Aaron Judge and the balance between development and trying to win

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The first few weeks of the Aaron Judge era have been … interesting. Interesting’s a good word. Judge hit a ball over the windows of the center field restaurant in his first at-bat, and he went deep the next day as well. We’ve also seen him rob a near home run without even leaving his feet. He just reached up and caught it. And, of course, we’ve seen strikeouts. Lots and lots of strikeouts.

Through 20 big league games Judge is hitting .169/.249/.338 (54 wRC+) with three homers and 35 strikeouts in 73 plate appearances. That’s a 47.9% strikeout rate. Judge went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts yesterday and is now in a 2-for-25 (.080) skid with 18 strikeouts. Yikes. Last week I said Judge should to be more aggressive on fastballs in the zone, and since then his at-bats have only looked worse and worse.

As ugly as Judge’s strikeouts have been, a stretch like this is hardly unprecedented. Trevor Story struck out 34 times in his first 20 games earlier this season. Giancarlo Stanton struck out 33 times in his first 20 games too. Heck, Stanton went 1-for-21 (.048) with 17 strikeouts during a six-game span earlier this year. Strikeout heavy batters are prone to ugly slumps like this, and Judge is indeed strikeout prone. Always has been, probably always will be.

Because Judge is doing this at the start of his career, it raises all sorts of questions. When Stanton falls into a slump and starts striking out a bunch, he gets the benefit of the doubt because he’s an established player. We’ve seen him snap out of similar slumps in the past. Story’s strikeouts earlier this year were completely glossed over because he was hitting a home run every other at-bat, it seemed. Everyone focused on the dingers.

Neither of that applies to Judge. He’s not established and he’s not hitting home runs regularly. Is he striking out so much because he’s overmatched by big league pitching? Is he being too aggressive? Too passive? Could it really just be a slump? Judge had a pretty nasty slump in Triple-A back in May, remember, plus he struck out a ton when he first got to Triple-A last year. It’s not like he’s never done this before. He’s just never done it in MLB.

The Yankees are in charge of overseeing Judge and helping them through these early-career struggles. And by the Yankees I mean Joe Girardi, the coaching staff, and even the other players. Everyone. It’s a team, not a group of individuals. There’s some level of responsibility up and down the organization. The club has to balance what’s best for Judge and what’s best for the Yankees overall, and those aren’t necessarily the same things.

“I think he’s handled it pretty well,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings yesterday when asked about Judge’s strikeouts. “He’s going through a tough time and mechanically, I think he’s a little bit off. We’re trying to get him back on track. We got to help him get through it, that’s all. We got to help him fight through it. We know he was the ability and we believe he can do it.”

The Yankees are, improbably, still hanging around the wildcard race. They’re 3.5 games back with 26 games to go, which makes this Judge stuff all the more difficult. If the Yankees were, say, 15 games out and cruising to 90 losses, they could let him play as much as they want. But with a postseason spot not completely out of reach, they have to find a balance between Judge’s development and putting the best team on the field.

Right now it doesn’t seem the best possible lineup includes Judge. His defense is an asset — he made two very nice plays yesterday, one on a dive forward and another at the wall — but enough to overcome all the contact-less at-bats? I don’t think so. The Aaron Hicks injury leaves the Yankees short an outfielder, though they still have Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Austin, and Eric Young Jr. available. Mason Williams figures to be along soon enough too.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At this point scaling back on Judge’s playing time has to be under consideration, even though he’s a young player and young players generally need all the at-bats they can get. Sometimes it makes sense to give them a breather though. I’m not saying sit Judge indefinitely. Not at all. But maybe let Girardi pick his spots with the kid the rest of the way. There are two big factors to consider here.

1. Confidence. Judge is human. A massive human who wields a baseball bat like a toothpick, but a human nonetheless. His confidence has to be down right now. You’d never know it by talking to him — Judge is definitely a gentle giant, he’s stoic and relentlessly positive — but it’s only natural. Fail at something this much and I think anyone would be a little down on themselves.

“I just feel like, if I stick to what I’m doing, everything is going to work out,” said Judge to Jennings yesterday. “There’s a little learning curve wherever you go, at every level. You just try to make that adjustment as quick as you can. For some people, it takes a little long. For some people, a little shorter. Just try to make that adjustment.”

I’m not a big believer in confidence potentially derailing a player’s development — if a guy’s confidence crashes that hard, he probably wasn’t going to make it anyway — but it’s not something that can be ignored either. You want Judge in the right frame of mind so he can make whatever adjustments he has to make. He’s not going to tell you his confidence is down, so it’s up to Girardi to look for signs (body language, etc.) and take action.

2. Opposing pitcher. This is kind of a big deal. The Yankees are facing Cy Young candidate Aaron Sanchez and his filthy mid-90s sinker that runs all over the place tonight. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit Judge against Sanchez. That seems like a bad matchup. But Alex Cobb and Matt Andriese this weekend? Turn him loose. Give Judge a chance to get comfortable against pitchers who aren’t going to blow him away, then take it from there. Hope he experiences some success and builds on that, you know?

If you’re drawing conclusions about Judge’s career and potential based on these first 20 games, just stop. It doesn’t work like that. This goes both ways too. Judge isn’t a bust because he struck out a bunch these last few weeks and Gary Sanchez isn’t a Hall of Famer because he won AL Player of the Month in his first month as an everyday player. Judge’s and Sanchez’s long-term potential didn’t change in August. Only the perception of it did.

Judge’s adjustment period has been more difficult than I think anyone expected. His at-bats are getting cringe-worthy, and when there’s a two-strike count, you almost want to look away. The Yankees have to come up with a plan to get Judge through this slump while also putting the team in the best chance to win these last few weeks, and while that won’t be easy, it will be crucial. Judge is of great importance to the Yankees long-term.

DotF: Frazier and Andujar homer on final day of the minor league regular season

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Syracuse in ten innings, walk-off style) they finished the regular season at 91-52, tying the franchise record for wins … no other Triple-A team won more than 85 games this season … their best-of-five first round series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) begins Wednesday … LHP Jordan Montgomery, LHP Phil Coke, and RHP Bryan Mitchell are starting the first three games according to Chad Jennings

  • CF Mason Williams: 0-4 — he hit .298/.315/.380 in 43 games after shoulder surgery, so the power was a little light, but everything else was typical Williams
  • DH Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 K — smacked a dinger in his first game back from the hamstring injury (here’s video) … he finishes the season with a .263/.335/.447 batting line, 27 doubles, 16 homers, and 13 steals in 119 total games … he hit .228/.278/.396 in 25 Triple-A games after coming over in the Andrew Miller trade
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 2-4, 2 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — minor league signee hit .319/.346/.436 with 33 doubles, seven homers, and an International League leading 163 hits
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Cesar Puello: 1-5, 1 RBI — walk-off single to end the season … the former top Mets prospect hit .283/.413/.404 with five homers and 18 steals in 78 games … nice little signing by the Yankees
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-4, 1 R — hit .268/.330/.427 with a career high eight homers in 116 total games this year after failing to make the Reds as a Rule 5 Draft pick in Spring Training
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — finishes his breakout season with a .276/.337/.511 batting line and a career high (by far) 21 homers in 102 total games
  • SS-1B Cito Culver: 1-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — the Summer of Cito ends with a .254/.315/.349 line in 117 total games
  • LHP Richard Bleier: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 10/2 GB/FB — 50 of 77 pitches were strikes (71%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 18 of 27 pitches were strikes (67%) … the 25-year-old finishes the season with a 1.27 ERA and a 106/17 K/BB in 78 total innings
  • RHP J.R. Graham: 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — 23 of 33 pitches were strikes (70%) … the Yankees got him from the Twins in cash deal in mid-May and he’s somehow remained on the 40-man roster every since … maybe the most amazing part of the season

[Read more…]

Ellsbury and Tanaka lead Yanks to 5-3 win over Blue Jays


Source: FanGraphs

For only the fourth time in 14 tries since last season’s trade deadline, the Yankees managed to beat the Blue Jays in Yankee Stadium. Wins against Toronto have been tough to come by for more than a calendar year now. The final score was 5-3 on Monday afternoon. It’s Labor Day, so let’s recap with bullet points:

  • Ellsburied: One day after riding the bench in what Joe Girardi called the most important game of the season, Jacoby Ellsbury came out and swatted a two-run home run in the first inning Monday. He then singled in the team’s third run of the day two innings later. Ellsbury went 3-for-4 and drove in three of the Yankees’ five runs. Nice way to respond after sitting out Sunday.
  • Tanaka Grinds: I thought Masahiro Tanaka looked too strong in the first inning. He was on extra rest and he only threw 71 pitches last time out because of the rain delay, so maybe that was it. His two-seamer was running all over the place, so much so that he couldn’t locate it consistently. The Blue Jays jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on a double and a single in the first, but Tanaka was able to settle down, limit the damage, and retire 18 of the next 23 batters he faced. He allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks in 6.1 innings. It wasn’t easy, but Tanaka was able to take the ball into the seventh.
  • Insurance Runs: The Yankees led 3-1 after Ellsbury’s run-scoring single in the third, and while a two-run lead is nice, it’s hardly comfortable against the Blue Jays. Thankfully Tyler Austin came through with a two-out, two-run double off the wall in the fourth inning. That stretched the lead to 5-1. Toronto can score runs in a hurry, so the game was hardly over, but at least now the Yankees had some breathing room.
  • Survive the Bullpen: Bringing Jonathan Holder into the game to face the middle of the Blue Jays’ lineup in his second MLB appearance was not Girardi’s finest move. Holder walked Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to load the bases in the seventh, then Ben Heller came in and gave up the two-run single to Edwin Encarnacion to cut the lead to 5-3. Maybe go with the experienced guys over the kids against hitters that good next time, Joe. Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances closed the door in the eighth and ninth after it got interesting.
  • Leftovers: Austin seems to be coming around. He went 2-for-3 with two doubles … Aaron Judge, meanwhile, went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. This is getting painful. At least he robbed a near homer without jumping … Didi Gregorius went 0-fot-4 with two strikeouts and has been slumping for a week or two now … Brett Gardner and Starlin Castro had one hit each while Chase Headley and Austin Romine each drew a walk … the Orioles won, so the Yankees remain 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Also make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Blue Jays continue this three-game series with the middle game Tuesday night. Luis Cessa and Aaron Sanchez are the scheduled starters. There are only 15 home games left this season, so head over to RAB Tickets if you want catch any of them live.

Labor Day Open Thread

Happy Labor Day to all of you out there in the workforce. Hope you’re having a great weekend. Here is an open thread for the rest of the day. ESPN is showing the Pirates and Cardinals this afternoon, and MLB Network is showing a regular game later tonight. There’s also some college football on later. Talk about any of that stuff right here. Go nuts.

Game 136: Blue Jays on Labor Day

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

This afternoon the Yankees start a ten-game homestand against three teams they aren’t chasing in the standings. Well, technically they are chasing the Blue Jays, but the AL East title is out of reach at this point. The Yankees have to focus on the second wildcard spot. One thing at a time.

The Blue Jays have owned the Yankees since the second half of last season. It’s not even funny anymore. They’re 18-7 against New York since last year’s trade deadline, including 10-3 at Yankee Stadium, and good gravy is that capital-A Annoying. The only way the Yankees can get to the postseason this year is by putting an end to that. They have seven games left with Toronto and they have to start beating them. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. DH Austin Romine
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a little cloudy in New York today but otherwise the weather is really nice. Temperatures in the low-80s and no humidity. Nice afternoon to spend at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Greg Bird (shoulder) has joined the Yankees but he won’t be activated. He’s going to rehab with the team rather than in Tampa. Bird threw in the outfield and took swings in the batting cage for the first time since surgery today. He’ll face live pitching in Instructional League later this month before heading to the Arizona Fall League.

Rotation Update: Joe Girardi said the plan right now is to replaced the injured Chad Green with a bullpen day on Wednesday. There are eleven relievers in the bullpen right now, plus the Yankees could always call up more now that rosters expanded, so innings won’t be a problem. Will they be quality innings? That’s a very different question.

9/5 to 9/7 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

"Hmmm, he must work out." (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
“He must work out.” (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Is this is a big homestand? Yes, this is a big homestand. The Yankees open this ten-game homestand with the first of three against the Blue Jays this afternoon, a team that has completely dominated them since last year’s trade deadline. The Bombers are 7-18 against the Blue Jays since last July 31st, including 3-10 at Yankee Stadium. Woof. If the Yankees want to get to the postseason, they have to start beating the Blue Jays and soon. No way around it.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays dropped two of three to last place Rays over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean anything. They’ve been playing pretty well for a few months now. Toronto is 77-59 with a +101 run differential on the season. They’re one game up on the Red Sox in the AL East and five games up on a postseason spot in general. The Yankees, meanwhile, are 3.5 games back of both the Orioles and Tigers for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

Toronto’s offense isn’t quite as dominant as it was last year, but they’re still averaging 5.01 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+. They’re also second in MLB with 197 home runs. (The O’s have 214 homers, far and away the most in baseball.) The Blue Jays are completely healthy on the position player side right now. No one on the DL and no one even day-to-day. Must be nice.

Bautista. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Bautista. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Manager John Gibbons stacks his heavy hitters right at the top of the lineup. RF Jose Bautista (112 wRC+) hits first, 3B Josh Donaldson (161 wRC+) hits second, and DH Edwin Encarnacion (136 wRC+) hits third. Donaldson very well might win MVP again. Lately the molten hot C Russell Martin (106 wRC+) has been hitting cleanup — he’s hit nine homers in his last 18 games — with LF Michael Saunders (127 wRC+) and SS Troy Tulowitzki (104 wRC+) behind him in some order. That is a pretty great top six.

1B Justin Smoak (95 wRC+), CF Kevin Pillar (80 wRC+), and 2B Devon Travis (108 wRC+) are the other regulars. For the most part the Blue Jays have a set lineup. They don’t platoon much or anything like that. OF Melvin Upton (86 wRC+) is the regular fourth outfielder and IF Darwin Barney (87 wRC+) the regular backup infielder. Ex-Yankees farmhand C Dioner Navarro (59 wRC+) is now the backup catcher. C Josh Thole, IF Ryan Goins, OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Darrell Ceciliani, and OF Dalton Pompey are the September additions.

The Blue Jays are a very good team defensively. Bautista is the weak link because he’s lost a lot of range in right, though he still has a strong arm. Pillar, Donaldson, and Martin are all excellent while Saunders, Tulowitzki, Smoak, and Travis are merely a bit above average. I thought Toronto didn’t receive nearly enough attention for being as good as they are defensively last season. All the focus was on the bats and understandably so, but this team catches the ball too.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (1:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TOR) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
A few years ago the Blue Jays acquired Dickey to be their ace, and now he’s their sixth best starter. The 41-year-old has a 4.43 ERA (5.14 FIP) in 27 starts and 160.1 innings, and while his ground ball rate (43.6%) is right where it normally is, his strikeout (17.0%), walk (8.9%), and homer (1.52 HR/9) numbers are much worse than they have been the last few seasons. Dickey has a small platoon split, and right now his knuckleball sits in the mid-70s while his show-me fastball averages 82 mph. He used to throw two knuckleballs with the Mets — a slow one in the low-70s and a harder one in the upper-70s — but not anymore. Not sure what happened there. The Yankees have only seen Dickey twice this season. They scored four runs in 6.2 innings in May, and one run in five innings in August.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Aaron Sanchez (vs. NYY)
The Blue Jays are using a six-man rotation right now because they need to keep Sanchez’s innings in check. He’s thrown 162.1 innings this year, already well beyond his previous career high of 133.1 innings set back in 2014. The 24-year-old Sanchez has a 2.88 ERA (3.36 FIP) in those 162.1 innings, so he’s been outstanding. He might finish in the top three of the Cy Young voting. At least top five, I would think. Sanchez is a strikeout (20.1%) and ground ball (56.8%) machine who keeps the ball in the park (0.61 HR/9) and won’t kill himself with walks (7.4 BB%). Lefties have more success against him than righties because his changeup, while improved, still lags considerably behind his trademark mid-90s sinker and upper-70s curveball. Sanchez’s fastball is ridiculous. He pounds the bottom of the zone with the sinker all day and it’s damn near impossible to hit in the air. The Yankees scored two runs (one earned) in six innings against Sanchez way back in April, then he held them scoreless across 6.2 innings in June. Been a while since they’ve faced each other.

The lesser Sanchez. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
The lesser Sanchez. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
Stroman, 25, was expected to emerge as the staff ace this season, and instead he has a 4.58 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 27 starts and 173 innings. He’s also beyond his previous career high in innings (166.1 in 2014). Stroman has good peripherals (19.7 K%, 5.8 BB%, 61.1 GB%, 0.99 HR/9) and his platoon split isn’t huge, yet he has had a hard time keeping runs off the board because he’s easier to square up than his stuff would lead you to believe. He legitimately throws six pitches: mid-90s four-seamers and sinkers, low-90s cutters, upper-80s sliders and changeups, and a low-80s curveball. The sinker, cutter, and slider are his three main offerings. Having watched him this year, it Stroman seems to either overthink things or just get too cute by trying to beat hitters with his fifth or sixth best pitch (curve and change) rather than simply going for the kill when ahead in the count. Somehow the Yankees have only seen Stroman once this year and that was way back in April, in the third series of the season. He held them to two runs in eight innings.

As for the Yankees, their starter for Wednesday is still up in the air following Chad Green’s injury. It won’t be Luis Severino, who threw two innings and 38 pitches yesterday. Bryan Mitchell lines up perfectly to start Wednesday, though Joe Girardi seemed to indicate they don’t think he’s ready for big league duty yet. They want him to continue working in Triple-A to shake off the rust following the toe injury. That doesn’t mean Mitchell can’t start Wednesday. It just means the Yankees seem a little hesitant to go to him. I think there’s a chance they’ll go with a bullpen game now that rosters have expanded. Two innings from one guy, two innings from the next guy, two innings from someone else after that … so on and so forth. We’ll see.

Bullpen Status

Earlier this year the bullpen was a major weakness for the Blue Jays, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a strength right now, it is improved. Here is the relief crew Gibbons has to work with:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (2.44 ERA/2.93 FIP)
Setup: RHP Jason Grilli (3.02/3.45), RHP Joe Biagini (2.51/2.59)
Middle: RHP Joaquin Benoit (3.18/4.06), LHP Brett Cecil (4.71/4.06), RHP Ryan Tepera (3.38/4.74)
Long: RHP Scott Feldman (3.60/4.80)
Extra: RHP Danny Barnes, LHP Matt Dermody

It’s worth noting the Blue Jays used veteran LHP Francisco Liriano (5.35/5.24) out of the bullpen over the weekend, and while they say they intend to give him more starts down the stretch, I suppose we can’t rule out seeing him in relief at some point.

Anyway, the 21-year-old Osuna recently became the youngest pitcher in baseball history to record a 30-save season. That’s because most pitchers his age are still starters, but still. Impressive. Biagini is a Rule 5 Draft pick who has worked out well, and Grilli just keeps on keepin’ on. Benoit and Cecil have had some very nice years in the past, but not this year. They’ve been shaky.

J.A. Happ didn’t make it out of the third inning yesterday, forcing Gibbons to use Barnes (29 pitches), Feldman (17 pitches), Benoit (20 pitches), Grilli (ten pitches), and Osuna (15 pitches). None of those guys have pitched back-to-back days though, so the bullpen’s not in terrible shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for Joe Girardi’s recent reliever usage.

Yankeemetrics: Disaster averted in Baltimore [Sept. 2-4]

(UPI)
(UPI)

Nightmare on Eutaw Street
It’s hard to think of a worse start to September baseball for the Yankees than the shellacking they endured on Friday night in Baltimore.

All the momentum they had piled up after an inspiring series win in Kansas City was suddenly gone after their deflating 8-0 loss to the Orioles. This was the worst shutout loss the Yankees have ever suffered at Camden Yards, which opened in 1992. The last time they had a shutout loss that bad in Baltimore was Sept. 9, 1991 at Memorial Stadium.

The Yankees fell behind quickly as the O’s hammered them early and often with all eight runs and four homers in the first four innings. This was the eighth game this year that the Yankees surrendered at least four longballs, the most such games in a season in franchise history.

Their punchless offense did little to counter the awful performance by the pitching staff, hitting just two singles in the third inning. Welp. It had been more than a decade since they played a game in Baltimore and had two hits or fewer: on August 5, 2006 Adam Loewen, Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins combined for a one-hitter in the Orioles 5-0 win. (Yes, that game really happened.)

Deja booooo
The Yankees’ September swoon continued on Saturday night as they were shut out for the second game in a row, 2-0, extending their recent stretch of miserable baseball in Baltimore. Following Saturday’s loss, they fell to 10-26 at Camden Yards since the start of 2013, their worst record at any American League ballpark in that span, and the worst mark by any AL team at Camden Yards over the past four seasons.

girardi sad
(Getty)

It was just a week ago that the Yankees scored an unthinkable 27 (!) runs in the first two games of their series against this same team (Orioles), and then they scored exactly zero runs in the first two games of this series. That’s baseball, folks.

The end result was their ninth game being shut out this season — four of which have come against the Orioles, who rank 12th in the AL in team ERA — and the eighth time they’ve been shut out in a game away from Yankee Stadium. Those eight road shutouts are the most they’ve suffered in a single season since 1973 when they somehow had 12 (!) of them.

For the second night in a row the Yankees’ bats were silenced as they finished with just four hits, all of them singles again. In the last 100 seasons, only once before had the Yankees been held scoreless with four hits or fewer — and no extra-base hits — in back-to-back road games versus the same opponent: the Kansas City A’s did it to them on Aug. 27-28, 1965.

Even worse is the fact that Saturday’s game marked the third straight time the Orioles had blanked the Yankees, dating back to a 5-0 loss in the final game of their matchup last week.

The 2016 Orioles are the eighth team in baseball history to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees, but just the second one to do it in the last 75 years. The rest of this group includes the 1973 White Sox, 1934 Tigers, 1929 Browns, 1913 Senators, 1909 Browns, 1908 Senators and 1906 White Sox.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stayin’ alive
The Yankees kept their scant playoff dreams alive with a season-saving win on Sunday afternoon, avoiding the series sweep in what Joe Girardi deemed “the most important game of the year”.

After getting blanked in the first two games, the Yankees wasted little time in making sure it wouldn’t be a hat trick. They plated three runs in the first inning thanks to a couple RBI hits by Chase Headley and Austin Romine. And, mercifully, disaster was averted in Yankeeland.

We also get to trumpet our “If That Had Happened Yankeemetric of the Week” (cap-tip to Mark Simon for that name … he is also more famous for authoring an excellent Yankees book, which I guarantee you will enjoy if you are reading this post):

As noted above, the Orioles were the eighth team to post three straight shutouts against the Yankees. No team had ever allowed zero runs in four consecutive games versus the Yankees, and that statistical fact will remain intact in the record books … for now.

While the Bronx Bombers did manage to finally put runs on the scoreboard, their six hits were all singles for the third straight game. This is just the second time in the last three decades the Yankees went three games in a row without an extra-base hit; the other streak was May 13-16, 2000 against the Tigers and White Sox.

You have to go back even further to find the last time an opponent held the Yankees without an extra-base hit in three consecutive games within a series: the Orioles did it in September 1976.

The biggest outs of the game were recorded by Luis Severino, who took over for Pineda in the fifth inning with the Yankees clinging to a two-run lead, a runner on second base and no one out. He got himself into a bases-loaded jam but escaped without allowing a run, and then threw a perfect sixth inning to earn the win.

Here’s some fun with small sample sizes: In 11 1/3 innings as a bullpen arm, Severino has faced 40 batters. Just one of those guys has a hit (an infield single by Neil Walker on August 3), and nearly one-third (13) of them have struck out. He is the only pitcher in baseball this season that has faced at least 30 batters as a reliever, allowed zero earned runs and no more than one hit.