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.
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 …
… 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.