Ellsbury and Tanaka lead Yanks to 5-3 win over Blue Jays

Source: FanGraphs

For only the fourth time in 14 tries since last season’s trade deadline, the Yankees managed to beat the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium. Wins against Toronto have been tough to come by for more than a calendar year now. The final score was 5-3 on Monday afternoon. It’s Labor Day, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Ellsburied: One day after riding the bench in what Joe Girardi called the most important game of the season, Jacoby Ellsbury came out and swatted a two-run home run in the first inning Monday. He then singled in the team’s third run of the day two innings later. Ellsbury went 3-for-4 and drove in three of the Yankees’ five runs. Nice way to respond after sitting out Sunday.
  • Tanaka Grinds: I thought Masahiro Tanaka looked too strong in the first inning. He was on extra rest and he only threw 71 pitches last time out because of the rain delay, so maybe that was it. His two-seamer was running all over the place, so much so that he couldn’t locate it consistently. The Blue Jays jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a double and a single in the first, but Tanaka was able to settle down, limit the damage, and retire 18 of the next 23 batters he faced. He allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks in 6.1 innings. It wasn’t easy, but Tanaka was able to take the ball into the seventh.
  • Insurance Runs: The Yankees led 3-1 after Ellsbury’s run-scoring single in the third, and while a two-run lead is nice, it’s hardly comfortable against the Blue Jays. Thankfully Tyler Austin came through with a two-out, two-run double off the wall in the fourth inning. That stretched the lead to 5-1. Toronto can score runs in a hurry, so the game was hardly over, but at least now the Yankees had some breathing room.
  • Survive the Bullpen: Bringing Jonathan Holder into the game to face the middle of the Blue Jays’ lineup in his second MLB appearance was not Girardi’s finest move. Holder walked Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to load the bases in the seventh, then Ben Heller came in and gave up the two-run single to Edwin Encarnacion to cut the lead to 5-3. Maybe go with the experienced guys over the kids against hitters that good next time, Joe. Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances closed the door in the eighth and ninth after it got interesting.
  • Leftovers: Austin seems to be coming around. He went 2-for-3 with two doubles … Aaron Judge, meanwhile, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. This is getting painful. At least he robbed a near homer without jumping … Didi Gregorius went 0-fot-4 with two strikeouts and has been slumping for a week or two now … Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro had one hit each while Chase Headley and Austin Romine each drew a walk … the Orioles won, so the Yankees remain 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Blue Jays continue this three-game series with the middle game Tuesday night. Luis Cessa and Aaron Sanchez are the scheduled starters. There are only 15 home games left this season, so head over to RAB Tickets if you want catch any of them live.

Labor Day Open Thread

Happy Labor Day to all of you out there in the workforce. Hope you’re having a great weekend. Here is an open thread for the rest of the day. ESPN is showing the Pirates and Cardinals this afternoon, and MLB Network is showing a regular game later tonight. There’s also some college football on later. Talk about any of that stuff right here. Go nuts.

Game 136: Blue Jays on Labor Day

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

This afternoon the Yankees start a ten-game homestand against three teams they aren’t chasing in the standings. Well, technically they are chasing the Blue Jays, but the AL East title is out of reach at this point. The Yankees have to focus on the second wildcard spot. One thing at a time.

The Blue Jays have owned the Yankees since the second half of last season. It’s not even funny anymore. They’re 18-7 against New York since last year’s trade deadline, including 10-3 at Yankee Stadium, and good gravy is that capital-A Annoying. The only way the Yankees can get to the postseason this year is by putting an end to that. They have seven games left with Toronto and they have to start beating them. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  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 Austin Romine
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a little cloudy in New York today but otherwise the weather is really nice. Temperatures in the low-80s and no humidity. Nice afternoon to spend at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Greg Bird (shoulder) has joined the Yankees but he won’t be activated. He’s going to rehab with the team rather than in Tampa. Bird threw in the outfield and took swings in the batting cage for the first time since surgery today. He’ll face live pitching in Instructional League later this month before heading to the Arizona Fall League.

Rotation Update: Joe Girardi said the plan right now is to replaced the injured Chad Green with a bullpen day on Wednesday. There are eleven relievers in the bullpen right now, plus the Yankees could always call up more now that rosters expanded, so innings won’t be a problem. Will they be quality innings? That’s a very different question.

9/5 to 9/7 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

"Hmmm, he must work out." (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
“He must work out.” (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Is this is a big homestand? Yes, this is a big homestand. The Yankees open this ten-game homestand with the first of three against the Blue Jays this afternoon, a team that has completely dominated them since last year’s trade deadline. The Bombers are 7-18 against the Blue Jays since last July 31st, including 3-10 at Yankee Stadium. Woof. If the Yankees want to get to the postseason, they have to start beating the Blue Jays and soon. No way around it.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays dropped two of three to last place Rays over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean anything. They’ve been playing pretty well for a few months now. Toronto is 77-59 with a +101 run differential on the season. They’re one game up on the Red Sox in the AL East and five games up on a postseason spot in general. The Yankees, meanwhile, are 3.5 games back of both the Orioles and Tigers for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

Toronto’s offense isn’t quite as dominant as it was last year, but they’re still averaging 5.01 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+. They’re also second in MLB with 197 home runs. (The O’s have 214 homers, far and away the most in baseball.) The Blue Jays are completely healthy on the position player side right now. No one on the DL and no one even day-to-day. Must be nice.

Bautista. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Bautista. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Manager John Gibbons stacks his heavy hitters right at the top of the lineup. RF Jose Bautista (112 wRC+) hits first, 3B Josh Donaldson (161 wRC+) hits second, and DH Edwin Encarnacion (136 wRC+) hits third. Donaldson very well might win MVP again. Lately the molten hot C Russell Martin (106 wRC+) has been hitting cleanup — he’s hit nine homers in his last 18 games — with LF Michael Saunders (127 wRC+) and SS Troy Tulowitzki (104 wRC+) behind him in some order. That is a pretty great top six.

1B Justin Smoak (95 wRC+), CF Kevin Pillar (80 wRC+), and 2B Devon Travis (108 wRC+) are the other regulars. For the most part the Blue Jays have a set lineup. They don’t platoon much or anything like that. OF Melvin Upton (86 wRC+) is the regular fourth outfielder and IF Darwin Barney (87 wRC+) the regular backup infielder. Ex-Yankees farmhand C Dioner Navarro (59 wRC+) is now the backup catcher. C Josh Thole, IF Ryan Goins, OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Darrell Ceciliani, and OF Dalton Pompey are the September additions.

The Blue Jays are a very good team defensively. Bautista is the weak link because he’s lost a lot of range in right, though he still has a strong arm. Pillar, Donaldson, and Martin are all excellent while Saunders, Tulowitzki, Smoak, and Travis are merely a bit above average. I thought Toronto didn’t receive nearly enough attention for being as good as they are defensively last season. All the focus was on the bats and understandably so, but this team catches the ball too.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (1:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
A few years ago the Blue Jays acquired Dickey to be their ace, and now he’s their sixth best starter. The 41-year-old has a 4.43 ERA (5.14 FIP) in 27 starts and 160.1 innings, and while his ground ball rate (43.6%) is right where it normally is, his strikeout (17.0%), walk (8.9%), and homer (1.52 HR/9) numbers are much worse than they have been the last few seasons. Dickey has a small platoon split, and right now his knuckleball sits in the mid-70s while his show-me fastball averages 82 mph. He used to throw two knuckleballs with the Mets — a slow one in the low-70s and a harder one in the upper-70s — but not anymore. Not sure what happened there. The Yankees have only seen Dickey twice this season. They scored four runs in 6.2 innings in May, and one run in five innings in August.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
The Blue Jays are using a six-man rotation right now because they need to keep Sanchez’s innings in check. He’s thrown 162.1 innings this year, already well beyond his previous career high of 133.1 innings set back in 2014. The 24-year-old Sanchez has a 2.88 ERA (3.36 FIP) in those 162.1 innings, so he’s been outstanding. He might finish in the top three of the Cy Young voting. At least top five, I would think. Sanchez is a strikeout (20.1%) and ground ball (56.8%) machine who keeps the ball in the park (0.61 HR/9) and won’t kill himself with walks (7.4 BB%). Lefties have more success against him than righties because his changeup, while improved, still lags considerably behind his trademark mid-90s sinker and upper-70s curveball. Sanchez’s fastball is ridiculous. He pounds the bottom of the zone with the sinker all day and it’s damn near impossible to hit in the air. The Yankees scored two runs (one earned) in six innings against Sanchez way back in April, then he held them scoreless across 6.2 innings in June. Been a while since they’ve faced each other.

The lesser Sanchez. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
The lesser Sanchez. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
Stroman, 25, was expected to emerge as the staff ace this season, and instead he has a 4.58 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 27 starts and 173 innings. He’s also beyond his previous career high in innings (166.1 in 2014). Stroman has good peripherals (19.7 K%, 5.8 BB%, 61.1 GB%, 0.99 HR/9) and his platoon split isn’t huge, yet he has had a hard time keeping runs off the board because he’s easier to square up than his stuff would lead you to believe. He legitimately throws six pitches: mid-90s four-seamers and sinkers, low-90s cutters, upper-80s sliders and changeups, and a low-80s curveball. The sinker, cutter, and slider are his three main offerings. Having watched him this year, it Stroman seems to either overthink things or just get too cute by trying to beat hitters with his fifth or sixth best pitch (curve and change) rather than simply going for the kill when ahead in the count. Somehow the Yankees have only seen Stroman once this year and that was way back in April, in the third series of the season. He held them to two runs in eight innings.

As for the Yankees, their starter for Wednesday is still up in the air following Chad Green’s injury. It won’t be Luis Severino, who threw two innings and 38 pitches yesterday. Bryan Mitchell lines up perfectly to start Wednesday, though Joe Girardi seemed to indicate they don’t think he’s ready for big league duty yet. They want him to continue working in Triple-A to shake off the rust following the toe injury. That doesn’t mean Mitchell can’t start Wednesday. It just means the Yankees seem a little hesitant to go to him. I think there’s a chance they’ll go with a bullpen game now that rosters have expanded. Two innings from one guy, two innings from the next guy, two innings from someone else after that … so on and so forth. We’ll see.

Bullpen Status

Earlier this year the bullpen was a major weakness for the Blue Jays, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a strength right now, it is improved. Here is the relief crew Gibbons has to work with:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (2.44 ERA/2.93 FIP)
Setup: RHP Jason Grilli (3.02/3.45), RHP Joe Biagini (2.51/2.59)
Middle: RHP Joaquin Benoit (3.18/4.06), LHP Brett Cecil (4.71/4.06), RHP Ryan Tepera (3.38/4.74)
Long: RHP Scott Feldman (3.60/4.80)
Extra: RHP Danny Barnes, LHP Matt Dermody

It’s worth noting the Blue Jays used veteran LHP Francisco Liriano (5.35/5.24) out of the bullpen over the weekend, and while they say they intend to give him more starts down the stretch, I suppose we can’t rule out seeing him in relief at some point.

Anyway, the 21-year-old Osuna recently became the youngest pitcher in baseball history to record a 30-save season. That’s because most pitchers his age are still starters, but still. Impressive. Biagini is a Rule 5 Draft pick who has worked out well, and Grilli just keeps on keepin’ on. Benoit and Cecil have had some very nice years in the past, but not this year. They’ve been shaky.

J.A. Happ didn’t make it out of the third inning yesterday, forcing Gibbons to use Barnes (29 pitches), Feldman (17 pitches), Benoit (20 pitches), Grilli (ten pitches), and Osuna (15 pitches). None of those guys have pitched back-to-back days though, so the bullpen’s not in terrible shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for Joe Girardi’s recent reliever usage.

Yankeemetrics: Disaster averted in Baltimore [Sept. 2-4]


Nightmare on Eutaw Street
It’s hard to think of a worse start to September baseball for the Yankees than the shellacking they endured on Friday night in Baltimore.

All the momentum they had piled up after an inspiring series win in Kansas City was suddenly gone after their deflating 8-0 loss to the Orioles. This was the worst shutout loss the Yankees have ever suffered at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. The last time they had a shutout loss that bad in Baltimore was Sept. 9, 1991 at Memorial Stadium.

The Yankees fell behind quickly as the O’s hammered them early and often with all eight runs and four homers in the first four innings. This was the eighth game this year that the Yankees surrendered at least four longballs, the most such games in a season in franchise history.

Their punchless offense did little to counter the awful performance by the pitching staff, hitting just two singles in the third inning. Welp. It had been more than a decade since they played a game in Baltimore and had two hits or fewer: on August 5, 2006 Adam Loewen, Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins combined for a one-hitter in the Orioles 5-0 win. (Yes, that game really happened.)

Deja booooo
The Yankees’ September swoon continued on Saturday night as they were shut out for the second game in a row, 2-0, extending their recent stretch of miserable baseball in Baltimore. Following Saturday’s loss, they fell to 10-26 at Camden Yards since the start of 2013, their worst record at any American League ballpark in that span, and the worst mark by any AL team at Camden Yards over the past four seasons.

girardi sad

It was just a week ago that the Yankees scored an unthinkable 27 (!) runs in the first two games of their series against this same team (Orioles), and then they scored exactly zero runs in the first two games of this series. That’s baseball, folks.

The end result was their ninth game being shut out this season — four of which have come against the Orioles, who rank 12th in the AL in team ERA — and the eighth time they’ve been shut out in a game away from Yankee Stadium. Those eight road shutouts are the most they’ve suffered in a single season since 1973 when they somehow had 12 (!) of them.

For the second night in a row the Yankees’ bats were silenced as they finished with just four hits, all of them singles again. In the last 100 seasons, only once before had the Yankees been held scoreless with four hits or fewer — and no extra-base hits — in back-to-back road games versus the same opponent: the Kansas City A’s did it to them on Aug. 27-28, 1965.

Even worse is the fact that Saturday’s game marked the third straight time the Orioles had blanked the Yankees, dating back to a 5-0 loss in the final game of their matchup last week.

The 2016 Orioles are the eighth team in baseball history to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees, but just the second one to do it in the last 75 years. The rest of this group includes the 1973 White Sox, 1934 Tigers, 1929 Browns, 1913 Senators, 1909 Browns, 1908 Senators and 1906 White Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stayin’ alive
The Yankees kept their scant playoff dreams alive with a season-saving win on Sunday afternoon, avoiding the series sweep in what Joe Girardi deemed “the most important game of the year”.

After getting blanked in the first two games, the Yankees wasted little time in making sure it wouldn’t be a hat trick. They plated three runs in the first inning thanks to a couple RBI hits by Chase Headley and Austin Romine. And, mercifully, disaster was averted in Yankeeland.

We also get to trumpet our “If That Had Happened Yankeemetric of the Week” (cap-tip to Mark Simon for that name … he is also more famous for authoring an excellent Yankees book, which I guarantee you will enjoy if you are reading this post):

As noted above, the Orioles were the eighth team to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees. No team had ever allowed zero runs in four consecutive games versus the Yankees, and that statistical fact will remain intact in the record books … for now.

While the Bronx Bombers did manage to finally put runs on the scoreboard, their six hits were all singles for the third straight game. This is just the second time in the last three decades the Yankees went three games in a row without an extra-base hit; the other streak was May 13-16, 2000 against the Tigers and White Sox.

You have to go back even further to find the last time an opponent held the Yankees without an extra-base hit in three consecutive games within a series: the Orioles did it in September 1976.

The biggest outs of the game were recorded by Luis Severino, who took over for Pineda in the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging to a two-run lead, a runner on second base and no one out. He got himself into a bases-loaded jam but escaped without allowing a run, and then threw a perfect sixth inning to earn the win.

Here’s some fun with small sample sizes: In 11 1/3 innings as a bullpen arm, Severino has faced 40 batters. Just one of those guys has a hit (an infield single by Neil Walker on August 3), and nearly one-third (13) of them have struck out. He is the only pitcher in baseball this season that has faced at least 30 batters as a reliever, allowed zero earned runs and no more than one hit.

Fan Confidence Poll: September 5th, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-3 (20 RS, 28 RA)
Season Record: 70-65 (572 RS, 589 RA, 66-69 pythag. record), 3.5 GB of postseason spot
Opponents This Week: @ Royals (three games, Mon. to Thurs.), Thurs. OFF, @ Orioles (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab in the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

DotF: Tampa splits swept in a doubleheader on the final day of the regular season

Good news: OF Clint Frazier (hamstring) is “ready to go,” Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique told Shane Hennigan. Frazier could play in the regular season finale tomorrow as a tune-up for the playoffs.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Syracuse, walk-off style) their regular season ends tomorrow … their first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) starts Wednesday (best-of-five)

  • LF Mark Payton: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
  • DH-C Kyle Higashioka: 0-5, 1 RBI, 2 K — had the walk-off fielder’s choice … the third baseman threw to second for the inning-ending force out, but he double-clutched and Payton was safe, allowing the run to score from third
  • RF Cesar Puello: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • 3B Jose Rosario: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing) — singled in the game-tying run in the eighth … this team keeps losing their best players to call-ups (and a trade), yet they keep winning
  • CF Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — first dinger since July 8th … he’s not really a power hitter, but still, that’s a long time
  • RHP Matt Wotherspoon: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 33 of 50 pitches were strikes … the Scranton native made the spot start because they’re lining up their rotation for the postseason … looks like LHP Jordan Montgomery will get the ball in Game One on Wednesday
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 27 of 45 pitches were strikes (60%)
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 34 of 49 pitches were strikes (69%) … finishes the season with a 3.59 ERA and an 82/23 K/BB in 72.2 innings this season … is that good enough to get a 40-man roster spot or picked in the Rule 5 Draft this winter?
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 12 of 20 pitches were strikes (60%) … finishes with a 2.61 ERA and a 49/23 K/BB in 48.1 Triple-A innings

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