Game 88: End of the First Half

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s the final game of the first half of the 2015 season. Well, unofficially. The real halfway point of the season (Game 81) was last weekend. Today is just the final day before the All-Star break. The Yankees will be either 48-40 or 47-41 at the break this year after being .500 at the break last year (47-47). Hooray improvement! Still a long way to go though.

The Yankees dropped a somewhat boring game last night, the kind of game that will soon fade into the giant blob of baseball we forget each year. Nothing stood out about it aside from Rob Refsnyder‘s debut. This afternoon the Yankees can clinch the series win and head into the break having won three straight series and seven of their last ten games. That sounds good. Let’s do that. Here is Boston’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Chris Young
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

More nice weather at Fenway Park. Nice and sunny but not oppressively hot and humid. Good afternoon to go to the park. Today’s first half finale is scheduled to begin at 1:35pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the last Yankees game until Friday, everyone.

Rotation Update: The rotation order to start the second half will be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Eovaldi, and Ivan Nova, the Yankees announced today. They have an off-day next Monday and could have used that to avoid the fifth starter until the ninth game out of the All-Star break. I’m somewhat surprised they’re not using that to skip Pineda and control his innings.

Thoughts to Close Out the First Half

The unofficially official first half of the 2015 season is upon us, as today’s the last game before the All-Star Game and all its festivities. Here are some randomly collected thoughts on my mind as we make ready for the second half of the season.

1. How ’bout that offense? As of posting-time, the Yankees have a three game lead in the American League East. They’re second in the AL in runs scored; third in homers; fourth in OBP and SLG, and third in OPS. Despite some streakiness–which is prone to happening in baseball–this team has been pretty fun to watch. It’s a lot more fun when guys are hitting, no? Mark Teixeria’s resurgence has been a pleasure. Brian McCann is hitting like Brian McCann again. Brett Gardner is doing awesome things we didn’t necessarily think he could do. Jacoby Ellsbury had a great start before being injured. And let’s not forget Alex Rodriguez, who’s been serving up  lots of crow for lots of people to eat so far. The Yankees only have three regulars–Stephen Drew (72), Didi Gregorius (74), and Chase Headley (86)–with below average OPS+ marks. Despite that, all three have had silver linings: Drew has 12 homers; Didi’s improved with each month; Headley has had productive stretches. Even Carlos Beltran, who looked pretty cooked early in the year, was on the way back to normalcy before being injured. After the disastrous offenses of 2013 and 2014, this one has been downright potent.

2. BIG MIKE: Let’s talk about Michael Pineda for a moment. He’s had an absolutely fantastic season and is starting to realize the potential the Yankees traded for when they dealt Jesus Montero for him. He’s in the top ten for wins (9; 4th place); BB/9 (1.100; 2nd); K/9 (9.395; 6th); strikeouts (111; 8th); and FIP (2.63; 4th). On top of all that, he leads the AL with a ridiculous 8.539 K/BB. He has more games of zero walks (seven) than he does of multiple walks (three, all of which featured just two walks). Like last season before he got hurt, Pineda’s starts are must-watch. Here’s hoping he can stay healthy to keep up this run in the second half, and hopefully the playoffs.

3. Playoffs? If you asked me in early April where I thought this team would be by the All-Star Break, I’m not sure how I would’ve answered. I thought the Yankees would be okay this year–compete for a wildcard spot–but this is beyond what I expected. Even though they have just the fourth best record in the AL, this team does feel better than that at times. They have a lockdown bullpen and they can actually hit; the rotation may need some work, but this is still a good team. As we sit here on the verge of the trade deadline, I’m teetering on the edge of what the Yankees should do. Given the rotation woes we’ve seen through mid-July, it’s arguable that even if this team makes the playoffs, that rotation won’t get them far. This would lead us to believe that the Yankees shouldn’t jump on a trade for a starter–they’ve been good enough to get to this position without having to sell off future pieces, so why start now? At the same time, when I look at this team, I do see the potential for a deep October run.

A top five of Ellsbury/Gardner/Rodriguez/Teixeira/McCann is about as good as any team’s right now. If Beltran continues hitting well when back from injury and Chase Headley has a bit of a rebound, the lineup becomes all that deeper. On the pitching side of things, with Andrew Miller back and Adam Warren in the bullpen, a strong relief corps has just gotten stronger. Even the starting has potential in a short series: Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka combine to make a great pair at the top of any rotation. Adding one more pitcher to them could push the team towards banner number 28.

After today’s game, the Yankees have 35 road games left and 41 home games. That doesn’t seem like a big split, but for a team in a tight race that’s hit so well at home (.824 OPS) and so poorly on the road (.672), those five games could mean the difference between home games and away games in the playoffs, or missing them altogether. It’s been a great first half for the Bronx Bombers (isn’t it nice not to say that ironically anymore?) and hopefully it continues.

A-Rod and Ellsbury homers aren’t enough, Yankees fall 5-3 to Red Sox

Well, the second game of this three-game series was not as fun as the first. The Yankees lost 5-3 to the Red Sox on Saturday night — it was a FOX game in Fenway Park, so no surprise they lost! — but did come mighty close to tying things up in the ninth. This was one of those “sometimes you just get beat during the course of a 162-game season” games. It happens.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Deja Boo
For the second straight night, Alex Rodriguez cut through the Fenway Park boos with a first inning home run to give the Yankees a quick 1-0 lead. Friday night’s dinger was a moonshot that nearly literally left the building. The homer on Saturday night was more of a line drive right into the Green Monster seats. I thought it was going to clank off the top of the wall at first, but nope, over it went. First inning runs on the road are just dandy.

The Yankees had opportunities to score again in the second and third, but they ran themselves out of the inning each time. Chase Headley (batter) and Chris Young (runner) teamed up for a strike ’em out, throw ’em out double play in the second, then Jacoby Ellsbury got picked off first to end the third. Suboptimal! They didn’t score again until Ellsbury took Eduardo Rodriguez deep for a solo homer in the sixth inning. A lot happened between the two solo homers.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Comfy Swings
For the second straight start, there were an awful lot of comfy swings against Ivan Nova. And why not? He can’t miss any bats right now. He got five swings and misses out of 86 pitches in this game after getting just four swings and misses out of 81 pitches last time out. That’s nine whiffs in his last 167 pitches (5.4%). Not good! The league average is 9.7%. Nova doesn’t have an out-pitch right now, four starts back from Tommy John surgery.

The Red Sox scored their first run thanks to a John Ryan Murphy error — he threw a ball into center field, allowing Alejandro De Aza to take third on the steal attempt and then score on Ryan Hanigan’s ground out — but the next two runs were all Nova. David Ortiz hit a hanger to left field for a double then Hanley Ramirez hammered a high fastball into the home bullpen for a two-run homer. Nova doesn’t have much margin for error right now and neither was a good pitch.

The fourth run scored after Nova had been removed from the game. He struck out Mike Napoli to start the seventh, gave up another single to De Aza, then got Hanigan to hit into a fielder’s choice. Mookie Betts lifted a catchable fly ball to right field that Young turned into a triple with a, uh, circuitous route. The Statcast route efficiency was negative, probably. Adam Warren was on the mound for that one. Nova was out of the game after getting Hanigan because Joe Girardi didn’t want him facing Betts a fourth time.

Nova was charged with four runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out three and, for the second time in his four starts, got more ground ball outs (eleven) than fly ball outs (six). Could have been better, could have been worse. I didn’t love the decision to send Nova back out for the seventh — two of his three outs in the sixth were rockets Brett Gardner ran down — but what can you do. Nova’s touch and go for now. Coming back from elbow reconstruction is a bumpy road.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Late Innings
I wouldn’t say the game got out of hand in the seventh, but it got just far enough out of reach. It all happened with two outs too. Young misplayed the Betts fly ball into a triple to give Boston an insurance run, then the shift burned the Yankees (surprise!) when Xander Bogaerts poked Warren’s slider to the right side of the infield for an RBI infield single. Everyone in the park knew a down-and-away slider was coming, yet for some reason the Yankees had the second baseman playing up the middle. No chance to turn the routine soft grounder into an out. Blargh.

That gave the Red Sox a more comfortable 5-2 lead and it could have been more too. Warren faced three batters and didn’t retire any of them, though, to be fair, a catchable fly ball and a weak grounder were not turned into outs behind him. Chasen Shreve came in, walked Ortiz to load the bases, then threw gas by Hanley to end the inning. That was a tough at-bat. Nine pitches, Shreve showed him everything he had, then caught him looking for a splitter with a fastball. The score remained 5-2.

The Yankees got a run back in the eighth because Ellsbury and Gardner are awesome. Ellsbury singled with two outs and Gardner drove him in with a double off the Green Monster. Love those two. Young managed to double off Koji Uehara in the ninth to bring the tying run to the plate, and, after Headley struck out, Brian McCann crushed a ball about 400 feet … to the triangle in dead center for the 27th out. Definitely the wrong part of the park. So it goes.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Bullpen Bryan Mitchell is pretty awesome. Shreve started the eighth, gave up a single to Pablo Sandoval, then Mitchell escaped the jam with a grounder, a fly ball, and a strikeout. PitchFX says he averaged 97.0 mph with his four-seamer. Golly. I say let Mitchell continue to do that the rest of the season then put him back in the rotation next year. He’ll be mighty useful if the sub-100 pitch count thing continues in the second half.

Gardner (double), A-Rod (homer), Headley (single), and Didi Gregorius (single) each had one hit while Ellsbury (single, homer) and Young (single, double) each had two. Teixeira drew a walk while the catching tandem of Murphy and McCann each went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. McCann came close to tying the game though! Alas, it was not meant to be. Those dopey base-running mistakes in the second and third innings hurt.

And finally, Rob Refsnyder went 0-for-3 with a double play, a fly out, and a ground out in his MLB debut. He made a nice but fairly routine double play pivot in the second, and wasn’t really tested with any tough plays the rest of the game. The shift screwed up the Bogaerts infield single in the seventh and Sandoval slid in hard to spoil a potential 1-4-3 double play in the eighth. Nothing Refsnyder could do there.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for your perusal. Also check out the updated standings and our fun Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
It’s the final game of the first half and, believe it or not, the Yankees and Red Sox are not playing the ESPN Sunday Night Game. All hail the baseball broadcasting gods for that. Nathan Eovaldi and Wade Miley will be the pitching matchup.

DotF: Mikolas hits for the cycle in Pulaski’s win

Both OF Aaron Judge and C Gary Sanchez are in the starting lineups for the Futures Game tomorrow. Judge will be the DH and is batting sixth for Team USA. Sanchez is catching and batting fifth for the World Team. The game starts at 3pm ET. Also, Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty that Sanchez is likely to be promoted to Triple-A soon.

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K,  E (fielding)
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding)
  • RF Ramon Flores: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — six homers in 74 games this year after hitting nine homers in 68 games last year
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4, 2 PB
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — first Triple-A dinger
  • LF Tyler Austin: 2-4, 1 R
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 4/0 GB/FB — 39 of 55 pitches were strikes (71%)
  • RHP Jose Pirela Jose Ramirez: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 34 of 49 pitches were strikes (69%)
  • RHP Branden Pinder: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 20 of 26 pitches were strikes (77%)

[Read more…]

Game 87: Refsnyder Arrives

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So far this season the Yankees have already had ten players make their MLB debuts, and that doesn’t count Joel De La Cruz or Taylor Dugas, both of whom were called up for the first time but didn’t get into a game. So it’s really 12 players who reached MLB for the first time while wearing pinstripes this year. That’s a ton. They had eight players make their MLB debut all of last season.

Tonight, Rob Refsnyder will be the 13th Yankee to reach the big leagues for the first time this season. Word got out last night the team was calling up their top second base prospect and the Yankees confirmed the news after the game, and today Refsnyder is in the lineup. It’s a good time to break him in too — they’re facing left-handed starters today and tomorrow, and the right-handed Refsnyder did face tonight’s Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez in Triple-A earlier this season. What happens after these two games … who knows? One step at a time. Here is the BoSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF All-Star Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Chris Young
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

Pretty much a perfect night for baseball in Boston. Clear skies, not too hot, nothing wet in the forecast. Tonight’s game will begin just after 7pm ET and you can watch on FOX. Yeah, it’s going to be one of those games. Enjoy the broadcast!

Roster Move: The Yankees still haven’t announced a roster move to accommodate Refsnyder because they wanted to see how Headley (calf) got through batting practice and pregame work. Everything went well, by all accounts. The team needs to make both 25-man and 40-man moves. Designating Cole Figueroa or Gregorio Petit for assignment would accomplish both. We’ll see.

Roster Move Update (6:44pm): Figueroa has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton and Mason Williams has been transferred to the 60-day DL, the Yankees announced, clearing room for Refsnyder. So Mason’s shoulder injury went from nothing to something in a hurry, huh?

Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

Big Mike, Boston errors help Yanks to 5-1 win over Red Sox

A+ win, would watch again. The Yankees beat the Red Sox by the score of 5-1 on Friday night, taking the series opener and guaranteeing they will go into the All-Star break in sole possession of first place in the AL East. They haven’t done that since 2012. The Yankees have won three straight and six of their last eight games.

All-Star. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
All-Star. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

A Blast & Three Gifts
One of my very favorite things in baseball is seeing the Yankees score in the first inning on the road. Score before the other team even has a chance to bat. I dunno, just love it when that happen. Not an All-Star Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees a first inning run when he turned around a bad Clay Buchholz changeup for a solo homer over the Green Monster. It almost left the damn ballpark. Stayed in the building and landed in the last row instead. Quick 1-0 lead.

The three-run fourth inning rally was a combination of good work and gifts from the Red Sox. A lot happened in that inning, so let’s recap it with annotated play-by-play:

Yankees Red Sox 071015

(1) Didi Gregorius turned a sweet double play to end the bottom of the third — he flipped it with his glove to Stephen Drew at second — and it was the kind of play that shows just how far Didi has come this year. He was a mess in April. A total mess. Now he looks so much more comfortable on the field and isn’t trying to impress everyone with every play. His offense has ticked up as well, partly because he’s done a better job of going the other way, and sure enough his fourth-inning double split the left-center field gap. Beautiful piece of hitting. Brian McCann couldn’t score from first but an average runner probably would have.

(2) In the grand scheme of things, the big story of the inning was Buchholz exiting the game with an injury two pitches into the Drew at-bat. He called the catcher out to the mound, the trainers came out, and Buchholz walked off the field without much argument or throwing a test pitch. Right to the clubhouse. The Red Sox later announced Buchholz exited with elbow tightness and is going for an MRI, which is no bueno.

Robbie Ross Jr. came out of the bullpen and got Drew to hit a chopper to first base that Mike Napoli bobbled, allowing Drew to to reach base safely and the run to score. Wait, no. McCann didn’t score. He held up at third for some reason. So while having the bases loaded after the error was great, the run should have scored. That seemed ominous. It looked like the Yankees were going to blow the run-scoring chance and end up with nothing, especially after Cole Figueroa popped up for the second out as the next batter. (To his credit, Figueroa worked one hell of an at-bat.)

(3) The inning should have been over on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s ground ball to second. McCann should have been stranded at third, but no, All-Star Brock Holt bobbled the ball and Ellsbury beat the throw to first. (Holt might have been better off throwing home to get the force on McCann, hardy har har.) McCann scored to make it 2-0 good guys and the inning continued when it should have ended.

(4) Brett Gardner did what both Drew and Ellsbury did — hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield. And, like Drew and Ellsbury, Gardner reached base. Napoli knock the ball down, flipped to Ross covering first, and Gardner was able to slide in safely just before Ross got to the bag. That was one of those rare plays were sliding into first base might have helped Gardner. If he goes in standing up, Ross probably tags him in the chest. Gardner slid under the possible tag and got his hand in safely to drive in another run and extend the inning.

(5) Man, this game was so close to being 8-0. A-Rod followed Gardner’s ground ball with a bases-loaded walk to make it 4-0 Yankees, then Mark Teixeira swung at the first pitch, and it was a meatball. Teixeira juuust missed it. I don’t know if it hit off the end of the bat or in near the label, but it certainly wasn’t the sweet spot, and Teixeira popped out into shallow left to end the inning. Swinging at the first pitch after a bases loaded walk is always annoying, but Teixeira swung at a very homerable pitch. Just didn’t get good wood on it. So it goes. The inning should have been over with no runs on the board following Ellsbury ground ball. Instead, three runs scored, all unearned.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Big Mike
It definitely wasn’t the prettiest outing for Michael Pineda — the Red Sox had runners on base against Pineda in every inning but the sixth — but the end result was one run in 6.2 innings, and dammit, I’ll take that every day of the week. The one run came on a Mookie Betts home run, and Pineda might as well have put that pitch on a tee. Cement mixer slider right out over the plate. Deserved to be crushed.

Otherwise, Big Mike relied heavily on his fastball in big spots because his slider wasn’t working too well. Example: the homer. Pineda threw 30 cut fastballs and got five swings and misses, which is a pretty good rate. He also got some big outs with his changeup. What a world. Remember when Pineda had no changeup? He would have been lost in this game without it. Pineda struck out six, of course walked none, and threw 68 of his 89 pitches for strikes (76%). That includes 12 swings and misses. It’s remarkable to see a guy this big, have such power stuff, and yet throw so many strikes. Big Mike’s special.

Save Situation
The year of the sub-100 pitch count continued. Pineda made a throwing error in the seventh to put a runner at second — Alejandro De Aza laid down a bunt and Pineda threw it wide of first — which effectively ended his night. Joe Girardi has rarely let his starters go 100+ pitches this year, so in came Justin Wilson to face Betts with two outs. I’m sure the fact Betts took Pineda deep in his previous at-bat contributed to Girardi’s decision. Either way, Wilson struck out Betts to end the inning. Wilson’s been awesome of late.

The Yankees scored a tack-on run in the top of the eighth, though that didn’t stop Girardi from going to his two end-game relievers. Dellin Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth before Andrew Miller pitched around a leadoff error in a scoreless ninth. I know it’s easy to think “it’s not a save situation so don’t use Betances and Miller,” but I didn’t see it that way. The Red Sox can score runs in a hurry, especially in that ballpark, so nail down the win when you can. Betances faced the 2-3-4 hitters, for example. Foot on the throat.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Leftovers
Jacoby Ellsbury came up with a big two-out RBI single in the eighth to score an always appreciated insurance run. Ross shut the Yankees down after that messy fourth inning, and it felt like they were going to regret not tacking on more runs. The first two batters of the inning reached base, but Drew bunted into a force out at third and Figueroa popped up, then Ellsbury picked them up with a single.

Wilson, Betances, and Miller combined to face eight hitters, and they stuck out five of them. They combined for nine swings-and-misses out of 22 total swings by the Red Sox. That’s bonkers. Boston hit one ball out of the infield after the sixth inning, and that was a lazy fly ball to center off the bat of David Ortiz. Nice job by the bullpen of not making this interesting.

Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except for Figueroa, though A-Rod was the only guy with two hits. He had a soft opposite field bloop single in addition to the homer. His two hits couldn’t be any more different. Chris Young came off the bench late for defense and drew a walk in his only plate appearance.

And finally, Ross threw 69 pitches out of the bullpen for Boston, so I think he’s going to be sent down for a fresh arm tomorrow. Getting into their bullpen early was great in the first game of the series — sucks Buchholz got hurt, never want to see someone get injured — though it won’t matter if they bring up someone new. Whatevs.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here, my friends, are the box score, video highlights, and up to the minute standings. Also check out out Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. Now here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Same two teams on Saturday night — yes, Saturday night, not afternoon, grumble grumble — when Ivan Nova and Eduardo Rodriguez toe the slab in the penultimate game of the first half. Rob Refsnyder will be called up to join the team for that game. Fun!