8/31 to 9/2 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

This photo has a good W-L record. (Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees just swept the last place caliber Braves — Atlanta is in third place because the Marlins and Phillies are even worse, but that’s a last place roster, right? — and now they’re in Boston for a three-game set against the actually in last place Red Sox. The Bombers are 8-5 against the BoSox this season, including 5-1 at Fenway Park.

What Have The Red Sox Done Lately?

The Red Sox were just in New York for a three-game series with the Mets. They lost yesterday but won two of three in the series. The BoSox have won eight of their last dozen games overall, so they’re on a decent little late-season run at the moment. They’re still 60-70 with a -38 run differential, however.

Offense & Defense

Depending on your choice of metric, the Red Sox have been either an above-average offense team (4.53 runs per game) or a below-average offensive team (98 wRC+) this season. They’ve been much better in the second half (5.20 runs per game) and especially in August (6.04 runs per game). Boston is without 2B Dustin Pedroia (hamstring) and C Christian Vazquez (elbow) long-term, and both OF Hanley Ramirez (91 wRC+) and C Ryan Hanigan (92 wRC+) are day-to-day with shoulder and calf problems, respectively.

Mookie. (Presswire)
Mookie. (Presswire)

Manager John Farrell is currently away from the team receiving treatment for stage 1 lymphoma, so bench coach Torey Lovullo is serving as the interim manager the rest of the season. Lovullo’s lineup is still built around DH David Ortiz (128 wRC+), who has picked it up of late and is only six home runs away from 500 for his career. OF Mookie Betts (105 wRC+) and SS Xander Bogaerts (104 wRC+) have both had good seasons, and UTIL Brock Holt (104 wRC+) has cooled down considerably following his hot start.

OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (135 wRC+ in limited time) and OF Rusney Castillo (106 wRC+ in limited time) are currently flanking Betts while Hanley is out. OF Alejandro De Aza (102 wRC+) will see some platoon action as well. C Blake Swihart (92 wRC+) and 1B Travis Shaw (150 wRC+ in limited time) are getting lots of playing time right now because the Red Sox are pretty much out of it, so they might as well play the young guys. 3B Pablo Sandoval (84 wRC+) has been a massive disappointment and IF Josh Rutledge (105 wRC+ in very limited time) is the backup infielder.

The Red Sox do their best defensive work in the outfield, especially when Hanley sits in favor of Rusney or Bradley. The non-Hanley outfield features three above-average glovemen. Hanley is a total disaster though. Worst defensive outfielder I’ve ever seen. Sandoval has lost a lot of mobility at third. Bogaerts and Holt are solid up the middle and Shaw’s fine at first. Hanigan is a very good defensive catcher but you can run on Swihart (29% caught stealing rate). So I guess that all makes the Red Sox a good defensive club overall.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. NYY)
Rodriguez, 22, came over from the Orioles in the Andrew Miller trade last year, and is part of Boston’s seemingly never-ending pipeline of pitching prospects who lack an out pitch. His 17.7% strikeout rate and 7.4% swing-and-miss rate are both below the league average. Anyway, Rodriguez has a 4.39 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 16 starts and 92.1 innings with that below-average strikeout rate as well as an above-average walk rate (6.9%), an average grounder rate (45.8%), and a below-average homer rate (1.17 HR/9). Weirdly, lefties (.388 wOBA) have hit him way harder than righties (.286 wOBA) early in his MLB career. Rodriguez has a big fastball, sitting mid-90s with his four-seamer and backing it up with mid-80s sliders and changeups. He uses the slider against lefties and the changeup against righties. The Yankees have seen Rodriguez twice this season, scoring two runs in 6.1 innings in July and two runs in seven innings in August.

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Boy, this has not been a good season for the usually reliable Porcello, who has a 5.47 ERA (4.52 FIP) in 21 starts and 121.2 innings. His four-year, $82.5M extension doesn’t kick in until next season either. The 26-year-old from New Jersey recently missed four weeks with a triceps issue and has made one start since coming off the DL, tossing seven scoreless against the White Sox last time out. His strikeout (18.4%), grounder (43.4%), and homer (1.48 HR/9) numbers are all below-average, though his walk rate (5.1%) is quite good. Lefties (.373 wOBA) have smacked Porcello around this year. Righties too (.324 wOBA), just not as much. Porcello operates with low-90s two and four-seamers, using them to set up his mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball. The curve is his go-to secondary pitch, but he does use them all fairly regularly. Believe it or not, the Yankees have not faced Porcello at all this season. Not once.

Porcello. (Presswire)

Wednesday (4pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Henry Owens (vs. NYY)
The 23-year-old Owens made his MLB debut against the Yankees a few weeks ago, and he now has a 4.03 ERA (4.19 FIP) in five starts and 29 innings. His strikeout rate (22.0%) is pretty good, but he walks too many (8.9%), doesn’t get enough grounders (31.0%), and doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.24 HR/9). Lefties (.348 wOBA) have been more successful against Owens than righties (.308 wOBA) so far, but I’d ignore that entirely. He’s faced 22 left-handed batters as a big leaguer. That’s nothing. Owens has averaged 89.6 mph with his four-seamer according to PitchFX. An upper-70s changeup is his top secondary pitch, though he also uses mid-70s sliders and low-70s curveballs. Not a power arm, this one. The Yankees scored three runs in five innings against Owens in his big league debut.

Bullpen Status
Lovullo’s bullpen is not good and it hasn’t been good all season. As a unit, these guys have a 4.53 ERA (4.20 FIP) overall, and they’re currently without closer RHP Koji Uehara, who broke his wrist a few weeks ago when he was hit by a comebacker. RHP Jean Machi (5.21 ERA/4.45 FIP) is now closing with RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.79/3.04) setting up.

LHP Tommy Layne (4.14/3.75) is Lovullo’s go-to matchup lefty. LHP Craig Breslow (4.25/5.17), RHP Alexi Ogando (3.83/5.64), RHP Heath Hembree (4.85/4.50 in limited time), and LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.93/3.89) fill out the rest of the bullpen. I’m sure Boston will call up a bunch of extra arms when rosters expand Tuesday. Ross and Hembree both pitched yesterday, otherwise their bullpen is pretty fresh. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then head over to Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the BoSox.

Update: White Sox pull Robertson back off trade waivers

(Jon Durr/Getty)
(Jon Durr/Getty)

2:11pm ET: As expected, the White Sox pulled Robertson back off trade waivers, reports Heyman. The Yankees couldn’t work out a trade before the 2pm ET deadline. Robertson can not be traded to the Yankees or any other team now. (Well, that’s not true. The White Sox could put him on trade waivers again, but they would not be revocable the second time around.)

11:00am ET: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have claimed their former closer David Robertson off trade waivers from the White Sox. A deal is considered unlikely, however. The claim expires at 2pm ET today, meaning the two sides have until then to work out a trade. If they don’t, the White Sox will either pull Robertson back (yup) or let him go to the Yankees for nothing (nope).

Robertson, 30, is having another excellent year, pitching to a 2.60 ERA (2.09 FIP) with a career best 5.4% walk rate in 52 innings. His strikeout rate is still elite (35.0%) but he is getting fewer grounders than he has at any point in the last five seasons (38.3%), though that’s not necessarily a red flag. D-Rob has always gotten a ton of weak pop-ups. Robertson’s been Robertson. Pretty much the same guy we watched in pinstripes all those years.

The Yankees let Robertson walk this past offseason for big picture reasons. They decided they were better off signing Andrew Miller to a smaller contract and getting the draft pick for Robertson, which makes sense. Miller signed a four-year, $36M deal while Robertson took four years and $46M from Chicago. So the Yankees ended up with a comparable reliever, a draft pick (used to take shortstop Kyle Holder), and an extra $2.5M per year.

Prior to the trade deadline the Yankees reportedly spoke to the Padres about closer Craig Kimbrel, and were said to be willing to part with top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo to make it happen. Robertson is not as good as Kimbrel and he’s owed more money ($38M through 2018 vs. $27M through 2017), though that doesn’t mean he would come cheap. Consistently great relievers are very hard to find. Robertson’s a valuable commodity.

Last week Brain Cashman confirmed the Yankees have placed a lot of waiver claims this month, though obviously none of those players ended up in pinstripes. I think claiming Robertson was more about blocking him from potentially going to the Blue Jays or Astros, two other AL contenders the Yankees will have to deal with either again in the regular season or possibly in the postseason, than it was bringing him back to New York.

Teams don’t claim players unless they are comfortable taking on the contract, though I don’t think the White Sox would let Robertson go for nothing. The contract isn’t that onerous. The Yankees were hesitant to trade close to MLB prospects at the deadline and there’s no reason to think they’d be more willing to trade them for Robertson now, not when they already have a great bullpen.

Yankeemetrics: Sweep in scorching Hot-lanta (Aug. 28-30)

(Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports)
(Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports)

Sir Didi The Great
The Yankees ended their offensive slump in style, routing the Braves 15-4 in Friday’s series opener in Atlanta. They scored five runs in the first inning — one more run than they had scored in 27 total innings against the Astros last week.

Didi Gregorius had a truly historic night, going 4 for 5 with a home run and six RBIs, becoming the first shortstop in franchise history with at least six RBIs and four hits in a single game. He also is the only Yankee ever to have that many hits and RBIs against a National League team — in interleague play or the postseason. And, at 25 years old, he is the youngest Yankee to record four hits and six RBIs in a game since a 25-year-old Yogi Berra on Aug. 22, 1950 against the Tigers.

Brian McCann had a homecoming to remember in his first game back at Turner Field since leaving the Braves after the 2013 season. He pretty much did it all for the Yankees, reaching base four times, scoring three runs and driving in four runs. McCann is the first Yankee catcher in team history to have the unusual box score line of at least three walks, three runs scored and four RBIs. The last Yankee (at any position) to reach those totals in a game was Roy White in 1972.

Three is enough
Luis Severino’s fifth start was perhaps the best of his young major-league career, as he threw six scoreless innings with just four hits allowed in the Yankees 3-1 win on Saturday night. The Braves couldn’t touch his slider … the pitch got five whiffs and nine outs for Severino, without yielding a hit.

Severino lowered his ERA to 2.17, the second-lowest by any Yankee pitcher in his first five career games (all starts) in the last 50 years. The lowest belongs to El Duque Hernandez, who had a 2.04 ERA in his first five career starts in 1998.

Brian McCann’s eighth inning double gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead and it was his 15th two-bagger of the season. He’s now the seventh catcher in major-league history with at least seven seasons of 15-or-more doubles and 20-or-more homers. The others? Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter.

Braves move to the AL East, please?
The Yankee bats were once again scorching-hot in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon, as they erupted for 20 runs and 21 hits in yet another blowout win against the Braves. Here we go …

With the sweep, the Yankees are now 12-2 at Turner Field in the regular season, their best record at any ballpark — and the best record by any major-league team at any current ballpark (min. 10 games).

The 20 runs matches the most the team has ever scored against any National League team, interleague and postseason included. The only other time it happened was when they beat the Rockies 20-10 on June 19, 2002.

This is also the second time they’ve scored at least 20 runs this season (also a 21-5 win at Texas), making this the first time since 1939 that they’ve scored 20-plus runs twice on the road in a single season. That 1939 team — which had a major-league record run differential of plus-411 — did it three times.

It was less than a week ago that these same Bronx Bombers were on the losing end of a 15-1 disaster against the Astros. So that’s a 14-run loss and a 14-run win in the span of six days! Yup, this is the first time in franchise history that the Yankees won a game by at least 14 runs and lost a game by at least 14 runs in the same week.

Nathan Eovaldi had his worst start since his June 16 disaster against the Marlins, allowing five runs in five innings as his ERA rose to 4.17. But he still got the win, and is now 14-2 on the season, good for a .875 win percentage. Looking ahead … the highest win percentage in a season by any Yankee pitcher that qualified for the ERA title with an ERA above 4.00 is .778 by Bump Hadley, who went 14-4 in 1936 while splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. #KillTheWin

The biggest offensive star of the game was — not joking — Stephen Drew, who was 4 for 4 with two walks and four RBIs. He is just the third Yankee infielder (not including catchers) in franchise history to reach base at least six times, not make an out and drive in at least four runs in a game. The others were second baseman Tony Lazzeri on May 22, 1930 and first baseman Wally Pipp on August 6, 1922.

Fan Confidence Poll: August 31st, 2015

Record Last Week: 4-2 (42 RS, 32 RA)
Season Record: 72-57 (627 RS, 550 RA, 73-56 pythag. record) 1.5 GB in ALE, 5.5 games up on WC spot
Opponents This Week: @ Red Sox (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. Rays (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.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

DotF: Ackley plays second base in fourth rehab game

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Buffalo)

  • CF-LF Slade Heathcott: 0-4, 1 K
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI — three two-hit games and four no-hit games in his last seven games
  • 2B Dustin Ackley: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP — left the game in the eighth after being hit by a pitch, though I’m unsure if he got hurt or if that was simply the plan for the day (he hasn’t played a full nine innings yet as part of his rehab) … interesting he played second base
  • LF-2B Jose Pirela: 1-4
  • RF-CF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 1 K — in an ugly 1-for-25 (.040) slump
  • C Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 K
  • RHP Chris Capuano: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 5/2 GB/FB — 36 of 62 pitches were strikes (58%) … unless there’s a sudden need at the MLB level, I bet he stays here through the Triple-A postseason, then the team will figure out what happens after that
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 3.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 6/0 GB/FB — 27 of 36 pitches were strikes (75%) … finishing his first season in the organization very well
  • RHP Nick Goody: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 23 of 30 pitches were strikes (77%)

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is your open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Cubs and Dodgers are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Arrieta vs. Wood), so that should be pretty fun. Jake Arrieta has been ridiculous this season (2.22 ERA and 2.57 FIP). He’s no longer the guy the Yankees used to pound on all those years with the Orioles. Talk about that game, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here.

Sweep! Yankees clobber Braves 20-6 for third straight win

Do the Yankees have to leave Atlanta? They finished the three-game sweep of the Braves with a 20-6 win Sunday afternoon. They outscored the Braves 38-11 in the three games. The Yankees scored 38 runs during their recent ten-game homestand.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Seven Runs, Two Outs
The Yankees scored their first nine runs of Friday night’s blowout with two outs — in two separate innings, but all with two outs — and they scored their first seven runs of Sunday afternoon’s game with two outs. Jacoby Ellsbury started the scoring with a three-run home run in the second inning on a hanging Julio Teheran slider. It was … not a good pitch. That was a common theme. The Yankees stranded two runners in the first and were on the verge of doing it again in the second before Ellsbury’s dinger.

In the third inning, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann flew out for the first two outs before Greg Bird drew a two-out walk. Chase Headley followed with his tenth homer of the season, a bomb to dead center field. Again, it was a really bad pitch. Teheran laid it in there, right over the plate. Didi Gregorius followed the homer with a walk and Stephen Drew then went deep, hitting a two-run shot to right. Again, terrible pitch. Middle-middle meatballs all afternoon from Teheran.

Teheran has always been home run prone, but he’s taken it to the extreme this year, allowing 21 homers in 157.1 innings coming into this game (1.20 HR/9). That’s playing in a big park in the NL. Teheran was one out away from escaping the second and third inning scoreless, but instead he left some very hittable pitches over the plate, and the Yankees took advantage for an early seven-run lead.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Not So Nasty Nate
Nathan Eovaldi picked a pretty good day to not have command of his … well … everything. He couldn’t locate his fastball and his splitter hung more often than not, resulting in five runs in five innings. A better offensive team than the Braves might have made this a much uglier start for Eovaldi, who allowed those five runs on eight hits and two walks. He did strike out seven.

Much like New York’s early rallies, Atlanta’s two-run rally in the third inning all happened with two outs. Eovaldi got two outs, then walked Nick Markakis and Nick Swisher, and Freddie Freeman and A.J. Pierzynski drove them in with singles. The walks were the big problem there. Can’t be walking dudes with the bases empty and two outs and the middle of the order looming. Especially not with a 7-0 lead. Not good, Nate. He knows that.

The sixth inning rally was kind of dumb but it still counts. The inning started with an Adonis Garcia ground ball single back up the middle. Okay. Then Jace Peterson hit a booming double to left-center to put runners at second and third with no outs. Argh. The Yankees led 8-2 at the time, but still. Andrelton Simmons then ripped a single back up the middle, scoring both runners and ending Eovaldi’s day.

Adam Warren replaced Eovaldi and allowed Simmons to score on two dinky bloop hits. Brett Gardner almost caught one of them in left. Eovaldi allowed all three men he faced in the sixth to reach base and Warren allowed two of the four he faced to reach. Chasen Shreve came in, walked Freeman to load the bases, then got Pierzynski to ground out end the inning. Three runs scored on five hits. Not a good inning or afternoon for Eovaldi. Shake it off, do better next time out.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Insurance Runs
Thankfully, the Braves are not very good. They gave those three sixth inning runs back and then some in the seventh. Headley walked, Gregorius was hit by a pitch, and Drew singled to load the bases with one out. Alex Rodriguez drove in two with a pinch-hit single, Gardner singled in another run, McCann singled in two more runs, Bird doubled in yet another run, Headley doubled in two more runs, then Drew capped it off with another run-scoring single. Gosh. Nine runs on eight hits, two walks, and a hit batsman. That was an enjoyable inning. The lead was extended to 17-5.

Then, in the eighth, the Yankees scored three more times. The highlight of the inning was Branden Pinder‘s run-scoring double. It was his first pro at-bat, and, as far as I can tell, he never batted in college either. Pinder was the first Yankees reliever to drive in a run since … Mariano Rivera‘s bases loaded walk against Francisco Rodriguez back in the day. Good times. Bird (sac fly) and Gregorius (single) also plated runs in the three-run frame. Twenty total runs on a season-high 21 hits.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Drew went 4-for-4 the afternoon and is now hitting .20115 on the season. It was his first four-hit game since June 2013 and the first time this season he’s finished a game hitting over .200. He reached base six times — he also drew two walks — for the first time in his career. Drew had reached base five times in one game on four previous occasions, last in 2011. Heck of a day at the plate.

Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit and one run scored aside from the pitcher’s spot. Seven of the eight position player spots drove in a run. Headley (three hits, two walks) and Gregorius (two hits, two walks, hit-by-pitch) each reached base five times. Including Pinder, who hit in Headley’s spot, the 6-7-8 hitters went 10-for-11 with two doubles, two home runs, six walks, a hit-by-pitch, and one strikeout. That’s 17 times on base in 18 plate appearances. Wowza.

Pinder soaked up two inefficient innings in the blowout, allowing a run on an Adonis solo homer. He also walked three batters. Pinder threw 45 pitches in his two innings. Bryan Mitchell tossed a scoreless ninth. He made a nice play to snag a hard-hit comeback ground ball that was heading over his shoulder and into center. That was a little unsettling after Mitchell took the line drive to the face two weeks ago.

And finally, the Yankees have scored 20+ runs twice this season — they did it in Texas a few weeks ago, as I’m sure you remember — after doing it two times total from 2008-14. The last time they scored 20+ runs twice in one season was 1999. That was a good year.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
You can find the box score and video highlights for the game here and here, respectively. Here are the updated standings and postseason odds as well. Now here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Sadly, the Yankees are done with the Braves and now head to Boston for a three-game series with Red Sox. Ivan Nova and Eduardo Rodriguez will be the pitching matchup in Monday night’s opener.