Sunday Night Open Thread

It’s always good to take a series from a perennial last place team, especially right before the All-Star break. These next four days will be pretty swell. Recharge the batteries a bit and get ready for the second half, a second half in which the Yankees have to be considered the AL East favorites. They’re flawed, no doubt about it, but I think they’re also the most well-rounded team in the division.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Cardinals and Pirates are the ESPN Sunday Night Game (Cooney vs. Liriano) and that series has been really good. Last night’s game was epic. Hopefully we’re in for more of the same tonight. Talk about whatever here.

2015 Futures Game Thread

2015 Futures GameThe Yankees are currently playing the final game of the first half against the Red Sox in Fenway Park (game thread), meanwhile, about 900 miles west, the 2015 Futures Game will be played this afternoon in Cincinnati. I wish they would play the Futures Game at night, in the 8pm ET ESPN slot, so it doesn’t have to compete against real MLB games each year. Tough to draw an audience this way.

Anyway, the Yankees have two prospects in the Futures Game this year and both are in the starting lineup. Outfielder Aaron Judge is at DH and will bat sixth for Team USA — too bad, his right field defense is underrated and we won’t get to see it today — while catcher Gary Sanchez is behind the plate and batting fifth for the World Team. I hope they go a combined 10-for-10 with ten homers. Here are the starting lineups:

Team USA (Manager: Ken Griffey Sr.)

  1. 2B Tony Kemp, Astros
  2. SS J.P. Crawford, Phillies
  3. C Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
  4. 3B Richie Shaffer, Rays
  5. RF Kyle Waldrop, Reds
  6. DH Aaron Judge, Yankees
  7. 1B Josh Bell, Pirates
  8. LF Michael Conforto, Mets
  9. CF Bradley Zimmer, Indians
    RHP Lucas Giolito, Nationals

World Team (Manager: Tony Perez)

  1. 2B Ketel Marte, Mariners
  2. SS Ozzie Albies, Braves
  3. RF Yorman Rodriguez, Reds
  4. 1B Albino Fuenmayor, Royals
  5. C Gary Sanchez, Yankees
  6. 3B Renato Nunez, Athletics
  7. CF Manuel Margot, Red Sox
  8. DH Nomar Mazara, Rangers
  9. LF Raimel Tapia, Rockies
    RHP Jose Berrios, Twins

The pitching orders and reserves can be found right here. There will be a new pitcher each inning and no, the game won’t go to extra innings if it is tied. They won’t extend any pitchers for the sake of an exhibition game.

Now, the bad news: the weather kinda sucks in Cincinnati today. It has been cloudy and overcast all day and there is rain in the forecast this afternoon. Hopefully the Futures Game isn’t delayed or outright canceled because of the weather. The game is scheduled to begin at 3pm ET and you can watch live on MLB Network and MLB.com. Enjoy the game.

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?