Yankees drop season finale 9-4 to O’s, clinch home field in wildcard game anyway

The Yankees have successfully backed into the postseason. They closed out their 2015 season with a 9-4 loss to the Orioles on Sunday, though thanks to the Diamondbacks, they were still able to secure home field advantage in the wildcard game anyway. The Yankees went 1-6 in their final seven regular season games and finished the year 87-75 with a +66 run differential.


Miniscule Mike
In his biggest start as a Yankee, Michael Pineda didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Pineda put the Yankees in an early 2-0 hole in the first inning, allowing Matt Wieters to drive in Gerardo Parra (single) and Chris Davis (double) with a single down the right field line. Two-out runs are just the worst. Love scoring ’em, hate allowing ’em.

Pineda tossed scoreless second and third innings before the wheels came off in the fourth. Wieters doubled — it was a single into the right-center field gap that Carlos Beltran helped turn into a double with his veteran gait — to start the frame, then Pineda got two quick outs, putting himself in position to escape the jam. Instead, J.J. Hardy poked a two-out, two-strike single back up the middle to score the run and give the O’s a 3-1 lead.

Joe Girardi went to Chris Capuano for the left-on-left matchup against Ryan Flaherty, and of course it didn’t work. It seems like every move Girardi has made over the last month has backfired, even the ones that made sense. Flaherty ripped a hard hit grounder back up the middle, it deflected off Capuano’s foot, and impromptu second baseman Dustin Ackley flat out whiffed on the ball. He was in perfect position to corral the chopper and throw to first for the final out. Instead the ball got by him and scooted into right field for a double.

Following an intentional walk to Nolan Reimold, Capuano allowed a two-run, two-strike, two-out single to Parra to break the game open. The Orioles were up 5-1. Pineda was charged with four of the five runs even though he was only actually on the mound for three of them. He allowed those four runs on six hits and no walks in 3.2 innings. He struck out five. Pineda had a 5.48 ERA after coming off the DL and a 5.04 ERA since the 16-strikeout game. Bad.


Four Runs Ain’t Enough
For only the fifth time in their last 12 games, the Yankees scored 4+ runs Sunday afternoon. They had chances, oh they had plenty of chances, but these days those chances only mean the other team has the Yankees right where they want them. The Yankees collectively seem to be squeezing sap out of the bat and are simply unable to capitalize on their opportunities. They get plenty of opportunities! But not enough runs.

The Yankees scored their first run in the second inning on Ackley’s ground out. Greg Bird started the inning with an opposite field double into the left field corner and Chase Headley moved him up to third with a ground out. They scored their second run in the sixth inning, that on a Didi Gregorius triple. Reimold made an awkward diving attempt but flat out whiffed. Ackley singled as the previous batter and scored the run.

Later in the game, after the Orioles had blown it open (more on that in a bit), the Yankees managed to tack on two more runs. By then it was too little, too late. Beltran, Brian McCann, and Bird strung together back-to-back-to-back one-out singles in the seventh to score a run, then Headley drew a walk to load the bases. Ackley plated another run with a fielder’s choice, which in this case means a tailor made 6-4-3 double play ball Hardy bobbled. There’s the four runs.

Let’s talk about those blown chances now. In the very first inning, Alex Rodriguez walked and Beltran singled to right with two outs, putting two men on base. McCann then popped on the first pitch to end the inning. Gregorius followed Ackley’s run-scoring ground out with a two-out double but was stranded when Jacoby Ellsbury struck out. That’s three runners left on base through two innings.

Beltran drew a two-out walk in the third and was left hanging when McCann again popped up on the first pitch. Ackley tripled — Reimold made another awkward diving attempt in center — and Gregorius walked with two outs in the fourth, but then Ellsbury grounded out to first to end the inning. Didi’s run-scoring triple in the sixth was followed by an Ellsbury pop-up (first pitch, of course) and a Brett Gardner ground out. Another stranded runner.

After Ackley’s run-scoring fielder’s choice in the seventh, Gregorius popped up with runners at the corners to end the inning. He actually represented the tying run at the time. The O’s pulled away but the Yankees did put up a bit of a fight in that seventh inning. Either way, the Yankees left a runner on base in each of their first seven innings. They went quietly after that.


Blown Open
Obviously the decision to go to Capuano in the fourth inning was weird, but, to me, that’s on the front office, not Girardi. The Yankees didn’t add any pitching depth at the trade deadline — it was an obvious need at the time — so Girardi’s options were either Capuano or a bunch of kids. A bunch of kids who have done little to stand out in their limited time as big leaguers.

So Girardi went to Capuano and it didn’t work out. In the next inning he gave the ball to Bryan Mitchell, who walked Manny Machado and served up a mammoth two-run homer to Davis. He hit it the other way into the bullpens. Mitchell was pretty awesome for a while earlier this summer, then he got hit in the face by the line drive, and he hasn’t been effective since. The Davis homer made it 7-1 Fightin’ Showalters.

James Pazos, Andrew Bailey, Branden Pinder, Justin Wilson, Andrew Miller, and Caleb Cotham combined for the final eleven outs. Wilson and Miller threw five and eight pitches, respectively. That was just a tune-up so they didn’t go five days between appearances heading into the wildcard game. Cotham served up a two-run homer to Davis in what was likely his final at-bat as an Oriole. That was kinda cool.


The Yankees had ten hits and McCann was the only player with exactly one hit. Beltran had three and Bird, Ackley, and Gregorius had two apiece. The top three spots in the lineup went a combined 0-for-13 with two walks, both by A-Rod. The bottom four spots went 6-for-15 (.400) with two walks. McCann broke an 0-for-23 (!) slump with his seventh inning single.

Girardi emptied his bench in the ninth and got Rico Noel (ground out), Gary Sanchez (strikeout), and Jose Pirela (strikeout) one last at-bat. Pirela grounded out to second to end the season. Remember how it started? Masahiro Tanaka struck out Jose Reyes on three pitches. His first pitch of the year was a slider. That feels like a lifetime ago.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game and here are the final standings for the season. Hard to believe it’s been 162 games already. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Bonus Out-of-Town WPA Graph
As I mentioned in the intro, the D’Backs beat the Astros in Arizona, clinching home field advantage in the wildcard game for the Yankees. Paul Goldschmidt’s seventh inning two-run home run off former Yankee Chad Qualls was the big blow. Here’s the box score and win probability graph for that game:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The regular season is over and thank goodness after that limp to the finish. The Yankees and the rest of the baseball world have an off-day Monday, then the AL wildcard game will be played Tuesday night at 8pm ET. It’ll be the Yankees and Astros. Tanaka will indeed be opposed by Dallas Keuchel, who will be working on three days’ rest for the first time of his career.

Angels name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler new GM

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

According to Bill Shaikin, the Angels are expected to name Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler their new GM on Monday. The team has since announced the hire. Eppler was said to be the front-runner for several weeks now. He interviewed for the job back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner-up to Jerry Dipoto. Joel Sherman says Eppler will remain with the Yankees through the postseason.

“I cannot adequately express how excited I am for the opportunity Arte Moreno and the Angels have given me,” said Eppler in a statement. “The Angels are committed to Championship Standards. They are committed to being a perennial contender, and many of the pieces are already in place for that to occur. I look forward to a collaborative effort as we look to enhance and advance every phase of the baseball operations department. This is an organization with a tremendous amount of talent on and off the field, and I am excited to begin the next chapter of Angels Baseball.”

Eppler, 40, has been with the Yankees since 2005. He started as a scout and gradually worked his way up the ladder to assistant GM. While serving as head of the pro scouting department, Eppler and his staff were able to unearth cheap gems like Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, and Eric Chavez, among others.

Prior to joining the Yankees, Eppler pitched at UConn before an arm injury ended his playing career. He previously worked as a scout with the Rockies before hooking on with New York. Eppler is from Southern California, so joining the Angels is something of a homecoming for him.

Dipoto resigned as Angels GM back in July after a long power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. Owner Arte Moreno sided with Scioscia, so Dipoto stepped down, which is kinda crazy. There are only 30 GM jobs, after all. They’re hard to get. The Mariners named Dipoto their new GM a few days ago. Eppler was in the running for that job too.

It’s unclear how or if the Yankees will replace Eppler in the front office. The Yankees still have assistant GMs Jean Afterman and Michael Fishman working under Brian Cashman, as well as a slew of advisors, most notably Gene Michael and Jim Hendry. There are countless others working behind the scenes as well.

It was only a matter of time until Eppler was poached by another club — he’s interviewed for several GM jobs over the years, including the Padres last year — and at one point I thought he was Cashman’s heir apparent. That didn’t happen. Eppler was said to be Cashman’s right hand man, so it’s a big loss for the front office.

Sunday Night Open Thread

The 2015 regular season is over and thanks to the Diamondbacks, the Yankees will host the Astros in the wildcard game Tuesday night. Paul Goldschmidt achieved True Yankee™ status with his two-run go-ahead home run off former Yankee Chad Qualls in the seventh inning. Biggest hit of the Yankees season, possibly. Here’s the video. I’d embed it if it were possible.

Here is your open thread for the rest of the weekend. There’s no more baseball tonight. The season is over for everyone. The late NFL game is the Cowboys at the Saints. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here.

Game 162: Somehow Meaningful


Roughly two months ago the Yankees led the AL East by seven games. Amazingly, they are playing Game 162 today hoping to secure home field advantage in the wildcard game. Things went downhill in a hurry in the second half, and while they’ve clinching a postseason berth, they still don’t know where they’re playing Tuesday. That is kinda silly.

As a result, Joe Girardi can not rest his regulars on the final day of the regular season. Or, rather, he chose not to rest his regulars in an attempt to clinch home field advantage. The two half-lineups during yesterday’s doubleheader didn’t get the job done, so now everyone has to play today. Fitting, really. Girardi and the Yankees went to great lengths to rest everyone this year so they’d be ready for a game like this. Hope they’re up for it. Here’s the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Dustin Ackley
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Michael Pineda

It is still cloudy in Baltimore but there is no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. The final game of the season will be played without interruption today. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Postseason Scenarios: The Yankees still don’t know who or where they’re playing Tuesday. A win or an Astros loss today clinches home field advantage for the Yankees. That’s the easy part. James Smyth put together a handy spreadsheet explaining all the different wildcard scenarios:

Playoff Scenarios

Every game starts at the same time today except for the Cardinals-Braves doubleheader. Why they’re making them play a meaningless doubleheader on the final day of the season, I’ll never understand.

It’s official: Masahiro Tanaka starting AL wildcard game


As expected, Joe Girardi announced today that Masahiro Tanaka will start Tuesday’s AL wild-card game. No surprise here. The Yankees lined Tanaka up for the wildcard game when he returned from his minor hamstring injury last week. Tanaka was the obvious choice.

With Ivan Nova and Luis Severino starting yesterday’s doubleheader, and Michael Pineda starting today, the only realistic candidates for the wildcard game were Tanaka and CC Sabathia. And I guess Adam Warren, but he’s needed in the bullpen. Tanaka will have an extra day of rest heading into the wildcard game. Sabathia would have been on normal rest.

Tanaka, 26, has a 3.51 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 24 starts and 154 innings this year around hamstring and forearm issues. He’s been pretty awesome the last few weeks, pitching to a 2.98 ERA (3.80 FIP) in nine starts and 60.1 innings since early-August. The only concern with Tanaka is his penchant for the long ball (1.46 HR/9), though he usually limits the damage to solo homers because he’s so good at limiting base-runners (0.99 WHIP).

The Yankees still don’t know who or where they will play the wildcard game. Chances are it will be the Astros but it could still be the Rangers or Angels. A win today or an Astros loss clinches home field advantage for the Yankees in the wildcard game. If that doesn’t happen, it’ll be in the other team’s park.

Something to Celebrate

I (also) love this photo so much. (@Yankees)
I (also) love this photo so much. (@Yankees)

In a matter of hours, the 162 game marathon that is the Major League Baseball season will be officially over for everyone (unless we get some tiebreaker action!). The Yankees are one of ten teams both skilled enough and lucky enough to keep marching towards the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. As a team they already got to celebrate–and why shouldn’t they? This is a team that very few people thought could make the playoffs. In most best-case scenarios in February and March, this was an 85-win team that might scratch at contending for the second wildcard spot. Now, they sit assured of a spot in that wildcard game that will probably (hopefully?!) be in the Bronx. The notion that the Yankees–or any team–shouldn’t celebrate making the Wildcard Game is just silly to me. What that team is celebrating is not just the accomplishment of making it one more day, but acknowledging the impressive feat of being one of ten teams standing after 162 games. These celebrations are as much about–if not more–what has happened rather than what will happen. Anyway, now that the team has celebrated and been celebrated, let’s take a look at some individual Yankee players and what they have to celebrate about 2015.

Starting with number one, there are some pitchers we should discuss; chief among them is Masahiro Tanaka. TANAK may not have been quite-as-brilliant in 2015 as he was in 2014, but this was still a successful year for him. By the way, let’s talk for a moment about how crazy it is that I’m saying a year for a pitcher was “successful” and “not-quite-as-good” despite a K/BB of 5.71 and a WHIP of 0.994. The former is good for fifth in the AL among pitchers with at least 150 IP and the latter is good for first. Performance, though, is only part of why Tanaka’s been successful this year. While he missed some time recently, his elbow has more or less held up despite a whole lot of armchair-doctoring by media and fans alike at the beginning of the season. There’s a reason that doctors, the Yankees, and Tanaka didn’t opt for surgery and this year has proved it a wise decision. His elbow ligaments could snap tomorrow, but that goes for any pitcher at any time and one should never have surgery when it isn’t necessary. Try to imagine the Yankees’ season without Tanaka in the rotation. He’s the only one among the Yankees’ starters with at least 100 IP who has an ERA+ of over 100 (114); without him, there’s no way this team is in the postseason.

Sticking with the starters, there’s Luis Severino. Few, expected him to be on the team this year; even fewer expected him to have this much of an impact as a starter. Despite some hiccups and some general first-time-in-the-Majors-rough-around-the-edgesness, Severnio has been spectacular. He’s held his own against big lineups at times. He’s flashed plus stuff. He’s helped Tanaka carry the rotation in the second half and has definitely pitched his way into not only the playoffs, but also the 2016 rotation.

Lastly in the pitching category, appropriately enough, there’s the dynamite combo of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better 1-2 bullpen combination than this one anywhere in the Majors. While Betances has looked more human lately, he managed to mostly repeat an incredible 2014 and he and Miller solidified a very-shaky-at-times relief corps to give the Yankees a much-needed late-game edge. Miller, meanwhile, stepped right into the line of Yankee closers and wowed us all year with a dominant fastball/slider combination that left many batters baffled. The back end of a bullpen is important in a regular season, but is paramount the in the playoffs; the more we see these two in the coming weeks, the more likely it is that they and the team have done something special.

Moving to the lineup, we’ll start with number two–don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a position-by-position breakdown–and discuss Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy. Like most of the Yankee offense, McCann hasn’t looked great of late, but that doesn’t mean this season isn’t something to celebrate. He raised all four portions of his slash line from last year and managed to belt a career high 26 homers. He’s also already tied his career high in RBI with 94, so anything he drives in today will represent a new career high. His backup also had a great season as JRM hit more-than-admirably and seemed like a veteran behind the plate in very limited duty. As a bonus, he also provided the hands-down best quote of 2015 by anyone in the Yankee organization.

I’ve already touched on Mark Teixeira‘s great season, so I’ll be brief here. Tex had a fantastic season and his absence has definitely been felt in the last few weeks, even if Greg Bird has done incredibly well both for the team and himself, something completely unexpected in and of itself, and also worthy of celebration. The Yankees now have a very good problem regarding Bird, Tex, and the next two guys we’ll touch on–Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran–and how to get them all at bats.

Raise your hand if you thought Carlos Beltran wasn’t toast after April. Put your damn hand down, you liar. At the end of April, Carlos had an OPS of .481 (!) and had exactly zero home runs. From May on, he’s hit .292/.352/.506 with 19 homers. His bat was steady and stable throughout the summer and we’ll finally get to see his playoff prowess put to the test.

Then, finally, there’s Alex Rodriguez. Al. Al from Miami. Summer of Al. How many times did we tweet these things over the last few months? The finish hasn’t been pretty, but how delusional would you have seemed in March if you said A-Rod was going to hit 33 homers this year? I thought he MIGHT, MAYBE hit 15-20 and be average overall at the plate. He completely shattered those expectations and now a finalist for Comeback Player of the year. Considering there were a lot of people who said he might never play a game for the Yankees again, this is nothing short of an amazing year for Alex and I couldn’t be happier for him. Even though a lot of the crap he’s dealt with is of his own doing, he still deserves to celebrate this year just as much as anyone, if not more. Here’s hoping for a repeat of 2009 from Alex and his teammates.


Yankees fall 4-3, get swept by Orioles in doubleheader

Source: FanGraphs

Gotta hand to ’em, the Yankees are really committed to this whole “limp to the finish line” thing. They were swept by the Orioles in Saturday’s doubleheader, dropping game two 4-3. Home field advantage in the wildcard game will come down to Game 162. Gross. Let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Lil’ Luis: Not a great start for Luis Severino. He allowed two runs in the first, including a leadoff homer to Nolan Reimold. A Steve Pearce double drove in the other run. Manny Machado hit a solo homer in the third, but Severino did settle down after the first, retiring 19 of the final 21 batters he faced. Three runs on five hits and no walks in seven innings is fine. Not great, not awful. Winnable. Usually. Just not Saturday night.
  • Rally Back: To their credit, the Yankees did rally to tie the game in the middle innings. Didi Gregorius drove in their first run with a sacrifice fly in the third, then, in the fifth, Slade Heathcott dropped a base hit in front of Pearce in right to score a run. Rob Refsnyder (double) and Gregorius (single) set the inning up. Ubaldo Jimenez plunked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases and walked Carlos Beltran to force in the tying run. Brian McCann flew out with the bases loaded to end the inning, which, blah. At least the game was tied.
  • Blownpen: Severino threw 91 pitches in his seven innings, and while it’s easy to say he should have gone out for the eighth, remember this is a 21-year-old kid who has already thrown 48.2 innings more than his previous career high. Dellin Betances came out of the bullpen, and two singles and two wild pitches later, the O’s had the 4-3 lead. They weren’t hard hits — a bloop single and a bunt single — but they were hits nonetheless. McCann totally whiffed on the run-scoring wild pitch. Last year he allowed 78 wild pitches plus passed balls. This year? 104! It cost them Saturday. Dellin did strike out the side, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.
  • Leftovers: Severino threw at Paul Janish (!?) for some reason in the fifth inning. It was really bad. Up around his head. No idea what that was about. Maybe retaliation for Ellsbury getting hit in the previous inning? That seems silly. Either way, both benches were warned … the Yankees had six hits, two by Refsnyder and one each by Greg Bird, Gregorius, Heathcott, and Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod pinch-hit in the ninth, singled, and pinch-runner Rico Noel was picked off … the top four spots in the lineup went a combined 0-for-12.

Here are the box score and video highlights, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds. The Astros beat up on the Diamondbacks again, so it will still take a Yankees win or an Astros loss to clinch home field advantage Sunday. Anyway, check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees wrap up their season Sunday afternoon. It’ll be Michael Pineda against Chris Tillman. Unbelievably, that game is meaningful.