The Yankees welcomed their longtime punching bag –- the Twins –- to the Bronx for a four-game set starting Monday, and predictably whipped them, 14-1, in the opener.
Entering this year the Yankees owned a 78-31 (.716) regular-season record against the Twins since 2002 (the last time they lost a season series to the Twins was 2001!). That’s the highest win percentage by any team in a head-to-head non-Interleague matchup over the last 16 seasons. Including the postseason, that record improves to a whopping 91-33 since 2002, or the equivalent of 118 wins over a 162-game schedule.
Miguel Andujar continued to swing a scorching-hot bat, homering in the second inning and doubling in the sixth to extend his streak of games with an extra-base hit to seven games. That tied Joe DiMaggio (1937) and Mickey Mantle (1955) for the longest such streak in franchise history by a player age 23-or-younger. Andujar also joined A-Rod (twice in 2007) as the only Yankee third baseman with an extra-base hit in seven (or more) games over the last 75 seasons.
Giancarlo Stanton broke out of his early-season Bronx slump with a 4-for-4, 2-RBI night. The four hits on Monday were one fewer than he had in his first 12 games combined at Yankee Stadium this season.
Didi Gregorius put an exclamation point on the rout with his second career grand slam in the eighth inning, boosting the lead to 12-1. The only other shortstops since 1925 to hit multiple grand slams in their Yankee careers were Frankie Crosetti (3), Phil Rizzuto (2) and Fred Stanley (2).
Gleyber Torres singled in the eighth, getting not only his first career major-league hit but also earning our #FunFact of the game: He became the youngest Yankee infielder with a hit in a game since a rookie named Derek Jeter in 1995.
Rinse, repeat, another rout
The Yankees lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname for a second straight night, belting four home runs en route to an easy 8-3 win on Tuesday.
The fireworks were supplied by the usual suspects — Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Didi “I’m Not a Home Run Hitter” Gregorius — who went a combined 8-for-13 with four dingers while driving in seven of the team’s eight runs (alas, the rest of the lineup was 2-for-22).
Sanchez delivered two blasts for his ninth career multi-homer game. He’s the only player in major-league history to tally nine multi-homer games within his first 200 career games.
Judge smashed an opposite field shot in the seventh, showing off his ridiculous power to right field. Since the start of last season he is slugging 1.075 and has an isolated power of .626 on balls hit to the opposite field. Not only are those two marks the best in MLB, but he’s lapping the field by a wide margin. No other qualified hitter even has an oppo-field slugging percentage of .900 or an oppo-field isolated power of .500.
Didi contributed an RBI single in the third inning and then hit a booming two-run homer in the fifth, increasing his team-leading totals to 27 RBI and eight homers. He is the first shortstop in baseball history to reach each of those marks this early into the season. Among Yankees, only A-Rod during his 2007 MVP campaign and Babe Ruth in 1921 have matched or bettered Didi’s totals in the team’s first 22 games.
CC Sabathia was in late-career vintage form, generating tons of weakly-hit balls with his crafty mix of sliders, cutters and sinkers. Per Fangraphs, 50 percent of the 16 balls in play were categorized as “soft contact”, tied for the second-best rate in any game of his career.
Statcast measured his average exit velocity at 76.4 mph and all 16 batted balls against him were clocked below 90 mph. Since Statcast tracking began in 2015, he’s the only pitcher in the majors to allow at least 15 balls in play in a game, with none them coming off the bat at 90 mph or faster.
Didi and Tyler’s World
Not even another ugly start from Sonny Gray could keep this pinstriped train from chugging to another win over the Twins. Thanks to their relentless offense, another power barrage and a lockdown performance from the bullpen, the Yankees won their fifth game in a row, 7-4, on Wednesday night.
Another game, another dinger for the ridiculously hot Didi Gregorius. His game-tying solo shot in third inning –- his ninth of the season -– etched his name in the record books. He is the:
- only shortstop in franchise history to go deep in four straight games
- only Yankee shortstop with at least nine homers and 25 RBI in any calendar month
- only shortstop in major-league history with at least nine homers and 25 RBI in April
For more context on Didi’s nine homers in 20 April games, consider this stat: In his first season as a Yankee in 2015 he hit nine homers in 155 games!
Tyler Austin delivered the game-changing hit, crushing a tie-breaking three-run homer in the third to give the Yankees a 5-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It was his 12th career homer, and 10 of the 12 have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. He is slugging .914 with a 1.299 OPS in 35 career high-leverage at-bats. Since his rookie season in 2016, that’s easily the highest slugging percentage and OPS in high-leverage situations by any MLB player (min. 25 at-bats).
Gleyber Torres showed off his his lightning-quick bat speed with another two-hit performance, including his first career extra-base hit (a double in the fourth). He became the youngest Yankee with back-to-back multi-hit games since a 20-year-old Mickey Mantle pulled off the feat in 1952.
The Yankees capped off their sweep of the Twins in stunning fashion, with a dramatic walk-off win on a sunny Thursday afternoon in the Bronx. Gary Sanchez wore the hero’s cape as he crushed a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to turn a potential 3-1 loss into a thrilling 4-3 win.
- First Yankee with a come-from-behind, walk-off blast against the Twins since Jason Giambi’s memorable game-ending grand slam on May 17, 2002.
- Youngest Yankee since Don Mattingly on May 13, 1985 to hit a walk-off home run when trailing by multiple runs. Oh, and the losing team in that game? The Twins, of course.
- Only Yankee catcher (since at least 1925) to hit a game-ending shot with his team facing a deficit of two runs or more.
There was little to celebrate about this game before El Gary snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the bottom of the ninth. Twins starter Kyle Gibson took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Brett Gardner’s two-out single broke up the no-no. That was the only hit Gibson allowed in the game, and combined with his career-best 10 strikeouts, he joined an exclusive list of pitchers to allow one or fewer hits and strike out at least 10 Yankees in the Divisional Era (since 1969):
|Kyle Gibson||April 26, 2018|
|Chris Sale||May 22, 2014|
|Bartolo Colon||Sept. 18, 2000|
|Pedro Martinez||Sept. 10, 1999|
|Nolan Ryan||Aug. 29, 1973|
Ten questions in the mailbag this week. The mailbag email address is RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. We gets tons of questions each week and I answer as many as I can. If yours wasn’t answered, don’t take it personally. Keep trying.
Michael asks: Early, I know, but Tyson Ross has looked as good as has since 2015. Injuries are the obvious red flag, but could there be a fit here? Could possibly be nice alternative to getting big prospect cost guy or perhaps a second SP if team is in need of two come July. Thanks!
Ross got roughed up last time out, which I’m willing to overlook it because he was pitching in Coors Field. Before that game, the just-turned 31-year-old slider specialist had a 2.81 ERA (3.27 FIP) in 25.2 innings with 23.5% strikeouts, 6.9% walks, and 50.7% ground balls. Ross took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the first place Diamondbacks two starts ago.
At this point, I think Ross is someone worth keeping an eye on more than an obvious trade target. Let’s see how he’s doing in June and July. If he’s still getting strikeouts and grounders, and is showing he can be effective as he gets further away from the injuries, then yeah, he could be a trade target. He’s cheap (one year, $1.75M) and it shouldn’t require a big prospect haul to get him. I’m intrigued. I want to see more before committing though.
Alex asks: At the plate, is Andujar currently similar to a rookie Cano? Does he project to improve similarly to Cano moving forward?
That’s a lot to put on the kid. Robinson Cano is (probably) going to the Hall of Fame. I wouldn’t project anyone, even a stud like Ronald Acuna or Gleyber Torres, to have Cano’s career. It’s not really fair to them. That said, there are some similarities between Cano as a prospect and Miguel Andujar now. They both made lots of contact and had power, and there were questions about their left side of the infield defense. (Cano started his career as a shortstop.)
There are three key differences between Cano and Andujar. One, Andujar is a right-handed hitter and Cano is a left-handed hitter, and being at the platoon advantage more often is not nothing. Two, Robbie’s bat-to-ball skills even back then were truly excellent. Andujar’s contact ability to really good. Cano was on another level though. And three, Cano’s swing is picture perfect. Controlled, low effort, direct to the ball. Andujar has a much more aggressive hack. It works for him, but I’d always bet on a Cano swing over an Andujar swing. I like Andujar and think he’ll be really good. Squint your eyes and there are some similarities to Cano. I wouldn’t expect him to develop the same way though.
Jonathan asks: When a player makes a spot start at a much higher level like Alex Vargas did for Trenton, what is the rationale behind that? Couldn’t that mess up his development?
Nah, not one start. The 20-year-old Vargas, who I ranked as the 30th best prospect in the system, made a spot start for Double-A Trenton last week in place of the injured Domingo Acevedo (blister). Vargas was in Extended Spring Training, he came up for the spot start (4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K), then went back to Extended Spring Training the next day. I expect him to join the Low-A Charleston rotation fairly soon. Probably before the end of May.
These decisions are based on two things. One, who’s available to start that day? That’s kinda important. They play games in Extended Spring Training — they travel and everything — and pitchers are on a schedule. Vargas lined up to pitch the day Trenton needed a starter. And two, who can handle it? Which pitcher could go up to Double-A, potentially lose a game, and not have his confidence destroyed? The Yankees deemed Vargas capable of such an assignment. One start is no biggie. Sending him there full-time could be a problem. He’s not ready for an extended look there at this point in his development.
Mike asks: So, what’s the deal with A-Rod and Monument Park?
I think Alex Rodriguez will get a spot in Monument Park … eventually. Might not be anytime soon though. Remember, the Yankees didn’t give Paul O’Neill a plaque until 2014. He retired in 2001. The off-the-field stuff is a legitimate obstacle for A-Rod. He sued the team during his suspension appeal in 2014! That’s why I think it’ll take some time for things to blow over. A-Rod does still work for the Yankees as a special advisor, so the bridge hasn’t been completely burned. He won two MVPs, spent 12 years in pinstripes, won a World Series, and was a major factor in that World Series run. A-Rod is clearly Monument Park worthy for me. I think it’ll be a while before he actually gets a plaque (or No. 13 is retired!) though. The Yankees don’t seem to be in a rush to recognize Alex in any way.
Dennis asks: What would it take to acquire Baltimore’s Competitive Balance draft pick? Nestor Cortes enough? Have any of these picks been traded before?
Competitive Balance Lottery Picks, the extra draft picks given to small market teams, are the only draft picks eligible to be traded. The O’s have the second pick in Competitive Balance Round A, which is the 37th overall selection. Usually those picks are included as the second or third piece in a larger trade. They’ve been traded straight up twice:
- 2015: Braves trade 75th overall pick to Diamondbacks for outfield prospect Victor Reyes (ranked 22nd best prospect in the system by Baseball America).
- 2014: Marlins trade 39th overall pick to Pirates for middle reliever Bryan Morris.
Dennis sent his question in before Cortes was returned to the Yankees as a Rule 5 Draft pick. Based on the Morris trade, could the Yankees get that 37th pick from the O’s for Jonathan Holder? Maybe they’ll take back Cortes. The draft pick is nice. The additional bonus pool money is the real prize. That allows you to spend more freely, and be in better position to sign elite talent that falls.
I should note the Orioles have a history of trading their competitive balance picks. They traded it in 2014 (Bud Norris trade), 2015 (attached to Ryan Webb to unload contract), and 2016 (attached to Brian Matusz to unload contract). I guess the O’s don’t like spending to add amateur talent. Maybe the Yankees and O’s could get together for a big mid-range prospects for competitive balance pick and international bonus money deal this summer.
Mike asks: If Gleyber Torres is still on the roster come the double header on June 4th, is he eligible to play in those games being that he wasn’t on roster at the time that game would’ve actually taken place?
Yep, absolutely eligible to play. It doesn’t matter who was on the roster the day the game was postponed. Anyone can play in the makeup game. If the game had been rescheduled for September, all the call-ups would’ve been eligible to play too. It’d be pretty much impossible to force teams to play the makeup game with the roster they had the day of the postponement. Trades and injuries happen.
Matt asks: With the OF depth remaining pretty thin due to injuries and Wade having been optioned out, do you see him getting time in the OF at AAA, or will it strictly be SS/2B/3B? With Torres up, Andujar hot, Drury on the verge of starting a rehab assignment, and Torreyes pretty firmly entrenched as the utility infielder, Wade’s best path forward may be as a supersub.
Yes, definitely. Tyler Wade can play the infield. We know that much. Giving him more time in the outfield to increase his versatility only makes sense. It helps the Yankees and it helps Wade, who doesn’t have a clear path to playing time with the Yankees at all. Getting more comfortable in the outfield and becoming a versatile supersub may be his only chance to stick with the Yankees long-term. I think he’ll see time in the outfield with Triple-A Scranton for sure, possibly once Thairo Estrada joins the team and they have another infielder available. The RailRiders’ roster is kinda thin at the moment.
Alessandro asks: Watching the Yankees position player core play this week has got me thinking. Can you see a scenario where the Yankees pass on both Bryce and Machado and focus on the FA pitching (Corbin and others)?
Oh yes, absolutely. I’m not convinced the Yankees will spend huge in free agency this coming offseason, and if they don’t, pitching should be the priority over another bat. Don’t get me wrong, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are incredible and I’d take them on my team any day of the week. But if Hal Steinbrenner sticks to his “you don’t need a $200M payroll to win the World Series” credo, then pitching should be upgraded before the offense. Let’s worry about this after the season. The Yankees could very well end up acquiring a cheap impact pitcher at the deadline, making rotation help less of a priority come wintertime.
Marc asks (short version): Does Jonathan Loaisiga qualify for a fourth option?
Loaisiga was added to the 40-man roster over the winter and this season is his first minor league option year. He has two more remaining, presumably for 2019 and 2020. Some players do qualify for a fourth option year, however. If a player burns his three options years within the first five years of his career, he gets a fourth option. That would’ve applied to Joba Chamberlain had he gone up and down back down back in the day.
There’s also an injury component. Here’s the fourth option injury criteria from an old Keith Law article that appears to have been scrubbed from the internet:
“A player who has missed one or more seasons to injury – meaning an entire season, or enough time to accrue fewer than 90 days on an active roster – may get a fourth option if, exclusive of those injury-shortened years, he has fewer than five full seasons in pro ball.
Seasons spent entirely in short-season leagues (the New-York Penn, Northwest, Pioneer, Appalachian, Gulf Coast, and Arizona Rookie Leagues, as well as the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues) don’t count as seasons for the purposes of a fourth option.”
None of that applies to Loaisiga. He’s had plenty of injuries, but he hasn’t been on the 40-man roster for any of them. Losing most of 2016 and part of 2017 to Tommy John surgery doesn’t count towards a fourth option because he wasn’t on the 40-man. Otherwise every minor leaguer who blows out his elbow gets a fourth option, and that’s not the case.
Now, if Loaisiga were to get hurt again and miss the rest of this season, he would qualify for the fourth option. He’s on the 40-man, he’s in a full season league, and he would spend fewer than 90 days on the active roster. That triggers the fourth option. There are some other weird fourth option rules, so I suppose Loaisiga could qualify that way. His past injuries won’t net the fourth option though. He wasn’t on the 40-man for any of them.
Michael asks: This might sound like a weird thing to say, but shouldn’t the Yankees move Gardner down in the lineup? His on-base skills are good, but his best-case net production is maybe a 115 wRC+, and shouldn’t we want more of those at-bats to go to players like Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, Didi, Hicks – someone who will hit better in the aggregate?
It’s something to consider, for sure. Gardner’s hitting .230/.358/.299 (92 wRC+) in the early going, and I suspect that in a few weeks, he’ll be back in that familiar .260/.350/.400 range. He is 34 though, and you never really know when the decline is coming. Aaron Hicks, the obvious leadoff hitter alternative, is hitting .256/.400/.436 (135 wRC+) and it’s not at all crazy to think he’ll out-hit — or at least out-OBP — Gardner the rest of the way. Gardner is a real pain in the butt at the plate. He works the count and fouls off a lot of pitches, but you know what? So does Hicks! I don’t think a lineup change is anywhere close to imminent. Things are going pretty well right now. But if we get into the summer months and it’s becoming increasingly clear Hicks is the better leadoff option, yeah, a change could be in order.
The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Double-A Trenton Thunder both had scheduled off-days today.
High-A Tampa Tarpons (7-1 win over Charlotte)
- SS Thairo Estrada: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B — 9-for-41 (.220) in nine games so far … I imagine he’ll move up to Triple-A soon
- CF Estevan Florial: 2-4, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 CS — third multi-hit game in 20 games this year
- LF Clint Frazier: 1-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB — first game since crashing into the outfield wall and suffering a concussion on February 24th … that he played a full nine innings in the field in his first rehab game tells you the Yankees feel good about the work he’s been doing the last few weeks, otherwise he’d be the DH or playing partial games … Frazier is on the MLB disabled list, so this is an official rehab assignment, meaning he has to be activated within 20 days
- 1B Adam Lind: 2-2, 1 R, 3 RBI, 1 BB — 6-for-8 (.750) with two walks and no strikeouts in three games, which is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a big league veteran in High-A
- DH Isiah Gilliam: 0-3, 1 RBI, 3 K
- 3B-1B Brandon Wagner: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
- RF Alex Palma: 2-4, 1 R
- 2B Diego Castillo: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB
- RHP Jonathan Loaisiga: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 2 WP, 3/3 GB/FB — 58 of 83 pitches were strikes (70%) … 1.35 ERA and 26/1 K/BB in four starts and 20 innings so far … they’re taking it very easy on him in the early going, which isn’t surprising after all the injuries … Loaisiga has thrown no more than five innings each time out and each start has come with an extra day of rest
Low-A Charleston RiverDogs (3-2 win over Columbia, walk-off style)
- SS Wilkerman Garcia: 1-5, 1 R, 2 K
- 2B Oswaldo Cabrera: 2-5, 1 RBI — walk-off single … 12-for-30 (.400) in his last seven games
- RF Steven Sensley: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
- CF Pablo Olivares: 1-4, 1 RBI, 2 K — 4-for-12 (.333) single being sent down from Tampa
- LF Leonardo Molina: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
- LHP JP Sears: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 43 of 66 pitches were strikes (65%) … 14/3 K/BB in eleven innings … Sears came over from the Mariners in the Nick Rumbelow trade … Seattle selected him in the 11th round just last year
Anyway, so here is an open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing a regional game tonight, plus there is NBA and NHL action on as well. And there’s the NFL draft. Talk about that stuff, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics please. Thanks in advance.
For eight innings, Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Twins felt like one of those nondescript losses that would soon meld into the giant glob of baseball we all forget each season. Then, in the ninth, the Fighting Spirit kicked in and turned this game into the most exciting win of the young season. The Yankees walked off with a 4-3 win Thursday for their sixth straight win, and their tenth win in the last 13 games. Do we love this team yet?
Shoot Dem Arrows
Let’s start in the ninth inning, shall we? The first eight innings kinda sucked. The Yankees were down 3-1 at the start of the ninth and the Twins went to closer Fernando Rodney, who is somehow still slinging 97 mph fastballs at age 41. The ninth inning started with what should’ve been a routine 5-3 ground out. Didi Gregorius hit a chopper to third, Miguel Sano tripped over his own feet, and the throw short-hopped Logan Morrison at first base. The Yankees were in business.
The next batter, Giancarlo Stanton, also hit a weak tapper. That one was kinda in no man’s land on the infield between short and third. It left Stanton’s bat at 83.6 mph, which was weak enough for him to beat out the infield single without a throw. Really, Rodney could’ve easily had two quick outs with those grounders. Instead, the Yankees had runners on first and second with no outs. Gary Sanchez, do the damn thing:
A laborious afternoon for Jordan Montgomery, it was. His pitch count by inning: 20, 19, 37, 9, 13. Seventy-six pitches after three innings is no good. The Twins got their two runs against Montgomery in that 37-pitch third inning, and it happened with two outs. Montgomery walked Sano with two outs and couldn’t put Eduardo Escobar away after getting ahead in the count 1-2. Three foul balls and two balls later, Escobar poked a two-run homer into the short porch for a 2-0 lead. Blah.
Montgomery’s final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K on 98 pitches. This game was classic Montgomery, in a sense. I’m not trying to knock him. When Montgomery struggles, he tends to run long at-bats and has to battle, but it’s not often things really get away from him. The Twins had some chances to break this game open and didn’t do it. Even on his bad days, Montgomery finds a way to fight through it and keep the Yankees in the game. And with their offense, that’s all you need to do.
The unsung heroes: Domingo German and Dellin Betances. German replaced Montgomery and allowed one run, a Robbie Grossman solo homer, in three innings. He stranded two runners in both the seventh and eighth innings. Guessing the Twins regret not cashing those runners in. Betances struck out the side on 13 pitches in the ninth. Total dominance. Dellin’s either great or awful these days. Dr. Dellin or Mr. Betances. Dr. Dellin showed up Thursday.
Bob Kyle Gibson
Geez, Kyle Gibson was really sharp Thursday afternoon. His slider especially. The Yankees didn’t get their first baserunner until Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, and they didn’t get their first hit until Gardner’s two-out single in the sixth. Gibson’s final line: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K. That’s a career-high ten strikeouts. The breakdown of his slider:
- Thrown: 29
- Swings: 14
- Whiffs: 11
- Called Strikes: 3
Gibson had an unreal slider back in college — I thought he was going to be a top five pitcher in baseball during his prospect days — but he’s never been able to get that same effectiveness with the MLB ball. On Thursday, Gibson really had the slider working, and the Yankees couldn’t do anything with it. Sometimes a dude just wakes up with great stuff and shuts you down. It happens. Gibson was great.
Of course, the Yankees have an unforgiving lineup, so they forced Gibson to throw 95 pitches in those six innings. Even on their bad offensive days, they don’t let the starter get deep in the game. Addison Reed replaced Gibson in the seventh and the Yankees got on the board thanks to Aaron Hicks’ sac fly. Stanton doubled to start the inning, then moved over to third on wild pitch. Is it just me, or does it feel like Reed allows a run every time he pitches against the Yankees? Not complaining!
Two hits for Stanton (double, infield single) and one each for Gardner (single), Sanchez (dinger), and Gleyber Torres (single). Torres reached on an infield single in the eighth and advanced to second on Brian Dozier’s error. The Yankees couldn’t get him in against Zach Duke — Zack Duke! — though. Oh well. Ain’t mad about it anymore.
The Yankees struck out 12 times as a team. Judge (two), Miguel Andujar (two), and Tyler Austin (three) had seven of the 12 strikeouts. Despite their roster, the Yankees went into Thursday’s game with baseball’s tenth lowest strikeout rate at 22.1%. Gibson got them good Thursday though. The bullpen? Not so much.
The homestand is over and the Yankees are on their way to the West Coast for three games against the Angels. Friday night’s series opener is a 10pm ET start. Luis Severino and left-hander Andrew Heaney are the scheduled starting pitchers for that one.
MLB has finally ruled on Tyler Austin’s suspension. This afternoon the Yankees announced Austin’s five-game suspension has been reduced to four games. He will begin serving it tomorrow. Joe Kelly’s six-game ban was not reduced.
The Yankees must play a man short while Austin is suspended, and since they’re carrying eight relievers, either a roster move is coming or the Yankees will play the next four games with a two-man bench. Not ideal. Neil Walker will presumably step in at first base.
If the Yankees do make a move, they won’t be able to call up Tyler Wade because of the ten-day rule. The only other healthy 40-man roster position player in the minors is Kyle Higashioka. I’m guessing the Yankees will ride it out with a two-man bench this weekend. We’ll see.
Update: I just remembered Brandon Drury is on the way back. He could be activated off the disabled list with a reliever going down at some point this weekend.