Pineda’s pitching and Drew’s clutch hit lead the Yankees to a 3-1 win in Fenway

(Source: Getty)

It feels like that could gone much worse. Despite the lineup being dominated by Rick Porcello for eight innings, New York came up victorious at 3-1 on Tuesday. Michael Pineda pitched his best game in almost two months, Stephen Drew came up clutch to drive in the go-ahead run, and Brett Gardner extended the lead. And, of course, a little luck didn’t hurt either (talking about the instant replay situation in the bottom eighth). This was a type of the game that probably infuriated Red Sox fans more than it pleased Yankee fans.

Cy Porcello

For first awhile, the Yankee lineup made Rick Porcello look like a Cy Young candidate. Porcello struck out five out of the six first Yankee batters to begin the game and ended up punching out 13 overall in eight frames. That was … not good. Porcello came into tonight’s game with a whopping 5.47 ERA in 121.2 IP, which is terrible. He also came in with inflated home run rate (1.48 HR/9 this season), which can happen to a pitcher moving from Comerica Park to Fenway Park, but the bottom line is I would not have expected such dominance from Porcello tonight.

If there was any sign that he was going to pitch brilliantly tonight, it’s that he changed his approach after being shelved for almost a month, then had a solid outing in his first start back against the White Sox. But, well, okay, it’s really hard to say a pitcher improved totally based on one start. Porcello did, however, looked really good  and was able to locate some spillover fastballs and sinkers on both sides of the plate tonight. Maybe he figured things out or maybe it was his lucky game. We’ll see.

(Source: Getty)

Pineda brings the pain

Pineda had been in a bit of a funk. His last quality start prior to tonight was the July 10 game against the Red Sox (6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 6 K). He had only made three starts (and a DL stint) since, allowing 14 earned runs in 16 innings pitched. No bueno.

With the calendar turned to September and the Yankees finding themselves 1.5 games behind Toronto for the AL East title, it was been crucial for Big Mike to show that he could pitch like his ace self from earlier in the season. And, boy he did.

The Red Sox drew the first blood in the third though. With one out, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a double off the Green Monster and Pablo Sandoval drove him in with a two-out RBI single. Timing-wise, it seemed like Gardner might have had a chance for a play at home but he misplayed the ball and JBJ scored easily. 1-0 Red Sox. That was just about all the damage Pineda allowed.

Besides that? Big Mike was just simply dominant. Pineda pitched six full innings, allowed four hits, one earned run and struck out seven while not walking anyone. His fastball seemed to ooze nasty cut for swing-and-misses while his command of the slider was present on both sides of plates. New York could use several more starts like that for the rest of the season and beyond.

Clutch (Source: Getty)

Just like how they Drew it up

Yankees had their first real threat going on in the fifth inning. A-Rod hit a (massive) single to lead off. Both McCann and Greg Bird struck out to leave him there but Didi Gregorius hit a tricky grounder that hopped past Travis Shaw’s glove to put two runners in the scoring position. With two outs, runners second and third, former Red Sox Stephen Drew came up and delivered a two-RBI double. 2-1 Yankees.

One-handed release (Source: Getty)

In the eighth, holding onto a 2-1 lead, Yankees got another run with a Brett Gardner solo home run off Porcello. Gardner had been in a .180/.275/.246 rut in 16 games since August 15 so any sign of life with bat is pretty encouraging. Having Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner both clicking at the same time would be a massive plus for the offense, especially with Mark Teixeira being down for at least two weeks (sigh).

The Instant Replay

If you’ve been a Yankee fan for years, you are quite familiar with Yankee-Red Sox late inning dramas. As I stated earlier, things could have gone much worse for New York tonight.

With Dellin Betances pitching, Mookie Betts lined a single to start off the bottom of eighth. Sandoval flew out but Xander Bogaerts hit another single to put two runners on base with one out for Boston. Coming up? David Ortiz – that’s a pretty high-stress situation for any pitcher.

On the 1-2 count, both Betts and Bogaerts attempted to move up a base. McCann didn’t miss a beat and threw to third to get Betts out. It seemed like Betts slid in ahead of the throw but to the third base ump’s eyes, he slid off the bag and was ruled out. Betts started to protest, stating that Chase Headley pushed his feet off the bag during the tag. According to instant replay shown on TV, it was really hard to tell what really happened – it did certainly seem like Betts had his foot on the bag at least for most of it and, if it came off, Headley certainly may well have pushed it off. With many expecting the call to be overturned, the umpires stood by the call and Betts was declared out, again.

That changed the situation from potentially being one out with two runners in scoring position to two outs with a runner on second. That’s a steep gap, if you ask me. Betances ended up punching out Ortiz easily and Andrew Miller closed out the ninth to preserve a 3-1 Yankee victory.

Box score, standings, highlights and WPA

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees will play in Fenway again tomorrow at 4:05 PM EST. Masahiro Tanaka will face the rookie lefty Henry Owens to go for the series win.

DotF: Finley pitches Pulaski to a win on final day of season

Some notes to pass along:

  • OF Slade Heathcott was not among the first wave of September call-ups nor did he lose his 40-man roster spot. As it turns out, he’s banged up. Donnie Collins says it’s his quad, which landed Slade on the DL for a few months earlier this season. Sucks.
  • To help cover following all the call-ups, RHP Mark Montgomery, RHP Cesar Vargas, RHP Conor Mullee, IF Ali Castillo, IF Cito Culver, IF Rob Segedin, OF Jake Cave, C Kyle Higashioka were all promoted to Triple-A Scranton, reports Chad Jennings.
  • OF Ben Gamel was named the Triple-A International League Rookie of the Year. He was also the only Yankees farmhand to make the league’s end-of-season All-Star Team, so congrats to him.
  • And finally, no Yankees farmhands were selected for the Low-A South Atlantic League end-of-season All-Star Team.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Rochester)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 2B Ali Castillo: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 SB — at least September call-ups allowed them to upgrade at second for the postseason (kidding/trolling)
  • RF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 3 K
  • LF Slade Heathcott: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K — quad can’t be too bad if he’s running around the outfield
  • SS Gregorio Petit: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RHP Kyle Davies: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 3/6 GB/FB, 1 E (fielding) — 58 of 90 pitches were strikes (64%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten pitches, eight strikes
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight pitches, five strikes

[Read more…]

Game 131: Big Mike in Boston


Welcome to September. The air is crisp, the leaves are looking a little less green each day, and the dog days of summer are over. This is the stretch run. The final 32 games of the season will determine whether the Yankees win the AL East, settle for a wildcard spot, or miss the postseason entirely. Crunch time, baby. There are no more meaningless games.

The Yankees dropped last night’s series opener to the Red Sox because no one could get a damn hit with the bases loaded, but that was August, this is September. A new month and something of a fresh start, which the Yankees desperately need because August did not go well. They went 14-14 and lost 7.5 games (!) in the standings. Not good. Win tonight, start the final month off on the right foot. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Michael Pineda

Another great weather day in Boston. Sunny and on the cool side with temperatures in the upper-70s. Autumnal. This evening’s game will begin just after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (leg) had an MRI that showed the bone bruise was more significant than the Yankees initially realized. There is no fracture, but Teixeira will be on crutches for a few days. There is no timetable for his return.

Roster Moves: In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees called up eight players on the first day of expanded rosters. Two others lost their 40-man roster spot. Here are all the moves. I’m not repeating ’em all here. Wally Matthews has all the new uniform numbers, if you’re interested.

Sanchez, Jagielo, Wade headline 2015 Arizona Fall League rosters

Sanchez. (Presswire)
Sanchez. (Presswire)

Earlier today, the bulk of the 2015 Arizona Fall League rosters were announced. This year the Yankees are sending C Gary Sanchez, 3B Eric Jagielo, SS Tyler Wade, OF Dustin Fowler, LHP Chaz Hebert, and LHP Tyler Webb to the AzFL. Josh Norris says they still have two more pitching spots available, if they choose. They don’t have to send anyone else.

Sanchez and Jagielo are the headliners. I had them as New York’s No. 3 and No. 8 prospects in my most recent rankings, respectively. They’re both hurt right now — Sanchez pulled a hamstring last week while Jagielo has been out since mid-June following knee surgery — and will be making up for lost time in the desert. The fact both are on the roster is an indication the team expects them to be healthy.

Jagielo, 23, was scheduled to play in the AzFL last year before being hit in the face by a pitch in Instructional League. He hit .284/.347/.495 (140 wRC+) with nine home runs in 58 games for Double-A Trenton this season before the knee acted up. The 22-year-old Sanchez put up a .274/.330/.485 (134 wRC+) line with 18 homers in 93 games split between Double-A and Triple-A this summer.

I ranked Wade as the team’s No. 11 prospect a few weeks ago, so he’s not too far behind Sanchez and Jagielo. Wade, 20, has hit .258/.322/.332 (100 wRC+) in 119 games this year, doing most of the damage with High-A Tampa (117 wRC+ in 98 games) before struggling at Double-A (17 wRC+ in 21 games). The 20-year-old Fowler owns a .302/.339/.403 (117 wRC+) line with five homers in 118 games between Low-A and High-A this year.

Like Sanchez and Wade, the 25-year-old Webb is on the rehab trail after pitching to a 2.84 ERA (3.23 FIP) in 38 innings for Triple-A Scranton. He hasn’t pitched since late-June and I’m not sure why. Some kind of injury. Couldn’t have been too bad if the Yankees expect him to pitch in the AzFL. Hebert, 22, has had a breakout year, posting a 2.58 ERA (3.05 FIP) in 129 innings at three levels in 2015. Fowler, Webb, and Hebert did not make my most recent top 30 prospects list.

One of those last two pitching spots could go to LHP Jacob Lindgren, who’s been out since mid-June after having bone spurs removed from his elbow. He is currently on a throwing program but has not yet thrown off a mound, so he might not be ready in time for the AzFL season. The 22-year-old southpaw had a 1.23 ERA (1.88 FIP) in 22 Triple-A innings this season before throwing seven big league innings and getting hurt. The AzFL seems like a good opportunity to make up for some lost innings if healthy.

The other spot could go to LHP Ian Clarkin, I suppose, but that seems very unlikely. Clarkin, the team’s No. 7 prospect, has not pitched at all this season due to a lingering elbow problem. He is currently on a throwing program and has apparently been throwing off a mound recently. That said, the AzFL is an extreme hitter’s league, so most teams do not send their top pitching prospects. The Yankees might not want Clarkin pitching in such a rough environment after missing the season.

There’s no sense in adding Lindgren or Clarkin to the AzFL rosters before they complete their throwing programs, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens with those last two spots. This season Yankees farmhands will play for the Surprise Saguaros alongside Royals, Brewers, Cardinals, and Rangers prospects. Here’s the full roster. The 32-game AzFL season begins October 13th and runs through November 19th. The Championship Game is scheduled for November 21st.

Even with no standouts, the revolving door has been an effective last man in the bullpen

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

As you know, the Yankees have had a revolving door in their bullpen all season, using the last reliever spot or two — sometimes more, they’ve had an eight-man bullpen at times — to shuttle in fresh arms as necessary. Every team does it to some extent, but the Yankees have done it to the extreme this year, and it’s all by design. The plan coming into the season was to use the Triple-A and Double-A depth to constantly bolster the bullpen.

“(We had) from Double-A on up a lot of really interesting power arms from the left and right side that were under control, with options,” said Brian Cashman to Joe Lemire recently. “We talked all winter about where we could be in a situation where we’re really taking a guy every ten days. Call a guy up, max him out, send him back out and get a new guy up. It’s just kind of a revolving door.”

According to Lemire, the Yankees had made 106 transactions — that’s call-ups, send-downs, and designate for assignments — heading into last Tuesday’s game, easily the most in baseball. The other 29 clubs were averaged 67 such transactions this year. That’s kinda crazy, but it was the plan all along. The depth is there, might as well use it, right? No sense in going short-handed for a few days when you have capable pitchers a phone call away.

I count a dozen pitchers who have been on the bullpen shuttle this season, not including Chris Capuano, who always seems to find his way back onto the roster even though the Yankees keep trying to stick him in their Triple-A rotation. Of those 12 pitchers, eight have been called up multiple times. Here are how those eight relievers with multiple call-ups and send-downs have fared this season:

Caleb Cotham 3.2 9.82 7.49 25.0% 0.0% 50.0% 4.91
Nick Goody 3.1 5.40 4.02 20.0% 13.3% 66.7% 0.00
Chris Martin 16.0 5.63 2.81 20.3% 4.1% 54.5% 0.56
Bryan Mitchell 17.2 2.55 3.18 20.3% 6.8% 49.1% 0.51
Diego Moreno 10.1 5.23 4.29 17.8% 6.7% 40.6% 0.87
Branden Pinder 23.1 2.70 5.01 19.0% 10.0% 30.4% 1.54
Jose Ramirez 3.0 15.00 6.79 10.0% 20.0% 38.5% 0.00
Nick Rumbelow 9.2 2.79 3.54 22.5% 7.5% 39.3% 0.93
TOTAL 87.0 4.34 3.91 19.6% 7.7% 42.2% 1.03
3.63 3.74 22.1% 8.5% 45.5% 0.90

Just to be clear, this includes Mitchell’s time as a reliever only. Overall, the eight up-and-down relievers have been below-average at pretty much everything other than limiting walks this year. You can play with the numbers if you want — remove Ramirez because he’s no longer with the organization and it’s a 3.83 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 84 innings, for example — but I don’t see the point in that.

Overall, this group of eight pitchers have collectively performed worse than the league average reliever. They aren’t replacing the league average reliever, however. They’re the last reliever in the bullpen, and the last reliever in the bullpen is generally very bad. The Blue Jays, for example, have gotten a 6.80 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 41.2 innings out of Todd Redmond, Scott Copeland, and Jeff Francis this year. The Royals and Pirates have used Joe Blanton. See what I mean?

By last reliever in the bullpen standards, the revolving door has been serviceable this year. Not great — out of all these guys, the only one who has really stood out and made you think he could an impact pitcher long-term is Mitchell, who is a starter by trade — but serviceable. The advantage is always having a fresh reliever. That’s the whole point of shuttling them in and out, to make sure Joe Girardi always has a fresh arm available.

How do you value something like that? I’m not sure we can put a number on it. Have a fresh “last guy in the bullpen” every night ensures the regular relievers won’t have to pick up any mop-up innings throughout the year, which can happen from time-to-time. Sometimes these guys get exposed — remember Pinder against the heart of the Blue Jays order in extra innings a few weeks ago? — but that happens with every mop-up man.

All things considered, the revolving bullpen door has succeeded at giving Girardi a fresh bullpen arm while providing the team collectively competent innings. These guys haven’t been great by any means — they’ve had their moments, but so does everyone — but the Yankees haven’t needed them to be. Soaking up innings in low-leverage spots is a thankless job. Rather than have one or two guys do it, the Yankees have used eight.

The real impact of losing Mark Teixeira’s bat

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

The news just keeps getting worse and worse for Mark Teixeira and the Yankees. Joe Girardi announced Monday that Teixeira was sent back to New York for further tests on his badly bruised leg. That means Tuesday night’s matchup with the Red Sox will be the 13th time in 14 games since the injury that the Yankees won’t have their leading home run guy and most explosive power hitter in the starting lineup. Even worse, there is no definitive answer about when, if at all, Teixeira will return. As a wise man once said …


Sure, the home runs and extra-base hits provide a ton of value, but Teixeira’s impact on the Yankees’ offense goes beyond just his ability to hit the ball really far, really high and really hard. It is his outstanding performance in the most high-pressure plate appearances that sets Teixeira apart from the rest of the Yankee hitters — and makes his bat nearly impossible to replace.

There are a few ways we can isolate “high-pressure” situations in a baseball game. First, there is the concept of leverage, which is basically an attempt to quantify how tense and suspenseful any single at-bat is in a game. For example, there is a lot more on the line — in terms of winning or losing — when a batter steps to the plate trailing by a run in the ninth inning with two outs, compared to a similar at-bat in the third inning or if you are ahead by five runs. In high-leverage situations, Teixeira owns a team-best 1.009 OPS and .418 on-base percentage this season.

high lev2

Need a big hit when the Yankees are leading by one run, tied, or have the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck? Teixeira is your man. He is hitting a whopping .311/.436/.600 in those “late and close” plate appearances, ranking first among Yankee regulars in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS for those situations.

In fact, no player on the Yankees has delivered more game-changing hits than Teixeira. When the game is tied, Teixeira has a ridiculous line of .310/.394/.655, good for a 1.049 OPS that is easily the best on the team. And he leads them with 26 hits that either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead this season, including a team-high 15 home runs.

Remember that super-important victory against the Blue Jays on August 15, which guaranteed the Yankees a series win in Toronto? Masahiro Tanaka dominated the headlines with his one-run, complete game gem, but it was Teixeira who came through with the game-winning, go-ahead home run.


He is also what you might call the hitting version of an “ace” for the Yankees, a guy that can step up and stop the bleeding when the team really needs a win. In games following a Yankee loss this season, Teixeira has the highest OPS (.982), slugging percentage (.582) and on-base percentage (.401) on the team, and each of his rate stats are higher in those games than overall this season.

The Yankees have shown this season that they are capable of beating up on bad pitching even without Teixeira (see the 38 runs scored in three games this weekend against the Braves’ staff, which has the fifth-worst ERA in the majors). But in Monday’s loss to the Red Sox — when the Yankees wasted numerous scoring chances and left 14 men on base — we also saw how a Teixeira-less lineup could really hurt the Yankees down the stretch.

As the final month of the season gets underway and the Yankees entrenched in a heated division race with the Blue Jays, the games are only going to get more intense, more stressful and take on even greater importance — the exact situations where they need Teixeira’s clutch bat the most.

Bailey, Refsnyder, Romine among first wave of September call-ups

Bailey. (
Bailey. (

11:45am ET: To clear the three 40-man roster spots, the Yankees transferred Domingo German to the 60-day DL and designated both Tyler Austin and Cole Figueroa for assignment, the team announced. German, who is out following Tommy John surgery, was technically called up to MLB for the first time and placed on the DL. He’ll get big league pay for a month. Good for him. Austin has had a poor year (92 wRC+) and the Yankees have a ton of upper level outfield depth. That made him expendable.

9:30am ET: Following last night’s loss, the Yankees announced their first wave of September call-ups, and the list runs eight players deep. They wasted no time beefing up the roster. The eight players: catcher Austin Romine, infielder Rob Refsnyder, outfielder Rico Noel, utility men Dustin Ackley and Jose Pirela, righties Andrew Bailey and Caleb Cotham, and lefty James Pazos. They’ll all be active tonight.

Technically, Ackley is being activated off the 15-day DL. He’s missed the last month or so with a back problem and had been rehabbing with Triple-A Scranton the last few days. Everyone else was simply called up. Refsnyder, Pirela, and Cotham were all up earlier this year while both Bailey and Romine have been up in previous years. Noel and Pazos are big leaguers for the first time.

Bailey, 31, has not pitched in MLB since July 2013 due to a biceps injury and shoulder capsule surgery. The Yankees signed him prior to last season knowing he was unlikely to pitch, rehabbed him, brought him back this year, and will now hopefully be rewarded for their patience. Bailey had a 1.80 ERA (2.87 FIP) with good strikeout (29.8%) and walk (7.8 BB%) numbers in 35 minor league innings this year.

It’ll be interesting to see how Joe Girardi uses Bailey this month. He’s not the typical September call-up fodder — this a former All-Star, remember. His minor league performance was good and I’m sure the team’s reports on his stuff were good too, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten called up. Will Bailey step right in and assume a late-inning role or be eased back into things? We’ll see. He’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2016, by the way.

Pazos, 24, was the team’s 13th round pick in the 2012 draft. He would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, so the Yankees are getting a head start on things by adding him to the 40-man roster. Pazos had a 1.27 ERA (2.39 FIP) with a good strikeout rate (28.8%) and a perhaps too high walk rate (8.8%) in 42.2 minor league innings this year.

The southpaw is a hard-thrower — PitchFX data from the 2013 Arizona Fall League says Pazos averaged 94.3 mph and topped out at 96.4 mph — with a good slider, so he’s an actual prospect. A bullpen prospect, but a prospect nonetheless. Pazos has a little funk in his delivery too. Here’s some video:

With Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, and Chasen Shreve ahead of Pazos on the left-handed reliever depth chart, I expect Pazos to work in super low-leverage spots this months. This is just to get his feet wet at the big league level so he can prepare to ride the bullpen shuttle next season. Phil Coke turned a 2008 September call-up into a 2009 MLB roster spot. Pazos will try to do the same.

The 26-year-old Noel will be the team’s pinch-running specialist down the stretch. Maybe he’ll play some late-inning defense too, but nothing more. He is the 2015 version of 2009 Freddy Guzman. Pirela, Cotham, Romine, Ackley, and Refsnyder are all spare parts. Romine will be the barely used third catcher and Cotham will soak up garbage time innings. I suppose Pirela and/or Refsnyder could take second base platoon at-bats away from Brendan Ryan.

The eight call-ups require the Yankees to clear three 40-man roster spots. Refsnyder, Ackley, Pirela, and Cotham are all already on the 40-man, plus the team has one open spot after designating Chris Capuano for assignment the other day. The Capuano spot will go to one of Noel, Bailey, Romine, or Pazos. The Yankees need to clear 40-man spots for the other three. Those moves will be announced later today.

The fact Slade Heathcott, Chris Martin, and Cole Figueroa were not called up from Triple-A Scranton suggests they may be on the chopping block. Tyler Austin was not called up from Double-A Trenton, though that wasn’t surprising. Jacob Lindgren (elbow) and Domingo German (elbow) could be called up and placed on the 60-day DL, which would clear 40-man spots but also allow them to accrue service time.

Either way, the Yankees suddenly have a nine-man bench — well, eight-man bench with Mark Teixeira sidelined — and a ten-man bullpen. It’ll become a 12-man bullpen in a few days when Nick Goody and Nick Rumbelow are recalled. (They were sent down last week and can not be brought back for ten days.) The Yankees wasted no time making their call-ups. The regulars are still going to play everyday because the team is in a division race, but the extra bodies have arrived.