8/22 to 8/24 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The West Coast road trip continues with three games in Seattle. This is a pretty huge series, you know. The Yankees are still trying to gain ground in the wildcard race and the Mariners are one of the five teams ahead of them. (Yes, five.) This series is a big chance to make up ground. The Yankees dropped two of three to the Mariners in Yankee Stadium way back in April. That was the fourth series of 2016.

What Have They Done Lately?

Things were going well for the Mariners until yesterday. They won 12 of their previous 15 games before blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon. The bullpen gave up four runs to the rebuilding Brewers. Ouch. The Mariners are 66-57 with a +51 run differential overall. They’re six games back of the Rangers in the AL West and one game back of the Orioles for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

The Mariners are, for the first time in a long time, a really good offensive team. They’re averaging 4.71 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+. They also rank third in baseball with 172 home runs. How about that? The M’s are generally healthy as well. The only injured position player is backup C Steve Clevinger — he’s the guy they got from the Orioles for Mark Trumbo (oops) — who is out with broken hand. They don’t even miss him. Clevinger won’t be back this series.

Cruz. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Cruz. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Seattle hits all those homers thanks largely to their 3-4-5 hitters: 2B Robinson Cano (136 wRC+), DH Nelson Cruz (147 wRC+), and 3B Kyle Seager (138 wRC+). Those three can all mash. Lately LF Nori Aoki (90 wRC+) and UTIL Shawn O’Malley (92 wRC+) have been platooning in left field and the leadoff spot. OF Franklin Gutierrez (108 wRC+) and RF Seth Smith (111 wRC+) have been platooning in right field and the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Those guys generally make up the top of the lineup.

1B Adam Lind (90 wRC+) and UTIL Stefan Romero (48 wRC+) have been platooning at first base lately. Lind always seems to crush the Yankees, doesn’t he? C Mike Zunino (191 wRC+) and C Chris Iannetta (83 wRC+) share catching duties. SS Ketel Marte (71 wRC+) and CF Leonys Martin (93 wRC+) are the other regulars. The Mariners really put their bench to use. They have platoons in two of the three outfield spots, at first base, and behind the plate. There are no dead roster spots here.

Defensively, the Mariners are very good in center field and the three non-first base infield positions. Behind the plate as well. Iannetta and Zunino are both really good. The corner outfield spots and first base are sore spots regardless of who’s out there on a given day. Well, I shouldn’t say that. O’Malley is pretty good. The other guys are liabilities.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (10:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Cody Martin (No vs. NYY)
Martin, 26, went from the Braves to the Athletics to the Mariners in cash trades last year. He’s spent most of this season in Triple-A, where he has a 3.93 ERA (3.59 FIP) with good strikeout (23.2%) and walk (7.0%) rates in 103 innings. Martin has allowed five runs in 14.1 big league innings since being called up, striking out seven and walking three. Lefties have clobbered him (1.103 OPS) in very limited time. This season Martin is averaging about 89 mph with his four-seam fastball and a tick below that with his cutter, so he’s not a hard-thrower. A mid-70s curveball is his go-to secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in some low-80s changeups. This isn’t someone who will blow hitters away.

Tuesday (10:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. TBA
The Mariners have not yet announced tomorrow’s starter as of this writing, though the expectation is young right-hander Taijuan Walker will be called up from Triple-A. The 24-year-old has had a rocky 2016 season (4.10 ERA and 4.88 FIP in 90 innings) and he’s also missed time with a foot injury. The team sent him down earlier this month to work on things. Before being sent down, Walker had very good strikeout (21.2%) and walk (5.3%) rates, but he didn’t get grounders (43.0%) or keep the ball in the park (1.90 HR/9). Righties have had more success against him than lefties, though in the past he had a tiny platoon split. Walker sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he throws it a ton, often more than 70% of the time within a start. An upper-80s splitter is his primary offspeed pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-80s cutter and a mid-70s curveball. The Yankees did not face Walker when these two clubs met earlier this season.

Walker. (Scott Halleran/Getty)
Walker. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

If Walker does not start for some reason — the Mariners could decide he needs more work in the minors — then chances are ex-Yankee lefty Wade LeBlanc would get the ball. He has a 4.72 ERA (6.02 FIP) in 47.2 innings with Seattle this season. LeBlanc would be on three days’ rest tomorrow. The French David Huff threw 91 pitches Friday.

Wednesday (3:40pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
Last year Tanaka and Iwakuma became the first former NPB teammates to face each other in the big leagues. The two spent the 2007-11 seasons together with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. They’ll get a chance to face each other again later this week. That’s pretty cool. Iwakuma, 35, has a 3.78 ERA (4.21 FIP) in 25 starts and 157 innings this season, so he’s been rock solid as usual. His strikeouts (17.6%) and grounders (36.4%) are down, but he makes up for it by limiting walks (5.2%). Homers (1.26 HR/9) are an issue, but that’s been the case since the day he arrived in the big leagues. Iwakuma has a tiny platoon split because his knockout mid-80s splitter is a true equalizer. He sets it up with upper-80s four-seamers and sinkers, and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curves. Iwakuma is definitely not a power pitcher. The Yankees scored four runs against him in seven innings back in April.

Bullpen Status

The Mariners have completely overhauled their bullpen through a combination of trades, signings, and call-ups this season. They have a new closer, a new setup man, and two new middle relievers. Here is the bullpen Servais is working with these days:

Closer: RHP Edwin Diaz (2.31 ERA/1.83 FIP)
Setup: RHP Arquimedes Caminero (3.35/4.38), RHP Steve Cishek (3.33/3.89)
Middle: RHP Drew Storen (5.77/4.80), RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (7.20/6.45), RHP Nick Vincent (4.01/4.32)
Long: LHP Vidal Nuno (2.76/3.91)

Cishek started the year as closer but has since lost the job. He, Vincent, and Nuno are the only holdovers from the Opening Day bullpen. Diaz was called up at midseason and is basically their Dellin Betances. He’s struck out 43.3% of the batters he’s faced as a big leaguer. Crazy. Caminero and Storen came over in minor trades and Wilhelmsen was signed after being released by the Rangers. Seattle traded him for Martin in the offseason.

Servais had to dip deep into his bullpen yesterday. Cishek (three pitches), Vincent (nine pitches), Caminero (16 pitches), Wilhelmsen (22 pitches), and Nuno (23 pitches) all pitched yesterday afternoon. Only Cishek pitched both Saturday and Sunday, however. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen.

Yankeemetrics: And the kids shall lead them [Aug. 19-21]

(AP)
(AP)

Torre-yes?!
The rookies continued to shine, while the underrated ace delivered yet another gem, and the Yankees opened their final West Coast trip of the season with a strong 7-0 win over the Angels on Friday night.

Gary Sanchez’s record-breaking feats have become commonplace since his call-up a few weeks ago, and Friday night’s superb 3-for-4, two-double performance was no exception. Through Friday, 10 of Sanchez’s 21 hits as a major-leaguer had been for extra-bases, putting him in elite company at this point in his career.

The last Yankee to compile 10 or more extra-base hits within his first 16 MLB games was a fella by the name of Joe DiMaggio, who went 30-for-73 (.411) and had 10 doubles, a triple and two homers in the first 16 games he played as a rookie in 1936.

Sanchez had an unlikely Baby Bomber co-star, with the diminutive Ronald Torreyes contributing a 4-for-4 night. He had a double and a homer in his first two at-bats, matching the number of extra-base hits he had in his previous 72 at-bats, dating back to the third game of the season he played on April 13.

It was also a most unlikely performance from a guy hitting at the bottom of the order. The only other non-pitcher in franchise history to have at least four hits, three runs scored and two RBI in a game from the No. 9 spot was Juan Rivera on Sept. 27, 2003 against the Orioles.

Masahiro Tanaka dominated the Angels lineup, surrendering just five singles over 7 ? scoreless innings while striking out nine with no walks. It was his third straight game with at least eight strikeouts and no walks, the first Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to put together a streak like that.

His effective mix of low-90s fastballs, nasty sliders and darting splitters was key in helping the Yankees stop their mini-two-game slide heading into this series. Tanaka is now 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts following a Yankee loss, and the Yankees are 9-2 in those games.

Through Friday’s slate, 167 major-league pitchers had made at least five starts after a team loss this season. Tanaka’s 1.85 ERA ranks first among that group.

(AP)
(AP)

Cessa makes strong first impression
The Angels — and Angel Stadium — had become somewhat of a kryptonite for the Yankees over the past decade. From 2005-15, the Angels were the only AL team that the Yankees had a losing record against (45-49) , and their 16-30 record in Anaheim was easily their worst at any AL ballpark in that span.

The script has been flipped in 2016, though, as the Yankee improved to 6-0 against the Angels in 2016 following Saturday’s 5-1 win. With only one game remaining in the season series, they clinched their best single-season winning percentage in franchise history against the Angels. The previous high-water mark was a 10-2 (.833) record in 1980.

The youngsters led the way again with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combining to drive in three of the five runs and Luis Cessa pitching brilliantly in his first major-league start.

Sanchez opened the scoring with a two-out solo homer in the first inning, his sixth time going deep in the majors. The only other Yankee to hit six homers within his first 17 career games was Shelley Duncan (2007).

Judge’s two-RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Yankees a nice 5-0 cushion, continuing his success in key situations so far in his brief big-league career. It’s a very small sample size, but so far Judge hasn’t been fazed by the pressure: he’s 5-for-13 (.385) with men on base, 3-for-6 (.500) with runners in scoring position, and 6-for-12 (.500) in medium/high-leverage at-bats.

Cessa became the latest Yankee newcomer to take a turn as the star performer, tossing six-plus scoreless innings with three hits allowed and five strikeouts. He is just the second Yankee in the last two decades to pitch at least six scoreless innings and win in his first career start, joining Jose Contreras in 2003.

The elusive third win
After outscoring the Angels 12-1 in dominating the first two games of this series, the Yankee bats went limp in the finale on Sunday afternoon, getting blanked 2-0. Amazingly, the Yankees have yet to sweep a three-game set this season (although they do own a pair of four-game sweeps).

ellsbury catch
(AP)

The loss snapped a seven-game win streak over the Angels dating back to last season, which was tied for their longest win streak in the history of this series (they also won seven in a row spanning the 1980-81 seasons).

The Yankees wasted a strong performance by rookie Chad Green, who took the loss despite throwing six innings of one-run ball. He is the only Yankee starter ever to lose a game against the Angels while allowing no more than one run and five baserunners. In fact, no Yankee had done that against any team in nearly two years (Michael Pineda on Sept. 5, 2014 vs. Royals).

The Yankees miserable trend of failing to hit in the clutch continued as they went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position. They are now batting .228 with RISP this season, which would be their worst mark since 1969 (.224).

Fan Confidence Poll: August 22nd, 2016

Record Last Week: 3-3 (23 RS, 22 RA)
Season Record: 63-60 (510 RS, 539 RA, 57-66 pythag. record), 4.0 GB of postseason spot
Opponents This Week: @ Mariners (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. 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: Rutherford returns in Pulaski’s doubleheader

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. The game was canceled and will not be made up.

Double-A Trenton (10-2 win over Hartford)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-5, 2 R — 12-for-33 (.364) in his last eight games, so he’s not fading late like he did a year ago
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B — up to .285/.317/.450 while playing in a big time pitcher’s park
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — 7-for-20 (.350) during his little five-game hitting streak
  • DH Abi Avelino: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RHP Will Carter: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 11/2 GB/FB — 46 of 82 pitches were strikes (56%), plus he picked a runner off first … he’s having success in Double-A one year after being a 14th round pick … nice find by the scouting staff
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 27 of 44 pitches were strikes (61%) … 57/17 K/BB in 52.1 innings

[Read more…]

Yankees can’t finish the sweep, fall 2-0 to the Angels


Source: FanGraphs

Blah. That was a frustrating game. Nothing worse than wasting a quality pitching performance. The Yankees lost Sunday afternoon’s series finale 2-0 to the Angels and were unable to complete the sweep. Again. They’ve done that a lot this season. Let’s recap this crummy loss with bullet points:

  • Green the Great: Another impressive performance by Chad Green. He held the Angels to one run in six innings — the run scored on a bloop, a walk, and a ground ball single — and retired 16 of the final 19 batters he faced. Green struck out five and did get some help from Jacoby Ellsbury, who robbed Albert Pujols of a two-run home run in the fifth inning. Here’s the video. Really nice outing by Green. Hopefully he strings a few more together.
  • NOffense: The Yankees can’t say they didn’t have any chances. They had two runners on base in the third, fourth, and eighth innings, yet went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. (Of course the one hit didn’t score a run.) The Yankees had their best chance to score in the third, when Brett Gardner grounded into an inning-ending double play with runners in corners. Didi Gregorius (strikeout) and Starlin Castro (ground out) didn’t come through with two on in the eighth. Offensive showings don’t get much less enjoyable.
  • Leftovers: Castro and Aaron Hicks each had two hits. The rest of the Yankees had two hits (Gregorius, Mark Teixeira) … Anthony Swarzak threw a scoreless seventh inning, and for the life of me I can not understand why he was pitching in a one-run game. It worked, but that only means Joe Girardi will use him in a close game again … Adam Warren allowed an insurance run on three ground ball singles.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. The Yankees are now going up to Seattle for a three-game series with the Fightin’ Canos. Ex-Mariner Michael Pineda will be opposed by Cody Martin, whoever that is.

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Mets and Giants are the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (Syndergaard vs. Samardzija), plus the Olympic closing ceremonies are on too. That’ll be fun. You all know how these open threads work by now, so have at it.

Game 123: Finish the Sweep

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The Yankees have thoroughly manhandled the Angels the last two days, winning the first two games of this series by the combined score of 12-1. Last night they were three outs away from throwing back-to-back shutouts against an AL team for the first time since 2009. (They did it to the Mets in 2014.) The Angels stink, yeah, but it’s still fun to see the Yankees playing so well, especially after the kids were called up.

This afternoon’s game is a chance to finish not just the series sweep, but the season series sweep. The Yankees are a perfect 6-0 against the Angels this season, and that’s pretty cool. The last time they swept a season series of at least seven games was 2009, when they did it to the Twins. Figures. They then swept Minnesota in the ALDS that year too. Here are Angels’ lineup and Yankees’ lineup for today’s game:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. 1B Mark Teixeira
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Chad Green

The weather is great in Anaheim again. Pretty nice afternoon to spend at the ballpark. Today’s series finale is set to begin at 3:35pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.