Tanaka outduels Scherzer in a Yankees 6-1 win over the Nationals

This game was an absolute nail-biter for the first six and a half innings. First off, the Max Scherzer vs. Masahiro Tanaka matchup lived up to its billing. Heck, even Bryce Harper’s home run power lived up to its billing. Tet Tanaka still threw a heck of an outing. Scherzer also lived up to his name value but unfortunately for him and the Nationals, a defensive miscue proved costly in the seventh inning as the game went from a 1-1 drama to a 5-1 laughter in few batters. The Yankees added another run in the 8th for a 6-1 victory. Oh yeah, also it’s their seventh straight victory.

Ma-kun

Webster definition of “mid-delivery” (Source: Getty)

Man, isn’t it more fun when Tanaka is back and is actually really, really good? Tanaka went on mound, did what he does when healthy and effective, and earned a win. I could easily end this section that way but nah, I’ll get more into it.

The only real mistake the righty made was on that 93-mph fastball to Bryce Harper in the fourth inning. McCann wanted the pitch outside but it caught too much of the plate. And well, as you know, the 2015 version of Harper punishes mistakes. That mistake also has better chance to end up in seats in the Yankee Stadium than Nationals Park and that’s exactly what happened. Thankfully, that was the only run Tanaka allowed all night. I feel like there’s no shame allowing a dinger to a monster like Harper, but then again, that ball went pretty far.

Besides that, Tanaka only allowed four baserunners for the entire game. His stuff was the usual – fastball, slider and splitter all working and being spotted well. The former Rakuten Golden Eagle pitched seven complete innings, allowed five hits, no walks and struck out six. His ERA is down to 2.48 and FIP is at a rock-solid 2.63. I think he’s not afraid of his elbow compromising the effectiveness.

Oh yeah, also, on June 9, Tanaka earned the game score of 69. Nice. 

One big missed opportunity

This is still a bit of an infuriating inning to look back on. In the bottom sixth, Mark Teixeira hit a double with one out. The game was then tied 1-1 so it would have been quite golden to scratch out a run in any way possible, especially against an ace like Scherzer. After fouling off several pitches, Brian McCann managed a single to left and it became one out with runners on first and third.

Then came the weird game moment. Carlos Beltran hit a liner to center that Nats CF Michael Taylor seeeeemed to make a diving/sliding play for it but didn’t. Teixeira seemed like he had enough time to score, but, for whatever reason, he didn’t charge in and Taylor got the ball just in time to get McCann for a force out in second. That should have been a 2-1 lead right there. Teixeira has to tag up.

Open the floodgates

The embedded Yankee Matt Thornton (Source: Getty)

After missing out on a run in the sixth, Yankees almost missed out on another in seventh. With one out, Ramon Flores singled and Brett Gardner added another. Chase Headley then hit a bullet to right but it just went right to Harper. Welp, BABIP will do that for you some times. With two outs and two runners on, it was up to A-Rod to see if the Yankee offense could muster anything.

Yankees got way luckier this time. A-Rod grounded one to short. Ian Desmond got the ball and it looked like an easy force out to first at a glance but he went third to get Flores out … and it hit the Yankee outfielder and got past Anthony Rendon. That allowed the run to score. Oh my. 2-1 Yankees. If you are Scherzer and had a heck of a game like that and that’s how it ends … I wouldn’t feel great.

Nationals went to former Yankee LHP Matt Thornton to stop the bleeding. Oddly, the first thing Thornton and the Nats did was intentionally walk Teixeira. Okay. That loaded the bases with two outs and McCann was up. The Yankee catcher hit a high inside fastball for a two-run single and Beltran followed it up with another RBI-single. 5-1 Yankees. Thornton’s embedded Yankee status confirmed? Maybe. In a matter of few batters, a nailbiter became a laugher. Strange but I’ll take it. I definitely did not think the game would end 6-1.

Sluggin’ Stephen (Source: Getty)

Leftovers

How about Stephen Drew? The man now has four homers in last four Yankee Stadium games. Yeah his batting average is still really like, not good (.175) and his 2015 overall run production ain’t great either (66 wRC+). But I do have to admit – that .198 isolated power does pop out.

With nine home runs after today’s game, the man has a legitimate chance to reach 20 home runs for the season – provided he continues to get consistent playing time, of course. The past few games probably lengthened his leash for several more games but if his hitting continues to improve to help the club, it wouldn’t be horrible.

Box Score, Highlights, Standings, WPA:

Here’s tonight’s box score, highlights, updated standings and WPA.


Source: FanGraphs


Tomorrow, the Yankees take on the field against the Nats on 1:05 ET. “(Sometimes) Nasty” Nathan Eovaldi takes the mound and hopefully, he’ll help deliver a two-game sweep.

DotF: Williams keeps hitting in Scranton’s two wins

1B Connor Spencer was the lone River Dog selected to the Low-A South Athletic League All-Star Game, the team announced. Here are the full rosters. Kinda weird they had just one All-Star in a 14-team league and seven-team division. Usually they take big name prospects regardless of what kind of year they’re having. Oh well. Minor league All-Star Games are exactly indicative of the future anyway.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (2-1 win over Buffalo) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain in the fifth inning

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 1 RBI 1 BB — got picked off first
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 2 BB, 1 K
  • RF Ben Gamel: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K — 11/14 K/BB in his last 20 games
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 4 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 41 of 72 pitches were strikes (57%) … he started yesterday before the rain
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 4/2 GB/FB — 20 of 35 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Chris Martin: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — eleven pitches, seven strikes
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0-1 GB/FB — nine pitches, five strikes … he’s allowed one earned run in his last 10.2 innings

[Read more…]

Game 58: Tanaka Tuesday

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

Oh man, there is a lot going on tonight. For starters, Masahiro Tanaka is making just his third home start of the season and his first in almost exactly two months due to his wrist/forearm injury. Secondly, Tanaka is squaring off against Max Scherzer in what will probably be the best pitching matchup of the season. Third, the Yankees have a six-game winning streak and need to keep that sucker going.

And finally, future Yankee Bryce Harper is playing his first game in his future home ballpark, Yankee Stadium. He’ll get to take aim at that short right field porch and then go to bed tonight dreaming about all those future home runs he’ll hit. Harper’s not as stupidly hot as he was the last time these two teams played, but he can still flick his wrists and hit the ball into the second deck. Hopefully it doesn’t happen these next two days. Here’s Washington’s lineup and here’s New York’s lineup:

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

It has been cloudy and kinda rainy most of the day, but the sun came out not too long ago and it’s turned into a nice night. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Ivan Nova (elbow) is going to travel to New York to throw a bullpen session for pitching coach Larry Rothschild, then he’ll make a rehab start with Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees will then determine if he’s ready or needs another rehab outing.

All-Star Voting Update: MLB released their weekly All-Star Game voting update yesterday, and no Yankees are close to leading their respective positions. A-Rod is third among DHs and he’s closest. Fans in Kansas City are stuffing the ballot box, so unless MLB steps in or there’s a sudden shift in the voting, the All-Star Game will be Mike Trout and the Royals against the NL.

Righty reliever option off the board: Cubs sign Rafael Soriano

(Rich Lam/Getty)
(Rich Lam/Getty)

A right-handed bullpen option has come off the board. The Cubs signed Rafael Soriano to a minor league contract earlier today, the team announced. James Wagner says Soriano will get the pro-rated portion of a $4.1M base salary plus $4M in bonuses based on appearances and games finished. I’m guessing he’ll pitch in a few minor league games before joining Chicago’s bullpen, where they’ve had a bit of a revolving door at closer of late.

Soriano fired Scott Boras a week or two ago and was scheduled to throw for scouts later this week, but apparently the Cubs were aggressive and decided to make an offer before other teams got a look at him. Every team would take Soriano on a minor league contract, but Soriano has a say too, and he presumably felt Chicago was his best opportunity. Plus he played for manager Joe Maddon with the Rays, so there’s some familiarity there.

Late last week Brian Cashman said the Yankees want to add a right-handed reliever — “I do need to find a right-handed arm for the bullpen here at some point,” said the GM — to their five-lefty bullpen, and earlier today they signed righty Sergio Santos to a minor league contract, basically just to see if he has anything left. I expect them to cycle through internal options (Nick Rumbelow? Branden Pinder? Jose Ramirez?) and scrap heap guys like Santos before making any sort of trade.

The lack of right-handed relievers isn’t a major problem right now because those lefties can get righties out. Still, it would be nice to add some balance down the road. The Yankees were never connected to Soriano, but he was speculated as a bullpen target simply because he’s a righty and was available for nothing but money. Then again, the Yankees know him firsthand and might not have been interest in a reunion. Either way, expect the search for the righty reliever to continue.

6/9 to 6/10 Series Preview: Washington Nationals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s time for another round of interleague play, except this time the NL team is coming to the Bronx, so the Yankees don’t lose the DH. The Nationals will be in Yankee Stadium for two games this week to wrap up the season home-and-home series. The Yankees lost both games in Washington last month.

What Have The Nationals Done Lately?

The last time these two teams played, the Nationals were basically the hottest team in baseball and zooming their way to the top of the NL East standings. Now? Pretty much the exact opposite is true. They lost three of four to the Cubs over the weekend and have dropped eight of their last ten games overall, getting outscored 53-27 in the process. Washington is still 30-27 overall with a +2 run differential this season.

Offense & Defense

The Nationals are averaging 4.32 runs per game with a team 97 wRC+, so they’re close to league average in both measures. They’re currently missing three outfielders due to injury: OF Jayson Werth (wrist), OF Nate McLouth (shoulder), and OF Reed Johnson (foot). None are coming back anytime soon. Certainly not this series, at least. Also, OF Denard Span (116 wRC+) is day-to-day with back spasms.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Manager Matt Williams has the luxury of penciling baseball’s best young power hitter into his lineup every day. OF Bryce Harper leads MLB in homers (19), walks (48), SLG (.706), OPS (1.170), OPS+ (216), wRC+ (210), and total bases (132). He is also 22 years old. Fun fact: If Harper faces Jacob Lindgren this series, it will be the first time he faces a pitcher younger than him as a pro. Majors or minors. I’m not joking. That is a 100% true fact. Crazy.

Anyway, the rest of the lineup features just three other players who have been solidly above average this year: Span, IF Danny Espinosa (123 wRC+), and IF Yunel Escobar (119 wRC+). That’s all. IF Anthony Rendon (42 wRC+ in very limited time) just came off the DL a few days ago, and 1B Ryan Zimmerman (69 wRC+) has struggled all season. C Wilson Ramos (81 wRC+) and SS Ian Desmond (84 wRC+) are the other regulars.

OF Michael Taylor (76 wRC+) has played quite a bit this season thanks to all the injuries and we’ll see him this series at some point thanks to the DH, I’m sure. 1B/OF Tyler Moore (51 wRC+), 1B/OF Clint Robinson (71 wRC+), IF Dan Uggla (93 wRC+), and backup C Jose Lobaton (90 wRC+) fill out the bench. For what it’s worth, the Nationals used Robinson as the DH in their only other series in an AL park this season, way back in April. Who knows what they’ll do this week.

Washington generally has a good team defense with Harper, Span, Taylor, Espinosa, Escobar, Zimmerman, Ramos, and Rendon rating anywhere from good to great. Desmond had some major issues at shortstop earlier this season, and while he’s calmed down of late, he’s still nothing special there. Guys like Uggla, Moore, and Robinson are not on the team for their gloves. Let’s put it that way.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. WAS) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (Career vs. NYY)
Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Best pitching matchup of the season? I have a hard time thinking we’ll see a better one. Scherzer, 30, has been off-the-charts so far in 2015, pitching to a 1.85 ERA (2.18 FIP) in eleven starts and 77.2 innings. He’s got a career-high strikeout rate (29.3%), a career-low walk rate (3.9%), a career-low ground ball rate (34.3%), and a career-low home run rate (0.58 HR/9). What an extreme season. His platoon split is small too — lefties (.246 wOBA) have a tiny advantage over righties (.236 wOBA). Scherzer’s four-seam fastball velocity has actually ticked up this season, going from 92.8 mph last year to 93.4 mph this year. He also throws mid-80s sliders and changeups, and a handful of low-80s power curves per start. Nasty stuff. Scherzer is arguably the best right-hander in the business at the moment.

(Presswire)
Scherzer. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. WAS) vs. TBA
Washington’s starter for tomorrow’s game is still officially TBA, but they’re expected to start lefty Gio Gonzalez. It is Taylor Jordan’s turn, but Monday’s off-day allows them to skip the young righty and instead go with Gio. The somehow still only 29-year-old Gonzalez has pitched to a 4.57 ERA (3.07 FIP) this season, replacing some strikeouts (22.1%) with ground balls (56.1%). He’s still walking a few too many (8.9%) but is keeping the ball in the park (0.42 HR/9) as well as ever. Righties (.350 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.313 wOBA), though his career split is tiny. Gonzalez is throwing more low-90s two-seamers than last year, resulting in more grounders, and his big upper-70s curveball remains his bread and butter. He’ll also throw some low-90s four-seamers and a low-80s changeup. The Yankees did face Gio when these teams met a few weeks ago, scoring six runs in five innings.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Nationals had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as can be in early-June. Ex-Yankees draft pick RHP Drew Storen (1.18 FIP) is the closer with RHP Aaron Barrett (1.98 FIP) and ex-Yankee LHP Matt Thornton (2.91 FIP) serving as his setup men. Thornton’s the high-leverage lefty specialist, not a full inning guy.

Williams also has RHP Casey Janssen (3.11 FIP), RHP Blake Treinen (3.56 FIP), LHP Felipe Rivero (1.61 FIP in very limited time), and RHP Taylor Hill (4.17 FIP in very limited time) in his bullpen. The middle relief can be a real problem for the Nationals. That’s where the Yankees can do some damage. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen, then check out Federal Baseball for updates on the Nats.

Rosenthal: Yankees to sign Sergio Santos to minor league deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees will sign right-hander Sergio Santos to a minor league contract. He’s heading to Double-A Trenton. Santos was up with the Dodgers earlier this year but elected free agency after being dropped from the 40-man roster. Fun fact: He struck out four batters in an inning not once, but twice this year.

Santos, 31, was really good with the White Sox from 2010-11 (3.29 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 115 innings), but he struggled from 2012-14 after getting traded to the Blue Jays (5.23 ERA and 4.00 FIP in 51.2 innings). Santos allowed seven runs in 13.1 innings with Los Angeles earlier this year, with 15 strikeouts and seven walks. He’s a classic low-to-mid-90s fastball/mid-80s slider guy.

Late last week Brian Cashman said the Yankees want to add a right-handed reliever — “I do need to find a right-handed arm for the bullpen here at some point,” said the GM — to their five-lefty bullpen. Santos may or may not be the answer. Probably not. A minor league contract is no risk — he’s not even in Triple-A! — and he’s worth the look though. But still, I encourage you to go forth with outrage.

2015 Draft: Day Two Open Thread

2015 Draft logoDay One of the 2015 draft came and went yesterday with the usual fanfare. The Yankees selected three players — UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (16th overall), San Diego SS Kyle Holder (30th), Indiana State LHP Jeff Degano (57th) — as part of rather vanilla Day One haul. Kaprielian should move quickly, Holder can play the hell out of shortstop, and Degano is a big lefty with arm strength who missed a bunch of time due to Tommy John surgery from 2013-14. None has star potential but all three give you reasons to believe they’ll be useful MLB players. Here’s my Day One recap.

The draft continues today with Day Two, and, under the current spending restrictions, Day Two is typically the least exciting of the three days. Rounds 3-10 will be selected today and teams use these picks to manipulate their draft pools — they were working all night to cut deals and get signing bonuses in place so they know how much money they have to work with going forward. Day Three is when they start taking risks, when the picks aren’t tied to draft pool space. Here are some stray draft links to check out:

  • Here are the pick-by-pick first round pick analyses by Chris Crawford (subs. req’d) and Jim Callis. The short versions: both like Kaprielian as a quick moving righty and love Holder’s glove, with Crawford more skeptical about his long-term value than Callis. “I think his glove alone could make him a big league regular,” wrote Callis.
  • Here are the best available players according to Baseball America and MLB.com. The Yankees have been connected to both Tennessee HS RHP Donny Everett (my profile) and Florida post-graduate RHP Jacob Nix (my profile), and they’re both among the best players still on the board. I wonder if Nix is experiencing some blowback from teams after filing his grievance against the Astros last year. I’d like to that isn’t happening, but who knows.
  • The big name still on the board: Duke RHP Mike Matuella, who had Tommy John surgery in April and a back problem earlier in the spring. He told Laura Keeley he is considering returning to school, and since every team with extra picks already passed on him, my guess is his medicals are scary. He might not be signable at this point. Then again, he doesn’t have much leverage. Matuella’s options are sign or go back to school and not get on a mound until April.
  • Name to watch going forward: Iona RHP Mariano Rivera III (my profile). The Yankees will inevitably draft him at some point, the question is whether they do it today or wait until tomorrow. (He’s a fourth or fifth round talent.) Mo III and his family have said finishing school is a priority, and I doubt the Yankees want to risk losing draft pool money by taking him with one of today’s picks.

The draft resumes today at 1pm ET and there will be a half-hour pre-draft show as well. There is no MLB Network broadcast today, the draft shifts to online only for Days Two and Three. Here is the MLB.com feed and here is the MLB.com Draft Tracker. Talk about all things draft right here throughout the day.