Big flies and Big Mike lead Yankees to a 4-2 win over Royals

A two-game winning streak! It was a relatively stress-free win over the Royals on Monday. Good starting pitching, good hitting and good bullpen generally equal in a win and that’s pretty much what happened tonight.

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Big Mike!

Tonight’s Michael Pineda was good, not perfect, but again, good. I’ll take a start like that any day. He got the obligatory HR out of the way in the third inning when he allowed one against Jorge Bonifacio on this meatball pitch.

bandicam-2017-05-23-08-45-29-004

Fastball right down the middle of the plate. Don’t need Statcast to tell you how bad a pitch that was. Pineda allowed another run in that inning. Whit Merrifield reached on an infield single and Alcides Escobar followed it up with an RBI double right down the left field line to make it 2-0 Royals. That was all the damage Pineda allowed tonight. From the third inning and on, he had at least one baserunner every frame but he got out of it on the fourth, fifth and sixth innings unscathed.

One of the reasons why Pineda was able to limit the damage was because of the whiffs. He struck out six total and generated a 34.9% whiff rate on his slider (15 total in 43 pitches). He also got 9 whiffs with his changeup (out of 14 thrown), which is also a pretty good sign. He’ll give up hard-hit balls once in awhile but he can make hitters look quite foolish. That’s the polarity of the Michael Pineda.

His final line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. His season ERA is down to 3.35. An interesting thing is that he’s allowed HR’s in a higher clip this year (1.84 HR/9 IP) than last year (1.38 HR/9 IP), yet he’s having a much better season. 23.4% of the fly balls he’s induced have turned into home runs (a bit less than one out of four), which is concerning. We’ll see if that number goes down or stays that way during the season though.

The home runs!

All four of the Yankee runs scored on home runs. I like. They did not hit Jason Vargas as hard as the last time they faced him (6 ER in 4 IP), but the damage was good enough to take a victory.

Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the third, Brett Gardner got the scoring started with a solo home run off Vargas. That is his 9th home run in the previous 92 plate appearances, which is good for a 9.78 % rate. Quite crazy to think that he’s hitting home runs lately with the same frequency as, let’s say, 1927 Babe Ruth. He’s also hitting .281/.373/.527 this season, which is great. For reference, Yoenis Cespedes hit .280/.354/540 last year. Gardy’s line is probably not sustainable but boy, it’s fun to see him hit all the dingers.

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

The Yankees cashed in two more in the fourth. With Aaron Judge on second, Didi Gregorius hit a home run into the right field seats to make it 3-2 Yankees. Dude showed promise with how good he could hit back in the Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic, and he’s not lost a beat. The shortstop is hitting .333/.365/.444 after today (121 wRC+). I’ll take that from him all season.

New York got an insurance run in the eighth with a Chris Carter solo home run off Seth Maness. Carter is having a very bad season (.209/.296/.360), but at least he has a respectable .151 ISO, which is still not his normal level but hey, it’s something. That home run gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead, which they’d hold on for good.

Leftovers

Adam Warren, the new seventh-inning guy, came in to relieve Pineda with one out and runner on first. He struck out Merrifield but threw a wild pitch to let Jorge Soler go to the second base. With two outs, Escobar hit a grounder towards the middle. Starlin Castro caught it and threw it to first but the runner was ruled safe. In the meantime, Soler ran towards home to score a tying run. Well, it was the tying run until the Yankees decided to challenge the call at first. It seemed like a very, very close play but the umpires made the decision to overturn it relatively quickly. The run was cancelled and Yankees held a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.

Tyler Clippard threw a perfect 1-2-3 eighth and Dellin Betances held the Royals scoreless after allowing a leadoff single for his third save of the year. We all know that Clippard is a capable late-inning reliever but he’s having a great 2017 so far: 1.37 ERA/2.83 FIP is a number you’d expect from a top-flight set-up man or a closer. With Aroldis Chapman on the shelf, it’s been pretty vital that Clippard steps up, and he has. Dellin? He’s at 0.61 ERA/1.33 FIP with a 15.95 K/9 PI rate. Just destroying the competition right there.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph. The YES broadcasters were having fun with win probability towards the end. Michael Kay ended the game with a “Strike three, win probability 100 percent!” call.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will play the Royals again tomorrow at YS3. It’ll be a repeat of the Danny Duffy – Jordan Montgomery matchup from this past Thursday.

DotF: Austin continues rehab, Andujar has big game in AA win

Some notes to start the day:

  • Double-A Trenton hitting coach Tom Slater broke down SS Gleyber Torres‘ swing frame-by-frame with Josh Norris, so make sure you check that out. Torres, as you know, was promoted to Triple-A Scranton yesterday.
  • RHP Yefrey Ramirez was named the Double-A Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. He allowed three runs on seven hits and four walks in 13 innings spread across two starts. Also struck out 15 batters. Nice week, Yefrey.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day. Gleyber’s Triple-A debut will have to wait until tomorrow.

Double-A Trenton (6-1 win over Reading)

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 E (throwing) — with Torres in Triple-A, shortstop figures to be all his going forward
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K — played five innings in his third rehab game … he played his first game at DH, his second game at first base, and his third game at right field, so they’re moving him around already
  • DH Jake Cave: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 3-3, 1 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 SB — 8-for-26 (.308) with three doubles and two homers in his last seven games
  • LF Billy McKinney: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 SB
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 CS
  • LHP Justus Sheffield: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 61 of 94 pitches were strikes (65%), plus he picked a runner off first … had allowed at least four runs in each of his last four starts, so good to see him bounce back well

High-A Tampa (4-3 win over Jupiter)

  • CF Jorge Mateo: 1-4, 2 K — he’s played center field in four of his last six games
  • SS Kyle Holder: 2-4, 2 R, 1 K, 1 SB — 9-for-20 (.450) during his little five-game hitting streak
  • 2B Nick Solak & RF Trey Amburgey: 0-4, 1 K
  • DH Chris Gittens: 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K — 11-for-27 (.407) with four doubles and three homers in his last eight games
  • 3B Gosuke Katoh: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — his huge pro debut in the Gulf Coast League feels like a lifetime ago
  • RHP Taylor Widener: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 4/2 GB/FB — 51 of 75 pitches were strikes (68%) … 43/12 K/BB in 42.2 innings for the converted reliever … not quite Chance Adams-esque, but pretty good

Low-A Charleston was rained out. They’re going to make this game up as part of a doubleheader on June 10th.

Game 42: The Royals, Again

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once again, the Yankees are playing the Royals, this time in New York rather than Kansas City. The Yankees took two of three from the 2015 World Series champions at Kauffman Stadium last week. Since that series, both teams have lost two of three on the road. The Yankees did so in Tampa Bay, the Royals in Minnesota.

Anyway, this is a pretty important homestand for the Yankees. Important probably isn’t the right word. It’s a good opportunity. That’s better. Seven games against the Royals and Athletics, two of the worst teams in baseball, is a great chance to pad the ol’ win-loss record a bit. One game at a time though. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

It rained in New York much of the day, but the rain has stopped, and there’s none in the forecast the rest of the night. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Greg Bird (ankle) took dry swings today. It was his first time swinging a bat since being placed on the disabled list. Bird is scheduled to hit off a tee and soft toss tomorrow.

HOPE Week: Today was the first day of HOPE Week, one of the best weeks of the year. Several Yankees went to the Bronx Zoo to help benefit the Icla da Silva Foundation, which recruits bone marrow donors. Here are some photos.

5/22 to 5/25 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)
(Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)

This feels all too familiar, doesn’t it? The schedule-makers have a strange sense of humor. Nevertheless, the Yankees will spend the next seven games at home, hosting the teams with the worst and second-worst run differentials in the American League in back-to-back series. Playing twenty games in twenty days is never ideal, but playing subpar teams makes it a bit more palatable.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees took two out of three from the Royals last week, reaching a season-high eleven games above .500 along the way. Some other points of interest include:

  • CC Sabathia showed signs of life in the first game, going 6.2 scoreless innings, and allowing just seven base-runners, while striking out four. He didn’t allow a runner to reach second until the 7th inning.
  • Jason Vargas allowed 6 ER in 4 IP in Wednesday’s start, increasing his ERA on the season from a video game-like 1.01 to a merely terrific 2.03.
  • The Yankees teased a comeback in the third game. They entered the ninth trailing 5-0, and the first two batters (Starlin Castro and Aaron Judge) reached base. Didi Gregorius drove in a run with one-out, but Kelvin Herrera settled down after that, retiring Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner with two on-base. The team went 2-for-14 with RISP overall.

You can check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fine details.

Injury Report

Ian Kennedy returned from the disabled list yesterday, and was promptly roughed-up by the Twins (2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 1 K). Unfortunately for the Royals, he may be replaced on the DL by Nate Karns, who exited his start on Friday with forearm stiffness. An examination revealed a fluid build-up near his elbow, but no strain or other damage; he’s listed as day-to-day, but that doesn’t sound good.

Their Story So Far

Not much has changed for the Royals since last week’s series preview – they’re still last in the majors in runs scored, though the offense does appear to be trending in the right direction.

The Lineup We Might See

Ned Yost continues to mix and match with his lineups, with Alcides Escobar seemingly the only player locked into a particular spot. Much of that stems from poor performances from players like Alex Gordon, Brandon Moss, and Jorge Soler, as well as the newfound attempts to keep Mike Moustakas away from southpaws. They used three different lineups against the Yankees last week, and three different lineups against the Twins this past weekend, so it’s all conjecture at this point. I’ll hazard that this is the mean for what Yost will trot out this week:

  1. Alcides Escobar, SS
  2. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  3. Lorenzo Cain, CF
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Salvador Perez, C
  6. Jorge Bonifacio, RF
  7. Brandon Moss, DH
  8. Whit Merrifield, 2B
  9. Alex Gordon, LF

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

The Yankees are facing the same three starters in the first three games of this series; you can check out my mini-profiles on Vargas, Duffy, and Hammel in last week’s series preview.

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP Jason Vargas

The Yankees played the role of regression to the mean the last time Vargas pitched, putting nine runners on-base and scoring six runs in the first four innings of the game. It will be interesting to see how Vargas bounces back, though I’m sure he’d rather not have to attempt to do so in Yankee Stadium against this lineup.

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Danny Duffy

Duffy completely shut down the Yankees last week, pitching to the following line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K. You could tell that he was on-point from the get-go, as he struck out the side in the top of the first – and all three struck out swinging. He only allowed three runners to reach second base, and two of those did so thanks to errors. Duffy has allowed no more than two runs in seven of his nine starts this year.

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Jason Hammel

Thanks in part to the Yankees, Hammel has allowed 5 or more runs in three of his eight starts, including three of his last four. He has just two quality starts this year, and has generally looked like the sort of pitcher that would wait until February to sign.

Thursday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. TBA

This start will likely go to Nate Karns if he is not put on the disabled list. In the event that he cannot go, they will likely have to call someone up from the minors. Chris Young has made two spot starts out of the bullpen this year, but he went 5 innings out of the bullpen yesterday (79 pitches), and I’m not sure that he’d be able to go on short rest.

Karns has been the Royals fifth starter since Opening Day, and has been a roughly league-average pitcher so far (102 ERA+ in 45.1 IP). He has well above-average strikeout (27.1%) and walk (6.9%) rates and a propensity for groundballs (49.6%), but he has been homer prone, allowing 1.79 HR/9. Karns throws a low-90s four-seamer, a big-breaking curveball in the low-80s (his best pitch, and a true swing-and-miss offering), and a mid-80s change-up.

The Bullpen

The Royals played a double-header yesterday to make up for a rain-out on Saturday, and needed their bullpen for 10.1 IP. Chris Young absorbed five of those innings, and the remaining 5.1 IP went to six other pitchers. Saturday’s de facto off day helps a bit, but the bullpen was also utilized for 4.1 IP on Friday, so this isn’t a well-rested group on the whole – and they allowed 8 runs this weekend, to boot.

Closer Kelvin Herrera has struggled this year, and he currently sits on a 4.26 ERA (101 ERA+). The Yankees touched him up for a run on Thursday, and he blew the save on Friday, allowing two runs in the bottom of the ninth. He made yesterday’s save an adventure, as well, allowing two base-runners and some hard contact before gently closing the door. Mike Minor and Joakim Soria are the team’s only reliable relievers right now.

Yankees Connection

It’s still just Ian Kennedy, who the Yankees missed by a single day. Given the way he pitched yesterday, that seems unfortunate.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Eric Hosmer was struggling mightily a couple of weeks into the season, but he has been raking for quite some time now – he’s batting .408/.471/.592 with 3 HR and as many walks (10) as strikeouts in 87 plate appearances this month, including a 7-for-13 effort against the Twins over the weekend. He’s also a career .312/.372/.532 hitter in Yankee Stadium, with 3 HR in 77 AB. The Royals would love a big series for him, both for their record and for his potential trade value a couple of months from now.

The Masahiro Tanaka Problem

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

All things considered, it’s pretty incredible the Yankees are where they are even though Masahiro Tanaka has legitimately been one of the worst pitchers in baseball so far this season. Among the 94 pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the batting title, Tanaka ranks 91st in both ERA (6.56) and FIP (6.07). Yankees starters have a 4.61 ERA (4.51 FIP) this year. Yankees starters other than Tanaka have a 4.10 ERA (4.00 FIP). Yeesh.

Tanaka hasn’t looked right pretty much all season, at least aside from the shutout in Boston, but things have been especially bad the last two times out. Especially bad as in 14 runs on 16 hits, including seven home runs, in 4.2 innings. This goes beyond the usual “he had a few bad starts” stuff. We are officially in Big Problem territory here. Something is not right with Tanaka. The question is what? No one seems to know.

Here’s the weird part: Tanaka’s contact allowed is nearly identical to last season. I mean, it’s clearly not identical given the results, but look at the batted ball data:

LD% GB% FB% Soft% Hard% Avg. Exit Velo
2016 20.7% 48.2% 31.0% 18.5% 32.4% 88.2
2017 17.4% 49.7% 32.9% 18.5% 32.7% 89.4

A quick glance at that tells you everything is fine, no need to worry, Tanaka will be back to normal in no time. La la la, I can’t hear your screams.

In all seriousness, the biggest difference between 2016 Tanaka and 2017 Tanaka is this right here:

masahiro-tanaka-splitter

That’s the splitter Tanaka threw light hitting Jesus Sucre in the second inning Saturday, the splitter Sucre smashed back up the middle for a two-run double. That pitch is flat as a table. It spins and spins and spins, and does nothing. It stayed up and Sucre hammered it. We’ve seen plenty Tanaka splitters over the years. The pitch should dive down into the dirt. That one did nothing.

“When Spring Training ended he looked like he was back to before the injury. Now he doesn’t look the same,” said a scout to George King over the weekend. “He isn’t finishing his pitches, and he’s making mistakes with the fastball.”

For whatever reason Tanaka’s pitches have been much flatter this year, and it’s not just the splitter. We’ve seen him thrown some junky sliders too. Tanaka is not a blow-you-away pitcher. He succeeds by tricking hitters and keeping them off balance, and he can’t do that when his splitter and slider aren’t behaving. His fastball isn’t good enough to make up for the shortcomings of the secondary pitches. Never has been even though his velocity is fine. Everyone keeps saying Tanaka’s velocity hasn’t been the same since his 2014 elbow injury, but:

  • 2014: 92.8 mph average (96.6 mph max through May)
  • 2015: 92.8 mph average (96.2 mph max through May)
  • 2016: 92.1 mph average (95.5 mph max through May)
  • 2017: 92.9 mph average (95.8 mph max through May)

Tanaka’s velocity and overall pitch selection this season have been right in line with previous years. Much like the batted ball data, nothing has changed, and yet something has very clearly changed. The overall numbers say one thing. The individual pitches tell you another. Tanaka had no trouble getting ahead Saturday — he threw a first pitch strike to 13 of 21 batters, and went 0-2 on nine batters — but the finish pitch wasn’t there, and hasn’t been for much of the season.

With Tanaka, a bad start or string of bad starts are never just bad starts. They’re an indication of injury, right? The partially torn elbow ligament is in the back of everyone’s mind, and whenever he has a bad start or even just throws a bad pitch, it’s because of the elbow. That seems to be the most common reaction. Tanaka did something bad? Blame the elbow. Everyone insists Tanaka is healthy though. Tanaka, Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild, everyone. “There’s no indication of (injury),” said Rothschild to Bryan Hoch over the weekend.

Having watched every one of his starts this season, Tanaka doesn’t look injured to me. Remember Aroldis Chapman‘s last few appearances? That’s an injured pitcher. A dude laboring and putting everything he has into each pitch just to get to his normal velocity. Tanaka is still throwing free and easy. His location sucks and he’s throwing more cement mixers, and I suppose that could be injury related, but I feel like there would be more red flags in that case. A dude pouring sweat on the mound (like Chapman) and throwing max effort. Tanaka hasn’t done that.

The way I see it, the Yankees have two realistic options with Tanaka right now:

1. Put him on the disabled list. The Yankees could stick Tanaka in an MRI tube and inevitably find something that would justify a trip to the disabled list. Every 28-year-old pitcher with nearly 2,000 career innings is bound to have something that doesn’t look right in his arm. The disabled list stint would be a time out, effectively. Tanaka could figure things out on the side while one of the club’s depth starters (Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, etc.) steps into the rotation for the time being. Perhaps he’d figure things out quickly and return after missing only one start. It is a ten-day disabled list now, after all.

2. Keep running him out there. This is what the Yankees are going to do, for now. Girardi confirmed yesterday that Tanaka will make his next start Thursday, as scheduled. Tanaka needs to pitch to get things straightened out. He can’t go sit on the couch for a week and expect everything to go back to normal. He needs to pitch to right the ship, and the Yankees are going to let him to continue to work on things in the MLB rotation. And who’s to say Tanaka won’t figure it out during his between-starts bullpen session this week and then dominate Thursday?

“We have to get him right … We need to continue to work at it. He’s not making the pitches he was last year,” said Girardi to Hoch. Rothschild told Brendan Kuty, “I think we need to go back to the basics. He likes to change some things occasionally, but I think it’s easier when things are going well to make some adjustments than it is when things are going bad and you try to make too many adjustments.”

Tanaka shifted from the first base side of the pitching rubber to the third base side Saturday, an adjustment he’s made in the past, but obviously it didn’t help. He’s trying though. Tanaka said all thoughout Spring Training his mechanics weren’t where they need to be, and we all kinda laughed him off because he was dominating. Maybe we should have paid more attention? If he’s not hurt, this has to be something mechanical. What else would it be?

As long as he’s not injured, I think Tanaka will get things straightened out because he’s too good and too smart a pitcher not too. We’ve seen him go through rough patches in the past — nothing like this, but one or two rough starts in a row, that sort of thing — and he always bounced back well. The Yankees and Tanaka need to figure out exactly what is wrong first, and so far that’s proving to be quite the challenge. No one has an answer yet, and that’s the scariest part.

Yankeemetrics: Roughed up in Tampa (May 19-21)

(AP)
(AP)

No relief
In a season defined by so many improbable wins and stunning comebacks, the Yankees fell just short of adding another one on Friday night, falling 5-4 to the Rays. It was just the Yankees’ fifth loss this season when holding a lead at any point in the game, the fewest in the AL and second-fewest in the majors behind the Rockies (3) after Friday’s slate.

Luis Severino struggled early but gave the Yankees five solid innings and a chance to win the game, exiting with a 2-1 lead. He threw 30 pitches in the first inning and 59 in the next four frames, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out seven.

Severino’s slider was in peak form, generating a career-high 11 whiffs on 24 swings (45.8%) among the 42 sliders he threw. The pitch netted him four of his seven strikeouts and four of his five groundball outs, as he mostly buried it at the knees while also mixing in a few swing-and-miss sliders up in the zone:

luis-severino

His slider has emerged as one of the nastiest in baseball this season. The pitch has been responsible for a total of 36 strikeouts and 25 groundball outs in 2017; both of those numbers were the second-most among all pitchers through Friday, trailing only Chris Archer (48 strikeouts, 36 groundball outs).

Severino’s gutsy performance was wasted, though, as the bullpen imploded and blew the lead late. The Rays’ rally was capped by a tie-breaking RBI single in the eighth inning off the bat of notable Yankee killer, Evan Longoria. Friend of Yankeemetrics, Mark Simon, tells us that it was Longoria’s 13th career game-winning RBI against the Yankees, which is the most among active players.

Before Longoria’s hit, it looked like Matt Holliday might wear the hero’s cape. His two-run homer in the top of the eighth knotted the game at 4-4, and was his first game-tying homer in the eighth inning or later in more than seven years (April 11, 2010 vs. Brewers).

Even more impressive is that the pitch he crushed was a 100-mph fastball from Ryan Stanek, the fastest pitch hit out of the ballpark by any player this season. Prior to the at-bat, Holliday was just 2-for-10 (.200) with three strikeouts in at-bats ending in a 100-plus-mph pitch dating back to 2008.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Tanaka The Terrible
There is no sugarcoating the fact that Saturday’s loss might have been the ugliest of the season. The numerous ejections, the beanball war that erupted in the late innings and the glacial pace of the game were mere footnotes in what has easily become the Yankees biggest worry of the season:

Tanaka was clobbered yet again, giving up three homers and six runs before getting pulled with no outs in the fourth inning. This disaster performance somehow was an improvement statistically on his last start a week ago against the Astros, when he gave up even more runs (8) and homers (4) and pitched fewer innings (1 2/3).

That string of back-to-back train wreck outings put him in ignominious company: he is the only pitcher in Yankee history to allow at least six earned runs and three homers in consecutive games while getting fewer than 10 outs in each game. In fact the only other player in major-league history to do that was Mike Lincoln for the Twins in 2000.

Any way you slice it, his recent numbers are awful:

  • Dating back to the fifth inning of his May 2 start vs the Blue Jays, Tanaka has coughed up 10 homers and 22 runs in his last 14 innings pitched.
  • Dating back to the seventh inning of his May 8 start at Cincinnati, he’s surrendered 16 (!) runs and eight (!) homers in his last 5 2/3 innings pitched.

One of the few highlights was yet another dinger by Aaron Judge, his league-leading 15th of the season. He is one of five Yankees to hit at least 15 homers in the team’s first 40 games, joining this exclusive group of sluggers: A-Rod (2007), Tino Martinez (1997), Mickey Mantle (1956) and Babe Ruth (four times).

Super-Judge (AP)
Super-Judge (AP)

Strikeouts are overrated
The Yankees avoided the sweep and snapped their three-game losing streak with a 3-2 win on Sunday. Despite the Yankee victory, the Rays remain the only AL team with a winning record against the Yankees since 2010 (71-68).

Brett Gardner delivered the game-clinching blast with his tie-breaking two-run homer in the second inning. It was his eighth longball of the season, surpassing the number he put over the fence all of last year (in 148 games and 634 plate appearances). All eight of his homers have come since April 29; the only player with homers in that span is Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger (9).

They overcame a whopping 17 strikeouts, tying the franchise record for a nine-inning game, done three times previously, including once already this season (3-2 win over St. Louis on April 15). They are the only team in major-league history to win two nine-inning games when striking out at least 17 times in a single season.

The heart of the order — 3-4-5 batters — were the biggest culprits, fanning 11 times in 12 at-bats. Matt Holliday and Aaron Judge were both 0-for-4 with four Ks, becoming the first set of Yankee teammates to whiff four-plus times in a non-extra-inning game. This was also the first time in any game (regardless of innings) that the Yankees had two players go hitless and strike out at least four times.

Judge redeemed himself in the field, with a spectacular game-saving catch and double play, robbing Evan Longoria of extra bases with a man on in the sixth inning.

Entering the day, Judge ranked second in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved (6) among rightfielders behind the Cubs’ Jason Heyward (7).

Fan Confidence Poll: May 22nd, 2017

Record Last Week: 3-3 (32 RS, 29 RA)
Season Record: 25-16 (232 RS, 177 RA, 25-16 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Royals (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Athletics (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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