DotF: Crawford leads Tampa to FSL Championship Series

The Staten Island Yankees have announced the five finalists for their new team nickname, and they’re all pretty bad. The five: Bridge Trolls, Heroes, Killer Bees, Pizza Rats, and Rock Pigeons. Apparently over 2,000 names were submitted by fans. You can vote right here. The only correct answer is the Staten Island Killer Bees (NSFW language!).

Triple-A Scranton (7-0 win over Lehigh Valley) they lead the best-of-five series two games to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI — Shane Hennigan says Williams made two great catches too, so he’s had a big impact on both sides of the ball this series … remember, he hit the game-winning home run in Game One yesterday
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 3-5, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — what a great season he’s having
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K
  • DH Cesar Puello: 0-4, 1 R, 2 K
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Jake Cave: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • LHP Phil Coke: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 10/1 GB/FB — 65 of 94 pitches were strikes (58%) … veteran lefty with a gem in Game Two of a postseason series? he’s like the Triple-A version of Andy Pettitte
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3/0 GB/FB — eight pitches, four strikes

[Read more…]

Game 139: Don’t Stop


The Yankees have won four straight games and they just wrapped up a thrilling and important three-game sweep of the Blue Jays. The last place Rays now come to town for a four-game set and this can’t be a letdown series. It’s easy to think the hard part is over now that the Blue Jays have left town, but that can’t be the mentality. Tampa is no pushover and the Yankees still have a lot of ground to make up in the wildcard races. It only gets more difficult from here on out, not easier. Here’s the Rays’ lineup and here’s the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. RF Aaron Judge
    LHP CC Sabathia

It has been cloudy and humid in New York today, and usually that means rain, but there’s none in the forecast tonight. Nothing substantial, anyway. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES.

9/8 to 9/11 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Admiring the 2011 and 2013 wildcard banners, I see. (Presswire)
Admiring the 2011 and 2013 wildcard banners, I see. (Presswire)

There are only four home series left this season, folks. The Blue Jays are leaving town and now the Rays are coming in. This is a four-game series too, so the Yankees have a chance to pile up wins against a last place team. They’re 6-6 against Tampa Bay so far this season, including 4-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays hung on to beat the Orioles yesterday, snapping their three-game losing streak. They actually won six of ten games prior to that three-game skid. Tampa is 59-79 with a -29 run differential this season — they’re 28-47 in their last 75 games — which puts them firmly among the league’s cellar dwellers. They’re heading for their first top ten draft pick since taking Tim Beckham first overall in 2008. Good thing they didn’t take consensus No. 1 draft prospect Buster Posey that year, eh?

Offense & Defense

Including yesterday’s seven-run outburst, the Rays are averaging 4.24 runs per game with a team 99 wRC+. They’re so unhappy with their offense that they fired longtime hitting Derek Shelton earlier this week. Tampa’s only seriously injured position player is SS Matt Duffy (83 wRC+), who will have season-ending Achilles surgery in the near future. 3B Evan Longoria (127 wRC+) is day-to-day after taking a pitch to the hand earlier this week, though he was in the lineup at third base yesterday.

Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Kiermaier. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The top four spots of manager Kevin Cash’s lineup stay pretty consistent from day-to-day. Longoria bats third with 2B Logan Forsythe (125 wRC+) leading off and CF Kevin Kiermaier (99 wRC+) hitting second. 1B Brad Miller (115 wRC+) is the cleanup man. He has 26 home runs, you know. UTIL Nick Franklin (132 wRC+) has taken over at short since Duffy got hurt, and the rotating corner outfielders are OF Corey Dickerson (89 wRC+), OF Steven Souza Jr. (79 wRC+), and OF Mikie Mahtook (29 wRC+). Franklin played some outfield too.

DH Logan Morrison (97 wRC+) is the other regular and C Bobby Wilson (87 wRC+) has taken over as the regular catcher. C Luke Maile (80 wRC+) is the backup. C Curt Casali and IF Richie Shaffer are the only September call-ups for now. The Rays didn’t exactly load up the bench. Longoria and Kiermaier are by far Tampa’s best defensive players. Forsythe is solid at second and so is Souza in right. Wilson’s a fine catcher. Left field, shortstop, and first base are weak spots.

Update: The Rays signed veteran SS Alexei Ramirez (61 wRC+) earlier today, according to Marc Topkin. He was released by the Padres a few days ago. I assume Ramirez will be their regular shortstop the rest of the way following the Duffy injury. He’s certainly their best option defensively.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
Unlike Masahiro Tanaka, Cobb was unable to successfully rehab an elbow injury, which forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery last May. The 28-year-old returned to the team’s rotation last week and held the Blue Jays to two runs in five innings while on a strict pitch count. He fanned seven, walked one, and got twice as many ground outs as fly outs. Cobb was really good from 2013-14 (2.82 ERA and 3.29 FIP), but that was two years and one elbow ligament ago. In his start last week Cobb averaged 91.4 mph with his sinker, 86.3 mph with his splitter, and 80.1 mph with his curveball. That’s down a mile or two an hour across the board from before the injury, though chances are he’s still building up arm strength.

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
The Rays are using a six-man rotation right now to control Snell’s innings and make life easy on Cobb following elbow reconstruction. The 23-year-old Snell has had a fine rookie season, pitching to a 3.39 ERA (3.42 FIP) in 15 starts and 74.1 innings. His strikeout (23.8%) and walk (12.7%) numbers are high, and there’s a disconnect between his ground ball rate (37.5%) and home run rate (0.48 HR/9). Something will have to give at some point. Not surprisingly, righties have had more success against him than lefties. Snell sits in the mid-90s with his heater, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen the young southpaw twice this season: one run in five innings in April, his MLB debut, and two runs in 5.1 innings in July.

Archer. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Archer. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Saturday (4:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
What a disappointing season for Archer. He finished fifth in the Cy Young voting last year and could have placed even higher, and rather than build on that success, Archer has a 4.06 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 29 starts and 175.1 innings. That’s not awful — heck, it’s better than every Yankees starter aside from Tanaka — but it’s certainly not what he or the Rays had in mind this season. Archer’s strikeout (28.4%), walk (8.2%), and grounder (47.3%) numbers are right where they were last year, but he’s been more homer prone (1.23 HR/9) and righties are having more success against him than ever before. The 27-year-old northpaw sits in the mid-90s with his heater and the upper-80s with his trademark slider. It’s nasty. One of the best sliders in baseball. It’s like a right-handed Andrew Miller slider. He also has an improved upper-80 changeup. The Yankees have faced Archer twice this season: four runs in eight innings in May, and five runs in six innings in August. The latter was Alex Rodriguez‘s final game.

Sunday (1:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. TB) vs. RHP Matt Andriese (vs. NYY)
Andriese, 27, has a 4.58 ERA (3.79 FIP) in 106 innings split across 15 starts and ten relief appearances this season. His peripherals are generally strong (21.1 K%, 5.2 BB%, 44.4 GB%, 1.19 HR/9) and his platoon split is relatively small. As a starter Andriese uses a low-90s four-seamer and a mid-80s changeup as his two main pitches. He added an upper-80s cutter recently that has apparently been a real nice pitch for him. He’ll also throw a few low-80s curveballs per start, but at the end of the day, Andriese is a fastball/changeup/cutter pitcher. The Yankees saw him as a starter last month and scored six runs in five innings.

Bullpen Status

Like the Yankees, the Rays loaded up their bullpen as soon as rosters expanded on September 1st. They’re carrying a dozen relievers in addition to their six starters. Here is Cash’s relief crew:

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (2.05 ERA/3.26 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Boxberger (3.00/4.75), LHP Xavier Cedeno (3.70/2.64)
Middle: RHP Danny Farquhar (3.64/5.13), RHP Kevin Jepsen (5.48/5.88), LHP Enny Romero (5.53/4.48)
Long: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.73/4.64)
Extra: RHP Eddie Gamboa, RHP Ryan Garton, RHP Steve Geltz, LHP Justin Marks, RHP Chase Whitley

Ace Whitley! He’s all done rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and was called up Monday. Good for him. Hopefully he pitches this series, but only in a blowout win for the Yankees. Gamboa, another September call-up, is a knuckleballer. He joins R.A. Dickey and Steven Wright as the only knuckleballers in MLB at the moment. All three in the AL East. Figures.

Colome is firmly established as the closer and Cash likes to rotate his setup men. Boxberger and Cedeno get the majority of the setup work, but Erasmo and Farquhar and Jepsen will see high-leverage work on occasion too. Garton (29 pitches), Jepsen (12 pitches), Boxberger (eight pitches), Farquhar (13 pitches), and Colome (13 pitches) all pitched yesterday. Farquhar is the only one coming off back-to-back days.

Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relievers. Those guys have worked an awful lot the last few days, so even though the Yankees are carrying 12 relievers, the bullpen is a little worn down.

Yankeemetrics: Broom, broom! [Sept. 5-7]

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Tanaka’s milestone, Ellsbury’s surprising power
Backed by another solid outing from Ace Tanaka plus a couple key hits from Jacoby Ellsbury and Tyler Austin, the Yankees kept pace in the playoff chase with a critical 5-3 series-opening victory over the Blue Jays on Labor Day afternoon.

Jacoby Ellsbury, in an unlikely performance from the struggling center fielder, sparked the offense with a two-run homer in the first inning and an RBI single in the third. It was just the second time he went deep at home this year. Entering the week, his 190 at-bats at Yankee Stadium were nearly three times as many as any other player who had one or fewer homers at the ballpark (Austin Romine was next with 66 at-bats).

Tyler Austin also had a huge day at the plate, breaking out of a deep slump with a pair of doubles and two RBI. Only three other Yankee first baseman under the age of 25 have hit at least two doubles and drove in at least two runs in a game: Don Mattingly, Ron Blomberg and Lou Gehrig.

Masahiro Tanaka was hit hard early, but settled down and finished with a solid pitching line of two runs allowed on seven hits across six-plus innings. It was his 19th start this season giving up no more than two earned runs, which was tops among all American League pitchers through Monday’s games.

The Japanese star also earned his 12th win of the season, matching last year’s mark and one shy of his career-best in 2014. Yes, pitcher wins is a flawed stat, but its still a significant milestone for Tanaka. He is the fifth Yankee to win at least 12 games in each of his first three major-league seasons, along with Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, Hank Borowy and Johnny Brocoa.

Adding in Tanaka’s impressive strikeout numbers puts him in even more exclusive company. Among all major-league players to debut since the end of World War II, only six others have reached at least 12 wins and 135 strikeouts in each of their first three seasons: Ricky Romero, CC Sabathia, Hideo Nomo, Dwight Gooden, Dennis Eckersley and Tom Seaver.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Birthday bombs and snow cone catches
Tuesday’s crazy win was a harrowing roller-coaster ride of emotions, filled with a ton of wild swings in win probability and a bevy of tense moments, resulting in yet another season-saving victory for the Yankees. Let’s recap the emotional victory in the only way that we know how, Yankeemetrics-style:

Tyler Austin delivered the first game-changing highlight, celebrating his 25th birthday with a monster two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 lead. The list of Yankee first baseman to hit a homer on their birthday is a fun one: Austin, Shelley Duncan, Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig. Austin also became the first Yankee to homer on his 25th birthday since Tom Tresh in 1963.


The Yankees are now 38-10 when a player homers on their birthday (since 1913) and have won their last 15 (!) such games. The last time they lost was May 29, 1992 when Charlie Hayes went deep in a 8-3 loss to the Brewers on his 27th birthday.

After the Blue Jays snatched the lead back in the top of the eighth, the Yankees quickly erased the deficit when Didi Gregorius smoked a triple to deep center, tying the game at 4-4. Before Didi, the last Yankee with a game-tying triple in the eighth inning or later at Yankee Stadium was Mariano Duncan in 1996.

Castro capped the rally with a sac fly to make it 5-4. It was the third go-ahead sac fly by a Yankee in the eighth inning or later this year, matching their total from the past three seasons (2013-15) combined. Castro is responsible for two of those three sac flies, and is the only player in the majors this season with multiple go-ahead sac flies in the eighth or later.

Finally, with the bases full and two outs in the ninth, Brett Gardner made an incredible leaping catch at the wall to seal the victory. With that ridiculous grab, Gardner increased his defensive Plus-Minus rating — a fielding stat devised by Bill James that estimates the number of plays the player made above/below the number that an average fielder would make, according to the video scouts — to +16, which ranked second among all left fielders this season (Adam Duvall, +22).

Aaron Judge kept the seventh inning comeback bid alive with a key single ahead of Austin; however, his monumental struggles to make contact continued as he struck out twice, extending his run of multiple-strikeout games to nine. That’s the longest such streak by any major-league player over the last 100 seasons.


Three times a charm
The long pinstripe nightmare is finally over as the Yankees completed their first three-game sweep of the season with a 2-0 shutout in the series finale. Before Wednesday’s momentum-building victory, they were 0-7 in the third game of a three-game set after taking games one and two. It was also their first sweep of a team with a winning record; their only other sweeps were four-gamers against the A’s and Angels.

Starlin Castro staked the Yankees to an early lead with a bullet line drive that just barely cleared the fences in left field. It was his 20th home run of the season, joining Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Joe Gordon as the only Yankee second basemen to hit 20-plus homers in a season.

Tyler Clippard sealed the win with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save with the team this year. He is the eighth Yankee to record a save in 2016, matching the 1979 and 1980 clubs for the most players with a save on any Yankee pitching staff since the save rule became official in 1969.

Luis Severino continued his dominance out of the bullpen with three more brilliant shutout innings after replacing Bryan Mitchell in the sixth. Here are his video-game-like numbers as a reliever: 14 ? innings pitched, 51 batters faced, zero earned runs and two hits allowed. Yup, opponents are “hitting” .044 (2-of-45) against Severino The Reliever. That’s easily the lowest batting average allowed by any relief pitcher that’s faced a minimum of 15 batters this season.

Thoughts following the series with the Blue Jays

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

The Yankees just wrapped up their best series of the season, sweeping three games from the Blue Jays at home. They’re now 2.5 games back of the second wildcard spot with 24 games to play. With the last place Rays coming to town for four games this weekend, the Yankees have a really great chance to close the gap even more. Anyway, here are some thoughts.

1. Aaron Judge‘s first few weeks as a big leaguer have not been pretty outside of a few home runs, and I think it’s good this is happening now rather than early next season. Could you imagine if the Yankees hadn’t called up Judge this year, then went into next season with him as Plan A in right field? It’s impossible to know if he’d struggle this much in that scenario, but some sort of adjustment period was always expected, and he’s going through it now. There’s a little less than a month left in the season and the Yankees can use it to further evaluate Judge. Hopefully he rakes and comes to camp as the starting right fielder. If he continues to struggle, perhaps it would be wise to throw him into the maybe pile with some others. Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, a free agent, whoever. Not calling Judge up now and then having him start next season like this would have been really ugly.

2. A thing that probably should happen: move Chase Headley up in the lineup. His April was dreadful. Inexcusably awful. He also went into last night’s game hitting .278/.346/.442 (109 wRC+) with 13 home runs in 102 games since the calendar flipped to May, and the Yankees could use all the offense they can get. Headley has seen some more time higher in the lineup recently, especially against lefties, but it might be time to take him out of the seventh and eighth spots for good. Without thinking about it too much, the best realistically possible lineup the Yankees could send out there probably looks like this:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. DH Brian McCann
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. RF Aaron Judge

The Yankees have wasted a lot of middle of the order at-bats on Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez this season. Headley’s been one of their best hitters for four months now, and I’d like to see them try to take advantage of that by not burying him at the bottom of the lineup. Maybe Headley is comfortable batting seventh and would wilt under the immense pressure of being the No. 3 hitter for the New York Yankees. I don’t think that’s the case though. He’s been hitting well. Give him some more responsibility.

3. As crazy as it sounds, the Yankees miss Hicks right now. They have a ton of players on the roster capable of playing right field (Judge, Austin, Refsnyder, Eric Young Jr.) but Hicks was able to move seamlessly between the three outfield spots, plus he’s a switch-hitter. All of those other guys are righties. (Young is a switch-hitter, but he was brought into run, not hit.) Hicks had a fine August and he was the team’s best all-around alternative to the struggling Judge. Heck, Brian Cashman all but admitted Hicks would be taking away at-bats from Judge if he were healthy. “If Aaron Hicks were up and running, you might see some different things happening. But since Aaron Hicks went down, that’s the way we’re going,” said the GM to Chad Jennings. Hicks is no savior, but the Yankees are worse off without him, even with all those extra outfielders on the roster.

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

4. Despite the recent trade chatter, I think it would make sense for the Yankees to keep McCann next season. It all depends on the trade offers, of course, but McCann’s not someone who should be dumped just for the sake of shedding (a portion of) his contract. Having two starting caliber catchers is a big luxury, especially when they hit from opposite sides of the plate and there are DH at-bats to be had. By all accounts McCann is a great teammate and Sanchez would benefit from having him around. Would I count on McCann to be the everyday DH? Absolutely not. But a half-time catcher and part-time DH? Someone who catches, say, 65-70 games and spend another 50 at DH? That could definitely work. This is probably something that is worth a longer post at some point down the line.

5. The Yankees saw the impressive Aaron Sanchez the other night and at this point they have to hope Luis Severino follows a similar career path as the young Blue Jays right-hander. That means impress during a second half cameo in year one, struggle as a starter and move to the bullpen in year two, then break out as a starter in year three. That’s what Sanchez has done and Severino is now two-thirds of the way there as well. Sanchez was a better prospect than Severino and both his stuff and command are better, so this isn’t a straight apples to apples comparison. We’re just hoping Severino’s development follows a similar timeline given everything that’s happened this year. He’s really, really important to the Yankees going forward.

6. There’s an entire offseason ahead of us, but right now it looks like the Yankees are again going to open next season with a bunch of questions in the rotation. Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow has held up just fine this year, though the partial tear continues to hang over every pitch he makes. Chad Green‘s going to be coming off a pretty serious elbow injury. CC Sabathia‘s had a better season than I think anyone expected, but what happens with another year of wear and tear on his arm? Severino had zero success as a starter this season. Michael Pineda? I don’t even know where to start with him. No team has five sure things in their rotation. That’s unrealistic. But right now the Yankees have one in Tanaka. I’m curious to see what the offseason brings. The Justin Wilson trade was surprising and confusing at the time, but it looks like a good (and very necessary) trade right now. I wonder if the Yankees will strike a similar deal for more depth.

7. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t a fan of the Jonathan Holder call-up. Still not, really. I applaud the Yankees for bringing up whoever they felt gave them the best chance to win. I’m just not convinced Holder is that guy despite his phenomenal season in the minors. Joe Girardi is typically slow to trust rookie relievers and I figured Holder wouldn’t get much of a chance to throw important innings. To Girardi’s credit, he’s been force-feeding young guys high-leverage work lately, specifically Ben Heller, so maybe Holder will get a greater opportunity the rest of the way and make a difference. I’m not counting on it happening though. The upcoming 40-man roster crunch is very real, and getting, what, ten innings at most from Holder doesn’t seem worth squeezing the roster even tighter. It’s not a bad move and the logic was sound. I just didn’t agree with it. That’s all.

8. You know who’s been sneaky good so far? Tommy Layne. The Red Sox released him last month, the Yankees picked him up, and he’s retired 16 of 22 left-handed batters in faced. One of the six baserunners was an infield single. The problem: Layne has only struck out one of those 22 lefties, and you’d like your left-on-left matchup guy to miss more bats than that. But still, the Yankees picked this guy up for nothing, and he’s filled a role that needed to be filled after the trade deadline. Matchups weren’t necessary when Dellin Betances was in the seventh and Andrew Miller was in the eighth. Now the Yankees need someone like Layne. He can pitch pretty much every single day — his pitch count the last 14 appearances: 9, 4, 14, 5, 16, 4, 8, 17, 2, 6, 4, 3, 6, 8 — and he provides a different look with his funky delivery. I don’t think he’s a long-term piece or anything like that, but for these last few weeks of the season, he’s stepped up and given the Yankees a nice boost.

DotF: Williams’ home run gives Scranton a Game One win

Some notes before we get to the first full day of playoff action in the minors:

  • RHP Eric Ruth and LHP Daniel Camarena were bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, reports Matt Kardos. They’ll cover for RHP Bryan Mitchell and LHP James Pazos, who were called up yesterday. LHP Caleb Frare was moved up from High-A Tampa to Trenton and LHP Evan Rutckyj (elbow) was activated off the Double-A DL to fill the roster spots.
  • RHP Chance Adams earned a spot on Baseball America’s 2016 Minor League All-Star Team. He held hitters to a .169 batting average, second lowest by a qualified minor league starter since 1993. Adams had a 2.33 ERA (2.96 FIP) and a 29.1% strikeout rate in 127.1 total innings this summer, his first as a starter.
  • SS Gleyber Torres was included in today’s Prospect Report after picking up two doubles in Tampa’s Game One win yesterday. The second double drove in the game-winning run.

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Lehigh Valley) they lead the best-of-five series one game to none

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — didn’t hit a single home run in 43 regular season games after coming back from shoulder surgery this season, so, naturally, he hits the game-winning two-run home run in the eighth inning of the first playoff game
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-4
  • 3B Donovan Solano, 1B Chris Parmelee & C Kyle Higashioka: all 1-4, 1 K
  • DH Cesar Puello: 1-4, 2 K
  • RF Jake Cave: 0-2, 1 BB
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 6/9 GB/FB — 65 of 92 pitches were strikes (71%) … he’s allowed four runs in 44 total Triple-A innings (0.82 ERA)
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 22 of 30 pitches were strikes (73%) … he can’t start in the postseason because of his innings limit, so he’ll be the relief ace instead

[Read more…]

Sweep! Mitchell and Severino hold down the Blue Jays in 2-0 win

That was a satisfying series. Stressful, but satisfying. The Yankees, led by two young pitchers, shut out the high-scoring Blue Jays 2-0 on Wednesday night. This is their first three-game sweep of the season, believe it or not. This team is fun as hell right now, aren’t they? Nothing to lose, everything to gain.


Mitchell Returns
Welcome back to the big leagues, Bryan Mitchell. Go face the Blue Jays in homer happy Yankee Stadium with only 21 minor league tune-up innings under your belt. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, and truth be told things did come close to unraveling a few times, but Mitchell was able to bear down and escape each jam he faced. The result: five scoreless innings. Five! Who expected that? No one, that’s who.

The Blue Jays had their best chance to score against Mitchell in the third inning, which he started by walking No. 8 hitter Melvin Upton and No. 9 Kevin Pillar. That generally leads to bad things. Luckily Devon Travis smashed a hard-hit ground ball to Chase Headley, who started the 5-4-3 double play. A ground out by Josh Donaldson ended the inning. Mitchell’s only 1-2-3 inning was his last, the fifth.

All told, Mitchell allowed four hits and two walks in his five innings, and it could have easily been only two hits had Tyler Austin not come down with a case of the Trumbos in right field. Mitchell used mostly fastballs to keep the Blue Jays in check — his 80 pitches were broken down into 64 fastballs and 16 curveballs — including a filthy cutter that averaged 93.4 mph. Also, he got ten ground outs and only three air outs. What more could you want from the kid? Way to go, Bryan.


Two Runs Are More Than Enough
The Yankees had a chance to score in the very first inning thanks to a Brett Gardner single and an error by Travis. It was a tough error; Didi Gregorius hit a hard grounder up the middle, Travis ranged to his right to field it, but his flip to second for the force out was wide of the base. Very difficult play. Should have been a hit. Mark Teixeira struck out to end the inning, so the Yankees couldn’t capitalize. Blah.

Both runs scored in the third inning and they scored in very different ways. Starlin Castro started the scoring with a solo home run, his career-high 20th. Marcus Stroman left a slider up and bam, dinger time. Stroman was shook after that, because the next three Yankees reached base. Gregorius poked a double to left, Teixeira worked a walk after falling behind in the count 0-2, and Brian McCann pulled a run-scoring single through the shift. All of that happened with two outs. All of it.

After the homer, five of the next eight Yankees to bat reached base. They very nearly scored a third run in the fourth inning, but Jacoby Ellsbury‘s opposite field double barely hopped over the wall, forcing Gardner to stop at third. He would have scored from first base easily on the play, especially with two outs. Heck, replays showed he was rounding third when the ball hopped over the wall. Alas. Two runs was all the Yankees got and it was one more than they needed.

Bullpen Ace
As soon as Mitchell walked Upton and Pillar in the third inning, Joe Girardi had Luis Severino up in the bullpen. His plan was clear. Whenever Mitchell was done, Severino was coming in. He wasn’t needed until the sixth, after Mitchell allowed a leadoff double to Troy Tulowitzki. Severino retired Donaldson (fielder’s choice), Edwin Encarnacion (ground out), and Jose Bautista (strikeout) to strand the runner. The Bautista strikeout if GIF-worthy:

Luis Severino Jose Bautista

Severino remained in and threw scoreless seventh and eighth innings as well. Once the Yankees got the lead, that was the plan all along. Get whatever you can out of Mitchell, the ride Severino as long as possible. He allowed one hit and one walk in his three scoreless innings of relief, striking out three. His final out was the scariest; Encarnacion flew out to the right field warning track with a man on base in the eighth. That was the tying run right there.

In six total games as a reliever, Severino has faced 51 batters and allowed two hits. Two! Two hits and four walks in 14.1 innings equals a 0.42 WHIP, which is decent. Severino has struck out 17 of those 51 batters, or 33.3%. The kid should absolutely be given a chance to start next season, but if the rotation doesn’t work it, it sure looks like he can be a dominant reliever. Closer du jour Tyler Clippard stuck out two in a perfect ninth. What a nice game on the mound.


The Yankees had nine hits total, including two each by Gardner and Ellsbury. Every starter had a hit except Teixeira and Austin Romine, and Teixeira drew a walk. Romine was the only one who failed to reach base. It was not a great night for the bats, but the pitching staff was able to pick them up. That has to happen from time to time.

The Orioles, Tigers, and Astros all lost on Wednesday, which means the Yankees gained ground on each of the three teams ahead of them in the wildcard race. Awesome. The Yankees are 2.5 games back with 24 to play. If nothing else, this team looks poised to play meaningful baseball for a few more weeks. I’ll take it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score, has the video highlights, and ESPN has the updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages either. The first one is actually kinda useful. Here’s the win probability graph.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
One AL East rival leaves the Bronx and another comes in. The Rays will be in town for a four-game weekend series starting Thursday night. CC Sabathia and Alex Cobb, who just returned from Tommy John surgery, are the scheduled starters for the series opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door for that game or any of the other 12 home games left on the schedule.