Offense no-shows as Yankees fall 8-1 to the Rangers

The recent free fall continues. A lifeless offense and (more) bad bullpening sent the Yankees to an 8-1 loss to the Rangers on Saturday afternoon. The Yankees have lost nine of their last eleven games and are 10-12 in June overall despite outscoring their opponents by 40 (!) runs. The Orioles are good for the ol’ run differential.

This is a happy picture. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
This is a happy picture. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Amazing, Disappearing Offense
The Yankees have now scored three runs in their last 26 offensive innings, dating back to Aaron Judge‘s monster three-run home run against the Angels on Thursday night. They scored one run Saturday afternoon. A Judge home run, of course. He cranked a solo home run into the left field seats in the sixth inning. Austin Bibens-Dirkx caught a little too much of the plate with a 91 mph heater.

Three problems. One, the Yankees were already down 3-0 when Judge homered. Two, no one was on base when Judge homered. And three, the Yankees only had two other baserunners make it as far as second base in the game. Mason Williams walked and stole second in the first inning, then singled and stole second in the third inning. No runner made it as far as third base aside from the Judge dinger. Five hits and one walk on the afternoon. That’s all.

Bibens-Dirkx, a 32-year-old rookie who has spent multiple years in independent ball, deserves all the praise he’ll receive for this game and he should enjoy the hell out of his performance (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) and this day. Good for him. The Yankees have been pretty crummy at the plate though. Have been for a few days now. A sampling of the ongoing slumps:

  • Aaron Hicks: 0-for-4 on Saturday and 2-for-18 (.111) since coming back from the Achilles issue.
  • Matt Holliday: 0-for-4 on Saturday and 5-for-36 (.139) in his last eleven games.
  • Starlin Castro: 1-for-4 on Saturday and 5-for-28 (.179) in his last seven games.
  • Didi Gregorius: 1-for-3 on Saturday and 5-for-27 (.185) in his last seven games.

Hmmm. That’s not good. This is baseball and players slump during the long season. It happens. It just bites when half the lineup slumps at the same time.

The Yankees went through an offensive slump a few weeks back — they scored 26 runs in a nine-game span at one point last month — and they snapped out of that. They’ll snap out of this eventually because no, those guys are not true talent .100-something hitters. Hopefully it happens soon. No disrespect to Bibens-Dirkx, but not getting a runner to third base against him is awful.

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

Five & Fly
On most days, getting five innings and three runs from your sixth starter would be an okay outcome. Just not Saturday given the way the Yankees have been swinging the bats of late. Luis Cessa gave up a first inning run in maybe the most annoying way possible. The first four batters of the game:

  • Delino DeShields Jr.: 0-2 to a walk (DeShields then stole second)
  • Shin-Soo Choo: Four-pitch strikeout
  • Elvis Andrus: 0-2 RBI single on a pitch out of the zone (strike zone plot)
  • Adrian Beltre: 0-2 to a 1-2 count to a broken bat single to center

Cessa jumped ahead in the count 0-2 to three of the first four batters, and all three reached base. The leadoff walk was easily the biggest mistake of the inning. Andrus tomahawked a high fastball to right and Cessa broke Beltre’s bat. What can you do? Cessa struck out Rougned Odor on three pitches and Carlos Gomez on six pitches to strand runners on the corners and limit the damage to one run.

After that, Cessa settled into a little groove and retired the side in order in both the second and third innings. Seven of his first eight outs were strikeouts. He ran into trouble again in the fourth, when he issued a leadoff walk to Mike Napoli and the defense couldn’t complete the line drive double play. Starlin Castro caught the ball, double-clutched, and the throw clanked off Tyler Austin‘s glove at first.

Naturally, the next batter hit a two-run home run. Cessa left a two-strike slider up enough to Gomez, who pounded it into the left field seats. Sigh. Cessa pitched around a leadoff hit batsman (Pete Kozma!) in the fifth before hitting the showers. Three runs on three hits and two walks in five innings, plus a career high eight strikeouts. Normally a winnable game from the sixth starter. Normally.

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

The Bullpen Of Our Discontent
The bullpen allowed the Rangers to tack on five runs in the late innings and it was the usual suspects: Jonathan Holder and Tyler Clippard. Holder’s sixth inning went double off the wall, fly out to the right field warning track, strikeout, fly out to the left field warning track. Seems good. The first batter he faced in the seventh, Robinson Chirinos, hit a homer. So four of the first five men he faced hit the ball to at least to the warning track.

A 4-1 deficit is a good time to try to iron out Clippard’s issues, apparently. Three-run lead in the ninth inning? This situation is so important I have to literally save my best reliever in case it arises. Three-run deficit in the ninth inning? Oh well, the chances of a comeback are so small that I might as well give my struggling reliever some work. The wonders of modern bullpen usage. Chess, not checkers, people.

Clippard allowed four runs on three hits and two walks. Loud hits too. They didn’t dink and dunk him that inning. Clippard needed 36 pitches to get three outs and looked just terrible. No life on his fastball and his changeup might as well be a batting practice fastball. He’s allowed eleven runs and 14 baserunners in his last 3.2 innings. Holder has allowed ten runs and 20 baserunners (including five homers!) in his last 14 innings. He’s lucky Clippard is around to deflect attention. Bad bullpen is bad.

Leftovers
Welcome back to the big leagues, Tyler Austin. He went 0-for-3 with a three-pitch strikeout, a six-pitch strikeout, and a first pitch double play. He also couldn’t make the catch on the potential line drive double play in the fifth, though, to be fair, it was not an easy play. Still, Chris Carter would have been raked the coals for that.

Welcome to the big leagues, Tyler Webb. He made his MLB debut between Holder and Clippard and retired the left-handed hitting Choo. He also tossed a perfect eighth inning as well. I’m pretty sure that makes Webb the third best reliever in the bullpen now.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings. MLB.com has the video highlights and we have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Old Timers’ Day! The Yankees will hold their annual celebration of the team’s history Sunday afternoon. The ceremony starts at 11:30am ET. The series finale against the Rangers will then begin at 2pm ET. Michael Pineda and Nick Martinez are the scheduled starting pitchers. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch Old Timers’ Day, or boo the offense and bullpen.

2017 Draft: Yankees sign first rounder Clarke Schmidt and second rounder Matt Sauer

Schmidt. (The Post ad Courier)
Schmidt. (The Post and Courier)

The Yankees have signed their top two selections in the 2017 amateur draft. The team announced deals with South Carolina right-hander Clarke Schmidt (first round, 16th overall) and California high school right-hander Matt Sauer (second round, 54th overall) earlier this afternoon. Sauer posted photos of his contract signing on Twitter.

Here is the bonus information:

  • Schmidt: $2,184,300 per Jack Curry ($3,458,600 slot)
  • Sauer: $2,500,000 per Jim Callis ($1,236,000 slot)

Schmidt, 21, received a below-slot bonus because he is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure in May, so he’s going to be out until midseason 2018. As our Draft Pool tracker shows, the Yankees now have a little less than $460,000 in bonus pool space remaining before hitting the penalties. They’ve maxed out their spending pool the last few years. I imagine that $460,000 is going to a late round pick.

Based on the way things played out, the Yankees planned all along to sign Schmidt below-slot — I’m guessing they had a pre-draft agreement in place — and spend the savings on a highly touted player who slipped into the second round. That happened to be Sauer. I think this was Plan B. Plan A was using the first round selection on a player who was no longer on the board when that pick rolled around, so they called an audible.

Anyway, Baseball America ranked Schmidt as the 32nd best prospect in the draft class. MLB.com ranked him 49th and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked him 74th. He was considered a mid-first round talent before blowing out his elbow last month. Here is a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Schmidt relies heavily on a 92-94 mph fastball that can reach 96 and features power sink. Both his slider and curveball can be plus pitches at times but also lack consistency, and he also mixes in a decent changeup. He generally throws strikes but can be vulnerable if his pitches wander up in the strike zone … He maintained his improved velocity until he got hurt this spring, but scouts don’t love his delivery and now have even more questions about his durability.

Sauer was ranked as the 28th best prospect in the draft class by both MLB.com and Baseball America. Keith Law ranked 67th. Here’s a snippet of MLB.com’s scouting report:

He’s reached 97 mph at times this spring and has sat comfortably in the 91-95 mph range in most starts. He combines that with a nasty slider, up to 87 mph, thrown from a three-quarter slot with good power, bite and deception. The changeup is a distant third pitch … Some scouts are not in love with Sauer’s arm action and see him more as a potential power bullpen type of pitcher. Others see a potential three-pitch mix, two above-average to plus offerings, with the build to be a rotation workhorse.

The draft signing deadline is Friday, July 7th, so two weeks from yesterday. The Yankees have already handled all their major business, however. They’ve signed each of their picks in the top 17 rounds plus several late rounders. I expect them to spend that remaining $460,000 ($457,949 to be exact) on someone. That has been their M.O. in the draft pool era. To spend as much as possible without incurring penalties forcing them to surrender next year’s first round pick.

Saturday Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the remainder of the day. FOX Sports 1 has the Brewers and Braves this afternoon, the Mets are playing tonight, and MLB Network will have a West Coast night game as well. Also, there are two College World Series games on as well. LSU vs. Oregon State right now and Florida vs. TCU tonight. The winners advance to the CWS Finals. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not religion or politics.

Game 72: Mess with Texas

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

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:

  1. CF Mason Williams
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. 3B Ronald Torreyes
  9. 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.

Yankees designate Carter for assignment, call up Tyler Austin

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

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.

Toe to the rescue! Tanaka tosses gem and Yankees walk-off with 2-1 win over Rangers

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.

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

Master ‘Hiro
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:

masahiro-tanaka-pitch-locationsNot 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.

Yardy. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Yardy. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

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.

aroldis-chapman-gary-sanchez-adrian-beltre

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.

Joltin’ Toe
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:

ronald-torreyes

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.

Leftovers
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.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The box score and updated standings are at ESPN and the video highlights are at MLB.com. Check out our Bullpen Workload page too. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
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.

DotF: Florial goes deep again in Charleston’s win

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

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