in September pretty much every year. Every single one of the Yankees’ full season minor league affiliates qualified for the postseason this year though, so those coaches and instructors haven’t had a chance to come up yet. This isn’t Rowson’s first stint with the big league team and it won’t be his last. Chances are he didn’t join the team specifically to work with Judge.
Update: Minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell is with the Yankees as well, reports Chad Jennings.
Yankees to open SunTrust Park
The Yankees and Braves will open the brand new SunTrust Park with an exhibition game on Friday, March 31st next year, the Braves announced. Apparently only “A List Members” (season ticket holders) will be allowed to attend. Lame. Atlanta is moving into their new 41,500 seat ballpark just 20 years after moving into Turner Field. The Yankees and Braves opened Turner Field with an exhibition game in 1996 as well.
This year the Yankees closed out Spring Training with a pair of exhibition games at Marlins Park. Last year they played two at Nationals Park. The Cubs came to New York for two exhibition games in 2009, when the new Yankee Stadium opened. They do this stuff every year. Also, the fact this exhibition game is scheduled for March 31st suggests the 2017 regular season will begin on Monday, April 3rd. Next year’s schedule should be announced soon. Possibly next week.
Gardner nominated for Roberto Clemente Award
Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the 2016 Roberto Clemente Award, MLB announced. Here are the nominees from each team. The award is given each year to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” Three Yankees have won the award: Derek Jeter (2009), Don Baylor (1985), and Ron Guidry (1984).
Amazingly, MLB turned an award recognizing community involvement — and an award named after an iconic player and a great humanitarian — into a popularity contest. Each nominee has an official hashtag and the player who receives the most votes on Twitter and Facebook will win. Incredible. MLB really knocked this one out of the park, eh? I’m sure fans will recognize each player’s off-the-field work and definitely not vote for their favorite player. No way.