Masahiro Tanaka: The Unspoken Trade Candidate

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Even after back-to-back wins, the Yankees are five games back of a postseason spot with 13 days to go before the trade deadline. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 6.4% as of this writing. We’ve spent the last few weeks preparing for the deadline by discussing scenarios in which the Yankees sell. Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Brett Gardner, whoever. We haven’t even bothered to consider buying scenarios.

One player we haven’t discussed as a trade candidate is Masahiro Tanaka, the staff ace and the Yankees’ best starter. Teams usually don’t trade their best pitcher, even when they’re selling. It’s a big deal when one of these guys is traded. Tanaka has been excellent overall this season, throwing 123 innings of 3.15 ERA (3.30 FIP) ball, so it stands to reason he could fetch quite a bit in a trade.

Brian Cashman and his staff surely are not ruling anything out. They’d be silly not to listen to offers for Tanaka or any other player on the roster. Does it actually make sense to trade him though? I think you can make the argument either way. In fact, let’s do that right now.

The Case for Trading Tanaka

The case for trading Tanaka boils down to this: he can bring back good young players and boy oh boy do the Yankees need some of those. It’s not quite that simple though. It never is. Here are the two main reasons to deal Tanaka.

1. He can fetch a lot of young talent. Tanaka is a top 25-ish pitcher in baseball and those guys are really, really valuable. Every team wants them too. There’s not a rotation in baseball that wouldn’t get better by adding Tanaka, so the Yankees would have no shortage of suitors. Every contender will be in the mix. Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, you name it.

Look at the Jeff Samardzija trade. He was having an excellent season with the Cubs in 2014 (2.83 ERA and 3.09 FIP) and brought back a package led by Addison Russell despite his lack of track record. There were other players involved, but the Cubs were getting a big package for Samardzija no matter what. He was a year and a half away from free agency like Tanaka is now. That’s not a crazy trade benchmark for Tanaka.

Other pitchers traded a year and a half away from free agency include David Price (Rays to Tigers) and Dan Haren (Diamondbacks to Angels). Tanaka is not Price, but you can compare him favorably to Samardzija and Haren, and those two were traded for some nice talent. If the Yankees put him out there, Tanaka would instantly become the best available starter, and that usually means a big return.

2. His elbow is on borrowed time. Two years ago Tanaka missed the second half with a partially torn ligament in his elbow, and let’s be real, most expected him to require Tommy John surgery by now. Instead, the elbow has held up the last two years and Tanaka has been very good. The rehab process couldn’t have worked any better.

Now, that said, it’s only a matter of time until the ligament gives. Adam Wainwright pitched five years with a partial tear before it gave out, if you want one example. The Yankees don’t want to be left holding the bag when Tanaka’s elbow gives out. They’ve gotten three really good years out of him and have a chance to avoid not only his decline years, but the seemingly inevitable Tommy John surgery.

The Case Against Trading Tanaka

Getting a lot of talent and avoiding a serious elbow injury are two pretty great reasons to trade Tanaka. Keeping him? That’s a different story. It’s always easy to come up with reasons to dump a guy. Finding reasons to keep him can be a bit tougher. Here are three.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

1. The opt-out clause really hurts his value. Once upon a time opt-out clauses only went to elite players. Nowadays everyday gets one, including guys like Ian Kennedy and Scott Kazmir. Tanaka can opt out of his deal after next season, and as long as he’s healthy, he will. He’d be walking away from $67M and that’s nothing. Samardzija got $90M this winter after leading the league in hits, runs, and homers allowed.

The opt-out is almost all downside. If the elbow gives out, Tanaka will stick around and collect his $67M. If he’s healthy and productive, he’ll bolt. How do you market that in trade talks? “Here’s a guy you’ll have for a year and a half if he’s really good, or four and a half years if he’s hurt or really bad.” Not a great sales pitch. That downside created by the opt-out is going to be reflected in what teams are willing to give up to get him.

2. Can he really fetch a lot of talent? Is Tanaka’s trade value as high as we’d like to think it is? Between the looming elbow injury and the opt-out, there’s a lot of off-the-field stuff dragging down Tanaka’s value. He’s a really good pitcher! But he carries more injury risk than most and the opt-out is not team friendly. Yeah, you can get a draft pick if he opts out, but that mitigates the risk only so much. Tanaka’s a great pitcher with just enough negatives that chip away at his trade value. Add all those chips up, and before you know it the offers aren’t nearly as good as hoped. I’m not sure I’d call it selling low, but the return might not accurately reflect his value on the field.

3. Guys like Tanaka are hard to get, you know. The Yankees no doubt have plans to contend next season, and Tanaka can help them do that. He’s a top 25-ish pitcher in baseball and those guys don’t become available every often. The Yankees could trade Tanaka and get some young talent and that would be great, but that would leave them with one of the worst starting staffs in baseball with a dreadful free agent class on the horizon. Keeping Tanaka because they would be unable to replace him is not crazy, not if the goal is to win next year.

* * *

Every player is available at the right price, and I imagine the Yankees would set the price fairly high for Tanaka. They could market him as an ace caliber starter who can help you for two postseason runs, not one. And because he has that extra year of control and isn’t a rental, they don’t have to move him. Same with Andrew Miller. Keeping him is a viable strategy.

I don’t expect the Yankees to trade Tanaka because I don’t think anyone will meet their asking price, even with no other high-end starters available. He’s a guy you get because you want to win the World Series, not sneak into the postseason. Know what I mean? Only serious offers will be considered and I think the elbow and opt-out will prevent Tanaka from bringing back a massive return.

Nova and the bullpen squeak past the Orioles 2-1

(Getty)

Gotta admit, I wasn’t feeling too optimistic about this game. Wasn’t feeling the Ivan Nova vs. the HR-hitting Orioles matchup much. However, Nova somehow came away with a solid six-inning, one-run outing and earned a win. The Yankees needed two runs minimum and, well, that’s exactly what they got. A 2-1 win against the AL East-leading team, I’ll take it.

The Three Instances of Scoring

The Yankees scored first! A-Rod led off in the second inning with a thundering solo homer. Kevin Gausman threw a fastball right down the middle and Rodriguez put a no-doubt home run swing on it. You could tell right off the bat that it wasn’t coming back. Wow. That dinger was No. 696 of his career and No. 9 of the season.

Right in the next inning, the O’s answered back with a leadoff HR of their own. Jonathan Schoop, who is rising as one of the best 2B of the league (hitting for 124 wRC+ after tonight’s game), hit one into the away bullpen. Nova put a 93 mph sinker right down the middle. Big mistake. 1-1 game. Manny Machado immediately followed it with a sharp single down the line. I thought it’d be a double off his bat but perhaps it was hit too hard – Machado had to stay on first.

The Yankees scored another run in the third to make it 2-1. Brett Gardner led off with a base hit and Carlos Beltran advanced him to third with a single that got by the shift. Brian McCann hit a sac fly to score Gardner. Two runs in three innings aren’t that much, but man, New York was working Gausman. By the end of that frame, he had thrown 60 pitches in 3 IP.

(Getty)

The Rest of the Game

Aaaaand that was pretty much all the offense that happened. After A-Rod’s third inning walk, Gausman went on to retire the next 12 hitters. He’s a young pitcher still finding his groove as an ML starting pitcher, but he already has a history of pitching well against the Yankees.

As for the O’s side, I think this was a game that they could have easily scored more. In the first inning, Ivan Nova ran into a bases-loaded trouble after some command issues (walking Mark Trumbo and hitting Matt Wieters with a pitch). However, Pedro Alvarez popped out on a curveball to let him off the hook.

On the fourth, Nova allowed a walk to Nolan Reimold with one out. The next hitter, Ryan Flaherty, hit a chopper down the line that Headley had to reach. It was a sure base hit since it seemed too late for him to try to get the runner out on first. However, Reimold misread the grounder and way overran second base. Headley immediately saw it and the Yankees ended up getting Reimold out in a rundown. Had Reimold stayed on second, the O’s had a potential game-tying situation.

Nova had a one-run, six-inning outing (4 hits allowed, 3 walks and 4 K’s). I feel like he looked a bit worse than his stats suggest.  There were several hard-hit balls early from his poor pitch location that didn’t end up haunting him much. However, props to him for not breaking despite some early troubles.

With a 2-1 lead in the top of seventh, Yankees went to the familiar plan: the Dellin BetancesAndrew MillerAroldis Chapman sequence. Betances struck out two in a scoreless frame. Miller and Chapman, however, failed to record a strikeout. Bums! They did, however, each toss a scoreless inning to keep the 2-1 lead till the end. Chapman, by the way, must’ve felt extra loose with his arm tonight. He hit 105 mph twice and 104 mph thrice. Not bad at all.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees continue tomorrow with this series versus Baltimore. Nathan Eovaldi returns to the rotation as the O’s send out former Twins’ Opening Day starter Vance Worley.

DotF: Rutherford, Garcia homer; Clarkin hurt in Tampa

The Yankees have signed RHP Curtiss Pomeroy as an undrafted free agent out of Georgetown, reports Matt Eddy. He was a two-way player in college who only threw eight innings total for the Hoyas.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Charlotte)

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4, 2 K — there’s room for him now, but I wonder what happens with Aaron Judge returns
  • DH Ben Gamel: 0-4
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K — updated travel schedule: he’s gone from Scranton to San Diego to Charlotte to Gwinnett to Charlotte in the last ten days thanks to the Futures Game and Triple-A All-Star Game
  • 1B Ike Davis: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Jake Cave & RF Cesar Puello: both 1-4 — Cave scored a run
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 9/0 GB/FB — 61 of 101 pitches were strikes … 50/35 K/BB in 71.2 innings for the guy the Yankees got from the Pirates in the Chris Stewart trade
  • LHP Phil Coke: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 3/0 GB/FB — 20 of 32 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 92: Rain, rain, go away

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees and Orioles are supposed to begin their four-game series in Yankee Stadium tonight, but I gotta tell ya, the forecast doesn’t look too promising and the sky is scary. It’s been dark and cloudy most of the afternoon. There’s rain in the forecast and I received a severe thunderstorm warning notification on my phone, so yeah.

Believe it or not, this is the O’s first visit to Yankee Stadium this season, so the two teams will have plenty of time to play a makeup game if it does get rained out. In fact, the Yankees and Orioles wrap up the season with three games in the Bronx. Maybe they’d push the makeup game back until then and only play it if it’ll impact the postseason race. I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

Like I said, the forecast is not good tonight. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES, though who knows if there will be a delay or anything. We’ll see. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (foot) remains day-to-day and is receiving treatment. He fouled a pitch off his foot over the weekend … Conor Mullee (hand) played catch today and could throw a bullpen Wednesdays. He’s out with nerve irritation.

Roster Move: The Yankees activated Mason Williams (shoulder) off the 60-day DL and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. They had an open 40-man roster spot after cutting Ike Davis loose, so no other moves were required.

7/18 to 7/21 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This ten-game homestand against three (most likely) postseason bound teams continues this week with four games against the Orioles. Believe it or not, this is the O’s first trip to Yankee Stadium this season. The two teams played two series in Camden Yards in the first half. The Yankees lost two of three both times.

What Have They Done Lately?

The O’s lost to the lowly Rays yesterday — Tampa is 4-24 in their last 28 games! — but won four straight dating back to the first half prior to that. They’ve won six of their last eight games overall. Baltimore is 53-37 with + 40 run differential. They’re atop the AL East, two games ahead of the Red Sox and three games ahead of the Blue Jays. The Yankees are 8.5 back.

Offense & Defense

Offensively, the O’s are pretty much exactly who we expected them to be. They’re averaging a healthy 5.00 runs per game with a team 109 wRC+ and an MLB leading 141 homers. OF Hyun-Soo Kim (136 wRC+) is their only injured position player. He’s nursing a hamstring issue and is day-to-day.

Trumbo. (Presswire)
Trumbo. (Presswire)

Manager Buck Showalter has a fairly set lineup, with CF Adam Jones (98 wRC+) batting leadoff despite a .309 OBP. It’s been working, so whatever. 2B Jonathan Schoop (123 wRC+) has been hitting second with Kim hurt, and 3B Manny Machado (140 wRC+) bats third. 1B Chris Davis (120 wRC+) and RF Mark Trumbo (138 wRC+) have been alternating the fourth and fifth spots the last few days. C Matt Wieters (87 wRC+) slots in sixth and SS J.J. Hardy (84 wRC+) hits seventh. So there you have it.

DH Pedro Alvarez (113 wRC+) will start against righties, and both OF Nolan Reimold (104 wRC+) and Rule 5 Draft pick OF Joey Rickard (84 wRC+) split time in the various outfield spots. C Caleb Joseph (10 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Flaherty (77 wRC+) are the other bench players. The O’s carry a normal four-man bench — unlike most teams these days, it seems — though it’s a three-man bench until Kim gets the green light.

The O’s are a good team defensively, especially on the infield. Machado is excellent at third, Hardy and Schoop are above-average on the middle infield, and Davis is underrated at first. He doesn’t get enough credit for his athleticism and glove work. Jones is solid in center, but the corner outfield spots are a mess, especially when Trumbo is in right. Hit it that way if you can, Yankees.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Gausman, 25, is probably the most successful homegrown O’s starter — by homegrown I mean drafted and developed by the team — since Sidney Ponson. They’ve not had much luck developing starters at all. Gausman goes into tonight’s start with a 4.15 ERA (4.29 FIP) despite excellent strikeout (22.1%) and walk (5.1%) rates in 15 starts and 86.2 innings. He gives up a few too many fly balls (43.9% grounders) and lots of homers (1.56 HR/9), and righties have hit him a lot harder than lefties. The reverse split is not unusual for Gausman because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Gausman twice this year: eight scoreless innings in April and one run in six innings in June.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Vance Worley (vs. NYY)
The O’s are desperate for help at the back of the rotation, and right now they’re basically cycling through a bunch of in-house options until they can make a trade. Worley will get the start Tuesday after throwing 16 pitches in relief yesterday, and it should be noted he hasn’t thrown more than 63 pitches in an outing since April. He might not be able to go long tomorrow. The 28-year-old righty has a 2.98 ERA (3.94 FIP) in 45.1 innings spread across two starts and 17 relief appearances this season. His strikeout rate (17.4%) is low, but otherwise his walk (7.7%), grounder (47.2%), and homer (0.79 HR/9) rates are solid. Lefties have hit Worley hard this year and last, though his career split is pretty small. He works mostly in the upper-80s with his four-seamer and sinker as a starter, and will also feature a mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. Worley will also mix in a few low-80s changeups. The Yankees managed a run in two-thirds of an inning of relief against the bespectacled righty earlier this year.

Gallardo. (Presswire)
Gallardo. (Presswire)

Wednesday (7:05pm): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
Over the winter Gallardo fell victim to the infamous Orioles Physical™. He originally agreed to a three-year deal worth $35M, then the O’s found something in his physical, destroyed his market, and got him to accept a smaller contract (two years, $22M). The 30-year-old Gallardo is not the first player to fail an O’s physical and he won’t be the last. So far this season he has a 5.77 ERA (5.14 FIP) in ten starts and 48.1 innings around a shoulder issue — see, the Orioles were right! — and his underlying stats are awful: 14.5% strikeouts, 12.2% walks, 40.4% grounders, and 1.12 HR/9. Left-handed batters have had much more success against him than righties, both this year and throughout his career. Gallardo’s four-seamer and sinker sit right around 90 mph, and his trademark slider is still humming in around 87 mph. He’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees didn’t see Gallardo in either of the two series in Baltimore earlier this year.

Thursday (1:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
Tillman, 28, is the staff ace almost by default. He’s had a solid year overall (3.29 ERA and 4.23 FIP in 120.1 innings) but has been so very up and down throughout his career. His strikeout (20.6%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) rates are about average, but his walk (9.4%) and ground ball (39.5%) numbers aren’t as good as you’d like. So far this year he has a pretty big platoon split, though historically it’s been small. Tillman has actually added some velocity this season and he now sits closer to 92-94 mph than 91-93 mph with his four-seam fastball. A big upper-70s curveball is his trademark pitch. Tillman also uses mid-80s changeups and upper-80s cutters as well. He’s made one good (one run in seven innings) and one bad (five runs in five innings) start against the Yankees in 2016.

Bullpen Status

Once again, the O’s have a rock solid bullpen, and they’ve done it without ace setup man RHP Darren O’Day (3.15 ERA/5.42 FIP) for the last month and a half. He’s been out since early-June with a hamstring injury. Here is Showalter’s current bullpen:

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.68 ERA/1.96 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (0.88/2.47)
Middle: RHP Mychal Givens (3.27/3.68), RHP Chaz Roe (3.60/5.97), LHP Donnie Hart
Long: RHP Ordisamer Despaigne (2.87/4.96)

Like the Yankees, the Orioles had two All-Star relievers this season in Britton and Brach. They’ve been really awesome. Hart was just called up and he made his MLB debut yesterday, getting lefties Corey Dickerson to fly out and Kevin Kiermaier to strike out. He’s a classic left-on-left matchup guy with a funky sidearm slot (video).

Hart (six pitches) and Despaigne (25 pitches) both pitched yesterday. Everyone else should be good to go coming into the series. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s ‘pen.

Trade Deadline Notes: Beltran, Royals, Nationals, Rangers

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

Thanks to last night’s win over the BoSox, the Yankees improved their postseason odds to … 5.2%. That’s not so good. Ownership still has not whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline according to Buster Olney, which is no surprise. I’m guessing they won’t make that decision until the very last moment. I just hope none of their top trade chips get hurt between now and then. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous trade notes.

Yankees, Royals talked Beltran

According to George King, the Yankees and Royals discussed a trade involving Carlos Beltran earlier this season. Apparently reliever Luke Hochevar’s name came up. The Royals are short on offense at the moment and they have a huge hole in right field, so while Beltran doesn’t fit their mold as a premium defender, he’d sure as heck improve their lineup. Remember, Kansas City tried to sign Beltran as a free agent two offseason ago.

Hochevar being part of trade talks is interesting if not a little weird. He’s a solid middle reliever (3.86 ERA and 3.83 FIP) and an impending free agent, but trading rental Beltran for a rental reliever makes no sense for the Yankees. I think Hochevar would have been part of the deal as a way to offset money on Kansas City’s end. (He’s making $6M total this year.) Beltran for Hochevar and a prospect or two seems like the final outcome there. There’s no word on whether talks were serious or are ongoing.

Yankees scouting Nationals, Triple-A affiliate

The Yankees spent the weekend scouting the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate and will cover the big league team this week, reports Barry Svrluga. It’s hard not notice Washington will be calling up pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez from Triple-A to make his MLB debut tomorrow night. Pitching prospects Austin Voth and A.J. Cole are currently with Triple-A Syracuse as well.

Lopez, who Baseball America ranked as the 48th best prospect in baseball in their midseason top 100, has long been speculated as a possible trade target for New York. That said, he didn’t pitch in Triple-A this weekend, so Yankees’ scouts in Syracuse didn’t see him. He threw an inning in the Futures Game in San Diego on Sunday. Voth and Cole pitched Friday and Saturday in Triple-A, respectively, for what’s it worth. The Nationals have interest in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, so it’s no surprise the Yankees are scouting their system. They’re scouting everyone’s system.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Rangers want Yankees to take on money in potential Miller trade

According to Jeff Wilson, the Rangers would like the Yankees to eat some money in a potential Miller trade. Miller is owed whatever is left of his $9M salary this season plus another $9M in both 2017 and 2018. That’s certainly very reasonable given his on-field production, but who knows what Texas’ financials look like. A $9M a year reliever may not be feasible to them.

Of course, given their financial might, the Yankees should be willing to eat money to facilitate any trade as long as it means a greater package of players coming back. It seems silly to pay someone as good as Miller to play elsewhere, but you know what? If it’s the difference between getting a very good prospect and an elite prospect, why not? The Yankees have the money. That’s a good way to leverage their financial firepower.

Cubs, others continue to scout Yankees

Yet another high-ranking Cubs official was at Yankee Stadium this weekend, presumably to scout their bullpen pieces, reports George King. They’ve now had three different scouts and pro scouting director Jared Porter watch New York’s end-game relievers in recent weeks. That ain’t routine coverage. The Cubs are getting multiple eyes on these guys because they want as much information as possible before getting serious about a trade.

King says the Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Cardinals, Nationals, Royals, and Giants have also been scouting the Yankees recently. I’m not quite sure what the Braves were doing there. Maybe they were checking guys out in the case the Yankees decide to buy or something? The other five clubs all make sense though. They’re all contending and they all have some kind of clear need New York may be able to address via trade. The deadline is exactly two weeks away.

Yankeemetrics: The fork in the road [July 15-17]

(AP)
(AP)

Different half, same Yankees
Four days of rest did little to change the narrative of the Yankees’ 2016 season. The faint glimmer of hope that flickered after the Yankees notched a huge pre-break series victory over the AL Central-leading Indians was quickly extinguished as the Yankees suffered another depressing defeat, 5-3, to the Red Sox on Friday night.

The loss dropped the Yankees to 44-45, the first time they’ve had a sub-.500 record at any point after the All-Star break since 1995. That season, after losing to Mariners on September 5, the Yankees fell to 60-61 but then went 19-4 down the stretch to capture the AL Wild Card.

It was a familiar Jekyll-and-Hyde performance for Michael Pineda, who has been maddeningly inconsistent this entire season. He flashed some electric stuff in the first few innings as he retired the first eight batters, including four via strikeouts, but then fell apart.

He was undone by a few poorly located fastballs that the Red Sox crushed, resulting in three homers and five runs surrendered in five innings. Opponents have slugged .648 against his cut fastball, the highest slugging percentage allowed on a fastball (four-seam, two-seam, cut) by any pitcher in the majors (min. 150 batted balls).

Carlos Beltran’s two-run single in the sixth inning helped the Yankees avoid a shutout and marked a historic milestone for the 39-year-old as he became the fourth switch-hitter to with 1,500 career RBI (Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Mickey Mantle).

The hit also put Beltran in a select group of prolific run-producers who also possessed the key speed tool. He is just the fifth player in major-league history with at least 300 stolen bases and 1,500 RBI joining Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.

Sabathia sinking fast
Not even a matchup with the pitcher who owned the AL’s highest ERA (minimum five starts) could spark the Yankees anemic offense on Saturday afternoon.

Eduardo Rodriguez and his 8.59 ERA silenced the Yankee bats, who were held to two runs or fewer for the 35th time in 90 games this season in a 5-2 loss at the Stadium. That’s the Yankees’ most games of no more than two runs scored — at the 90-game mark — since the designated hitter rule was established in 1973.

sabathia long game 2
(Getty)

Despite his struggles this season, Rodriguez has a history of dominating the Yankees and now owns a 2.01 ERA in five career starts against them. He hasn’t given up more than two runs in each of those outings, the first Red Sox pitcher to post five straight starts with two runs or fewer against the Yankees in nearly five decades (Dave Morehead, 1965-68).

It was another ineffective outing by CC Sabathia, who continued his downward spiral with five runs allowed in five-plus innings. He’s now given up at least five runs in five straight starts, the first time he’s ever put together a streak like that in his career.

Opponents are crushing his sinker, slugging a ridiculous .633 off the pitch during this horrid five-game stretch, a 300-point increase from his first 11 starts of the season. The two-seamer has also lost its effectiveness as a weak-contact weapon for Sabathia: the pitch has a ground ball rate of just 28 percent in his last five outings compared to 49 percent in his first 11 games.

Feeling the heat in July
The Yankees avoided the sweep and kept the For Sale sign in the closet for at least another day as they beat the Red Sox, 3-1, on Sunday night. They overcame an early deficit to notch their 27th comeback win of the season — that’s a whopping 60 percent of their 45 total wins. Last year, only 46 percent (40 of 87) of their wins were of the come-from-behind variety.

Austin Romine plated the game-winning run with a two-out, tie-breaking RBI single in the fourth inning, but it was another masterful performance by Masahiro Tanaka that put the Yankees in position to end their post-break slump. Tanaka held the league’s most potent offense to just one run on three hits, striking out seven in six innings.

It’s hard to fathom where this team would be without Tanaka’s ace-like numbers this season:

  • He’s been consistently excellent at preventing runs: This was Tanaka’s 13th outing allowing two earned runs or fewer, tied with Chris Tillman and Aaron Sanchez for the most such starts among all AL pitchers this season.
  • He is at his best against the Yankees’ biggest rivals: Tanaka now has a 1.58 ERA in seven starts versus the AL East this season.
  • He is a streak-stopper: Tanaka improved to 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in eight games following a Yankee loss this season.
  • He gives the team a chance to win every time: The Yankees are 14-5 in his starts and 31-41 when anyone else starts.

Tanaka’s been great.