Via Mike Ashmore: Zoilo Almonte has joined Double-A Trenton for a minor league rehab assignment. The Thunder is in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs and are the Yankees’ only minor league affiliate still playing. They lead the best-of-five series one game to none, so they have at least three games remaining in their season.
Almonte, 24, hit .261/.305/.341 (75 wRC+) with one homer and three steals in 95 plate appearances for New York earlier this summer. He has been out with a sprained ankle since mid-July. The Yankees have five veteran outfielders on their current roster and figure to stick with them down the stretch, but having another bat on the bench in September is never a bad thing, particularly a switch-hitter. Almonte hit .297/.369/.421 (124 wRC+) with six homers in 293 Triple-A plate appearances before being called up and will give Trenton’s lineup a nice short-term boost in the postseason. · (12) ·
Even though the Yankees don’t have much of a chance of catching the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East, this is a hugely important series for New York’s playoff chances. They’re no longer in direct competition with Boston for a postseason berth, but they are in desperate need of every win possible. Once again, this is the biggest series of the year. At least until the next one.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Red Sox absolutely clobbered the Tigers yesterday. Like 20-4 with a franchise record-tying eight homeruns clobbered. Boston took two of three from the defending AL champs and have won nine of their last eleven games overall. They sit atop the division at 84-57 with a +154 run differential, both the best marks in the league. The Yankees are seven games back of the Sawx in the loss column.
At 5.1 runs per game with a team 112 wRC+, the Red Sox have the best offensive team in baseball. That’s kinda scary considering how shaky the non-Ivan Nova/first 85 pitches of Andy Pettitte part of the rotation has been recently. OF Jacoby Ellsbury (110 wRC+) and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (108 wRC+) are both dealing with nagging injuries and are listed as day-to-day, but they’ll play tonight. Don’t worry.
Behind Ellsbury, manager John Farrell has the highly productive trio of OF Shane Victorino (116 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (114 wRC+), and DH David Ortiz (153 wRC+). Victorino recently abandoned switch-hitting and bats from the right side exclusively now. OF Jonny Gomes (102 wRC+) has been very productive of late as well. 1B Mike Napoli (115 wRC+) has been hot and cold, ditto SS Stephen Drew (108 wRC+) and OF Daniel Nava (129 wRC+). 3B Will Middlebrooks (84 wRC+) has been pretty good since returning from the minors a few weeks ago.
1B/OF Mike Carp (141 wRC+in part-time duty) has been a force off the bench for Farrell. The team is also carrying top prospect IF Xander Bogaerts (85 wRC+ in very limited time) and they recently welcomed back backup C David Ross (84 wRC+ in limited time) from a concussion. Their crop of call-ups and extra bodies includes OF Quintin Berry, C Ryan Lavarnway, IF John McDonald, and UTIL Brandon Snyder. I wouldn’t worry about those guys too much. Expect the Red Sox to rely on their regulars heavily this weekend in an effort to clinch the division and bury their oldest historic rival.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Thursday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Jake Peavy
The Red Sox went out and upgraded their rotation at the trade deadline by acquiring the 33-year-old Peavy in a three-team deal. He’s pitched to a 3.91 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 19 starts this year while missing more than a month with a fracture in his ribcage. His strikeout (7.52 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and walk (1.73 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) rates are in line with the last few years but his homer (1.35 HR/9 and 11.0% HR/FB) and ground ball (34.0%) numbers are career worsts by a decent margin. Peavy is a fastball-heavy six-pitch pitcher, using his low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, and upper-80s cutter about 75% of the time. A low-80s changeup is his top offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw upper-70s curveballs and low-80s sliders. His platoon split is relatively small thanks to the changeup. Peavy actually made his big league debut against the Yankees back in 2002, but otherwise he hasn’t faced them very much by virtue of being in the NL and/or injured.
Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Felix Doubront
Doubront, 25, has taken some steps forward this year and owns a 3.89 ERA (3.52 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance). Almost all of his improvement stems from cutting his homerun rate in half — he went from a 1.34 HR/9 (15.9% HR/FB) last year to a 0.66 HR/9 (7.4% HR/FB) this year. His true talent level is probably somewhere in between given his home ballpark and the other hitter friendly parks in the division. Doubront’s walk (3.59 BB/9 and 9.3 BB%) and ground ball (46.5%) rates have improved slightly but his strikeout rate (7.96 K/9 and 20.5 K%) has dropped off big time from 2012. He uses four pitches regularly, including a mid-80s changeup that seems to give the Yankees fits. He sets that and his mid-70s curveball up with low-90s two and four-seamers. A mid-80s cutter is an infrequently used fifth offering. His platoon split is small. Doubront has pitched very well against the Yankees these last few years, but they did rough him up for seven runs in four innings last month.
Saturday: LHP David Huff vs. RHP John Lackey
Thanks to his brand new elbow, Lackey is having his best season since before signing with Boston. The 34-year-old has a 3.22 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 25 starts with very good walk (1.89 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%) and ground ball (47.1%) rates. His strikeout (7.71 K/9 and 20.9 K%) and homer (1.16 HR/9 and 12.7% HR/FB) totals are worse than what you’d like to see. Lackey has thrown six different pitches this year but he leans heavily on three: his low-90s four-seamer, mid-80s cutter, and upper-70s curve. He’s thrown those pitches more than 90% of the time combined. A low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s changeup, and mid-80s slider are rarely used fourth through sixth offerings. For whatever reason, Lackey has a big reverse split this year — lefties have a .282 wOBA against him while righties are at .344 — that doesn’t jibe with the rest of his career. The Yankees have faced the big right-hander a bunch of times over the years and have one good game (four runs in 6.1 innings) and one bad game (one run in 6.2 innings) against him in two meetings this year.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Jon Lester
I’m not sure what to make of the 29-year-old Lester anymore. He started this season very well, was terrible for a good portion of the summer, but has been awesome of late. He’s sitting on a 3.88 ERA (3.70 FIP) with strikeout (7.48 K/9 and 19.6 K%) and walk (2.91 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) rates that are damn near identical his disaster season a year ago. His ground ball rate (44.2%) has dropped and yet he’s giving up significantly fewer homers (0.87 HR/9 and 8.9% HR/FB). Furthermore, Lester’s four-seam fastball recently jumped back into the mid-90s and he’s begun to shelve his upper-80s cutter. A low-90s sinker, mid-80s changeup, and mid-70s curveball round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Lester plenty of times over the years and know everything there is to know about him. No surprises here.
Thanks to yesterday’s laugher, the Red Sox were able to rest all of their important late-game relievers and come into this series in good bullpen shape. Closer RHP Koji Uehara (1.83 FIP) has been untouchable for about two months now, but he doesn’t really have a set setup man. RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.15 FIP), LHP Craig Breslow (3.69 FIP), RHP Brandon Workman (3.38 FIP), and LHP Matt Thornton (4.00 FIP) all rotate in and out of the role depending on who’s pitching well at the time. LHP Drake Britton (2.80 FIP in limited time), RHP Rubby De La Rosa (7.54 FIP in very limited time), and LHP Franklin Morales (4.65 FIP in limited time) round out the eight-man bullpen.
Even though the Yankees had to use both Mariano Rivera and David Robertson yesterday, their bullpen is still in very good shape heading into tonight’s series opener. Those two have actually had a surprising amount of time off recently. Thanks to the expanded rosters, Joe Girardi has a whopping eleven relievers at his disposal. I’m guess we’ll see all eleven at some point this weekend. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details and Over The Monster for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.
In an Insider-only feature, a panel of ESPN’s expert ranked baseball’s 30 franchises using a formula based on five factors: big league talent, minor league talent, finances, management, and roster flexibility. The Cardinals lead the way with a score of 86.9 (out of 100) while the Red Sox (83.4) were the only other club to score higher than 78. The Brewers bring up the rear at 14.3. Ouch.
The Yankees rank 11th at 53.8, down from fifth (65.9) before the season and second (79.6) from this time last year. Their financial grade, which ranks second only to the Dodgers, carries them as the big league roster, farm system, and management categories all took hits from earlier this year. Weirdly enough, the Yankees improved their roster flexibility grade, I guess because they have a ton of players due to become free agents after this season. Even though they’ve played well of late and could sneak into the postseason, it’s hard to argue the team is trending downward and in need of a rebuild or retooling in the near future. · (20) ·
Thanks to last night’s sweep-clinching win over the White Sox, the Yankees have won five of the first six games of this all-important ten-game homestand. They took two of three from the Orioles over the weekend and swept the last place ChiSox, which is pretty close to the best case scenario. Sunday’s bullpen meltdown still stings, don’t get me wrong, but at least the Bombers rebounded well with the three straight victories.
Winning five of the first six homestand games was very important because these next eleven days are going to be a nightmare. The White Sox won’t be in the Bronx to kick the ball around — seriously, are they not one of the sloppiest teams you’ve ever seen? awful — and use a parade of overmatched rookie pitches anymore. No, now things get really tough. It’s make or break time.
Matt outlined the schedule situation of the various wildcard contenders yesterday, but the Yankees’ schedule is worth a deeper look. Starting tonight, they head into an eleven-game stretch that will more or less definite the rest of their season:
- Four games vs. Red Sox in Yankee Stadium
- Four games vs. Orioles in Camden Yards
- Three games vs. Red Sox in Fenway Park
That’s hell. Hell with no off-days scheduled. Just spitballing it, how many of those eleven games do you think the Yankees need to win to remain in the postseason hunt? Remember, there will be only 12 games left in the season after the stretch, so they have to legitimately make up ground and not just tread water. The time for water-treading is over. Seven wins in eleven games is the bare minimum, no? Anything less than that and it’s probably time to shift focus to the final few innings of Mariano Rivera‘s career instead of the out-of-town scoreboard.
For the sake of having numbers and something tangible to look at, here’s how the Yankees have fared against the Red Sox and Orioles so far this season:
|W-L||Runs Scored Per Game||Runs Allowed Per Game|
Do you know what those numbers mean? Absolutely nothing. What happened earlier this year has no impact on what will happen going forward. Not only have the Yankees rebuilt their lineup by trading for Alfonso Soriano and getting a small All-Star team back from the DL, but the Red Sox and Orioles have remade their rosters with trades and injuries and whatever else. How much you want to bet some random September call-up does something huge at some point in those eleven games? It’s damn near inevitable. That’s baseball, man. It’s weird sometimes.
The only thing we know with any certainty is this: those eleven games are going to be the toughest eleven games of the season. The Red Sox and Orioles are really good teams and always seem to play the Yankees hard. Maybe one or both of those clubs will have a bad series, but I wouldn’t count on it. New York will have to play its very best baseball of 2013 to make it through these next eleven days and continue to worm their way into a playoff spot. There is no margin of error anymore, that came and went last month.
On the other side of the coin, if the Yankees do manage to survive those eleven games and come out of them still within striking distance of a postseason berth, they’ll be rewarded by playing nine of their final dozen games against losing teams. Not just losing teams, I’m talking terrible, horrible, no good last place teams. Three against the Blue Jays, three against the Giants, and three against the Astros. There are three games with the Rays mixed in there — how enormous could that series be? goodness — but that’s what awaits the Yankees after this eleven-game stretch. By no means are those easy wins, but they’re damn easier than beating Boston and Baltimore. The most important stretch of the 2013 season begins tonight.
That was an unnecessarily stressful game. But, a win is a win is a win. The Yankees returned the favor and completed the sweep of the last place White Sox on Wednesday night, surviving a late-inning rally for the 6-5 victory.
Four In The Fourth
To give you an idea of how out of it the ChiSox are, they had three players make their big league debuts in this game. One of the three was starting pitcher Erik Johnson, who coughed up a solo homer to Robinson Cano in the first before striking out Ichiro Suzuki to escape a bases loaded jam later in the inning. He settled down briefly before the Yankees took him out behind the woodshed in the fourth inning.
That inning started innocently enough, with an Alex Rodriguez ground ball single back up the middle. Ichiro grounded back to the pitcher, but Johnson floated the throw over to first and Jeff Keppinger wasn’t able to scoop it out of the dirt. With runners on first and second with no outs, the Yankees turned Lyle Overbay loose in a 3-0 count and he came through with a run-scoring double. After Austin Romine grounded out, Brett Gardner sliced a two-run triple into the left-center field gap for two more runs and a 4-1 lead. I have no idea how that ball went for three bases, the White Sox outfielders looked like they were running in slow motion. Don’t get he wrong, it was hit hard and sure extra-base hit, but it took them forever to retrieve the ball.
Cano brought in Gardner with an infield single later in the inning, capping off the four-run attack. Johnson threw a first pitch strike to just two of the first seven batters in the inning — Romine on the ground out and Cano’s first-pitch single. Everyone else was ahead in the count 1-0 or better at one point. Tough to live life that way, but that is what rookie pitchers do. They struggle to throw strikes and get hurt. The Yankees capitalized on Johnson’s throwing error and his general young pitcheritis.
A Better Sabathia
Much like Hiroki Kuroda on Tuesday night, CC Sabathia probably would have gotten clobbered had he been facing a Major League caliber lineup on Wednesday. A pair of walks and a double gave the White Sox a first inning run, but Sabathia settled down and kept Chicago in check from the second through seventh innings. He did put a man on base in every inning but the seventh, however. To be fair, one base-runner came on an error and two others came with the bases empty and two outs. Not the end of the world, really.
The final line was three runs on five hits and four walks in 7.1 innings of work, with four strikeouts and eleven ground outs compared to six in the air. Sabathia wasn’t on the mound when the second and third runs scored. He also completed a full seven innings of work for the first time in five five starts and just the second time in ten starts. Seven innings used to be the minimum for this guy. The White Sox are the worst lefty hitting team in baseball and they didn’t exactly knock Sabathia around the park (lots of bloops, really), so maybe this is something he build off confidence-wise. He’s still clearly not the guy we’re used to seeing, but at this point CC just needs to give the team enough of a chance to win. Sabathia did that on Wednesday.
Almost Death By Bullpen
Despite the comfortable five-run lead, Girardi went to David Robertson to finish off the eighth because he needed some work. He had not pitched in four days and only pitched once in the last nine days. The rust showed, as Robertson allowed four of the five batters he faced to reach base. Three singles and one walk to the unwalkable (career 5.2% walk rate) Dayan Viciedo turned a five-run lead into a one-run lead in a real hurry. An easy win suddenly became a nail-biter.
With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first with two outs, Girardi didn’t screw around. He brought in Mariano Rivera for his first four-out save since July 2011. Mo struck out Alejandro De Aza looking on seven pitches to end the eighth inning rally before retiring the side in order on eight pitches in the ninth. Nice and easy. It would have been nice to get Rivera a night off, especially since they led by five runs at one point, but every win is important and I’m glad he aggressively went to his two best relievers in big situations. Robertson just had an off night.
It was an afterthought at the time, but Alfonso Soriano plated Derek Jeter with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning for what looked like a simple tack-on run. That eventually became the winning run given the ChiSox’s eighth inning rally. Jeter walked and moved to third on Cano’s single earlier in the inning. They had runners on the corners with one out and it could have been a huge inning, but Curtis Granderson lined a ball right at the first baseman for a double play. Sucks.
Once again, Cano led the offense with a homer and two singles while Gardner singled and tripled. Those two accounted for five of the team’s eight hits while A-Rod, Overbay, and Granderson (double) had the others. Jeter, Soriano, A-Rod, and Overbay each drew a walk. Johnson struck out just one batter — Ichiro to end the first inning rally — and the Yankees struck out just three times as a team.
Former Yankee C.J. Nitkowski covered for Suzyn Waldman in the WCBS 880 booth while she was away for the Jewish holiday, and while I didn’t hear any of the broadcast, he was supposedly excellent. Maybe he’ll fill in again at some point.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
See? The graph says the White Sox weren’t all that all close to coming back and winning the game. You had nothing to worry about. Anyway, for the box score and video highlights, go to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees have a one-game lead over both the Indians and Orioles in the loss column and, depending on the outcome of the late game, they’ll either be three games (Rays win) or two games (Rays win) back of the second wildcard spot. Cool Standings has their playoff odds at 18.3% at the moment.
The Red Sox are coming to town for an extended four-game weekend set. Needless to say, that will be an enormous series for the Yankees. Ivan Nova and Jake Peavy kick things off on Thursday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game live. Only ten more home games left in the regular season, you know.
Both 2B Gosuke Katoh and RHP Victor Beriguete were named the Rookie Gulf Coast League Postseason All-Star Game. Beriguete had great numbers (1.95 ERA and 2.55 FIP in 27.2 relief innings), but he was also a 24-year-old in the GCL. Katoh was obviously very deserving.
Double-A Trenton (6-5 win over Binghamton in ten innings, walk-off style) they lead the best-of-five series one game to none
- CF Mason Williams: 0-5, 2 K
- LF Ramon Flores: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 3-5, 2 R, 1 2B
- C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 1 RBI, 3 K — was lifted for a pinch-runner late
- RF Tyler Austin: 3-5, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K — before the game, he told Nick Peruffo that “it’s going to be a long night” for RHP Noah Syndergaard, the opposing starter and one of the very best pitching prospects in the game … he backed that up with two doubles off the righty, including a two-run shot in the first inning … how awesome is that?
- 1B Kyle Roller: 1-3, 1 BB
- PR-1B Casey Stevenson: 1-1, 1 RBI — took over for Roller late and wound up hitting the game-tying single in the tenth
- DH Ben Gamel: 2-5, 2 RBI, 3 K — walk-off single
- 3B Reegie Corona & SS Ali Castillo: both 0-4 — Corona struck out once, Castillo twice
- RHP Bryan Mitchell: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 WP, 4/2 GB/FB – 53 of 98 pitches were strikes (54%) … the Bryan Mitchell experience in a nutshell right there
- LHP Francisco Rondon: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K – 25 of 40 pitches were strikes (63%) … he’s been really, really good for a few weeks now
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 19 of 30 pitches were strikes (63%) … escaped a bases loaded, no outs jam in the eighth with the score tied at three
- SwP Pat Venditte: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 18 of 37 pitches were strikes (49%) … gave up the two runs in the top of the tenth, but he wound up getting the win
Despite yesterday’s dramatic come-from-behind win against Chris Sale and the White Sox, the Yankees saw their playoff chances decrease from 11.0% to 10.5% according to Baseball Prospectus. The Rays pounded the Angels late last night, so all New York’s win did was maintain their three-game deficit in the wildcard race loss column. Each day that ticks off the calendar without progress being made in the standings chips away at the team’s postseason odds. There are only 23 games left after tonight. Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against rookie right-hander Erik Johnson, who is making his MLB debut:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- LF Curtis Granderson
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Austin Romine
And on the mound is left-hander CC Sabathia. The ChiSox are the very worst hitting team against lefties in all of baseball (78 wRC+), so if CC can’t contain them tonight, I don’t want to think about what will happen the rest of the season. He needs to come up big tonight.
It’s been a damn near perfect weather day in New York. Great night for baseball. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
MLB officially announced the 2013 postseason schedule yesterday. The AL wildcard game is slated for Wednesday, October 2nd. The Yankees end their season in Houston on Sunday, September 29th, and the two days in between are saved for any necessary tie-breaker games. The winner of the wildcard game will play Game One of the ALDS on Friday, October 4th. Am I getting ahead of myself? Hell yes. Do I care? Hell no. · (6) ·
Ivan Nova has been named the AL’s Pitcher of the Month for August, the league announced. He’s the first Yankee hurler to win the award since CC Sabathia in July 2011 (I think). Nova had a 2.08 ERA and 3.08 FIP in 43.1 innings across six starts last month and has taken over as the team’s de facto ace with Hiroki Kuroda hitting a wall. Congrats to Ivan. · (13) ·