We all knew the Yankees’ lineup would look a little different coming into the year, but an injury-filled Spring Training meant the offense looked even more different than expected when the regular season opened last week. Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner were the only players in the lineup for both Opening Day 2012 and Opening Day 2013, and a whopping six players made their debut for the team last Monday. That’s the first time that’s happened in over 100 years, since before the Yankees were the Yankees (they were the Highlanders at the time).
Two series and six games into the season, it’s the new-look middle of the order that has carried the club offensively. The players who were with the team last year — specifically talking about Cano and Ichiro Suzuki here — have mostly been a drain on the offense. I’m talking about a combined .631 OPS for those two. No, seriously. If you add Cano’s (.330) and Ichiro‘s (.301) OPS together, that’s what you get. Good grief. Thank goodness it’s only been six games.
Anyway, here are some happier numbers…
- Kevin Youkilis: 9-for-22 (.409), two walks, one hit-by-pitch (.480 OBP), four doubles, one homer (.727 SLG)
- Travis Hafner: 7-for-20 (.350), two walks (.409 OBP), one homer (.500 SLG)
- Vernon Wells: 5-for-17 (.294), four walks (.429), one double, two homers (.706 SLG)
The Yankees have scored 24 total runs this year and those three guys have scored (11) and driven-in (11) basically half of them (46% to be exact). New York is hitting .272/.323/.399 as a team but without those three it drops down to .194/.273/.295. Youkilis, Hafner, and Wells have really carried the load in the first six games. They’re driving the offense.
Now, here’s the bad news: these guys aren’t going to keep hitting like this forever. Youkilis seems like the best bet to continue providing big production, but he’s still going to come back to Earth at some point. The good news is that some other players in the lineup — specifically Cano, Ichiro, and Gardner — will improve going forward to help balance things out. That’s usually how things go, some players are slumping while others are hot and it evens out. When it happens during the first week of the season, we tend to notice. When it happens in the middle of the dog days, no one really cares.
Despite yesterday’s seven-run outburst, the Yankees have struggled offensively in their six games this year. Those struggles pale in comparison to the pitching problems, but they exist nonetheless. They need (especially) Cano and some others to start hitting as much as they need the middle of the bullpen to straighten itself out because Youkilis, Hafner, and Wells won’t be able to carry the offense all year as they have so far. That trio has been awesome, but they still need some help sooner rather than later.
Record Last Week: 2-4 (24 RS, 33 RA)
Season Record: 2-4 (24 RS, 33 RA, 2-4 pythag. record), 2.0 games back in AL East
Opponents This Week: @ Indians (four games, Mon. to Thurs.), vs. Orioles (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The regular season finally got underway, but the Red Sox spoiled the Opening Day by beating CC Sabathia on Monday. Boston took the second game of the year following an off-day before Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera gave the Yankees their first win of 2013 on Thursday.
- The Yankees traveled to Detroit for a three-game weekend series, but both Ivan Nova and the bullpen got smacked around in Friday’s loss. Phil Hughes was activated off the DL and returned in Saturday’s game, but again the pitching was not good enough. Sabathia carried the team to a much-needed win yesterday.
- Injury News: Derek Jeter (ankle) started taking ground balls and hitting off a tee over the weekend. Mark Teixeira (wrist) was given the okay to remove his brace. Hiroki Kuroda (finger) is scheduled to make his next start after getting hit by a line drive. Eduardo Nunez (biceps) is day-to-day after being hit by a pitch. Ty Hensley (hip) will miss 2-3 months after having surgery.
- Robinson Cano fired Scott Boras and hired CAA Sports and Jay-Z’s new Roc Nation Sports agency. It’s unclear how (or if) the change will impact extension talks, but you have to think hiring Jay-Z increases the likelihood Cano will remain in New York.
- The Yankees officially released both David Aardsma and Clay Rapada, who were removed from the 40-man roster before the season. They never discussed Joba Chamberlain in a trade with the Rangers. Cody Eppley was optioned to Triple-A to clear room on the roster for Hughes.
- The Yankees set an all-time record with a $230.4M Opening Day payroll. Their draft pool will be worth a touch less than $8M this summer.
- Right-hander Rafael DePaula struck out 11 in his long-awaited U.S. debut as the minor league season got underway.
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The Yankees had lost six straight against the Tigers (including postseason) coming into Sunday’s game, but more than anything they just needed a win to start feeling good about things after the rough opening week to the season. They had the right man on the mound in the series finale against Detroit — they don’t make another regular season trip to Comerica Park this year, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying “thank goodness” — and walked away with a much-needed 7-0 win.
Sabathia Not Sharp, But Effective
After watching their bullpen get torn to shreds the last two games, the Yankees desperately needed a quality outing from CC Sabathia on Sunday. He delivered in a big way despite being something less than sharp, holding the Tigers to four singles and zero runs in seven innings. His strikeout (three) and walk (three) totals tell you he off a bit, but Sabathia made pitches when he had to and never once allowed a runner to reach third base. Only one made it as far as second.
Sabathia, who had to really grind through the 114-pitch outing, averaged 90.9 mph with his fastball and topped out at 92.5 according to PitchFX. That’s up a bit from Opening Day last week (89.9 and 91.7, respectively), so at least he’s heading in the right direction. This is still something work monitoring, of course. Detroit’s batters swung and missed ten times total against the southpaw, including six times against the 20 changeups he threw. That was the pitch he leaned on last time out as well.
Opponents have scored against Sabathia in only one of his 12 innings this year, and on Sunday he limited the top five hitters in Detroit’s lineup to one single and two walks in 16 plate appearances. The powerful three-four-five combination of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez went a combined 0-for-9 with a strikeout against the Yankees’ ace. That’s pretty much the recipe for beating the Tigers, keeping those guys in check. It wasn’t his most effortless outing, but big ups to CC for coming up big when his team really needed it.
Bottom Of The Order Does Some Damage
The Yankees have had some run-scoring issues so far this year, but the bottom of the order did some damage against Justin Verlander in the second inning. The rally started a hard-fought, seven-pitch walk from Vernon Wells — already has four walks as a Yankee after drawing 16 in 77 games last year — who moved to second on Ichiro Suzuki‘s ground out. Frankie Cervelli got the Bombers on the board with a double into the left-center field gap, though left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo deserves an honorable mention for a horrendous route.
Lyle Overbay followed with a fly out, but Jayson Nix came through with the big two-out, two-run homer to left. He came into the season with five strikeouts (at least three looking) in seven plate appearances and didn’t inspire much confidence in that spot. With Eduardo Nunez‘s recent biceps injury and Derek Jeter‘s slow recovery from his ankle surgery, the Yankees need Nix to be somewhat productive as the utility infielder. Hitting a two-run dinger off Verlander to give the club a three-run lead is about as good as it gets there.
For the first time since Game One of the ALDS, the Yankees managed to put more than four runs on the board. They broke things open against the suspect Tigers bullpen, pounding former Yankees Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel for four runs on six hits and one walk in 1.2 innings. They combined to throw 47 pitches and got one swing and miss.
There really wasn’t a big blow in those last two innings, it was two steady rallies. Ichiro (sacrifice fly) and Cervelli (single) each plated one run in the eighth while Kevin Youkilis (single) drove in a pair in the ninth. It had been a while (13 games in fact) since the Yankees last blew one open like that, so it was a welcome sight. After all of Sabathia’s hard work it was nice to know the bullpen had some breathing room.
Prior to the game, the Tigers gave Mariano Rivera some framed photos with dirt from Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park as part of his farewell tour. This is one of those things that is definitely cooler than it sounds. Later on, Mo threw a scoreless ninth with two bloop singles mixed it. David Robertson pulled a Houdini act in the eight with two strikeouts.
Nix led the offense with three hits, but Youkilis, Cervelli, and Travis Hafner all had two apiece as well. Overbay was the only player in the lineup not to reach base as even the struggling Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano picked up a hit (one single apiece). Gardner also made a great running catch in the right-center field gap in the late innings to help stifle a rally. Wells, who doubled and had a pair of walks, also made a nice lunging (more like flopping, really) catch early on.
Youkilis and Verlander were jawing at each other after the former’s first inning double, and I think it had to do with something earlier in the at-bat. Youkilis hit a deep fly ball that hooked foul a few pitches earlier, but he stared it down like a no-doubt homer. Verlander might not have liked that. No idea what the conversation was about though, just speculating.
In case you’re wondering, Joba Chamberlain shaved off that atrocious mustache citing superstitious reasons. “It wasn’t doing us any good,” he said before the game. You can say that again.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Hooray for no longer having the worst run differential in baseball.
The Yankees are heading to Cleveland for a four-game series with the Indians that begins Monday afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda, who still has some soreness in his right middle finger after being hit a line drive on Wednesday — “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t bothering me …. At the same time I have to deal with it,” said Kuroda to George King prior to Sunday’s game — will get the ball against Ubaldo Jimenez.
Triple-A Scranton (6-2 loss to Pawtucket)
- LF Melky Mesa: 1-4, 2 K, 1 HBP — nine strikeouts in 19 plate appearances so far
- 2B Corban Joseph: 0-2, 2 BB
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
- 3B David Adams: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB
- C Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
- RHP Brett Marshall: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 WP, 3/3 GB/FB — 45 of 83 pitches were strikes (54%) … hardly an ideal Triple-A debut, but he’ll give it another go in five days
For the first time in 14 games, since Game One of the ALDS, the Yankees scored more than four runs this afternoon. They put up a seven spot against Justin Verlander and various relievers this afternoon, winning their second game of the season in six tries. Hopefully they can build on this going forward and string together some wins. Cleveland and a four-game series with Nick Swisher‘s Indians are next on the schedule.
Here is your open thread for the evening, a little earlier than usual because there’s not much of anything going on right now. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is a good one, the Angels at the Rangers (Weaver vs. Darvish). The Devils are also playing and I guess Mad Men returns tonight as well. Never managed to get into that show, though I did give it a few chances. Anyway, talk about whatever you like here. Have at it.
After nearly two years in visa purgatory, right-hander Rafael DePaula finally made his stateside debut yesterday. He struck out eleven in 4.1 innings with the Low-A Charleston River Dogs, throwing a ton of fastballs, a handful of sliders, and just a few changeups. Forty-nine of this 71 pitches were strikes and there were a ton of swings and misses, like the one you see above. I didn’t count, but it was easily over ten whiffs and probably closer to 20.
Baseball America ranked the 22-year-old DePaula as the Yankees tenth best prospect a few weeks ago, calling him “the biggest X-factor in the system” while saying his “ceiling is as high as any Yankees minor league pitcher.” New York desperately needs some young impact pitching to emerge, so it sure would be nice if DePaula builds off yesterday’s start and climbs the ladder in a hurry. More .GIFs after the jump.
The Yankees haven’t had much of a chance these last two games against the Tigers because of their pitching, the bullpen in particular. If they want to avoid the sweep this afternoon they’ll have to find a way to beat Justin Verlander, pretty much the best right-handed hitter on the planet. They’re going to need good pitching and good hitting, something they’ve been unable to do in the same game yet this year. If that streak of 13 consecutive games* with four or fewer runs — dating back to Game One of the ALDS — is going to come to an end, they’ll have to earn it. Here is the starting nine…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- 3B Kevin Youkilis
- DH Travis Hafner
- LF Vernon Wells
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Jayson Nix
And on the mound is the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, CC Sabathia.
This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start a little after 1pm ET, but the Tigers are holding a ceremony to honor Mariano Rivera, so first pitch may be delayed a bit. They’re apparently giving him something “Michigan-flavored.” Not sure what that means. Anyway, the game will be on YES. Enjoy.
Eduardo Nunez Update: Nunez (biceps) tried to hit and play catch today, but he’s still in pain and can’t do it. He’s not available to do anything more than pinch-run.
Hiroki Kuroda Update: Kuroda (finger) came through his bullpen session a few days ago just fine and he played catch today. He will indeed start against the Indians tomorrow as scheduled.
* The last time the Yankees started the season by scoring four or fewer runs in five straight games was 2008, when they did it in six straight. Last year they didn’t have their fifth game of four or fewer runs until April 25th, the 18th game of the season.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 loss to Pawtucket)
- RF Melky Mesa: 1-4, 1 BB, 1 K
- 2B Corban Joseph: 0-5, 2 K
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 0-2, 3 BB, 1 K — six walks in the three games after drawing 25 all of last year
- 1B Luke Murton: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
- 3B Addison Maruszak: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- LHP Juan Cedeno: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 15 of 22 pitches were strikes (38%) … nice work
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB – 17 of 24 pitches were strikes (63%)
You guys aren’t going to believe this, but the Yankees lost to Tigers on Saturday because the pitching stunk yet again. The offense wasn’t all that great either, but the pitching really stole the crap show on Saturday. Let’s recap…
- Mediocre Return: In what looked like a Major League rehab start, Phil Hughes allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits (three for extra bases) in four innings. I guess the good news is that he didn’t walk anyone, but that’s a small consolation prize. Andy Pettitte and Adam Warren are the only pitchers on the team to throw more than five innings in an appearance this year.
- Bullpen of Doom: It’s stunning how awful the middle of this bullpen is. Boone Logan, David Phelps, and Joba Chamberlain combined to put 12 men on-base in four innings, resulting in four runs (three earned). They walked as many as they struck out (three). The relief corps own an 8.10 ERA as a whole. Bravo.
- Bad Send: The Yankees managed a double, a triple, and a homer in the second inning yet only scored one run because a) sequencing!, and b) for whatever reason Brennan Boesch was sent home on Frankie Cervelli‘s shallow fly ball to left. He was thrown out by a good ten feet. When you’re struggling to score runs, you can’t be giving away runners like that. There were no outs in the inning and Max Scherzer was giving up rockets all over the field.
- Some More Offense: The Yankees pushed across three runs in the sixth, two on Lyle Overbay‘s two-out, two-strike single to right. Overbay was the only player on the team with multiple hits, though Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells all had a hit and walk. Those guys are the only ones capable of creating runs for the team right now.
- Leftovers: Brett Gardner saved Hughes’ bacon with a sliding catch to end the third. The Tigers had men on second and third at the time … Jayson Nix bobbled the most routine of routine grounds in the first, resulting in an unearned run. He also went 0-for-3 at the plate with two strikeouts … Robinson Cano went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, so anytime he wants to get back from the World Baseball Classic would be cool … the Yankees haven’t scored more than four runs in a game since Game One of the ALDS, 13 games ago.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some additional stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon when CC Sabathia squares off against Justin Verlander. In addition to a win, New York really needs some length out of Sabathia. The bullpen has thrown 17 innings in the last four days.