Sweep! Yankees outlast Athletics 5-4 for fifth straight win

A sweep! And a five-game winning streak! They’re both firsts for the Yankees this season. They finished the four-game sweep of the Athletics with a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon. The Yankees have won 12 of their last 17 games to climb back to within one game of .500 overall. Baby steps.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bombs off Hahn Hahn Solos (h/t @jacksonh450)
Coming into this game the Yankees ranked 12th among the 15 AL teams with 40 home runs. I didn’t realize they were that low. I know they haven’t been hitting a ton of dingers, so I didn’t expect them to sit near the top, but 12th out of 15? Yikes. So, naturally, the Yankees scored their first two runs Sunday afternoon with the long ball. Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury hit solo shots off Jesse Hahn.

The two home runs were about as different as outside-the-park homers can be. McCann ripped a line drive to right field that just barely cleared the wall. We’re talking a matter of inches here. A little less hang time and it smacks off the top of the wall for a double. Ellsbury’s homer was a true bomb. It was a high fly ball that carried out to right-center field. We’re used to seeing McCann hit the high fly balls and Ellsbury hit the liners. They switched it up Sunday.

Progress by Pineda
After a miserable outing in Arizona chock full of mistake pitches and hanging sliders, Michael Pineda rebounded with a bare minimum quality start (six innings, three runs) against the A’s on Sunday. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest outing — the A’s had six hits and a walk against Pineda, including three doubles — but three runs in six innings is an improvement over what the Yankees have been getting from their nominal No. 2 starter most of the season.

Billy Burns used his legs to create a run in the first inning — single, stole second, stole third, scored on a grounder — and the Athletics did string together some two-out hits (of course) to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth. Pineda allowed a single to Jake Smolinski with one out in that fifth inning, then Burns followed with a two-out single and Stephen Vogt dunked a two-run double into the left field corner. It wasn’t a terribly located pitch …

Michael Pineda Stephen Vogt

… Vogt was able to just reach out and poke it into the corner. Pineda still made some two-strike mistake pitches throughout the afternoon — Burns hit a two-strike hanger for this first inning single, for example — but not nearly as many he made against the Diamondbacks last week. He was awful that night. Pineda did much better job burying his slider down with two strikes against an admittedly weak A’s lineup. They were without Josh Reddick and Khris Davis, two of their three best hitters.

There were definitely signs of progress from Pineda on Sunday. He did not let innings snowball — the fourth and sixth were his only 1-2-3 innings, so the A’s had some chances — and he was able pitch out of some big jams as well. Pineda stranded two in the second and pitched around a leadoff double in the third. Progress. Pineda has to build on this next time out. This was a good step forward.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Answer Back
When the Yankees were playing poorly last month, it seemed like every time they managed to score a run or two, they would give it right back the next half-inning. On Sunday, they were the team that answered back immediately. They scored in the next half-inning both times the A’s took the lead.

McCann’s solo homer in the top of the second answered the run Burns manufactured in the bottom of the first. Then, after the A’s took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees scored two in the top of the sixth to take a 4-3 lead. Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran started the rally with back-to-back one-out singles. McCann struck out for the second out, so it looked like the Yankees would squander the opportunity, but it didn’t happen.

Mark Teixeira has been mired in what I assume is the worst slump of his career these last few weeks, so of the course the big spot found him, and of course he was behind in the count one ball and two strikes in the blink of an eye. When you’re struggling like Teixeira, it seems like every at-bat starts with two strikes. Teixeira did come through with an infield single of all things to extend the inning.

The infield single went to shallow right field, where the second baseman was stationed as part of the shift. Teixeira not only managed to beat out the long throw, Gardner also chugged all the way around from second to score on the play. There were two outs and he didn’t stop running, so he slid in safe ahead of the tag to tie the game. Hooray baserunning. Starlin Castro followed with a more traditional single to left field to score Beltran for the 4-3 lead.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Protect the Lead
One-run lead with the big three relievers all rested and ready to go? That’s how Joe Girardi and the Yankees draw it up every single the day. The only thing standing in the way of the formula Sunday was the sixth inning. The Yankees had to navigate that inning first to get to those end-game arms. The sixth can be pretty tricky sometimes.

Pineda went back out for the sixth with both Chasen Shreve and Kirby Yates warming in the bullpen, which leads me to believe Girardi was going batter to batter with his starter. Love it. My favorite move. Thankfully Pineda made Shreve and Yates moot with a quick 1-2-3 sixth inning. He fanned one, got a ground ball, and then a pop-up on the infield. Perfect.

The Yankees were able to plate an insurance run they would ultimately need in the top of the seventh — Aaron Hicks singled and Beltran doubled him in — to give the bullpen a 5-3 lead. Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect seventh before the eighth inning got mighty interesting. Didi Gregorius and Castro made back-to-back errors — Didi rushed a tough transfer and Castro straight up whiffed on a potential double play grounder — to give the A’s runners on the corners with no outs.

Oakland had the tying run at first base with the middle of the order due up thanks to the errors. Andrew Miller put away the dangerous Danny Valencia with a back foot slider for strike three and the first out. Pinch-hitter Billy Butler grounded out to third for the second out, which scored a run. Davis came off the bench to pinch-hit and he grounded out to end the inning. The errors didn’t come back to completely bite the Yankees but it did cost them a run. Standard five-out inning for Miller.

Aroldis Chapman saved his sixth game in six tries with a quick 1-2-3 ninth inning. He struck out one. Betances, Miller, and Chapman this season: 46 innings, 82 strikeouts, five walks. Most of that is Dellin and Miller, obviously, but still. Bonkers.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Beltran went 2-for-4 with a double Sunday to cap off a monster series against the A’s. He went 9-for-18 with five doubles, a homer, and eight runs driven in during the four games. Everyone in Sunday’s starting lineup had a hit except Chase Headley, who was hit by a pitch to extend his on-base streak to 13 games. That’s the longest such streak by a Yankee so far this season.

Teixeira’s homer drought has reached 33 games and 137 plate appearances. That is by far the longest such streak of his career. The previous “record” was 23 games and 113 plate appearances back in 2009. Teixeira doesn’t look particularly close to snapping his homer drought at the moment, unfortunately. Sunday’s infield single notwithstanding, he looks lost from the left side of the plate. At least he can still play the hell out of first base.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head on over to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The West Coast trip is over and the Yankees are on their way home for a quick three-game homestand before heading back out on a ten-game road trip. Monday is an off-day, then the Blue Jays will be in the Bronx for three games. Nathan Eovaldi and R.A. Dickey is the scheduled pitching matchup for Tuesday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch any of those three games.

DotF: Sanchez takes Glasnow deep in Scranton’s win

Triple-A Scranton (2-0 win over Indianapolis)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Aaron Judge: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • C Gary Sanchez: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB, 1 PB — hit a two-run home run off Pirates RHP Tyler Glasnow, who Baseball America ranked as the sixth best pitching prospect in baseball before the season
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-4, 2 K
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 12/1 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 54 of 83 pitches were strikes (65%) … he’s pitched really well so far, well enough that he’s at least in the conversation for a spot start should the need arise
  • LHP Neal Cotts: 1 IP, zeroes, 1/1 GB/FB — eleven pitches, eight strikes … first appearance since signing a minor league deal a few days ago
  • LHP James Pazos: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — seven of 13 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — ten of 15 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Sunday Night Open Thread

Here is the open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Cubs and Giants are the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game (Hendricks vs. Bumgarner) plus there are NBA and NHL playoff games on as well. Talk about any of that stuff or whatever else is on your mind right here. Except politics and religion. Get that outta here.

Game 43: The Drive for Five

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The seven-game West Coast trip ends today and so far it has been a successful trip. The Yankees dropped the first two games before rebounding to win four straight. Today’s series finale against the Athletics will determine whether this is a great 5-2 trip or a pretty good 4-3 trip. Plus it’s a chance for a five-game winning streak. Those are always fun. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

Yet again it is cool, cloudy, and windy in Oakland. Same weather all four games. Today’s game will begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Luis Severino (triceps) threw on flat ground yesterday. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Tuesday, and if that goes well, he could make a minor league rehab start as soon as Sunday.

Sabathia Sinking to Success

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

On Friday night, near his hometown, CC Sabathia had his second straight best start of the year, even there was a a 16 day gap between them thanks to a DL stint. Returning from injury, Sabathia was looking to build off of a seven inning, six hit, zero runs, six strikeouts performance against the Orioles. CC responded by striking out eight A’s batters over six innings, allowing just three hits plus a walk, and only one run in the Yankees’ 8-3 victory. The win–the Yankees’ second straight–helped to rinse out the bad taste left in everyone’s mouths after the Arizona series, and put the team in position to win the series, which they did with yesterday’s victory; they go for the sweep today.

This has all been part of what’s been, so far, a renaissance season for Sabathia. Yes, it’s only six starts old and he did miss time on the DL already, but things have been about as good as they could be for the Bombers’ former ace. He’s thrown to a 3.41 ERA and a 3.14 FIP in 34.1 innings so far, which each one of us to a person would’ve taken before the season started. Though he’s twice failed to complete five innings, he’s not allowed more than three runs in any start this year and he’s done what a fifth starter is supposed to do: keep the team in the game and don’t embarrass yourself too much out there. After the last three seasons of ERAs in or around the five’s, this year’s performance is a more than welcome sight. It would seem that early in 2016, CC is starting to get used to pitching with a diminished fastball. That adjustment is where we can find a possible reason for his 2016 success.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

In terms of pitch selection, the biggest difference between 2016 and 2015 is the sinker. That’s not necessarily in terms of usage, as it was his most frequently thrown pitch in 2015 as well. In terms of pitch selection, 2016’s highlight is more so the apparent elimination of his four seam fastball. The sinker, though, has turned into CC’s number one and it has been more effective this year. Though 2015 saw CC getting more whiffs per swing and a higher percentage of grounders on his sinker, batters seem to be having a tough time squaring the pitch up. His foul/swing% on the pitch is up slightly from 38.96 to 40.23%. Additionally, the line drive rate on the pitch has dipped from 27.27% to just 17.50% and the pop-up/balls in play rate has gone from just 1.21% in 2015 to 10.00% this year. He’s also yet to give up a homer on the pitch, whereas last year’s HR/(FB+LD)% was at 14.47. In general, then, Sabathia’s keeping his sinker in a position where it’s not getting hit too hard. His cutter–another pitch he’s relying more heavily on in 2016–has also seen a big jump in grounder percentage, hopping up to 41.18% from 25.00% in 2015.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

It is still early and these things could be blips that get violently corrected going forward. I’ve been optimistic about Sabathia in the past and been wrong about it, but I just can’t let go of feeling good about him. Call it a hangover from 2009-2012, but I just can’t help but believe in this guy. It may not have been a short process and it may not have been anything close to painless, but, dammit, I’m hoping against hope that CC settles into this sort of routine. Long gone are his days of big strikeouts and big innings totals, but as long as he keeps rolling out six or seven innings with three runs allowed, he’s doing his job.

Four-run fourth lifts the Yankees past the A’s 5-1


Source: FanGraphs
The Yankees have now won four in a row. Masahiro Tanaka threw seven brilliant innings and the offense scored enough runs to let the three elite bullpen arms rest. They are now only two games under .500, and they escaped the cellar of the AL East (the Blue Jays are now in the fifth place). It’s the weekend so let’s recap the 5-1 win bullet point style.

  • The top of fourth: The Yankee lineup went mostly quiet against rookie LHP Sean Manaea the first time around, but they were less merciful the second. The Yankees not only scored four but also worked the opposing starter hard in the top of the fourth. Manaea had thrown 33 pitches in the first three innings. He then threw 32 in the fourth. Carlos Beltran got it going with an RBI single with bases loaded, then Aaron Hicks hit a sac fly to bring another one in, and then Rob Refsnyder hit a 2 RBI double after a 10-pitch battle for the decisive blow.
  • Tanaka Time: Tanaka got into two bases loaded jams but only allowed one run when it was all said and done. In seven innings he allowed one run while walking two and striking out four. Just by the eye test, his stuff didn’t seem especially nasty nor his command that sharp. The overall line would have looked worse had he faced a better lineup. However, Tanaka did go out and got the job done, which is pretty much the priority. His recorded improved to 2-0 after the win today. Yes, 2-0 after 9 starts. I don’t think you see that often. His seven no-decisions lead the majors among all starters.
  • One more in the seventh: The Yankees had a 4-1 lead heading into the top of the seventh, which would set up for a Dellin BetancesAndrew MillerAroldis Chapman sequence had Joe Girardi decided not to use Tanaka for the bottom of the frame. Starlin Castro had a different idea. With Ronald Torreyes on first with two outs, Castro drilled a first pitch changeup down the line to bring home a run, giving the Yankees a 5-1 lead. Castro had been relatively quiet for the most of this road trip but he had a nice three-hit day today.
  • Nick B. Goode: No one’s gonna confuse Nick Goody for one of the elite three arms of the Yankee bullpen, but he’s handled himself pretty well in 7 appearances with the team this season. After tossing two scoreless innings to close out the game, Goody now has a 1.64 ERA in 11.0 IP. He’s also striking guys out (9.82 K/9) while limiting walks and homers (0.82 per 9 IP on both) so that’s cool too. Hopefully he keeps it up and becomes another useful bullpen asset for the team.

Here’s today’s box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees will look for a series sweep tomorrow with Michael Pineda on the mound against Jesse Hahn for the A’s.

DotF: Sanchez, Cave, and Green lead Scranton to a win

LHP Dietrich Enns was sent down to Double-A Trenton, per Shane Hennigan. The move clears a rotation spot for RHP Chad Green and a roster spot for the recently signed LHP Neal Cotts.

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 win over Indianapolis)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 R, 1 K
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — he’s played 40 games this year: 29.2 K% and 5.6 BB% in the first 20, then 19.1 K% and 9.0 BB% in the next 20
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 2B, 3 RBI — picked a runner off second with a snap throw
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 1-5, 1 R
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI — five homers in 37 games this year after hitting two homers in 132 games last year
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 6/3 GB/FB — 69 of 101 pitches were strikes (68%) … first start since his MLB debut in Arizona earlier this week
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 34 of 46 pitches were strikes (74%)

[Read more…]