Hey, the Yankees have won two of three! And they could have won the third game too! Things are looking up. They’re still in first place, Masahiro Tanaka pitched well last night, Tyler Austin has arrived … it could be worse. Hopefully Austin rakes right away. Would be nice to add a little more length to the lineup.
Anyway, this afternoon the Yankees have a chance to do something they haven’t done in two weeks: win a series! The last series win was that depantsing of the Orioles. Winning series is the name of the game. Keep winning series and things will work out. Get the series win today, go for the sweep tomorrow. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- CF Mason Williams
- LF Aaron Hicks
- RF Aaron Judge
- DH Matt Holliday
- 2B Starlin Castro
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 1B Tyler Austin
- 3B Ronald Torreyes
- C Austin Romine
RHP Luis Cessa
The rain came and went this morning, and now there’s a bright blue sky above New York. Nice afternoon for a ballgame. Today’s game will start at 1:05pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.
Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) will begin a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tonight … Adam Warren (shoulder) played catch for the first time since being placed on the disabled list and everything went fine.
Roster Update: Chance Adams was in the clubhouse this afternoon … to pick up a passport. He’s not being added to the roster. There are no Canadian teams in the Triple-A International League and the Yankees don’t visit the Blue Jays again until mid-August. Minor leaguers need their passports at all times though. You never know when you’ll get traded and have to show up in Toronto. I’m kinda surprised Adams didn’t have one already.
Following tonight’s win, the Yankees designated Chris Carter for assignment and called up Tyler Austin, the team announced. I guess Austin is ready now? A few days ago Brian Cashman called Carter the team’s best first base option. Austin has hit three homers since then and Carter has, well, struck out a bunch. Does he get cut if he gets a hit (or even a sac fly) in the tenth inning tonight? Probably not.
Carter hit .204/.286/.383 (76 wRC+) with eight home runs in 189 plate appearances for the Yankees, including Friday’s game. He’d been playing pretty much every day since Greg Bird went on the disabled list in early May, so it wasn’t a playing time issue. We’ll always have that homer in Pittsburgh, Chris.
Austin, meanwhile, hit .316/.388/.588 (145 wRC+) with four home runs in 32 minor league games after coming back from his broken ankle. He fouled a ball off the ankle very early in Spring Training and didn’t return until last month. Austin hit .241/.300/.458 (102 wRC+) in 90 plate appearances with the Yankees last season.
Bird is still working his way back from an ankle injury of his own — he received a cortisone shot a few days ago and will resume baseball activities soon — and there’s no real firm timetable for his return. He might not be back until after the All-Star break. Once he heals up, I assume he’s take over as the everyday first baseman again.
At this point Carter has enough service time to collect his entire $3M salary even if he elects free agency after clearing waivers, so stashing him in Triple-A for depth until Bird is healthy might not happen. Probably not. We’ll see. Either way, hopefully Austin is an upgrade at first base. It’ll be hard for him to be worse.
Boy did the Yankees need a win like that. I think we all did after these last 12 days. The Yankees turned the clock back to April and used good pitching, timely hitting, and (occasionally) good defense to earn a hard-fought 2-1 walk-off win over the Rangers on Friday night. They needed ten innings.
As bad as Masahiro Tanaka has been overall this season, there have been some flashes of brilliance, and we saw one Friday night. Eight shutout innings, three soft singles (one didn’t leave the infield), two walks, and nine strikeouts against a Rangers lineup that is more than capable of hitting the ball out of ballpark. At one point Tanaka retired 16 consecutive batters.
This start was not about Tanaka getting away with mistakes and lucking out when some balls were hit right at defenders. His defense definitely helped out — Ronald Torreyes made two very good plays at third base, including one to start an inning-ending double play in the second, and Didi Gregorius made a great play up the middle as well — but Tanaka was razor sharp. Best splitter and slider and he’s had in a while. Here are his pitch locations:
Not many middle-middle pitches at all. You can count them on one hand. Tanaka stayed on the edges and down in the zone, something he’s struggled to do most of the season, mostly because neither his slider nor his splitter have had the same movement as last season.
Also, Tanaka elevated his fastball for strikeouts several times Friday night. Those green and red dots at the top of the strike zone were not mistakes. Gary Sanchez called for the high fastball with two strikes several times and Tanaka executed. (Most of the time.) We haven’t seen him elevate fastballs all that much over the years. I wonder if this is a new trick or just something they saw in the Texas scouting report.
We’ve seen Good Tanaka a few times this season. He had the shutout in Boston and the 13-strikeout game against the Athletics, plus he was pretty good two starts ago in Anaheim, but he’s been unable to get on any kind of roll. Hopefully this is the start of something big. Given his season to date, I need to see more before declaring Tanaka #cured. Still though, what a night. This man is something else when he’s on.
No Runs For Yu
Unfortunately, Yu Darvish was on top of his game as well. This was the first time Tanaka and Darvish had ever faced each other in MLB — they had four head-to-head matchups in Japan — and it lived up to the hype. Did it ever. Darvish carved the Yankees up with mid-90s fastballs and wicked mid-80s sliders and silly low-70s curveballs. He even threw Aaron Judge a 65 mph curveball at one point. He was better than Tanaka, really.
The Yankees did get a runner to second base in the first inning — Brett Gardner singled and stole second — but their only other baserunner against Darvish was Sanchez’s one-out single in the fifth inning. He was immediately erased on a double play. That was it. Two baserunners, both singles to center, in seven innings against Darvish. He struck out ten and threw only 88 pitches, and after the game manager Jeff Banister said he removed Darvish as a precaution because he felt “tightness.” Can’t really blame the offense for doing nothing in those seven innings. Darvish was lights out.
Battle of the Bullpens
Lately anything that involves the bullpen has been bad news for the Yankees, no matter who’s on the mound. Aroldis Chapman took over in the ninth inning and put the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out with a single (Elvis Andrus) and a hit batsman (Nomar Mazara). Chapman plunked Mazara in a 1-2 count. Two-strike hit-by-pitches are the worst.
The Mazara hit-by-pitch pushed Andrus to second base and he then stole third, which is pretty gutsy. Not many players would attempt that in that spot. Not with one out. Sanchez’s throw was high and wide and Torreyes did a great job lunging to make the catch and stop the ball from going into the outfield. He saved a run. Only temporarily, unfortunately. Chapman struck out Adrian Beltre with a 101.3 mph fastball in the dirt Sanchez couldn’t block.
Yes, Sanchez has to block that. No, a 101.3 mph fastball in the dirt isn’t an easy pitch to the block, especially when you called for and were expecting the pitch on the outside corner. But still, Gary’s gotta get his body in front of that one. Andrus scooted home to break the scoreless tie. The steal of third base was pretty huge. Chapman got Rougned Odor to ground out to limit the damage to one.
Given the way things have been going lately, it was easy to think the game was over at that point. The offense went to sleep after the Judge home run Thursday night and Darvish shut them down for seven innings Friday night. Matt Bush is pretty darn good too. Fortunately he caught a little too much of the plate with a 2-1 fastball to Gardner, who yanked it into the short porch for a game-tying solo home run in the bottom of the ninth. No. 14 of the season for Gardner. How about that?
The Gardner blast gave us what we all wanted to see: more bullpen! Woof. Chad Green and Chasen Shreve (and Gregorius) conspired to load the bases in the top of the tenth without allowing a hit. Gregorius made an error on Carlos Gomez’s soft line drive — it took a short hop right in front of Didi, but still, a Major League shortstop should make that play — to give the Rangers a leadoff baserunner. The next four batters:
- Jonathan Lucroy grounds out to third on first pitch (no chance at a double play)
- Mike Napoli walks on eight pitches (Shreve then replaces Green)
- Joey Gallo strikes out on six pitches
- Shin-Soo Choo walks on five pitches
Including the Gomez at-bat, that’s 24 pitches to load the bases with two outs. And, naturally, Shreve fell behind in the count 3-1 to Andrus with the bases full. Not ideal! He tried to get him to fish for splitters, but Andrus wasn’t having it. He took the fastball down the middle for the 3-2 count — it was a good pitch to hit, but I don’t blame Andrus for taking here — fouled off the next fastball down the middle, then popped up the third to shallow right field. Inning over. Ex-friggin-hale. A scoreless inning felt like a miracle given the recent bullpen issues.
The game-winning rally in the bottom of the tenth was made possible by three of my favorite Yankees. Sanchez got it started with a one-out single back up the middle, then Gregorius set it all up with a big single to right-center field, allowing Sanchez to chug all the way to third. A fly ball wins it! And of course Chris Carter was due up, and of course he struck out. At least he had the decency to do it on four pitches rather than the minimum three.
Suddenly, the rally was on life support. Two outs, runners on the corners, Torreyes up against Bush, who was still pumping upper-90s heaters and nasty breaking balls. Bush left one of those upper-90s fastballs out over the plate and Toe slapped it back up the middle for the walk-off single. Beautiful little piece of hitting. Right back up the box. Torreyes knew he’d won the game right away:
Smart move by Carter striking out rather than hitting into a double play, eh? The Yankees really need a new first baseman. Like yesterday. Anyway, Sanchez to Gregorius to Torreyes gave the Yankees a much-needed feel-good win. The last week and a half as been pretty terrible. Suddenly now everything feels like it’ll be a-okay.
Somehow the Yankees finished the night with seven hits despite getting only two in seven innings against Darvish. They sent ten men to the plate against Bush and five got hits. Five! Didn’t see that coming. Gardner and Sanchez each had two hits. Judge, Gregorius, and Torreyes had one each. No walks and 14 strikeouts, mostly because Darvish was so ridiculous.
Chapman, Green, and Shreve combined: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP. I guess that qualifies as a good bullpen day these days? Chapman really labored. He threw 28 pitches and got only two swings and misses. His velocity was there though. He topped out at 102.2 mph. After the shoulder issue, I can’t help but keep on eye on the radar gun.
And finally, the no shutout streak remains alive! It was in serious jeopardy there. The Yankees and Nationals are the only teams in baseball yet to be shut out this season. I love it.
The second game of this three-game series, assuming the rain holds off Saturday afternoon, which it looks like it will. Luis Cessa and Austin Bibens-Dirkx are the totally not made up scheduled starting pitchers. There are two games left on the homestand and RAB Tickets can get you into Yankee Stadium for both of them.
Lots of Yankees made this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet: 2B Nick Solak (3rd), RHP Chance Adams (9th), OF Dustin Fowler (11th), and 3B Miguel Andujar (17th). Solak is hitting .310/.417/.448 (155 wRC+) with nearly as many walks (38) as strikeouts (43) overall. Gotta think a promotion to Double-A Trenton is coming soon. High-A isn’t much of a challenge for a guy who was a three-year starter at Louisville.
Triple-A Scranton (9-2 win over Pawtucket)
- 3B Tyler Wade: 1-3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 3 SB, 1 E (throwing) — tenth game at third base this season … 23-for-27 (85%) in steal attempts
- RF Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at the plate … 6-for-15 (.400) with two doubles and three home runs in his last four games
- LF Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI — here’s video of the triple
- SS Cito Culver: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB — he’s hitting .250/.326/.487 this year, you know … eight homers is only one shy of his career high
- LHP Caleb Smith: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 64 of 98 pitches were strikes (65%) … 77/21 K/BB in 78.2 innings for the Rule 5 Draft pick … he was in camp with the Cubs this year but couldn’t stick
Okay, I’m sick of this losing business. It’s been going on too long. Yeah, the Yankees won two days ago, but they let another winnable game slip away last night, and that’s been happening far too often the last two weeks. The Yankees have been beating themselves too much. Last night it was the errors. Last week it was the bullpen. Stop it, dudes. You’re better than this.
Anyway, Masahiro Tanaka is back on the mound tonight as the Yankees try to figure out why he’s pitching like Javy Vazquez and not the Masahiro Tanaka we saw from 2014-16. I’ll settle for “pitch well enough to win” tonight. Can Tanaka just do that, please? Man, I hope so. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- CF Aaron Hicks
- RF Aaron Judge
- DH Matt Holliday
- 2B Starlin Castro
- C Gary Sanchez
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 1B Chris Carter
- 3B Ronald Torreyes
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It is cloudy and humid in New York, which usually means rain. The heaviest stuff isn’t coming until early tomorrow morning. There are some showers on the way later tonight, though it doesn’t look like it’ll be anything heavy enough to delay the game. We’ll see. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:05pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Try to enjoy.
Injury Updates: Chase Headley (back) received an epidural and will be out a few days. Until then, Austin Romine is the backup infielder … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) passed the concussion protocol. He’s been taking batting practice and the Yankees are planning his rehab assignment … CC Sabathia (hamstring) threw a bullpen session today for the first time since going on the disabled list … Adam Warren (shoulder) will begin throwing tomorrow.
Update (6:51pm ET): The game will not start on time. Stupid rain. The new start time is TBA.
Update (8:05pm ET): The game is scheduled to begin at 8:40pm ET, so says the Yankees.
The Last Time They Met
The Rangers visited the Yankees this time last year, splitting a four-game series from June 27-30. Both of the Yankees wins came in walk-off fashion, with one coming by way of long ball, and the other as the result of a passed ball. Ain’t baseball grand? A few more notes:
- Mark Teixeira went 3-for-5 with a home run in the first game, which ended up being the last three hit effort of his career. It would’ve been the game-winning home run had Kirby Yates not blown the lead two innings later.
- Luis Cessa picked-up the first win of his MLB career in game three. He came in to relieve Masahiro Tanaka in the 7th, and pitched the last three innings of the game.
- Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-4 in the final game of the series; it was the last multi-hit game of his career.
- The sequence of events that led to the game four walk-off was: walk – sacrifice bunt – walk – fielder’s choice (runner’s advance to 2nd and 3rd) – passed ball. Jacoby Ellsbury was at the plate for the passed ball, so perhaps we should chalk it up to his catcher’s interference magic.
Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun with numbers.
While the quality is up for debate, there’s no arguing that the Rangers essentially have a pitching staff on the disabled list. Starters Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner, A.J. Griffin, and Chi Chi Gonzalez, and relievers Tony Barnette, Jake Diekman, and Jeremy Jeffress are all out, and none are expected to return for this series.
Their Story So Far
The Rangers are currently 36-36 with a +22 run differential, and they’ve won 10 of their last 15. They’ve dealt with a litany of injuries this year, with their current disabled list only representing a portion of that – Adrian Beltre missed 50-plus games with injuries, Carlos Gomez missed 20-plus games, Tyson Ross didn’t pitch until June 16, and Jonathan Lucroy has been dealing with nagging injuries all season. Their ability to hover around .500 so far is impressive, all things considered, and they should improve when (if?) they get healthy.
Surprisingly, the Rangers offense (25th in baseball in wRC+) has been a larger issue than their pitching (13th in park-adjusted ERA). The worst offenders have been Lucroy (78 wRC+), Mike Napoli (77 wRC+), and Rougned Odor (63 wRC+), all of whom were expected to be solid contributors in the lineup.
You can read more about the Rangers over at Lone Star Ball.
The Lineup We Might See
Manager Jeff Banister has been tinkering with the lineup quite a bit over the last month or so, with injuries and underperformance all but forcing his hand. The first, second, and fourth spots in the lineup have been veritable revolving doors, and that’s less than ideal when your team is expected to have a potent offense. Nevertheless, the Yankees will probably see something like this over the weekend:
- Shin-Soo Choo, RF
- Elvis Andrus, SS
- Nomar Mazara, LF
- Adrian Beltre, DH/3B
- Rougned Odor, 2B
- Carlos Gomez, CF
- Joey Gallo, 3B/DH
- Mike Napoli, 1B
- Jonathan Lucroy, C
The Starting Pitchers We Will See
Friday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Even with injuries that cost him all of 2015 and much of 2014 and 2016, we should be discussing Darvish as one of the greatest Japanese imports in MLB history. He has 18.1 bWAR through his fifth season (4.4 bWAR per 180 IP), which puts him just three bWAR behind Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda in significantly fewer innings, and he’s still just 30-years-old. He’s also a free agent after this season.
Darvish is something of a two-pitch pitcher, with most everything being either a fastball (be it a mid-90s four-seamer, mid-90s two-seamer, or high-80s cutter) or a slider. He’ll throw the occasional curveball or change-up, but that’s not an every-game occurrence.
Last Outing (vs. SEA on 6/18) – 5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 6 K
Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx
Yes, that’s his real name. Bibens-Dirkx spent the first eleven seasons of his professional career in the minors, pitching in five organizations along the way (as well as in the Mexican League and independent ball). The Rangers signed him to a minor league deal last off-season, and he made his big league debut on May 17, three weeks shy of his 32nd birthday.
Bibens-Dirkx is a borderline junk-baller, with a pair of 90ish MPH fastballs, a mid-80s slider, a mid-80s change-up, and an upper-70s curve. His offspeed pitches have graded extremely well as per PITCHf/x, albeit in just 29.2 IP.
Last Outing (vs. TOR on 6/19) – 5.0 IP, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K
Sunday (2:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Nick Martinez
Martinez’s path to pitching has been interesting, as well. He was drafted out of Fordham in 2011, having spent most of his time there as an infielder (and occasional reliever). The Rangers converted him to starting in his first professional season, and he’s done well-enough since (96 ERA+ and 2.1 bWAR in 364.1 MLB IP). He lack a strikeout pitch, which limits his ceiling, but he has improved his control and groundball rates over time.
Martinez throws three low-90s fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter), a curve in the upper-80s, and a mid-80s change-up. It’s not premium stuff, but he throws all of his pitches for strikes.
Last Outing (vs. TOR on 6/20) – 6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 2 K
The Rangers have already used fifteen different relievers this season. It’s not surprising, then, that the group has a 4.45 ERA and more blown saves (13) than saves (11); those save and blown save numbers are both second-worst in the majors. Those numbers are at least a bit misleading, though, as Sam Dyson (now on the Giants) was 0-for-4 in save opportunities, and had a 10.80 ERA in 16.2 IP. The remaining relievers – notably closer Matt Bush, set-up man Keone Kela, Jose Leclerc, and Alex Claudio – have been solid or better.
Texas’ bullpen has been stretched somewhat over the last week, including being called upon for six innings on Tuesday. Bush and Kela rested yesterday, though.
Get excited, folks, as Yankees legends Ernesto Frieri and Pete Kozma will be making their way to the Bronx for the next three games.
Who (Or What) To Watch
Adrian Beltre is healthy, hitting, and just forty hits shy of 3,000. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play, and I’m excited to (hopefully) see him reach that milestone later this year. And I still feel like few people realize just how close he is to that level of immortality.
Joey Gallo is no Aaron Judge, but he’s currently fifth on the exit velocity leaderboard. He’s a three-true outcomes hitter, with nearly 56% of his PA resulting in a home run (19 jacks), walk (11.0%), or strikeout (37.3%), and when he manages to make contact the ball really flies off of his bat. He’s still only 23-years-old and this is his first extended look in the majors, so there’s definitely room for improvement.