Thank goodness for the Twins, huh? After starting this ten-game homestand with a sweep of Minnesota, the Yankees had to settle for a split. Five wins, five losses. They dropped three of four to the Indians over the weekend and two of three to the Astros this week. Houston won Wednesday afternoon’s series finale by the score of 6-2.
The Return of Big Mike
Michael Pineda‘s first start back from his forearm injury didn’t go too well. Not a total disaster but not good either. He allowed five runs in 4.1 innings — Pineda threw 71 pitches and was limited to 80-85 pitches in his first start off the DL — and the first run was kinda silly. Evan Gattis tomahawked a high fastball other way for a short porch solo home run. Look at the pitch location:
As master of this here blog, I hereby absolve Pineda of any and all blame for that dinger. Gattis went up and got it, and, to be fair, he has a knack for doing that. Here are the pitch locations for his 63 career home runs coming into Wednesday. Gattis likes very high pitches, got one, and smacked it out. So it goes. A solo homer isn’t the end of the world. The second run scored on two singles and a squeeze bunt single. The out wasn’t recorded at first because a) the play developed slowly, and b) Stephen Drew didn’t make it over in time to cover. Sums up the state of the team well.
The fifth inning didn’t end after the bunt. Pineda walked No. 9 hitter Jason Castro to load the bases with no outs, and Jose Altuve ended Pineda’s afternoon with a sacrifice fly to center. (Chasen Shreve came in and allowed both inherited runners to score.) Pineda yielded those five runs on six hits (five singles) and one walk. He struck out three and got seven swings and misses. Pineda’s stuff looked fine — his fastball averaged 92.9 mph — but it did seem to hit a wall in that fifth inning. He was missing his spots consistently by the end of the outing.
One thing that stood out: Pineda threw a lot of changeups. He said he wanted to emphasize the pitch more while on his rehab assignment and he did just that, throwing 14 changeups out of 71 total pitches, or 19.7%. This was only the third time in his career he threw at least 18% changeups. Pineda did it Wednesday, once in April, and once last year. It’s good Pineda’s working his changeup, but winning games is more important right now, and the Yankees haven’t done much of that lately.
Two Token Runs
The Yankees scored just two runs on the afternoon — they doubled their runs total for the series! — and both came on one swing of the bat. Didi Gregorius hammered a hanging Collin McHugh breaking ball into the second deck in right field for a two-run homer in the seventh. I didn’t know Didi had that in him. Greg Bird drew a walk prior to the homer.
Unfortunately, the homer came when the Yankees were already down five runs, so all it did was close the gap for a struggling offense. Aside from the two-run rally, the offense had four singles and three walks. Carlos Beltran had a single and two walks. He’s pretty much the only guy in the lineup who is doing more than nothing these days. It’s kinda the opposite of April, when you think about it.
All told, the Yankees scored four runs in the three-game series and had 15 hits total. In three games! Thirteen of ’em were singles, the other two a double and Didi’s homer. Probably safe to say this is more than a slump now. The Yankees have scored 64 runs in their last 21 games (3.05 per game), so this isn’t a one or two-series thing. Three weeks for an individual player is a slump, but three weeks for an entire offense? There has to be concern right now. How much is up to you.
The last best chance to get back into the game came in the eighth, when Beltran and Chase Headley drew walks. Bird, who is 3-for-23 (.130) with nine strikeouts since his two-homer game, flew out to the right-center field warning track. He just missed it. Hopefully Mark Teixeira comes back soon. The Yankees really miss him both at the plate and in the field.
Shreve allowed the two runners he inherited from Pineda to score on a hit, a walk, and a wild pitch. Branden Pinder walked the first man he faced then retired the next six to chuck two scoreless frames. Adam Warren allowed a solo homer to Gattis in the eighth inning and the just called up Nick Goody tossed a scoreless ninth.
The Yankees had five hits — single and homer by Gregorius and singles by Beltran, Headley, and Chris Young — and have been held to six hits or fewer in each of their last four games. It’s the first time they’ve had no more than six hits in four straight games since last September.
And finally, the Astros had been 1-11-3 in their last 15 road series coming in this series. The Yankees are now 7-9 with a -12 run differential at home in August, which is no bueno. They should be dominating at this ballpark. Alas.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for Wednesday’s game, and here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the 2015 season. Also check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, which are updated daily. Here’s the win probability graph:
The ten-game homestand is over and the Yankees have an off-day Thursday, their first in more than two weeks. They’ll head to Atlanta for a three-game weekend interleague series with the Braves after that. I’m guessing Brian McCann will get quite the ovation from the hometown fans. Masahiro Tanaka and Williams Perez will be the pitching matchup in Friday night’s series opener.
Last weekend, I passed along a quick story about Brian Cashman telling Derek Jeter he would rather have Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop during the Yankees’ contract negotiations with their captain following the 2010 season. The story came from a recent Sports Illustrated profile of Cashman by S.L Price, which recently made its way online.
The profile covers a little of everything — Cashman’s upbringing, his life through college, getting started with the Yankees as an intern during the mid-1980s, and eventually working his way up to GM. Here’s my favorite paragraph:
In 1989, Cashman graduated Catholic with a history degree and was mulling law school or a job with UPS when the Yankees dangled a position as baseball operations assistant. The way Bowden, just two months into his job as an assistant senior VP, recalls it, Steinbrenner walked the kid into the baseball ops office and into a crowd including Gene (Stick) Michael, Lou Piniella, Bob Quinn, Dallas Green and Syd Thrift. “I want to introduce you to Brian Cashman,” Steinbrenner said. “His dad is a good friend … and someday you’ll all be fired and he’ll be the general manager of the Yankees.” Everybody in the room laughed.
Anyway, it goes without saying the profile comes with RAB’s highest level of recommendation. That’s why we’re linking to it. There’s some really fun and really interesting stories in there. Make sure you check it out.
This homestand has not been too great for the Yankees. Not terrible, but not great either. They’re 5-4 in the first nine games, which is fine, except the homestand started with a three-game sweep over the Twins. The Yankees then lost three of four to the last place Indians and have split the first two with the Astros. A win today and it’s a good 6-4 homestand. (Again, not great, but good.) A loss and it’s a yucky 5-5 homestand.
The Yankees have played better at home (37-25, +39 run differential) than on the road (32-31, +15) this year, but not this month. They’re 7-8 with a -8 run different at Yankee Stadium in August, so after all that talk about the Yankees having a favorable schedule because they have all these home games in the second half, they haven’t capitalized. Lame. Win today, clinch a winning homestand, then go from there. Here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup, featuring the return of Big Mike:
- CF Brett Gardner
- RF Carlos Beltran
- DH Alex Rodriguez
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Chase Headley
- 1B Greg Bird
- SS Didi Gregorius
- LF Chris Young
- 2B Stephen Drew
RHP Michael Pineda
Nice afternoon for a ballgame in the Bronx. It’s sunny — really, really sunny — with temperatures in the low-80s. Pretty much perfect baseball weather. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.
Roster Moves: Pineda was activated off the DL, obviously. Also, Nick Goody was called up from Triple-A Scranton to give the team a fresh arm. Chris Capuano was designated for assignment and Nick Rumbelow was send down to clear roster spots. Rumbelow can’t be recalled for ten days (unless there’s an injury), so he won’t be among the first wave up call-ups when rosters expand on September 1st.
Injury Update: Jacoby Ellsbury is day-to-day with a sore hip and isn’t available today. He might not be available Friday either. Ellsbury had some swelling last night but has not yet gone for tests … Dustin Ackley (back) will officially begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow … Brendan Ryan is available today after running around in the outfield and pitching two innings last night … Pineda, by the way, will be limited to 80-85 pitches or so.
Two days ago the Yankees placed CC Sabathia on the 15-day DL with right knee inflammation after he left Sunday’s start in the third inning. He does not need surgery, so that’s good, and Sabathia is hopeful he can return once the 15 days are up. We’ll see. I have some thoughts about the injury and stuff, so let’s get to ’em.
1. Sabathia has been very bad this year — 5.27 ERA (74 ERA+) and 4.82 FIP in 138.1 innings — and it’s easy to think the Yankees are better off without him, but remember, they only have four healthy starters right now. Michael Pineda and Bryan Mitchell are both on the DL, and while Pineda is set to return today, Andrew Miller‘s injury earlier this year is a reminder Pineda might not be 100% effective when he first returns. Hopefully he is. Adam Warren could move back into the rotation if need be but he’s not stretched out. He’s thrown more than 35 pitches just twice in the last two months. Removing an ineffective starter from the rotation is a good thing! Assuming you have the depth to replace him. Do the Yankees? Only if Pineda and Mitchell come back from their injuries with no issues, which are big ifs. The rotation was stretched thin even before Sabathia got hurt. Injuries are rarely — very rarely — a good thing.
2. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman indicated the Yankees will shelve their plan to use a six-man rotation in September following Sabathia’s injury, but I’m sure they’ll still insert a spot sixth starter whenever possible. It’ll be much easier to pull off once rosters expand a week from today. They could plug Mitchell — assuming he’s healthy! — or Warren into the rotation once in a while and have all the call-ups serve as innings-eating arms. The Yankees have used a spot sixth starter whenever possible this season, even when it meant playing with a short bench or a short bullpen, so there’s no reason to think they won’t do it after the Sabathia injury. It just means Mitchell or Warren will make those starts and someone else will be the long man in the bullpen. So the Yankees sacrifice a good bullpen piece to plug their rotation hole. Maybe that’s a sacrifice they can afford to make in September.
3. It’s impossible to know what the injury means for Sabathia and the Yankees long-term. Clearly the knee will have to be managed going forward, but we knew that already. I’m not sure the injury changes anything in that regard. Sabathia said he is willing to pitch out of the bullpen, and that’s great, so maybe that’s where his future lies. Perhaps this latest scare convinced him the knee simply won’t hold up for 100 or so pitches every fifth day. The injury definitely won’t push Sabathia into retirement, I’m pretty confident about that. For starters, he’s not leaving on all that money on the table. It wouldn’t be honorable, it would be stupid. Secondly, Sabathia’s not just going to quit and go out like that. This guy has pitched through everything and is a top of the line competitor. Like tippy top of the line. They’re going to have to drag him off the mound. The Yankees reportedly have insurance on Sabathia’s contract but the exact details are unknown. The policy might only cover his arm for all we know. Insurance usually doesn’t kick in until after a certain number of days missed — the Mets didn’t collect any insurance on David Wright until he missed 60 days, for example — and it might not kick in at all this year since the season is almost over. One thing at a time though. Sabathia’s injury means the Yankees are short a pitcher right now. We’ll have an entire offseason to wonder what it means for the 2016 Yankees. (And 2017 Yankees!)
4. Sabathia’s velocity had ticked up in his recent starts …
… and he admitted Sunday the added velocity was the result of a “screw it” mentality. Sabathia told Ken Davidoff he had been pitching through knee discomfort and a recent cortisone shot provided minimal relief, so he decided to simply air it out because holding back and trying to protect the knee wasn’t working. The options were a) pitch poorly while trying to protect the knee, or b) put the knee at risk and maybe pitch more effectively. Sabathia did (a) for much of the season, changed over to (b), and it lasted only a few starts. What an awful situation. Either pitch poorly with reduced stuff or increase the injury risk with no guarantee of performing better.
5. Gosh, how much pain must Sabathia have been in to come out of the game like that Sunday? This guy pitches through everything. Sabathia pitched through the bone spur in his elbow back in 2012 even though he couldn’t fully extend his elbow and had limited range of motion. He suffered a Grade II hamstring strain in a September 2013 game and finished the start. Sabathia came right out of Sunday’s game and didn’t try to throw a test pitch or even lobby to stay. He must have been in some serious pain. Criticize his pitching all you want. Sabathia’s always been a team first guy who never didn’t take the ball. To bow out of a game without a fight like that tells you he’d reached the breaking point with his knee. It was too much.
6. The Yankees signed Sabathia to his five-year, $122M extension during the 2011-12 offseason, and he’s now ended each season of the contract injured. In 2012 he had the bone spur in his elbow. In 2013 it was the hamstring. Last year it was his knee surgery, and this year it’s the knee again. (Well, I guess he might not finish this season hurt, but you know what I mean. He’s had physical problems each year.) Sabathia was very much on the Hall of Fame track before these injuries started to set in, and, after all the concern about all those innings on his arm, it’s his legs that are giving out. The bone spur in his elbow has been his only arm injury. Remember when everyone was worried about A.J. Burnett‘s durability when the Yankees signed him? He was healthy during his entire contract and then some. Pitchers, man. They all seem to get hurt, but predicting how and when and why is an exercise in futility.
Yeesh, that was bad. The hitting, the pitching, the fielding, pretty much everything. The Yankees were embarrassed at home Tuesday night, falling 15-1 to the Astros for their fourth loss in six games.
Over In The First
This game was not competitive very long. Ivan Nova quickly retired the first two batters of the game before the floodgates opened thanks to a combination of a Jacoby Ellsbury defensive miscue and Nova having nothing. Nova walked Carlos Correa with two outs, which, whatever, it happens, but then Colby Rasmus lifted a line drive to center than Ellsbury misread and allowed to fall in for a triple. Ellsbury initially broke back before having to come in for the ball, and his slide fell short.
Fine, whatever, that shouldn’t happen but it did. One run isn’t the end of the world. Nova couldn’t stop the bleeding there though. He walked Evan Gattis on four pitches, gave up a line drive double to Carlos Gomez to make it 2-0, then gave up a booming two-run double to Luis Valbuena. Four-zip Astros. Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to make it 5-0. Nova then walked Jason Castro before getting Jose Altuve to ground out to end the inning. Altuve made two of the three outs in the first.
The Ellsbury misplay — it was ruled a hit but come on, a big league center fielder has to catch that ball, it should have been an error — definitely hurt, but that inning went well beyond “blame Ellsbury.” Nova had nothing and allowed seven (!) straight hitters to reach base with two outs, including three on extra-base hits. He threw 40 pitches in the inning and the Astros fouled off ten. Nova couldn’t put anyone away. Not the first time that’s happened this year.
When it was all said and done, Nova was charged with seven runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings. He struck out one. Nova has now allowed 17 runs on 34 base-runners in 21.1 innings in his last three starts. Slump? Post-Tommy John surgery wall? Who knows. Bottom line is the Yankees need Nova to be better than this. The offense is struggling and they certainly don’t have the pitching depth to compensate. Ellsbury was only a small part of the problem. Even Nova’s outs were crushed.
Offense? No Offense
The Yankees scored their only run in the ninth inning, when the game was all but over. Ellsbury hit a leadoff single, moved up to second when Chris Young was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a ground out, then scored on another ground out. Not the most exciting rally, but hey, at least they didn’t shut out. Not that it really matters.
All told, the Yankees had four hits on the night: two singles by Ellsbury, a double by Carlos Beltran, and a single by John Ryan Murphy. That’s it. No one drew a walk and they stuck out a dozen times. Dallas Keuchel, who is an excellent pitcher, was on cruise control. Seven scoreless innings and Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled him after only 88 pitches because the game was so out of hand. Save those bullets for another day.
The Yankees have now had six or fewer hits in each of their last three games, during which they’ve scored five total runs. They’re averaging 3.1 runs per game in their last 20 games. Basically everyone in the lineup other than Beltran and Ellsbury is slumping. Nova could have tossed a gem and the Yankees still would have lost. This is bad, man. Real bad.
The only pitcher to not allow a run? Brendan Ryan, of course. He tossed two scoreless innings to spare the bullpen. Two innings! He’s the first position player to throw two innings in a game for the Yankees since Stick Michael in 1968. Good gravy. Nick Rumbelow allowed two runs (one earned) in an inning and Chris Capuano was charged with six runs in two innings. He looked like he was pitching hurt for a while. The trainer came out to see him, he threw some test pitches and remained in the game, but didn’t look real comfortable. Hooray for Ryan. Everyone else stunk.
The benches briefly cleared in the sixth inning because apparently the Yankees took exception to something Gomez said or did. Joe Girardi told reporters they didn’t like the way he flipped his bat or something after flying out. Silly. Gomez flew out, jogged down to first, then the bench yelled something at him. Murphy said something to Gomez near home plate before the umpires stepped between them. I’m still not sure what Gomez did wrong. Seems like the Yankees have more important things to worry about than someone flipping their bat in a blowout. (Gomez homered later in the game, so good job?)
Before he pitched, Ryan played a few innings in right field. It was his fifth career game in the outfield and first since 2008. Between the pitching and the extra running, he’s going to be pretty sore tomorrow. I’m not sure anyone on the Yankees had more fun than him though. Ryan seemed to have a blast on the mound. Can’t say I blame him.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, and postseason odds. Also, head over to our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages for some potentially useful — or perhaps not — information. Here’s the loss probability graph:
The ten-game homestand ends Wednesday afternoon with the series finale against the Astros. Michael Pineda will make his hopefully triumphant return from the DL and make the start. Collin McHugh will be on the bump for Houston in the matinee. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch that game live.
The minor league season ends in about two weeks, and although LHP Ian Clarkin has not pitched in an official game this season, he is currently throwing off a mound based on his Instagram feed. Clarkin’s been out since dealing with some elbow inflammation back in Spring Training. Hopefully he gets healthy enough to pitch in Instructional League in a few weeks. Maybe even in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball somewhere.
Triple-A Scranton (2-0 loss to Pawtucket)
- CF-LF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K
- LF Slade Heathcott: 1-3, 1 K — first game since leaving Friday’s game for an unknown reason after running the bases
- 3B Jose Pirela: 1-3, 1 HBP
- C Gary Sanchez: 2-4 — 7-for-12 (.583) in his last three games
- RF-CF Aaron Judge: 0-4, 1 K
- 1B Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 HBP
- RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 13/0 GB/FB — 61 of 99 pitches were strikes (62%) … well, if you’re not going to strike anyone out, I guess allowing no fly balls works
- LHP James Pazos: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 23 of 38 pitches were strikes (61%)