Yankees fall 7-6 to the O’s on a walk-off home run by Machado

So close, yet so far. The Yankees took a 6-1 lead early that was reduced to a 6-5 lead late. They managed to hold it until the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but Dellin Betances allowed a two-run walk-off home run to Manny Machado to lose it. Brutal game. Would have been a good opportunity to gain ground in AL East and AL Wild Card standings. Let’s recap this game and never talk about it again.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Not great CC

CC Sabathia got into a little pickle in the first. After getting the first two outs, he issued a free pass to Jonathan Schoop and an infield single to Adam Jones (it was a dribbler that went down along the third base line and never crossed to the foul territory). A wild pitch made it runners on second and third with Trey Mancini up. Mancini hit a soft grounder just out of CC’s reach and Didi Gregorius could not come up with a clean scoop. 1-0 Orioles. Just an unlucky inning for Sabathia.

Fast forward to bottom of the third, with the Yankees having taken a 6-1 lead, the Orioles got one right back. Leading off the inning, a very good baseball player Manny Machado got a low offering from CC and drove it into the home bullpen for a solo HR. The O’s added another homer in the fifth with a Schoop bomb. He sat on the first pitch that Sabathia threw and did not miss any of it. The game got dicier when Mark Trumbo hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning to make it 6-5. It was the first time all season that Sabathia allowed three home runs in a game. Basically, CC got unlucky in the first inning and made mistakes to three big power hitters of the Orioles. Not a highlight reel night.

Piling it on

After going quiet in the first two innings, the Yankees struck in the bottom of the third. Austin Romine singled to lead off the inning. After a Brett Gardner line out, Aaron Judge walked and Starlin Castro got hit in the forearm to load the bases. Gregorius squared up on a hanging breaking ball into the right field for a two-RBI single. After Matt Holliday walked to load the bases, Buck Showalter pulled the plug on Jeremy Hellickson and brought in the former Yankee Richard Bleier.

(Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Against Bleier, Greg Bird hit a fly ball to center that looked like a sure sac fly… but Jones dropped it. It seemed like he was surely going to get it but he may have rushed it to try to start the throw quickly. As a result, all baserunners moved up and Yankees took a 3-1 lead. Todd Frazier followed it up with a RBI fielder’s choice ground out for a 4-1 score. Jacoby Ellsbury continued on the piling by hitting a hard single just past Tim Beckham’s reach. Both runners on scoring position scored to make it 6-1 Yankees (three earned and three unearned runs). What an odd inning but I’ll take it. It would also be the only inning that the Yankees scored all game.

Hold onto your butts

Because Sabathia only went 5.1 IP with a one-run lead, the Yankees had to utilize their bullpen to hold it against the red-hot Orioles lineup (remember, they have been on a roll prior to this series). Tommy Kahnle took care of the last two outs of the sixth inning.

Meanwhile, Yankees had a chance to score in the top of the eighth. Ellsbury led off with a single. A hitter later, Gardner hit a dribbler that ended up becoming an infield single. With one out and runners on first and second, Judge stepped in and… struck out. Castro followed it up with a pop out to strand two. That missed opportunity would loom large later on.

The Yankees turned to Aroldis Chapman for the eighth inning. The narrative for him this season is that, well, he’s been on the struggle train. However, he turned in a nice 1-2-3 inning tonight, taking care of Trumbo and Mancini with ground outs and Chris Davis with a looking strike out. Just like the last time out, his fastball life seemed to be noticeably back. Again, having a good Chapman in the September stretch (and beyond) would be very critical.

After being shut down 1-2-3 by Zach Britton in the top of the ninth, Yankees put in Betances to close it out. Wellington Castillo gave it a ride but he hit it to the deepest part of the ballpark and Ellsbury hauled it in for an out. Pedro Alvarez, pinch-hitting for the first ML at-bat of the season, predictably struck out. Two outs, one more to go. Betances walked Beckham on five pitches and had to face the dangerous Manny Machado to finish it out. However, on the second offering, Betances hung a 84-mph curveball and Machado simply hammered it out of there (431 feet – he got a lot of it). Oof. One great talent eclipsed the other. 7-6 Orioles. Game over.

Box score, video highlights, updated standings and WPA

Here’s tonight’s box score and updated standings from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA from Fangraphs.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees will look to take the series tomorrow with Sonny Gray on the mound, assuming the weather cooperates. The Orioles will have Kevin Gausman. Will New York finally win a series at the Camden Yards? Stay tuned.

DotF: Tampa makes a big comeback in first postseason game

A few notes to get us started:

  • Because of Hurricane Irma, the Florida State League Championship Series has been canceled, the league announced. The winners of the Tampa-Dunedin and Palm Beach-Fort Myers series will be co-champions. Game Two and, if necessary, Game Three of the best-of-three series will be played tomorrow. They’re going to play a doubleheader rather than stretch the series out to Wednesday.
  • RHP Taylor Widener has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. That is at least partly due to Hurricane Irma. Widener was lined up to pitch for Tampa on Wednesday, but there won’t be a game that day now, so he’s going to Trenton to help them. Last year’s 12th round pick had a 3.39 ERA (3.05 FIP) with 26.4% strikeouts and 10.4% walks in 119.1 innings with Tampa this year.
  • Eric Longenhagen (subs. req’d) ranked the ten position player prospects with the most upside in the minors. OF Estevan Florial was seventh. “Florial has high-effort, plus-plus bat speed and a bat path that allows for power to all fields, similar to Ian Happ of the Cubs. Florial is an aggressive hitter, which leads to some strikeouts, but he has 25-plus-homer potential,” says the write-up.
  • In a separate piece (subs. req’d), Longenhagen ranked the ten pitching prospects with the most upside. RHP Jorge Guzman ranks ninth. “New York made a subtle change to the tempo of his delivery, and Guzman has been throwing more strikes this year while sitting 96-plus with his fastball, touching 102 mph, and holding that velocity deep into his starts … (There’s) a chance Guzman matures into developing two bat-missing secondary pitches to go with passable control and his elite velocity,” says the write-up.
  • OF Isiah Gilliam was named the Low-A South Atlantic League Player of the Week. He went 10-for-18 (.556) with a double, a triple, a homer, seven walks, and only two strikeouts last week. Gilliam, 21, hit .275/.356/.468 (137 wRC+) with 33 doubles and 15 homers this year. The Yankees gave him $550,000 as their 20th round pick a few years ago because he has power from both sides of the plate, and it showed this year.

Triple-A Scranton‘s regular season is over. Their best-of-five first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) begins tomorrow. Conor Foley says the rotation will be RHP Domingo German, RHP Chance Adams, RHP Brady Lail, LHP Nestor Cortes, and RHP Ronald Herrera in that order.

Double-A Trenton‘s regular season is over. Their best-of-five first round postseason series with Binghamton (Mets) begins tomorrow. RHP Dillon Tate is the scheduled starter for Game One.

High-A Tampa (8-6 win over Dunedin in ten innings) they fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, but rallied to win … the Fighting Spirit extends down into the minors too … Tampa leads the best-of-three series one game to none

  • 2B Hoy Jun Park: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K — Hoy Jun Judge
  • SS Kyle Holder: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — had the game-tying single with two outs in the ninth
  • 3B Gosuke Katoh: 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 1-5, 1 K
  • CF Estevan Florial: 2-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — dude is amazing
  • 1B Tim Lynch: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — hit the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the tenth … last year’s ninth rounder smacked 13 home runs in only 57 games during the regular season
  • C Donny Sands: 1-4
  • RF Alex Palma: 1-5
  • RHP Brian Keller: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 E (pickoff) — 19 of 36 pitches were strikes (53%) … had such a marvelous regular season, then he gets clobbered in the first inning of the postseason
  • RHP Adonis Rosa: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 64 of 94 pitches were strikes (68%) … unsung hero restored order and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game
  • RHP Matt Frawley: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 2/2 GB/FB — 22 of 39 pitches were strikes (56%)

Low-A Charleston‘s regular season is over. Their best-of-three first round postseason series with Greenville (Red Sox) begins tomorrow. RHP Freicer Perez will be on the mound in Game One.

Short Season Staten Island is waiting out a very long rain delay. Game hadn’t started as of 10pm ET. Here’s the box score if they ever start playing. Their regular season ends Thursday and they’ve already clinched a postseason spot.

Rookie Pulaski has advanced to the Appalachian League Championship Series. They’re going to play either Elizabethton (Twins) or Greeneville (Astros) in the best-of-three series. Game Three between Elizabethton and Greeneville was rained out tonight. They’ll play the decisive game tomorrow, then they’ll begin the Championship Series on Thursday (I think).

Rookie GCL Yanks East (2-1 win over GCL Nationals) the best-of-three GCL Championship Series is now tied at one game apiece, so tomorrow’s game is for all the marbles

  • SS Jose Devers: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 1 E (throwing)
  • CF Robert Javier: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — singled in what proved to be the winning run in the seventh inning
  • RF Canaan Smith: 0-2, 1 BB, 2 K — left the game after striking out in the sixth … I think he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, through the box score usually notes that … maybe not in the GCL?
  • DH Jhon Moronta & 1B Nelson Alvarez: both 0-4 — Moronta struck out
  • RHP Roansy Contreras: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 WP, 4/5 GB/FB — last year’s prized international signing came up big in the elimination game
  • LHP Deivi Diaz: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 Balk, 2/2 GB/FB

Rookie GCL Yanks West‘s season is over. They did not qualify for the postseason.

Game 138: A Long Awaited Series Win In Camden Yards?

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
Didi: .474 SLG. Trumbo: .414 SLG. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Yankees have gained three games on the dirty cheatin’ Red Sox the last three days thanks to three wins and three Red Sox losses. They’re now only 2.5 games back in the AL East, and although the two teams don’t have any head-to-head games remaining, the Yankees are still a good weekend away from being in first place. It could happen.

Anyway, forget about the Red Sox for now. The Yankees have to focus on the task at hand and that is beating the Orioles, one of the teams trying to catch them in the standings. The Twins are three games back, the Angels are 3.5 games back, and the O’s are 4.5 games back. Also, the Yankees haven’t won a series at Camden Yard since September 2013. It would be cool to clinch a series win tonight. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Matt Holliday
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP CC Sabathia

Now, the bad news: the weather in Baltimore is pretty bad. There’s rain in the forecast throughout the night and even a thunderstorm warning in the area. It looks like maybe it’ll hold off long enough to get the game in. I suppose we’ll find out. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET, and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network out-of-market. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Tyler Austin was called up from Triple-A Scranton today, the Yankees announced. His ten days since being sent down were up. The Yankees now have 32 players on the active roster.

Hurricane Irma Update: Next week’s series in Tampa “might be in jeopardy,” said Joe Girardi. The Yankees will be there next Monday through Wednesday. Hurricane Irma is expected to hit Florida later this week. The Yankees and Rays have two series remaining, one at each ballpark, so I suppose they could trade home series if necessary.

Weather Update (6:30pm ET): The game will start in the delay, the Orioles announced. No word on a start time yet.

Weather Update (8:37pm ET): The game will begin at approximately 9:15pm ET, the Orioles say.

Red Sox reportedly busted stealing signs from Yankees with video personnel

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

According to Michael Schmidt, the Red Sox were caught using video personnel and Apple Watches to steal signs from the Yankees (and other teams) over the last few weeks. Brian Cashman filed a detailed complaint with MLB and league investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims. The sign stealing reportedly took place at Fenway Park a few weeks back.

Here are some more details on the story, from Schmidt:

The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox stealing catchers’ signs in Fenway Park, contended the video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout and then relaying a message to players, who may have then been able to use the information to know the type of pitch that was going to be thrown when they were hitting, according to the people familiar with the case.

Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees’ claims based on video the commissioner’s office uses for instant replay and broadcasts, the people said. The commissioner’s office then confronted the Red Sox, who admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information to some players — an operation that had been in place for at least several weeks.

Schmidt said the Red Sox filed a counter-complaint with the league claiming the Yankees use YES Network cameras to steal signs. Boston has not been disciplined yet and it’s unclear how the league will proceed with the counter-complaint, though I’m sure it’ll be investigated.

Last season MLB allowed teams to begin using iPads loaded with scouting and Statcast data in the dugout, though only if the devices and the apps and everything are approved. Other technology, like the Apple Watch the Red Sox used to steal signs, are forbidden. I wouldn’t expect MLB to force the Red Sox to forfeit wins or anything like that, but they could be hit with a hefty fine and maybe lose a draft pick as a result of all this. We’ll see.

As far as I’m concerned, stealing signs is cool as long as it happens between the lines. If there’s a runner on second base and the catcher doesn’t hide his signs well enough, too bad. If the third base coach gets lazy and doesn’t change his signs, and someone in the dugout picks up on it, that’s his problem. When sign-stealing goes high tech and non-uniformed personnel get involved, that’s beyond gamesmanship, and the Red Sox were caught red-handed.

The Yankees are playing well, but the wild card race is closer than it appears

Trout, Buxton and Machado (Getty Images)
Trout, Buxton and Machado (Getty Images)

For the past month, the focus for the Yankees has been on the AL East race. And rightly so, as they started July up a half game and are now just two back in the loss column. The division is still very much up for grabs.

But lost in the shuffle has been how the Bombers haven’t separated themselves rest of the pack in the AL Wild Card race. After play on Monday, the Yankees are up just three games on the Minnesota Twins, current holders of the second wild card spot. Just 1.5 games behind the Twins stand the Los Angeles Angels, four back in the loss column of the Yankees.

And despite the loss on Monday, the Baltimore Orioles are just 1.5 back of a playoff spot. The Texas Rangers are tied with them despite selling at the deadline. Further back are the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, both within three games of the Twins and six in the loss column of the Yankees.

By taking 3 of 4 from Boston, the Yankees kept themselves in the division race and added some much-needed distance between them and the Twinkies. Yet we’re just a few days removed from the Twins being just a game back of the Yankees and the Angels and Orioles each had impressive second halves to stay in the race.

Sure, four games up in the loss column on a playoff spot is comfortable for the time being, but there are enough teams in striking distance to cause some uneasiness.

The Twins have an easy schedule for the last four weeks of the season, playing just six games against teams above .500. Three of those are at Yankee Stadium in two weeks. They also have seven against the last-place Detroit Tigers and two with the San Diego Padres. The Twins made up ground in part from playing an easy schedule, but it’s not as if their remaining competition is about to deter them.

The O’s, meanwhile, have 12 games left against current AL playoff teams while the Angels play a bunch with the Astros, Indians, Rangers and Mariners. The Rangers have three with the Yankees and then play in the AL West of the rest of the way. Each of these teams will be tested, but they’ll also have opportunities to move up, especially if the Yankees continue to play .500 ball.

While there are clear opportunities for the teams chasing the Yankees, there’s obviously no need to panic yet. Baltimore, Minnesota and Texas can use upcoming series against the Yankees to catch up, but the Yankees can create further distance with wins. Even splitting those contests is a win with time running out.

Despite lackluster pitching staffs, the Orioles and Angels have shown the ability to win games with their bats in the last month and each has added firepower (Tim Beckham and Justin Upton, respectively) since the All-Star break. The Rangers have shown resilience even with Adrian Beltre out and Yu Darvish dealt at the deadline.

What should keep Yankees fans sane is the talent gap in the Bombers’ favor. The Yankees have the best rotation and bullpen of any remaining WC contenders and likely have the best offense, too. None of these teams have a backend that can rival David Robertson and Dellin Betances, or a top four of Severino-Gray-Tanaka-Sabathia.

The Twins’ defense is impressive, particularly with Byron Buxton in centerfield every day and they boast strong young talent with Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berrios. Berrios may be the one pitcher the Yankees least want to see in the Wild Card Game if it comes to that. However, their bullpen is highly beatable, as is the backend of their rotation. They even dealt their closer to the Nationals on July 31.

The Orioles and Angels have high-end talent in their everyday lineup (read: Manny Machado and Mike Trout, among others) to get hot, but, again, their pitching holds them back. The Yankees’ Labor Day comeback against Dylan Bundy and co. was a supreme example of this. Beyond the top contenders, the Mariners have the best lineup of any remaining WC hopeful, but they’ve used 39 pitchers and counting during a season full of injuries and disappointment from their pitching staff.

Beyond simply the high-end talent, the Yankees also have the most depth, even after Aaron Hicks‘ injury. It’s the same depth that can win them the division and make them a legitimate World Series contender if they make the postseason.

But they have to make the postseason first and after going 17-16 in their last 33, that’s no sure thing. So when you’re scoreboard watching over the next couple weeks, make sure to not just look at the Red Sox, but also the wild card contenders. They may be closer than they appear.

The Yankees’ late-season pinch runner is already on the roster

Wade (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Wade (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Most seasons, the Yankees would have had to look to the outside for that pinch running help down the stretch. But this year, they’ll only have to look a little further down their 40-man roster.

As you may remember, the Yankees tend to acquire a pinch runner every year around the end of August. That allows them to add the player in time to be eligible for the postseason while adding some small value in September.

There are plenty of past examples. Eric Young Jr. fulfilled the role last year. Rico Noel the year before. The one that sticks in my mind is Freddy Guzman during the 2009 World Series run. These players are easy to forget and wouldn’t be a useful part of a 25-man roster from April to August, yet they earn their spot once the roster expands in September or becomes more position player friendly in the postseason.

The thing is, the Yankees didn’t acquire anyone at the August waiver deadline this season.

That could mean one of two things. One possibility is that they can’t afford to take someone off the 40-man roster for someone in such a minute role. They’ll be able to put the extra relievers to good use and they already gave Erik Kratz a 40-man spot on Friday.

But the more likely explanation is that they have their pinch runner on the roster already. Two in fact.

Therefore, Tyler Wade is likely the Yankees’ late season pinch runner.

Wade was added to the active roster on Monday. He hit extremely poorly in his first cup of coffee with a .135/.211/.212 (10 wRC+) line. Yikes. And with Ronald Torreyes/Starlin Castro/Didi Gregorius ahead of him up the middle and plenty of depth on the corners, he won’t be seeing a start unless everything goes wrong or there are meaningless games at the end of the month.

He’s a fine defensive replacement, particularly because he can play almost anywhere, and he should be able to hit as he adjusts (second for International League batting title), but for now, he can just show off his blazing speed. He’s a 75 percent base stealer in his minor league career and has stolen 27 in 32 attempts (87 percent) this year. He’s third in the International League with 26 steals while swiping one base against the Astros two months ago.

He hasn’t had enough opportunities in the majors to place on Statcast’s sprint speed leaderboard, but suffice to say, he’s an above-average runner.

Jacoby Ellsbury, of course would have been the perfect pinch runner for October, but that’s not going to happen after Aaron Hicks‘ injury. Like it or not, he’s going to be playing center field an awful lot, even after Clint Frazier returns from injury. That’s just the way it is. Joe Girardi trusts him enough to give him those starts and Hicks’ oblique injury makes Ellsbury starting a potential playoff game a likely possibility.

Ellsbury had already been quite useful as a pinch runner this season. In seven pinch running appearances, he’s stolen four bases and been caught once. He even helped the Yankees tie up a game in the ninth inning with a clutch steal before scoring on a single vs. the Mariners in July.

Even though he’s looked overmatched at the plate and has lost a step, he’s still an efficient base stealer and that alone means he’s worth the roster spot down the stretch. His 28.1 ft/s sprint speed is over 1 ft/s above average. He’s not a 70-base stealer anymore, but he can still be a menace on the basepaths. Therefore, it’s a shame he’ll be in the lineup instead of lying in wait on the bench.

Ellsbury (Elsa/Getty)
Ellsbury (Elsa/Getty)

Before Saturday, Wade may not have even been a likely member of the playoff roster. He has the positional flexibility to make the 25-man roster, but Girardi certainly wouldn’t want him at the plate. Can you blame him? The first opportunity for the 22-year-old was uninspiring.

But Hicks’ injury bumps Ellsbury up from inch runner to everyday player. Wade was already essentially a lock for the Wild Card Game roster where you have room for 16-17 position players, but now he’s the best pinch running option for the ALDS and beyond. This assumes there will be room for a pinch runner, which there should be if the Yankees

This assumes there will be room for a pinch runner on the ALDS roster, which there should be if the Yankees carry 11 pitchers as would be expected if the Yankees get that far.

Wade is a much more dynamic player than just a pinch runner and you shouldn’t let 57 poor PAs in his first try at the majors define him. He has potential to be a solid everyday shortstop or a Ben Zobrist-type if he hits his ceiling.

But for 2017, the best way the 22-year-old can make an impact down the stretch will be solely with his legs.

Jacoby Ellsbury is hot at exactly the right time for the Yankees

(David Maxwell/Getty)
(David Maxwell/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees won their third straight game and for the fourth time in their last five games, and they’re now 29-22 with a +42 run differential in the second half this season. True story. I know it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but the Yankees have collectively played well since the All-Star break. It’s kept them in the AL East race and atop the wildcard standings.

Starlin Castro and the bullpen led the way in yesterday’s win, though the resurgent Jacoby Ellsbury played a big role as well, going 1-for-2 with two walks. He drove in the game-tying run with a single and also came around to score an insurance run later in the game. That comes after a big game against the Red Sox and Chris Sale, in which Ellsbury went 3-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base, and saw 22 pitches in four plate appearances.

The overall numbers are still not great. Ellsbury is hitting .254/.335/.394 (95 wRC+) in 318 plate appearances this year which, when combined with his defense, makes him maybe a league average player. He missed time with a concussion and was also benched in favor of Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier (and I suppose Brett Gardner) for long stretches of time. And it wasn’t undeserved. Ellsbury has not played well most of the season.

Right now though, Ellsbury is in the middle of a hot streak that has seen him go 11-for-26 (.423) with two doubles, one triple, one homer, three walks, and only one strikeout in his last nine games. He’s started seven of the last ten games and the Yankees have needed him to. Hicks is back on the disabled list and Aaron Judge needed to sit out a few days last week, either for a mental break or to let his shoulder heal or both.

There’s never a bad time for a hot streak, but Ellsbury’s comes at an especially good time because Hicks and Frazier are both hurt, and because Judge still hasn’t completely snapped out of his second half slump. Judge has looked a bit better the last two days, and that’s encouraging, though it’s not nearly enough to declare him fixed. The fourth outfielder is Tyler Wade right now, so yeah. Ellsbury is going to play and play a lot.

The easy narrative here is getting demoted to the bottom of the order and later benched has lit a fire under Ellsbury. He’s playing with a big chip on his shoulder and taking it out on the baseball. And it absolutely could be true. Ellsbury, to his credit, took the lineup demotion and later the benching like a total pro. He never complained publicly and he did whatever the Yankees asked, including pinch-run late in several close games.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Ellsbury wasn’t irked by the demotion, of course. He should be upset. You want a player to be upset when he’s removed from the lineup for performance reasons. Ellsbury, like every other player, is a competitor and he wants to be in the lineup every single day. Now he’s back in the lineup and performing well. We’ve seen Ellsbury get hot in the past. When he gets hot, he gets really hot and can carry a team.

Frazier will begin a minor league rehab assignment tomorrow and the Yankees hope Hicks can begin swinging a bat within ten days, so help is on the way and that’s good. Until they return, Ellsbury is going to play, and the Yankees need him to produce because they’re trying to chase down the Red Sox in the AL East and trying to fend off basically half the AL in the wildcard race. The Yankees are, for all intents and purposes, playing playoff games right now.

Ellsbury is not going to validate his entire seven-year control in this final month. That is the wrong way to look at it. He could help make up for what has generally been an underwhelming season to date, however, and help push the Yankees into the postseason. Ellsbury has talent. That’s part of what makes his play so frustrating. He can be so much better than he has been. Ellsbury is clicking right now though, and it’s not a moment too late for the Yankees.