Drew’s Clutch Grand Slam Rallies Yanks Past O’s 6-5

Sources: Rob Carr/Getty Images America
Stephen Drew! Don’t you… knew??? (Getty)

Boy, how’s this to get a road trip started? Yankees had a subpar home stretch and they went into the enemy territory with a 2-4 record. However, they grinded out a 6-5 win thanks to a very-unprecedented Stephen Drew grand slam in the seventh inning.

#BIGMIKE fun to watch but imperfect:

I personally feel that Michael Pineda’s stuff looked better today than in his first start. His changeup was on point today – generated a good amount of swing-and-misses and had a nice, deceiving fade to it. His fastball sat around 90~93 mph but, as the MASN broadcasters frequently pointed it, they had a lot of movement. His slider also looked good – it had a very sharp and big break. One thing that didn’t go 100% for Big Mike was his command. Okay, it’s not really easy to say that when he has 9 strikeouts and 0 walk but he also allowed 9 hits – one of them an elevated 91 mph fastball that Adam Jones smashed out of park – and 5 earned runs.

I think, overall, it was a positive outing.  The Orioles aren’t a light-hitting team and with one or two less mistake pitches, his line would’ve looked at least noticeably better. If I had to choose one moment that stood out, on the first inning, Pineda whiffed Chris Davis with this pitch sequence: 1) a fastball strike on the outside corner 2) a diving 88 mph changeup for a swing-and-miss 3) slider down and in for a swing-and-miss. Can’t think of any at-bats that showcases the best of #BigMike.

His line: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. How is this for #FIPFriendly?

Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America
What a #pitchface (Getty)

A Stephen grand slam? Just like how they Drew it up!:

Yankees tagged the O’s starter Wei-Yin Chen with two homers but 1) they were both solo HR’s and 2) that was all the run damage they did against the lefty. In the seventh inning, with the Orioles leading 4-2, Buck Showalter brought out Tommy Hunter to relieve Chen.

Yankees had a chance with runners on first and second with no out after a Chris Young single and a John Ryan Murphy walk. Didi Gregorius and Garrett Jones followed that chance up by flying out and runners stayed put. Ugh. New York caught a break when Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an infield single to make it two outs and bases loaded. Instead of Brett Gardner, who was penciled as the #2 hitter in the starting lineup, Stephen Drew stepped in as a pinch-hitter.

The infielder, who was hitting an abysmal .150/.182/.300 line before the game… hit a grand slam. Not just a grand slam, it’s a pinch-hit grand slam and boy, those are RARE . With two outs, bases loaded and on a 3-1 count, I guess Hunter wanted to throw a strike. Drew just turned around on a 95 mph fastball to give the Yanks a 6-4 lead. A few more of these and he’ll reach to a #TrueYankee status. Maybe.

Dellin forgot how to deal:

Joe Girardi brought in Dellin Betances to relieve Pineda in the seventh inning. As it was the theme from the Spring Training, Dellin didn’t look… good. Hitters weren’t biting on his curve and he seemed to have no idea where the ball is going. He did get lucky in two instances. With bases loaded with two outs, Betances struck out Chris Davis to get out of the jam. And in the eighth inning, Adam Jones, who got on the first base with a single, got thrown out trying to steal second by Murphy. Betances proceeded to walk Travis Snider and Girardi pulled him out. Ugh. He now has 3 strikeouts and 6 walks in 3 IP this season. That’s not a big sample but it’s not pretty. It’s also apparent that Dellin’s command is pretty derailed. Hope he figures things out pretty soon.

Andrew Miller still deals:

After watching  the Dellin Betances theater, Girardi put in Andrew Miller to close out the eighth and the game. And boy, Miller looked good. The lanky lefty struck out Machado and Schoop swinging to get out of the inning and shut the O’s down in the ninth as well to earn his second save. Nasty.

Extra Notes:

Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America
The 1.295 OPS man. (Getty)

Yankees had two other homers besides the big Drew GS – Young hit an absolute meatball/hanging curve from Chen into the left field seats to give Yanks a 1-0 lead. Few innings later, Tex hit a fastball right down the middle to tie it up 2-2. It’s nice to see guys with home run power to actually hit one out of the park and I hope this trend continues. Also, good to see Teixeira hit for some power! He did not reach his third homer of the season in 2014 until April 29. After tonight’s game, the Severna Park, Md. native has a 1.107 OPS. I went to a same high school as Tex and I’m a Yankees watcher – I’d love for him to excel.

Gardner left the game in the seventh inning after being hit by a Chen fastball in the first inning on the right arm. Fortunately for the Yanks,  the X-ray revealed he’s fine and will be day-to-day. Whew.

This was an intriguing game to watch and we can only say that it was “fun” because the Yankees won. Here’s the box score from ESPN and a win probability chart from Fangraphs. Tomorrow, CC Sabathia is going to try to bounce from a mediocre first start last week. Let’s hope the warmer weather treats the big man well.

DotF: Austin’s hot start continues in Scranton’s loss

With RHP Joel De La Cruz called up to MLB, RHP Brady Lail has been temporarily bumped up from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton to take De La Cruz’s spot in the rotation, says Josh Norris.

Triple-A Scranton (6-4 loss to Rochester)

  • CF Slade Heathcott: 2-4, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 K — 5-for-18 (.278) so far
  • RF Ramon Flores: 0-5, 2 K — 1-for-16 (.053) since the Opening Day cycle
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 0-2, 1 R, 3 BB
  • LF Tyler Austin: 3-4, 2 RBI, 1 K — off to a real nice 8-for-19 (.421) start this year
  • C Austin Romine: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
  • LHP Conner Kendrick: 3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 5/1 GB/FB — 42 of 72 pitches were strikes (58%) … just up from Extended Spring Training to help fill in after LHP Matt Tracy and RHP Kyle Davies were called up
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (74%)
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 20 of 28 pitches were strikes (71%)

[Read more…]

Ivan Nova set to face hitters in live batting practice for first time on Tuesday


According to Marly Rivera (translated article), right-hander Ivan Nova is set to face hitters during a session of live batting practice at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa tomorrow. Nova is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and this will be his first time facing hitters as part of his rehab.

“It feels good, already going to be a year since I’ve faced hitters and I feel a little nervous. I feel great physically. I have thrown all my pitches without any hassle and I am confident that everything will be fine,” said Nova to Rivera. Right now I do not know how long I’ll keep throwing batting practice. I have to follow the (process laid out) by my coaches … Do not try to do more than necessary. The important thing is to consider the process.”

Nova, 29, had his elbow rebuild late last April and the Yankees have proceeded very slowly with his rehab. Pitchers usually begin facing hitters 8-10 months after surgery and Nova’s at 12 months now. After however many sessions of batting practice, Nova will return to game action, likely Extended Spring Training at first because the conditions are controlled. The Yankees have been saying they expect Nova back in June all along.

The typical Tommy John surgery rehab schedule has been called into question by some — including Dr. James Andrews — within the last few months because it maybe be too aggressive, which could explain why so many players are now having second Tommy John surgeries. Jeremy Hefner, Cory Luebke, Jonny Venters, and Daniel Hudson all needed a second procedure while still rehabbing from the first. Others like Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Jarrod Parker needed a second Tommy John surgery with a few years of their first.

Clearly the Yankees are being cautious with Nova and I can’t say I blame them one bit. He could be a significant rotation boost at midseason and also figures to be an important part of the rotation next year, his last season before free agency.

Game Seven: Big Mike in Baltimore


The Yankees needed last night’s win in the worst way and they have the right guy on the mound tonight to help turn that singular win into the start of a winning streak. With Masahiro Tanaka not pitching like 2014 Masahiro Tanaka at the moment, Michael Pineda is the staff ace, the one starter with no real performance concerns. It’s all health with him.

Alex Rodriguez is making his first start of the season at third base and I like that Joe Girardi is sending him out there during a Pineda start. Big Mike is not a ground ball pitcher (career 37.4% grounder rate), he’s a pop-up pitcher, so A-Rod‘s lack of range won’t be as much of an issue with him on the mound. I’m sure Buck Showalter will have one of his guys bunt towards third though. Maybe even Alejandro De Aza leading off the game. Here’s the starting lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 3B Alex Rodriguez
  6. RF Chris Young
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Gregorio Petit
    RHP Michael Pineda

The Yankees are in Baltimore to start a three-game series with the Orioles. Here is the O’s lineup.

It is on the cool side (mid-60s) and, as always, humid as hell in Baltimore. There is some rain in the forecast but not until later tonight, after midnight or so. It shouldn’t be an issue unless they play another 19 innings or something. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Daily Roster Move: RHP Kyle Davies was designated for assignment and RHP Joel De La Cruz was called up, the Yankees announced. De La Cruz threw three innings for Double-A Trenton on Friday and should be good for a few innings of long relief today, if necessary. He’s the guy the Yankees tried to send to the Cubs for Alfonso Soriano rather than Corey Black two years ago.

Injury Update: Jose Pirela (concussion) has been cleared to resume baseball activities and should begin playing in games next week. Brendan Ryan (calf) is making progress and hopes to return to the team in early May. [Ryan Hatch, Dan Barbarisi]

Sherman: Yankees were not interested in Kimbrel plus Upton package

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

After an offseason of blockbuster trades, the Padres managed to squeeze in one last mega-trade hours before the Cardinals and Cubs opened the season last Sunday night. San Diego GM A.J. Preller acquired all-world closer Craig Kimbrel and B.J. Melvin Upton Jr. from the Braves for the superfluous Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, top prospect Matt Wisler, secondary prospect Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st overall pick in the draft. It was a doozy.

In a nutshell, Atlanta used arguably their best remaining trade chip as a way to unload the last three years of Upton’s disaster contract. Even after taking on Quentin’s and Maybin’s bad deals, the Braves saved about $56.25M over the next three seasons. (Who knows if their traditionally stingy ownership group will let them reinvest that money though.) On top of that they got a great prospect in Wisler, an okay prospect in Paroubeck, and that 41st pick. Considering their commitment to rebuilding, this was a trade Atlanta had to make.

According to Joel Sherman, the Braves tried to sell many teams on a Kimbrel/Upton package during the offseason, but found no takers. He says the Yankees were one of the teams to decline the offer. I’m not sure what the Yankees equivalent of the Padres’ trade package would be — the Yanks have bad contracts, but they’re much worse than Quentin’s and Maybin’s — but Wisler and Luis Severino were ranked 34th and 35th on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list this spring, respectively. The Yankees don’t have a draft pick to trade but could have offered international bonus space instead.

Kimbrel is elite. Best reliever in the game. Add him to the Andrew Miller/Dellin Betances duo and forget it, the game would be over after the fifth inning. Upton would have been totally pointless though, especially since the Yankees re-signed Chris Young so early in the offseason. All Upton would do is tie down a roster spot — I’m not even sure whose spot he’s take — and eat a big chunk of payroll (remember the luxury tax!). The Yankees would end up taking on a ton of money and trading away arguably their best prospect to bolster the bullpen, which is already a strength.

As much as Kimbrel would help the Yankees (or any other team), I totally understand why the club passed. Spending significant resources to acquire a new closer doesn’t seem like it would be worth the upgrade when there are so many other spots on the roster in need of help. The Yankees have enough bad contracts, and as good as Kimbrel is, he’s not someone who will push the team into the postseason himself. If they’re going to trade top prospects and take on a ton of money, they should do it for workhorse starter or a middle of the order bat, not a one-inning reliever.

4/13 to 4/15 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles


The first homestand of the season is over and the Yankees now head out on a three-city, ten-game, eleven-day road trip. The first stop: Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles, the defending AL East champs. The Yankees won just two of nine games at Camden Yards last season and are 6-13 in Baltimore since the start of 2013.

What Have The Orioles Done Lately?

The Orioles and Blue Jays just wrapped up a series of slugfests in Baltimore — the two teams combined to score 42 runs in the three games. Toronto took two of three, including yesterday’s game 10-7. Overall, the O’s are 3-3 with a -1 run differential. They’re right smack in the middle of the AL East pack after the first week of the season.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles had one of the better offenses in baseball last year (4.35 runs per game), and aside from replacing Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz with Travis Snider, they have the same basic lineup this year. Once again, they’re one of the highest scoring teams in the super early going this year (5.12 runs per game), scoring at least five runs in five of their six games. Here is their starting lineup with their 2015 performance to date and overall ZiPS projections:

2014 Performance 2015 ZiPS Projection
LF Alejandro De Aza
7-for-23 (.304), 2 HR .262/.320/.396 (100 wRC+)
DH Steve Pearce
5-for-23 (.217), 2 HR .262/.345/.473 (129 wRC+)
1B Chris Davis
5-for-19 (.263), 1 HR .241/.326/.495 (126 wRC+)
CF Adam Jones
8-for-21 (.381), 2 HR .279/.315/.475 (120 wRC+)
RF Travis Snider
7-for-18 (.389), 1 HR .242/.310/.410 (101 wRC+)
3B Manny Machado
1-for-19 (.053) .285/.323/.448 (115 wRC+)
2B Ryan Flaherty
2-for-13 (.154), 1 HR .228/.287/.381 (85 wRC+)
SS Everth Cabrera
4-for-17 (.235) .251/.312/.329 (87 wRC+)
C Caleb Joseph
2-for-13 (.154), 2 2B .235/.279/.393 (81 wRC+)

Baltimore is currently without SS J.J. Hardy (shoulder) and C Matt Wieters (Tommy John surgery), both of whom are on the DL and won’t return this series. That’s why Cabrera and Joseph are starting at short and catcher. Flaherty has been more or less platooning with IF Jonathan Schoop, who straight up crushed the Yankees last season (126 OPS+). That was annoying considering he had a 67 OPS+ overall.

Jones. (Presswire)
Jones. (Presswire)

Because they’re carrying 13 pitchers, the O’s only have DH Delmon Young and C Ryan Lavarnway on the bench alongside Schoop. Delmon platoons with Snider against lefties — Young slots in at DH and Pearce moves to right — and Lavarnway is there because they need a backup catcher, and he’s not really a catcher to start with. They’re going to play Joseph as much as humanly possible until Wieters returns in a few weeks.

Over the last two or three years the Baltimore defense has gotten overrated because they don’t commit many errors — their 141 errors from 2013-14 are the fewest in baseball. They’re good defensively in general, but not the best in the game. Manny Machado is superb at third, best in baseball at the position, and both De Aza and Jones are very strong in the outfield. Joseph is solid behind the plate and Davis, Flaherty, and Schoop are adequate at their positions.

Cabrera is below average at short in general and is a big downgrade from Hardy. Snider and Pearce are shaky in the outfield — they take a lot of short, choppy steps when moving around and it just looks bad — and Delmon is a total disaster in the field. The Yankees should consider it a gift if the Orioles play Young in the outfield at some point this series. It all adds up to a slightly above average team defense, which is valuable, but does not match the O’s reputation.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (Career vs. NYY)
It’s hard to believe this is already Chen’s fourth year in MLB, isn’t it? I still feel like he just got here. The 29-year-old had a 3.54 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 185.2 innings a year ago despite below average strikeout (17.6 K%), ground ball (41.0 GB%), and homer (1.11 HR/9) rates. He doesn’t walk anyone though (4.5 BB%) and has historically been a bit better against lefties (.300 wOBA) than righties (.329 wOBA). Chen works with both two and four-seam fastballs and his velocity is down about two miles an hour this year compared to the last few years, even considering how early it is in the season. Low-80s sliders and changeups and a mid-70s curveball round out his five-pitch arsenal. Chen’s not a blow you away type, he’s a keep you off balance guy. He allowed three runs in just 4.1 innings against the Rays last week, his first start of 2015.

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (Career vs. NYY)
Gonzalez, 30, is another guy who’s been around longer than you’d think. This is his fourth season in the show too. He pitched to a 3.23 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 159 innings last season, and considering he has a 3.43 ERA and a 4.58 FIP in 441.1 careers innings, it’s probably time to say Gonzalez is one of those guys who consistently outperforms his peripherals. His strikeout (16.5 K%), walk (7.6 BB%), grounder (37.3 GB%), and homer (1.42 HR/9) rates don’t jump out at you at all, but he makes it work. Gonzalez’s moneymaker is a dynamite low-80s split-changeup hybrid that generates a lot of weak contact. He sets it up with low-90s heaters and will also throw low-80s sliders and mid-80s curveballs. Gonzalez has had a negligible platoon split in his career — .314 vs. 318 wOBA in favor of lefties — and last week he allowed one run in five innings in his first start of the year.

Norris. (Presswire)
Norris. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. BAL) vs. RHP Bud Norris (Career vs. NYY)
Norris is another one of those league average-ish starters the Orioles seem to have in spades. The 30-year-old gave the team 165.1 innings of 3.65 ERA (4.22 FIP) ball in 2014 with almost perfectly average peripherals across the board: 20.2 K%, 7.6 BB%, 42.2 GB%, and 1.09 HR/9. Lefties have hit Norris quite a bit harder than righties the last few years because he throws low-to-mid-90s fastballs and mid-to-upper-80s sliders almost exclusively. He’s thrown his show-me mid-80s changeup less than 10% of the time the last few seasons. The Blue Jays clobbered Norris in Baltimore’s home opener last week (eight runs in three innings), so I guess he should just go ahead and have Tommy John surgery now.

Bullpen Status
The Blue Jays did the Yankees a solid yesterday and knocked Chris Tillman out of the game after only 2.2 innings. Long man extraordinaire RHP Kevin Gausman needed 37 pitches to get four outs, forcing LHP Brian Matusz to throw two innings (26 pitches) and RHP Brad Brach to throw 1.2 innings (28 pitches). RHP Darren O’Day also threw 1.1 innings (20 pitches). Manager Buck Showalter had to go deep into his bullpen yesterday.

In addition to Gausman, Matusz, Brach, and O’Day, the O’s are also carrying closer LHP Zach Britton, RHP Tommy Hunter, Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Jason Garcia, and knuckleballer RHP Eddie Gamboa. What is it with all the knuckleballers? The Yankees could end up seeing three different knuckleballers in their first three series of the season. When’s the last time that happened? Anyway, with Matusz throwing two innings yesterday and Britton being confined to the ninth inning, Showalter probably won’t have a lefty to deploy in the middle innings today. That’ll be nice.

Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Camden Chat for everything you need to know about the O’s.

Yankeemetrics: April 10-12 (Red Sox)

Chase Headley, clutch Yankee. (Photo credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times
Chase Headley, clutch Yankee. (Photo: Richard Perry/New York Times)

I watched the entire game!
Three times a charm, right? Wrong.

In the series opener against their most-hated rival, the Yankees somehow erased three separate one-run deficits with their backs against the wall in the ninth, 16th and 18th innings – but could never get the big hit needed to complete the rally against the Red Sox. There are brutal losses, and then there’s the way that the Yankees lost in 19 innings on Friday night.

Let’s recap the craziness of this epic marathon in bullet-point form. First, some notes on the game length:

• It was the sixth game of at least 19 innings in franchise history and the first since a 5-4 19-inning win on August 25, 1976 against Minnesota.
• The only other time the Yankees lost a game that lasted at least 19 innings was a 3-2 loss in 19 innings on May 24, 1918 vs. Cleveland.
• The game was the longest the Yankees have ever played this early into the season (first four games).
• The Yankees and Red Sox have been playing each other since 1903. The only other game in the rivalry that lasted longer than this one was a 20-inning win on August 29, 1967.
• The game lasted six hours and 49 minutes, the longest game ever played by the Yankees in the Bronx. It was just shy of the longest game the Yankees have played anywhere, which was a seven-hour marathon at Detroit on June 24, 1962.

And now let’s put into context how improbable the clutch, game-saving hits were by Chase Headley, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran:

• Headley became the first Yankee with a game-tying two-out homer in the ninth inning against the Red Sox since Roberto Kelly in 1991; the last Yankee to do that against Boston at Yankee Stadium was Roy White in 1977.
• Teixeira’s 16th inning homer is latest game-tying home run by an American League player since the Jim Finigan (Kansas City Athletics) tied the game in the 17th inning against the Senators in 1956. Before Tex, no Yankee had done it in at least the last 75 years.
• Beltran’s 18th inning game-tying double is the latest game-tying hit by an American League player since the Tom Paciorek’s single for the White Sox in the 21st inning against the Brewers in 1984.

Oh, and did you forget that Nathan Eovaldi actually started this game and pitched the first 5 2/3 innings? All he did was become the first pitcher in at least the last 100 years to throw at least two wild pitches and hit a batter in his Yankee debut. Good times, everyone.

The hangover
Red Sox starter Joe Kelly completely dominated the Yankees lineup on Saturday afternoon (W, 7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 8 K), paving the way for an eventual 8-4 loss by the home team. He became the first Red Sox pitcher to allow no more than one hit and strikeout at least eight batters against the Yankees in a game at Yankee Stadium since Pedro Martinez’s one-hit, 17-strikeout gem on September 10, 1999.

Although the Yankees’ bats eventually woke up in the sixth game of the season (see below), but it’s worth noting how anemic the offense was through five games. Again, to the bullet-points:

Through five games, the Yankees…
• .622 OPS is their lowest since 1998 (.610)
• .280 OBP is their lowest since 1989 (.259)
• .193 BA is their lowest since 1968 (.176)
• 46 strikeouts are their most in at least the last 100 years

Seventh heaven
The Yankees wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard in the Sunday night finale, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning. It was the first time the Yankees scored at least seven runs in the first inning against the Red Sox since Aug. 15, 1954, when they took a 8-0 lead en route to a 14-9 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Prior to this game, not only had the Yankees never scored first in a game this season, they didn’t even have a hit in the first inning – the only the team in the majors that entered Sunday’s schedule without a first-inning hit.

The Yankees tagged Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz for 10 runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He is the only Red Sox pitcher to allow 10-or-more runs in fewer than four innings pitched against the Yankees over the last 100 years of the rivalry.

The Yankees broke out of their offensive slump in Sunday’s 14-4 win, but their sloppy glovework continued as they committed another error, bringing their league-leading total to nine after the first week of the season. Even worse, they have allowed at least one unearned run in each of their first six games, joining the 1995 White Sox as the only teams in the last 75 years to do that.