Offense breaks it open late, Tanaka’s bounceback continues in 6-3 win over Blue Jays

Source: FanGraphs

Now that’s how you start an important homestand. The Yankees created a few runs early, some more runs late, and received superb starting pitching in Monday night’s series opening 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. It’s a long holiday weekend, so I’m taking the easy way out with bullet points:

  • Two Early Runs: The Yankees put up two quick first inning runs because Marcus Stroman gifted them a bunch of baserunners. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez got the rally started with back-to-back opposite field singles, then Didi Gregorius worked a rare walk to load the bases with one out. The Yankees scored their two runs because Stroman hit Chase Headley with a 1-2 pitch and walked Jacoby Ellsbury. Riveting stuff. Doesn’t matter though. Two runs scored and the Yankees were up early.
  • Tanaka’s Gem: Is Masahiro Tanaka back? I think he might be back. This was his fourth strong outing in his last five starts, and the depth on his splitter and slider looks sooo much better. Tanaka allowed one run in seven innings Monday and it was a stupid run. It scored on a hit batsman, a stolen base plus Sanchez’s throwing error, and a bloop single. Not exactly hard hit. Tanaka struck out eight and walked one. He was dominant. And he now has a 2.56 ERA in his last five starts, which includes the ugly outing against the Athletics (five runs in four innings).
  • Late Insurance: The Yankees didn’t do much of anything against Stroman after the first inning. It wasn’t until the eighth that they really broke the game open. The first four batters of the inning went single (Judge), double (Sanchez), walk (Gregorius), two-run double (Headley). The Yankees added two more runs when Ronald Torreyes hit a tapper back to the pitcher, who threw home only to watch the catcher lose the ball when Gregorius slid in. As everyone stood around looking for the ball, Headley chugged home. The Yankees have been quite good at tacking on runs this year, no? Insurance runs are always appreciated.
  • Bullpen Time: Given the way things have been going, I don’t think anyone felt good once the bullpen door swung open. Dellin Betances pitched the eighth with the Yankees up 2-1, and while he walked Josh Donaldson, he got hosed on some calls. Here’s the strike zone plot. Donaldson walked in a 2-5 count. A strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play ended that inning. Aroldis Chapman came in for the ninth with a 6-1 lead — he had been warming when it was 2-1 — and allowed two runs on three hits. He still doesn’t look right. Everything is max effort and hitters are fouling off 101 mph like it’s no big deal. The final out of the game was a rocket line drive right at Headley at third base. Hopefully Chapman figures it out, for the sake of this year and for the sake of the next four years.
  • Leftovers: The 2-3-4-5 hitters went a combined 6-for-13 (.462) with four runs scored, three runs driven in, and two walks … Judge, Sanchez, and Headley each had two hits … Gregorius drew two walks (!) after coming into the game with seven walks on the season … Ellsbury reached base twice (single, walk) … Clint Frazier went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his Yankee Stadium debut. The one ball in the play was a hard-ish hit fly ball to left.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload page either. The Yankees and Blue Jays will continue this series with a Fourth of July matinee Tuesday. CC Sabathia is scheduled to come off the disabled list to make that start. Fellow lefty J.A. Happ will be on the mound for Toronto. Want to catch the game live? Check out RAB Tickets.

Game 81: Halfway There

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Today marks the midway point of the 2017 season for the Yankees. Or, technically, the end of tonight’s game will. The first half has been a mixed bag. The Yankees started great and have crashed hard the last few weeks. They come into tonight at 43-37 with a +104 run differential. That’s the fourth best record and the second best run differential in the league. Pretty good! But it feels worse than it is given the last three weeks or so.

The All-Star break is a week away and the Yankees start a six-game homestand tonight. It sure would be swell to close out the first half on a high note, wouldn’t it? Grab some wins at home and spend the four-day All-Star break feeling pretty good about where things stand. That’d be nice. The last few weeks have been pretty frustrating. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. DH Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. LF Clint Frazier
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It rained briefly this afternoon, though the wet stuff cleared out and they should have no trouble getting the game in tonight. Tonight’s series opener with Toronto will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Greg Bird (ankle) still isn’t feeling right. He’s going to see more doctors after the holiday, and Brian Cashman even mentioned Bird may need exploratory surgery to figure out what the hell is wrong. Sounds promising.

Awards!: Judge is your AL Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month. He’s the first player to win three straight Rookies of the Month since Mike Trout in 2012. He’s also the first player to win both awards in the same month since … Sanchez last August.

All-Star Update: In case you missed it earlier, both Judge and Sanchez will participate in the Home Run Derby next week. Awesome.

Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will participate in the 2017 Home Run Derby

Hell yes. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Hell yes. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Yankees will have not one, but two players in the Home Run Derby this year. Both Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez announced today they have accepted Home Run Derby invitations and will take their hacks next Monday at Marlins Park. Awesome. Here’s their announcement. Both guys are planning to use Yankees regular batting practice pitcher Danilo Valiente for the Home Run Derby.

It’s uncommon but not unprecedented for one team to have two players in the Home Run Derby. Both Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes were in the Home Run Derby in 2014, when they were with the Athletics. Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau did it as members of the Rockies that year too. There have been other teammates in the Home Run Derby over the years as well.

Judge and Sanchez will be the first Yankees to participate in the Home Run Derby since Robinson Cano swung away in three straight from 2011-13. The last Yankee other than Cano in the Home Run Derby was Nick Swisher in 2010. Three Yankees have won the Home Run Derby: Cano (2011), Jason Giambi (2002), and Tino Martinez (1997). Giambi finished third in the 2003 Home Run Derby.

MLB changed the Home Run Derby format two years ago. Players are now given five minutes to hit as many home runs as possible — they can earn bonus time based on home run distance and things like that — and they meet head-to-head in a bracket style tournament, so it’s possible Judge and Sanchez could face each other. The players are seeded 1-8 based on their season homer total.

I’m sure there are some people out there freaking out about Judge and/or Sanchez screwing up their swings in the Home Run Derby, though the “curse” is largely a myth. There’s been a ton of research on it, like this, this, and this. Pick eight players at random and chances are several of them will perform worse in the second half than the first. That’s all the Home Run Derby curse is. Just sit back and enjoy it.

So far the only other confirmed Home Run Derby contestants are Giancarlo Stanton, the defending champ and token hometown player, and Miguel Sano. Cody Bellinger has been invited, though he said he will not participate unless his father (ex-Yankee Clay Bellinger) can rearrange his schedule to make it to Miami to pitch to him. Both Joey Gallo and Bryce Harper declined invites.

7/3 to 7/5 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited Toronto to kick-off the month of June, splitting a four-game series. They outscored Toronto 26-12, with two blow-out victories (12-2 and 7-0) being balanced against narrow losses (7-5 and 3-2). Some notes:

  • You could not have drawn up a much better game for the Yankees than their 12-2 victory in the first game. All nine starters reached base at least once, with Gary Sanchez (2-for-5 with two home runs) and Aaron Hicks (4-for-5 with 3 doubles and 6 RBI) leading the way. And CC Sabathia looked great, going 6.1 IP and allowing 5 hits and 1 run, while striking out 7.
  • Bad Michael Pineda started the second game, allowing 10 hits, 5 runs, and 3 walks in 5 IP. The Yankees did mount a few comeback efforts, but going 0-for-9 with RISP kept the game just out of reach.
  • The Yankees teed-off on Jason Grilli in the third game, with Brett Gardner, Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, and Didi Gregorius taking him deep in the top of the 8th.
  • In a sign of things to come, Tyler Clippard cost the Yankees the final game of the series, allowing a home run to Josh Donaldson in the bottom of the 8th.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

RHP Aaron Sanchez has been on the disabled list with recurring blister problems for most of this season, having made just five starts thus far. He might be back this coming weekend, but the Yankees will not see him during this series. Sanchez is probably the Blue Jays’ biggest loss thus far, as he was their undisputed ace in 2016.

He isn’t alone on the DL, either. Would-be starting second baseman Devon Travis is out until September following knee surgery, and RHP Leonel Campos, OF Darrell Ceciliani, IF Chris Coghlan, LHP J.P. Howell, and RHP Joe Smith are all out with a TBD return date. None are likely to face the Yankees this week.

Their Story So Far

As was the case last time around, injuries have played a huge role in the Blue Jays lack of success this year. They’ve sent four of their starting position players to the DL at some point, as well as two starting pitchers, and a veritable slew of bench players and relievers. The offense has felt it the worst, currently sitting 26th in the majors in runs scored.

The Blue Jays are 37-44 with a -45 run differential, having lost four in a row (including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Red Sox this past weekend). They’re currently in last place in the AL East.

Check out Bluebird Banter for more news and notes about the Blue Jays.

The Lineup We Might See

Toronto has been searching for an ideal lineup throughout the season, having been through 71 different combinations thus far. Manager John Gibbons has somewhat settled on this configuration of late:

  1. Jose Bautista, RF
  2. Russell Martin, C
  3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  4. Justin Smoak, 1B
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
  7. Steve Pearce, LF
  8. Kevin Pillar, CF
  9. Ryan Goins, 2B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Marcus Stroman

This will be the Yankees third time facing Stroman in 2017, and it is a rubber match of sorts. They knocked him around for 3 innings on May 3, chasing him early after scoring 5 runs on 6 hits, 3 walks, and a couple of home runs. Stroman was much better the second time around, pitching to the following line on June 4: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. He has held the Yankees to a 2.91 ERA in 58.2 IP for his career.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 6/28) – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Tuesday (1:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP J.A. Happ

Happ was on the DL the first time these teams met, and just missed the Yankees the second time around. He has been a mild revelation in his second stint with the Blue Jays, pitching to a 3.29 ERA (131 ERA+) in 245 IP and giving credence to the notion that the Pittsburgh Pirates coaching staff’s black magic can continue to work even once the pitcher leaves its control.

The 34-year-old southpaw is essentially a fastball/sinker guy, with around 75% of his offerings being either his low-90s four-seamer or low-90s sinker. He also throws the a mid-80s change-up, and an occasional curveball or slider.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 6/29) – 6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K

Wednesday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Marco Estrada

As was the case with Stroman, the Yankees have already seen Estrada twice this year, and with mixed results. He shut them down on May 1 (7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K), and served up batting practice on June 1 (3.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 2 BB, 4 K). Estrada has largely struggled since that last outing, pitching to a 7.88 ERA (5.39 FIP) in his five subsequent starts.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 6/30) – 4.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 7 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

The Blue Jays bullpen ERA jumped from 3.79 to 3.99 in one afternoon, thanks to its 3.2 IP, 8 ER effort against the Red Sox yesterday. They were already trailing 7-1 when the bullpen took over, so it was largely garbage-time innings handled by the mop-up relievers, but the group is shorthanded due to the injuries to Howell, Smith, and Campos, and Joe Biagini’s transition to the bullpen.

Closer Roberto Osuna is healthy and pitching well, though, with a 2.25 ERA (202 ERA+) and 19 saves in 22 chances, as well as stellar strikeout (12.4 K/9) and walk (0.8 BB/9) rates. RHP Ryan Tepera and RHP Danny Barnes are their de facto set-up men for the time being, and both have been solid in 35-plus IP apiece so far. The bullpen thins out dramatically after that, though, and it has been leaned on heavily of late.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Way back in 2010, Justin Smoak was regarded as one of the best prospects in all of baseball, as a switch-hitter with plus power and a plus hit tool. He was the prize of the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers back in 2010, and many thought that the Mariners did well by waiting for him instead of taking on Jesus Montero. For the first seven years of his career, though, Smoak was a platoon player at best, with a .223/.308/.392 slash line (95 OPS+) through 2887 PA. And now, in his age-30 season, he seems to be breaking out.

Smoak is currently slashing .300/.368/.592 (150 wRC+), with a career-high 22 HR in 299 PA. He’s also improving every month, with his wRC+ increasing from 109 in April to 148 in May to 180 in June. The key seems to be cutting his strikeout rate to 18.4%, as opposed to 26.2% in 2015 and 32.8% in 2016. It’s either a fluke or a late-career success story, but it’s intriguing to watch regardless.

Yankeemetrics: The sinking pinstriped ship (June 30-July 2)


Sleep is overrated
The Yankees arrived in Houston early Friday morning, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived, but that didn’t stop them from putting together one of their most satisfying wins of the season against the best team in baseball.

The 13-4 rout also capped off one of the most bizarre months for any Yankees team in recent memory. They went 13-15 in June, the 20th best record in the majors last month. Not good. Yet they compiled a run differential of plus-56 that ranked second only to the Dodgers. Very good!

Two stats tell this perplexing story: The Yankees led MLB with nine wins by at least five runs, and tied for the MLB lead with nine losses by exactly one run. It was the first time the Yankees had nine wins by five-or-more runs in a single month since July 2010; and the first time in at least the 15 seasons they had nine one-run losses in a single month.

At the center of the offensive explosion was Brett Gardner, who went 3-for-5 — including his third career grand slam — and a career-high-tying six RBIs. He’s just the second Yankee leadoff batter to drive in six runs in a game, along with Hank Bauer on May 10, 1952 against the Red Sox. Gardner is also just the fifth Yankee to have multiple 6-RBI games as a leftfielder; this is a fun list: Alfonso Soriano, Bob Meusel, Charlie Keller and Babe Ruth.

Although Aaron Judge was hitless in four at-bats, he still notched his 29th and 30th walks of the month, etching his name in both the MLB and franchise record books. The ridiculous power and patience he showed in June was nearly unprecedented, especially for such a young player:

  • Judge is the fourth Yankee with at least 30 walks, 10 homers and five doubles in a calendar month. The rest of the names should be familiar by now: Mickey Mantle (June 1957), Lou Gehrig (twice) and Babe Ruth (seven times).
  • Among all major-leaguers age 25 or younger, only six others besides Judge walked at least 30 times and had at least 70 total bases in a month: Mantle (June 1957), Eddie Mathews (July 1954), Ted Williams (twice), Mel Ott (June 1929), Keller (August 1939) and The Babe (twice).

Deja vu all over again
Another series, another candidate for W.L.O.T.S. (Worst Loss Of The Season).

In what has become an all-too-familiar theme for this Yankees team, they followed up one of their most impressive wins of the season with one of their most brutal losses, and the bullpen flames were raging again on Saturday night. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman self-destructed in the eighth inning, blowing a three-run lead as the Yankees suffered another horrible come-from-ahead loss, 7-6.

Here are some of the gory details behind the Yankees recent string of late-inning meltdowns:

Stat Notes
15 Blown Saves – 10(!) more than they had at this point in the season last year (in just four more save opportunities);
– Yeah, they had 16 all of last year
16 One-Run Losses – Four more than they had through 79 games last year;
– 10 of them have come since June 1, tied with the Phillies for the most in that span
5 losses when leading by at least three runs – Matches the same number they had in all of 2016;
– At this point last year, they had one such loss
10 losses with at least five runs scored – One fewer than they had all of last year;
– Through 79 games in 2016, had six such losses;
– 7 of the 10 losses have come since June 1, the most in MLB

Dellin Betances was the biggest culprit in the eighth inning, getting only two outs while allowing three stolen bases, four earned runs, three walks and a homer. Yikes.

betances-long-gm2-apHe is just the third Yankee pitcher to allow at least three stolen bases in an outing of fewer than one inning pitched, and he’s the only one of those three to also allow an earned run.

But its the rest of his ugly pitching line that earns Betances of our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series:

He’s just the second Yankee ever to give up at least four earned runs, walk at least three guys, allow a homer while facing no more than six batters. The other was Hank Johnson on June 17, 1925 against the Tigers, a 19-1 loss that included a 13-run sixth-inning implosion by Yankee pitchers.

The story of the game should have been about the historic and dazzling major-league debut of Clint Frazier, who went 2-for-3 with a double and homer. His six total bases were the most by a Yankee his first career game over the last 100 years, and he also became the first player in franchise history to hit a home run and a double in his big-league debt.

Perhaps even more impressive … at 22 years and 298 days old, he was the youngest Yankee rightfielder with a homer and a double in any game since Mickey Mantle on May 30, 1952.

Didi Gregorius also took his turn in the spotlight, crushing his first career grand slam. The only other Yankee shortstops in the last three decades with a grand slam were Starlin Castro (August 5 last year) and Derek Jeter (June 18, 2005).


At least they scored a run
The Yankees early-summer slide deepened with another listless defeat on Sunday afternoon, as the bats went cold and the arms were lit up by the Astros powerful lineup in an 8-1 loss. They’ve now gone winless in six straight series, their longest such streak since an eight-series winless streak spanning July and August of 2013.

Luis Severino had one of his worst performances of the season, getting tattooed for nine hits — six doubles, a homer and two singles — and six runs in 5⅓ innings pitched. Yet he still flashed dominance with his fastball-slider combo, striking out a quarter of the batters he faced (7 of 28).

That pitching line gives us an unfortunate statistical connection for Severino …. The only other Yankee in the last 100 seasons to pitch fewer than six innings while surrendering at least seven extra-base hits and getting at least seven strikeouts in a game was Michael Pineda on April 24, 2016 against the Rays. #SmallSevy

The only other notable number to come out of this game was One — the number of runs they scored in the ninth inning to avoid being shutout for the first time this season. This is the sixth time in franchise history they’ve gone at least 80 games into the season without being blanked and the first time since 1988.

The franchise record? That would be held by the 1932 team, which scored at least one run in every game that season. In related news, the 1932 Yankees went 107-47 and swept the Cubs in the World Series. Oh, and a man named Babe Ruth hit a sorta famous home run in Game 3 of that series:

Fan Confidence Poll: July 3rd, 2017

Record Last Week: 3-4 (44 RS, 35 RA)
Season Record: 43-37 (452 RS, 348 RA, 49-31 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: vs. Blue Jays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. Brewers (three games, Fri. to Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the Features tab nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
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DotF: Mateo’s scorching hot start in Double-A continues

A trade! The Yankees have traded RHP Matt Wotherspoon to the Orioles for an undisclosed sum of international bonus pool money, the team announced. Wotherspoon is a bit of a long shot sleeper. The 25-year-old has a 1.85 ERA (2.42 FIP) with 29.4% strikeouts and 6.5% walks in 39 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year. The 2017-18 international signing period opened today and the Yankees signed a bunch of players. Here’s a quick recap. I’ll have more on this year’s international class in a few days, once the dust settles.

Triple-A Scranton (14-7 win over Pawtucket)

  • CF Jake Cave: 2-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • 1B Ji-Man Choi: 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI — second two-homer game in his last four games, and sixth homer in his last ten games … he hit two homers in his first 45 games of the season
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-6, 1 2B, 1 K — now 11-for-32 (.344) with two doubles and two homers in nine Triple-A games
  • RF Billy McKinney: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — 22-for-58 (.379) with six doubles, two triples, and two homers in his last 16 games
  • LF Mark Payton: 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 4/2 GB/FB — 56 of 88 pitches were strikes (64%) … 90/34 K/BB in 87.2 innings
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3/5 GB/FB — 27 of 42 pitches were strikes (64%)

[Read more…]